How to Pack Everything You Need for an RTW Trip

a man with a backpack looks out over the mountains

You see all the backpackers with everything they own on their back and you wonder how it’s possible. How on earth can people fit everything they need for a round the world trip in just a backpack?

Okay, it’s not a little backpack, but still. Traveling around the world means you’re going to need clothing for every season, gear for every kind of trip, medicine for every ailment, and personal items for every time you miss home.

If you’re on an RTW trip, you’re probably going to need clothing for every season, gear for every kind of trip, medicine for every ailment, and a couple sentimental items for every time you miss home.

It sounds like a hopeless task, trying to squeeze all those things into just one or two bags. But, if you follow some of these tips and tricks, you’ll be quite impressed with your packing skills.

Get the Right Backpack

The best travel backpack for you needs to meet a lot of criteria. First of all, it needs to fit your body. The hip strap should sit comfortably on your hips, the shoulder straps should be adjustable, and the top of the bag should not go above your head.

Depending on how much you want to carry, a bag with a 40-60L capacity should do the trick (and, if you’re smart, it can probably serve as carry-on luggage). It should have a lot of pockets and compartments, a rain cover, and most of all, it should be a piece of luggage that you love.

Leave the Toiletries at Home

Don’t even think about bringing along that bottle of shampoo and conditioner or that can of shaving cream! These things not only weigh a lot, they also take up space and can potentially spill all over your clothes. Most of the places you’ll stay will have the shower necessities, and if they don’t, you should be able to find toiletries at any convenience store. Only bring what you absolutely can’t live without.

And toilet paper. You always need toilet paper when backpacking! Especially in Asia.

Minimize Your Wardrobe

To pack wisely, take only what you believe you need to bring, then cut that pile in half. It’ll be hard to cut down like this, but in addition to not wanting a heavy load on your back, you’re also going to want to leave space to buy things.

You’ll need to keep in mind what the temperature will be in the places you are traveling. Packing for Norway, for example, will be the complete opposite of packing for Indonesia. A general RTW packing list includes the following:

  • 1 pair of jeans or pants
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 1-2 pairs of shorts
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • a light jacket or sweater
  • a pair of versatile sneakers
  • sandals

Remember, you can always buy a second-hand down jacket or a decent pair of shoes if and when you need them.

Roll It, Bag It, Stow It

You could have the tiniest packing list in the world, but if you don’t pack those items in your backpack correctly, it won’t make the slightest bit of difference.

To save space, roll up your t-shirts and light clothing. Next, take everything out of their boxes (like snacks or medication) and put them into plastic bags or packing containers. Last, stuff some of your rolled up articles of clothing (like socks and underwear) inside your shoes and into separate compartments of the backpack.


Planning a trip is easy. Packing for that trip is another story. Follow these tips to do it right!

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