How To Pack For A Long (A Very Long) Trip

by Brenna Holeman
Hi, my name is Brenna, and I’m an over-packer.
I leave for Central and South America in 17 hours. Almost everything in my house is tucked away in boxes and stored in the basement, my cameras, kindle, and laptop are all charging, and my backpack is packed. While I’m not done (are we ever done?), I feel good.
So what am I taking? I don’t think that I am the best example of what to bring on long trips, as I am a notorious over-packer and I don’t really own any basic clothing (case in point, I don’t own jeans). There are plenty of other sites that tell you how to pack really lightly, but that’s not me. Here, then, is what I’m bringing.

-3 pairs of pants, all weird and clown-like but comfortable and colourful
-1 pair of cut-offs
-2 long skirts
-1 denim jacket
-2 long-sleeved t-shirts
-1 thin cardigan
-1 sheer blouse
-5 t-shirts/tank tops
-2 purses (not pictured)
-2 belts
-1 nightgown
-3 bras
-3 pairs of socks
-12 pairs of underwear
-3 bathing suits
-5 pairs of shoes (including flip flops and Keds)
-*cough* 10 dresses *cough*

Yes, you read that correctly – I am taking 10 dresses. They are short and long, colourful and patterned, cotton and otherwise, but I love them all and I’m so excited to wear them. When I think of Central America, I think of beautiful, bright dresses, so that’s what I’ll be wearing. And before you think I’m utterly insane, here’s what all of that looks like when it is rolled and put into my mesh organizing bags, with a pair of shoes for scale.

As everyone who has carried a backpack knows, however, it’s not the clothes that really weigh you down. It’s the stuff.



-an Asus Eee netbook and charger
-a Canon Powershot G1X with charger and case
-a Superheadz Harinezumi camera
-a kindle and charger
-an iPhone and charger
-a Fujifim point-and-shoot and charger
-extra camera batteries and memory cards

-an external hard drive

-a dry bag
-an alarm clock
-ear plugs
-a travel umbrella
-a travel towel
-a rain jacket
-a silk sleeping sack
-a hair straightener (damn you, bangs)
-Central America and South America guidebooks
-a Spanish dictionary
-a plain notebook
-a travel case with all my important documents
-a wallet with all my cash and cards
-a money belt
-a bag with all my jewellery
-a blow-up pillow
-a flashlight
-a chain and lock for my bag

-shampoo and conditioner
-face wash
-bug spray
-hand sanitizer
-wet wipes
-dry shampoo
-a whole lot of medicine (bandages, stomach and pain medicine, water purification tablets, malaria pills)
-makeup (bronzer, regular and waterproof mascara, eyeliner, powder, lipstick, glitter, and bindis)
After packing all of those things up (mostly into separated bags for easy organization), my final bags look like this:
My large bag weighs 13kg and my carry-on weighs 5kg. I’m pretty happy with this! I clearly didn’t learn very much, as I packed pretty much the same thing last year when I went to Southeast Asia… and I ended up ditching a lot of that along the way or sending it home. As I’m going to be living in the same place (Antigua, Guatemala) for the first two months, however, I think it’s acceptable to have a lot of of fun clothes and full-sized toiletries.
What do you think? Did I miss anything…or should I not be taking any of it?
*I’ve gotten a few emails about the Diva Cup or something similar; while I agree that it would be absolutely amazing for travelling, I bought it and…it didn’t work for me. I haven’t given up completely, but at this point it was far too uncomfortable for me to consider taking it on this journey.

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renee May 2, 2012 - 4:33 am

I love all the colors in that first picture! and i think its totally rad that youre packing glitter and bindis!!! like awsome squared.
did you just stock up like crazy on bindis while you were in SE asia? I brought some back with me from bangladesh, but i only have a limited number so i tend to hoard them, as in havent worn a single one since ive been back…lame on me.

Jill May 2, 2012 - 4:34 am

13kg? I’m such a wimp. Mine usually starts around 10-11kg and creeps up to 12-12.5kg during the trip and it feels SO HEAVY! Clearly, I need to lift weights.

Ruthie May 2, 2012 - 4:38 am

I love that exciting time just before you leave when you’re all packed and ready with anticipation!! Safe travels!

This Battered Suitcase May 2, 2012 - 6:45 am

Renee – Thank you, I love colour! I did stock up on quite a few bindis when I was in India and Nepal, but I haven’t worn them in a while. I’m so excited to start wearing them again!

