Q&A: Gear & Packing List for the Long-Term Traveler

My friend Amy Gigi Alexander (a wonderful travel writer––go check out her work!) asked me to publish my gear and packing list.

“You’ve been to lots of microclimates and you have to do a lot of different things,” she wrote. “I’d find it useful.”

“Microclimates” is the most beautiful word I have heard in a while.

Here goes––


I have a rotating cast of clothing that has gone in and out of my life during my travels. None of it is so fancy that I would be devastated to lose/wear through it and have to find a replacement. The good news is that the world is filled with people and that these people need clothing, so a replacement shirt is never far away.

Clothes are big and bulky, and if you really need something, you can pick it up along the way. Basic requirement for travel clothes: fast-drying is good. Wrinkle-proof is even better.

My rule when packing clothes is to lie out everything I think I need, then take away half of those things. The exception to this rule is underwear––don’t skimp on the good stuff––but know that you can (and should) buy more after a few months of heavy use.

I started out in the states with a pair of cozy, velour pants I adored, ditched them when I went to Fiji & Tuvalu, and acquired a whole lot of merino (both gifted to me and pieces I bought) while in New Zealand. Managing multiple climates can be complicated, but I think the key is getting rid of something when you don’t need it anymore, and also recognizing that you can pick up something similar or better further on down the line. People who live in a place tend to know what kind of clothing is best for their own climate.

Me on September 18, 2014: the day I left home. I miss those pants.

Me on September 18, 2014: the day I left home. I miss those pants. This is the backpack I started out with.

Asterisks denote items that have been given to me along the way.

  • 1 pair really heavy wool socks
  • 3 pairs short socks
  • 10 pairs underwear (I have been restocking as I go, transitioning from synthetic fibers to cotton because cotton undies rock)
  • 1 pair boxer shorts to sleep in
  • 2 scarves, one thin and colorful, one thick and wool
  • 5 sports bras
  • 3 pairs shorts (note: I started out with cycling shorts but ditched them after a week or two––too stuffy for all-day rides!)
  • 1 pair merino wool leggings
  • 1 pair pants*
  • 1 pair jeans*
  • 1 squishable frock (dress for all you USA folks)*
  • 2 cotton t-shrits*
  • 1 non-cotton t-shirt
  • 1 Buff with blue snowflakes on it, love this infinitely and have had it for 6 years
  • 1 warm hat
  • 1 zip-up, wind-proof sweater w/ a hood that makes me look like a telletubby, but I could not care less when it’s cold out and I forgot my hat.
  • 1 pair warm gloves*
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 pair rain pants
  • 1 oversized plaid shirt that an old friend gave me that isn’t terribly practical but makes me feel comfortable no matter what––on the road you gotta take comfort where you can find it
  • 1 merino tank*
  • 2 long merino tops*
  • 2 pairs earrings (I feel beautiful when I wear these, even if my clothes are dirty)
  • 1 sweater with the Whanganui Women’s Network logo on it*
  • hair elastics
  • a waterproof wristwatch that doubles as an alarm
  • cheap-o sunglasses that I bought at a gas station outside Los Angeles that are polarized and continue to serve me well

I wanted an excuse to include a picture of me and Amy Ray from the time we met in Oxford, Mississippi. I’m rocking my favorite plaid shirt. It’s relevant.


  • Teva sandals, black and simple (I’m on my second pair and love them to bits)
  • Brooks running shoes, purple and fabulous (I’m on my second pair and love them to bits)
  • Stiff-soled cycling shoes


  • A trusty Osprey w/ a zip-on/zip-off day pack. This pack was ideal up until I started cycling, at which point I stored the backpack with my friends in Auckland. I picked it back up when I passed through on my way to Australia and have since found a way to strap the pack to the rear-rack on my bicycle.


  • Surly Disc Trucker, complete with many stickers, written all over with sharpie, and a big ol’ neon flag on the back, because that’s how I roll.

Bicycle gear:

  • front racks, rear racks
  • 2 front panniers, 2 rear panniers
  • front bag
  • 2 bike locks (one U-lock, one combination cord lock)
  • neon reflective vest
  • helmet w/ a neon NZ post hat-cover that a postwoman gave me––it’s dorky looking and flaps in the wind and protects me from the sun and I love it a whole lot
  • 3 spare inner tubes
  • patch kit
  • mini bicycle pump w/ pressure gauge

Greetings from bike camp.


  • a lightweight two-person tent (so I can bring my panniers inside with me; my parents are both mountaineers and I am lucky that this tent was kicking around our garage)
  • tarp (to cover the bicycle when I’m camping and it rains)
  • cookstove w/ gas canister
  • a little pot and a little bowl and a little mug and a little spork
  • sleeping bag w/ silk liner (indulgent but totally worth it)
  • thermarest


  • 1 small microfiber towel
  • 2 diva cups. I love my diva cup, and carry a spare in case one goes MIA. It’s a menstrual cup and it rocks. So easy to use on the go!
  • conditioner
  • soap
  • fingernail clippers
  • tweezers
  • band aids
  • Neosporin
  • Arnica cream
  • toothbrush (I’ve gone through two so far)
  • orange sparkly retainers
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • vitamins w/ iron (this was most essential in Tuvalu when I wasn’t getting much in the way of fruits / vegetables)

Writing Supplies:

  • lots of pens
  • 4 sharpies (2 black, 1 blue, 1 red)
  • colored pencils
  • several journals (bought as I go)
  • postcards, envelopes, letter-writing paper, stamps
  • MacBook Air 11” + charger
  • two external hard drives

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 12.37.45 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 12.37.32 PM

Audio Recording Equipment:

  • Sony M-10 recorder
  • windscreen
  • handle attachment to avoid handling noise
  • headphones



  • a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 that I picked up used & discounted at the B&H store in NYC, plus its carrying case and lots of extra memory cards


  • Passport
  • my cardboard sign
  • local maps
  • 2 carabiners – these rock climbing tools come in handy for clipping water bottles to backpacks, or anything together, really. You never know when you might need it.
  • 2 water bottles
  • dark chocolate
  • kindle for reading (reading is life)
  • swiss army knife (get the kind with scissors – I opted for a corkscrew over scissors and regret this, because all the wine I have met on my travels is twist-top)
  • foam roller and tennis ball (my back gets tight, and these help me immeasurably)
  • a bit of spare US cash for emergencies
  • debit card, credit card
  • brick phone
  • USB stick, surprisingly useful
  • business cards w/ my name, blog address, and contact info — to give out to folks I meet along the way
  • spare batteries
  • a tiny planner for 2014-2016 to keep track of where I’m going and where I’ve been
  • 1 wolf named Wai (v. small and crocheted) that friends in Whanganui gave to me as a departing gift
  • lots and lots of music (seriously, I survive on it––right now k.d. lang is getting me through the day)
  • a smile & good sense of humor

Righty O, I think that just about does it!

If you have a question that you think I might be able to answer, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.




3 thoughts on “Q&A: Gear & Packing List for the Long-Term Traveler

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