Packing in preparation for a year away was a daunting task. In the past I had found that packing always took as long as I let it take. Not wanting to waste too much time, I left all the packing until the day before my flight.
This was a bad idea.
Although I did get everything packed, it was a close call. I spent much of Christmas Day, a day traditionally spent lazing in pajamas and watching old movies with my family, racing around my house, cramming bags, and throwing away garbage bags of trash. I should have started the week before.
Here is what I had laid out to take with me:
Whoever said to take half the clothes and twice the money was right. I ended up with two-thirds of this pile in my packs.
The final tally for the big pack was 27 lbs/12 kg and the daypack was 5 lbs/2kg.
By the end of the first week, I threw out half of what I had. Having the extra space made it easier to find things inside the bag without having to dump everything out on the floor. Having a zipper along the length of the backpack was also key, since I could then access the top and bottom areas of the bag.
The key items to keep accessible were the flipflops, raincoat, map/guidebooks, sunscreen, flashlight, toilet paper roll and hand sanitizer. I made sure to keep them in the top pocket or front pouch all the time.
For flights, I zipped my backpack inside a long duffel bag; that way the straps were not loose. The duffel bag was great, since I could also lock it shut when I left my bags alone in the hostels. I could also roll it up and clip it to the side of the backpack when not in use. Plus, at the end of the trip, I used it as a second piece of luggage for souvenirs.
Here are a few key resources I used to sort out what to pack and what to leave behind:
The Universal Packing List: generates a packing list based on the specifics of your trip. I found it gave a good overall list of things you may/may not need while traveling.
Round-The-World Travel Guide: comprehensive online guidebook on how to travel long-term around the world. This was incredibly useful in laying out a general checklist of everything to get in order before leaving and for organizing the trip.
Journeywoman: “What She Should Wear, Where” and “Guide to Packing” gave great advice on what to pack and what clothing is appropriate in different cultures.