Jill – I WISH my bag could weigh in at 10kg. I just never can do it. I’m trying to rationalize that I’ll be gone for 8 months……?

Ruthie – Thank you! I love that feeling, too!

expatkerri May 2, 2012 - 6:52 am

yay!! such a colourful pile of beautiful clothes and items. maybe i should buy the guide to south america since you already have the central america one?

Tricia Stevens May 2, 2012 - 12:29 pm

Have an AMMAAAAAZING time Brenna!!! Looking forward to hearing all your stories. xxxx

Sarah Dobson May 2, 2012 - 1:36 pm

This makes me want to pack to go somewhere, anywhere so bad!! I make lists and get excited to pack even just for overnight trips, a little crazy of me.

I’m sorry the DivaCup didn’t work out! Hahah definitely takes some time and just might not be for everyone!

So excited for your posts from away 🙂

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 2, 2012 - 1:37 pm

I literally couldn’t do this! I get heart palpitations just thinking about it haha. HAVE THE BEST TIME!!!!!!!!!!!! Totally fall in love. 😉

This Battered Suitcase May 2, 2012 - 5:00 pm

Kerri – If you read the list you see that I actually have both already! Don’t worry about buying it, but you can help me carry one when you arrive 😉 xx

Trish – Thank you so much!! I wish you were meeting me along the way!

Sarah – I generally like packing but I do hate having to eliminate things! My bag just keeps getting heavier and heavier…….

Andi – Thank you thank you!! And I’m sure I’ll fall in love oodles of times, knowing me…

Cara-Mia May 2, 2012 - 11:08 pm

How exciting!!! I think you’re justified in taking all of this. Have an amazing time. 🙂

Kristina May 2, 2012 - 11:52 pm

i think that looks pretty good. 13 kg is manageable as well… ohhh, how exciting!! looking forward to follow your travels along. safe flight! xx

Garby May 4, 2012 - 3:04 am

How did this spring up on me!? I meant to send you the info for the guest house in Antigua. I will email that now.

Enjoy Belize!

This Battered Suitcase May 5, 2012 - 9:31 pm

Cara-Mia – Thank you! It ended up a bit heavier once I put the last minute things in, but I’m pretty happy with what I brought.

Kristina – Thank you so much!

Garby – I got your email; thank you so much! That’s such great information…

Anonymous May 15, 2012 - 5:38 pm

My name’s Elizabeth. I love your lists. I’m curious to know what kind of pack you use and why. How much does it weigh? Have you used it multiple times before or is it new?
Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your journey! I look forward to your future posts.

This Battered Suitcase May 17, 2012 - 7:50 pm

Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for your comment. I am actually going to do a post on my backpack pretty soon, so I’ll answer a lot of your questions then. I’ve used an Arc’Teryx for the past two years and I really do love it!

jason hyun October 30, 2012 - 8:38 am

The 10 dresses are understandible but CONDOMS? Really? Very optimistic aren‘t we?

This Battered Suitcase November 3, 2012 - 1:37 pm

Jason – I live on the road, therefore I date on the road…and I’m always safe.

Emma Raftery February 17, 2013 - 3:50 am

I’m currently planning my first backpacking trip (Australia in July!) and your blog is such a breath of fresh air I love it, it’s actually made me more excited which I didn’t think possible!

I will also be taking condoms.. Unlike Jason I do plan to have a little fun on the road! X

Emma Raftery February 17, 2013 - 3:51 am

I’m currently planning my first backpacking trip (Australia in July!) and your blog is such a breath of fresh air I love it, it’s actually made me more excited which I didn’t think possible!

I will also be taking condoms.. Unlike Jason I do plan to have a little fun on the road! X

This Battered Suitcase February 17, 2013 - 8:29 pm

That actually made me laugh out loud. I still have no idea why Jason thought it was so out of line for me to pack condoms. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to do a post on safe sex while travelling, you just inspired me to get on it!

I’m sure your trip will be absolutely fantastic. Thank you for the comment!

Adventurous Andrea September 29, 2013 - 3:00 pm

While I love my Diva Cup, I have heard some women say it doesn’t fit right for them. Just so you know, there are many other brands of menstruel cups (MoonCup, LadyCup, Lunette, Femmecup, etc.) and one may be a better fit for your body.

Brenna September 30, 2013 - 2:00 am

Very good to know, thank you!

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