7 Things I Wish I Packed On My RTW Trip

I almost nailed it. I have more practice than most when it comes to packing light for travel (carry-on only), and I felt pretty good about my ultimate RTW trip packing list that I put together for my world-wide wander.

Packing for a year in a carry-on is nearly impossible, especially when it entails many types of travel in many different climates. I had to be prepared for hiking in the mountains of Patagonia (and the crazy snowstorms that go with it), exploring the islands of Thailand in extreme heat and humidity, and cruising the city streets of Europe in the fall and winter, and that was just within the first three months. I had no idea what the rest of the year would bring. I also happen to be a digital nomad (I work remotely from my laptop), so I had to bring my “office” with me. For such a tall order, I really almost nailed it, but alas, there were a few things I really could have used that I just didn’t have, and I will not make the same mistake again.

Some of these things I picked up along the way, and some I have made a point to acquire during my current stopover in the US before I leave again. Here are the things I wish I had with me on my round the world trip:

packing for a year
One month in, crossing the border from Cambodia into Thailand with my carry on packs.


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1. Packable Down Jacket

Absolutely essential. Period. Being from Montana, of course, I owned a packable puffy jacket before this trip, HOWEVER, it wasn’t small enough to justify bringing around the world in a carry-on. The size of the “packable” part really matters. I have since rectified this issue by getting an 850-fill (that’s WARM), very thin, very packable down jacket from Marmot (the Quasar), without a hood (I have hats, buffs, and a rain jacket for that). This baby packs into its own pocket. I would have used this ultimate layer of warmth countless times throughout the past year, and it would have prevented me from having to get a big coat for the winter (which I then lugged around until sending it home).

2. Boots

I tried to live without boots. Technically I succeeded, but I was miserable. I am a boot girl. I LOVE BOOTS. Whyyyy did I think I could survive so much time without them? Simply because they are too big and clunky for packing light? Never again. I will carefully find a pair of nice, brown, foldable (not super stiff) boots that I can still easily pack if I need to. My current faves are called Elba by Bionica. These can double for a warm option in cold weather (obviously) and can dress up an outfit much better than my non-Toms (Mad Love Loafers from Target), and they would have prevented me from buying a big, clunky pair out of haste and necessity that weren’t as versatile as I usually like.

3. Packable Down Vest

On day two of my trip, a travel companion let me borrow her packable puffy vest (also from Marmot) for our 5-day trek in Patagonia. I accepted, because I didn’t have a layer like that, and I had space for those few days. I loved it. I wore it every day of that trek, and in the end, she let me keep it. I can’t tell you how many times I wore that vest over the course of my trip. I hadn’t owned a vest like it before I left, but I know it will be a staple item in my travel packing lists from now on.

4. Buff

On day one of my trip, I was given a good old fashioned Buff, dark grey, and highly functional. I’d never been a Buff wearer, but I immediately became one. I especially loved it for hiking in cold weather, to cover my ears and lift my hair off my neck without having to put it up all the time, and I hiked a LOT on this trip. Also, discovery! The Buff doubles as a very comfortable eye mask for those nights when I just couldn’t find my real one. It folds up to next to nothing, an obvious inclusion going forward.

5. Travel Sweatpants

Okay, for what I thought were obvious reasons (i.e. sweatpants are big), I did not pack any sweats on this trip. I ended up getting some while I lived in Patagonia, and I was SO excited, it was a bit ridiculous to witness. They are a luxury, but they also really helped me feel at home in a lot of strange places. I decided they are worth packing in the future, so I found some that pack small and don’t have excessive material. There is an awesome pair from ExOfficio that is made with bug repellant material, and another pair from Carve Designs, both of these fit the bill for packable travel sweatpants.

6. Travel Tripod with Phone Holder

These last two are geared more towards digital nomads, but they are important. I take almost all of my photos and video with my iPhone, except for the times I use my GoPro. I left my mini travel tripod behind, and that was a mistake. I thought of it several times, wishing I could use it to record a video. It works in tandem with the tripod phone holder, or essentially, the same piece that you would find at the end of a selfie stick. They are cheap on Amazon and just brilliant little inventions, and they hardly take up any space. I wish I had both with me, so they are a shoo-in for next time.

7. Wireless Mouse

I have developed the strangest case of something I can only describe as “claw finger” on my right hand, and it’s from using my trackpad, hour after hour, day after day, for months on end with no mouse in sight. Never again will I do this to myself. I work too much, and I care too much about the health of my hand to survive on only a trackpad mouse. This one really is a matter of comfort, but I debated putting this one first on the list because it is that important to me for future packing lists, plus my wireless mouse is super small, so it’s a definite yes from now on.

What about you? What have you really wished you had packed on a trip? Share in the comments!