One of the practices that Darren and I follow is to maintain a packing list. Over the years, we have had several lists floating around. Recently, we combined all of these into one comprehensive list that we call our “Master Packing List.” It includes everything that we could bring, grouped by category. This practice makes it easy to tailor our list for a particular trip. Thus, this packing list can be used for all types of travel, including backpacking, international travel, car-camping, or simply an overnighter at a friend’s house.
If you are interested, you can learn about our adventures here:
Around the World (RTW) – A 424-day, around-the-world trip to raise K-12 geo-literacy in students.
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) – A 4 1/2 month trip covering 1,828 miles of Pacific Crest Trail.
US National Parks (NPS) – A 17,000 mile long road trip to 27 of the US National Parks.
Why Maintain a Packing List
We favor creating and maintaining packing lists for a variety of reasons.
- We tend to not forget things.
- It takes the stress out of planning and packing for an upcoming trip.
- It makes packing for a trip faster and easier.
- It helps us to settle on a few nice things rather than a closet full of unused equipment.
Think of everything that you pack as an asset and a liability at the same time. We have all had the experience of bringing something “just in case.” But our strategy is to bring the least number and lightest things with us. Why? Even if a piece of gear has utility, it also have bulk and weight. For example, Darren recently took a week-long trip to see his parents in Key West, FL with nothing more than a small carry on backpack.The first step in reducing the size of your luggage is to thoughtfully consider your footwear (i.e., shoes). If you can limit the number of shoes to one or two pairs you have a good start. Here a couple of tips for building your own packing list.
- Look for items that will satisfy multiple requirements.
- Look for items that will mix/match (i.e., can be used in combination with others).
- Look for items that are lightweight and don’t have a lot of bulk.
- Plan on washing clothes along the way (either in the sink or in a machine washer).
Organizing Your Gear
There are a variety of ways of organizing your gear, whether it be in a backpack or a suitcase. I have found that using bags or cubes works best. The idea is that when trying to find something, you can quickly locate the right container and then search there. Here’s how I organize my things.
- Day Bag/Cube – Extra clothes for the day outside of what I have on my person.
- Night Bag/Cube – Everything I need to go to sleep (excluding toiletries).
- Toiletries Bag/Cube- Everything I need for hygiene.
- Cooking Bag/Cube – Everything I need to cook meals (excluding the food).
- Other – Everything else
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