Follow me as I blog my way through 12 months of travel, 20 countries, 2 volunteer programs, 44,000 miles, over 20 flights, countless chicken bus rides and 365 wonderful work-free days.

If you have stumbled across this post in hopes of finding some great packing tips, you’ve come to the wrong place. (but please feel free to stay).

To be honest I’m really tired of reading articles and tips on packing for a year-long trip that say one pair of pants is enough and to just pack for a week and wash regularly.

I can’t do that.

I’m not the most fashion conscious person out there. I don’t use hair dryers/straighteners/curlers.  I live in jeans and I rarely wear make up. A pair of pluggers and some runners is fine with me. But I can’t just take one pair of pants and 2 shirts and be happy about it and I don’t want to wear the same thing every day.

For the last month or so I have found myself lingering around my lounge room, during which time I have been gradually adding to my ever-growing pile of clothing, toiletries and electronics. And I don’t even need to mention the little extras that get secretly thrown in there by my mother on a regular basis.  And FYI, I say lingering because I don’t actually attempt to pack anything. I just stand there staring at it in hopes that it will somehow miraculously shrink in size and then pack itself perfectly into my 60L backpack.. with extra room for souvenirs of course.

Knowing that time is ticking away and that what is sitting on the floor in my lounge could potentially fill 2 backpacks, I thought it was time to do some research. I found a book on backpacking tips (that’s a lie.. my mum found a book that up until now I didn’t think I needed to read).

Sitting down to this little gem I hoped that I would find that magic piece of advice that would take all my packing troubles away.  ‘Ahhh a packing list section’ I thought.. brilliant.  Until I read it…One pair of pants.. and wait for it… two pairs of underwear.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I was reading this on my Kindle I would have thrown the book across the room. Two pairs of underwear??? She can’t be serious.

No really.. is she serious?

So I’m giving up on books and articles and I’ve decided to throw it out there in hopes of getting some useful suggestions and advice. Be brutal.. but don’t forget I’m going for a year, living in rural Africa for 1 month of that year, camping for about 5 months of it… and… yeah now I’m just making excuses.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

4 skirts, 1 dress maybe 2, about 10 singlet tops, 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of black pants, 1 pair of 3/4 pants (suck it pant haters), 8 pairs of underwear, 2 cardigan thingys, 1 black thin jumper, 1 hoodie, 3 scarfs, 4 pairs of socks, few bras.

Thoughts???

13 JULY 2012 UPDATE: WHAT MADE THE CUT?

1 skirt, 1 dress, 7 singlet tops, 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of black pants, 7 pairs on underwear, 1 cardigan, 1 hoodie, 1 thin black jumper, 2 scarfs, 2 pairs of socks, 2 sports bras and 1 normal bra.

Sorry I just won’t compromise on the underwear !!

Total weight, including clothes, toiletries, electronics, volunteer gifts.. 22.7 kilos.

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Comments on: "Packing it.. literally, physically and mentally" (8)

  1. One strategy is to just pack the basics and then buy new ones as you move. Discard/donate the old ones and voila, new wardrobe. Don’t forget the tampons. You’d be surprised how they can be hard to find in many places.

  2. It takes me just minutes to pack, whether I’m going away for a weekend, a week, a month or longer. It’s harder for women, I’m sure.

    It really is all about what you’re comfortable in and use the most often.

    Just make sure you budget for as much cash as you can and you then buy small things you ‘need’ as you go.

    Pack to cover all eventualities and you’ll be surprised at how much you really didn’t need.

    For me, everything has to fit in one bag that I can comfortably carry on public transport and fit under seats.

  3. I should add the trick is in the packing itself. Get rid of small boxes and excess plastic bags; and use the empty corners for socks and underwear.

    • I’ll tell you a secret Michael. My mum is the best packer in the world and she generally does it for me at first.. I’m buggered once I get to another country but at least I start out on the right track.

  4. It really depends on what part of Africa you are going to, but in some parts only prostitutes wear pants. If you are in the parts populated by white folks then the rules are looser. Singlets may also be problematic – shoulders and collar bones are considered “sexy”. A thin cotton tunic with longer sleeves will protect from the sun while being culturally appropriate. BTW, Maccabi skirts rock in Africa. You may want to check them out. They are very cool and have deep pockets.

    You’ll be happier if you try to pack a capsule wardrobe. Try to get all your tops and bottoms to mix and match with each other for more outfits. Try to get tops that layer over each other (and over dresses) for more looks. Then play with accessories.

    Frankly, I really like African kaftans. They are so very comfortable and I would suggest having a budget that accomodates buying a few. They are especially nice in the evening, after the work is complete and you are cleaned up. They just flow around your body, like the warm African breeze. The thin cotton tie-dye ones are fun and dry very quickly when washed.

    As far as underwear goes – well, this is for a year, not a short trip. And underwear that fits your body is notoriously hard to find in foreign countries. So I’d splurge on that. My advice would be different if this were just a multi-week trip. Then I would recommend (please don’t be angry) 3 pairs. I’d also bring a few more socks. If you’re in the bush you’re going to be wearing boots or heavy shoes a lot. That means more socks.

    • Thanks a million for your advice. I actually laughed at your comment “don’t be angry”. Do I really sound that scary? lol, I should work on that. I’m staying a month in really rural Kenya where I’m told I may only be able to have 1 bucket of water to shower with a week.. so I’m breaking all the rules and taking 7 pairs of underwear.. but these comments have inspired me and I promise I will cut out some tops and pants. Thanks Lady.

      • Make sure you swing by Nakumatt for supplies. They have everything at pretty good prices.

        And please have a Stoney Tangawizi for me. I wish we could get it here in the US.

        BTW, both Safaricom and Orange have good internet connection in a very surprizing number of places. Great prices too if you want to get a sim card or a dongle.

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