Packing for a trip longer than three months

Packing light for a weekend trip can be tough, but packing a single bag for a three month trip can be seriously intimidating. Luckily, I've been slimming down on all my possessions out of necessity since May 2019. My roommate moved out of our 2/2 apartment in Austin, Texas taking most of her furniture with her. A month later, I moved into a furnished room of a 3/2 house in Hyde Park for July. I whittled my possessions down to two trips in my Jeep Compass. By the end of the month, I was pretty much down to my clothing, my bikes and gear, and a rubbermaid bin of minimal kitchenware. After dropping household stuff off at my parents' house in South Carolina, we were really light in the car.

After another few months of traveling, I'm down to living out of a single bag - a 46L Osprey Porter. It has some pretty nifty organization - lots of internal pockets and I got it second-hand on eBay for about $80. My girlfriend found the same bag second hand locally in Charlotte, NC for $40. A lot of these types of travel bags are already out there in great shape, so I would recommend buying used. The Porter specifically also has really nice straps that go across the front and cinch down. It's been really easy to take carry on.

Osprey porter 46L closedOsprey porter 46L open

My trusty Porter bag and its internal organization

I can't say living out of a single 46L bag is easy and it took me lots of reflection to slim down to a small set of clothes. I know "minimalism" is in vogue, but I've developed a much greater sense of my own style and appreciation for variation. My packing was also a bit easier because I had already been living without a real, single home base since July. I currently have on me and wear the following.






I packed my favorite Ciele running hat, a gifted Roots travel scarf, and I picked up another hat on a road trip between Graskop and Johannesburg at the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Dullstroom. I packed my Suunto Ambit3 Sport running watch, along with a few other accessories like a digital camera purchased on eBay and a spare burner cell phone. My girlfriend's mom also gave me a packable backpack from Target that has been great for daily use or fitting bulkier items like trail shoes/jacket/neck pillow when transferring.

Additionally, I packed a Wahl electric razor and it has been a godsend. I don't shave too often, but it's nice to stay neat and not have to use manual razors. I picked up a small container of clipper oil which has prolonged its longevity. Would highly recommend this as a small "comfort item." Other toiletries include a travel sized bottle filled with Kiehl's shampoo (the only real beauty product I treat myself to) and an electric toothbrush. My girlfriend and I share the base and use our own toothbrush heads. Works great, really.

A stick of palo santo wood has been really helpful when warding off smells and providing cleansing energy. I'm aware of some of the problems that purchasing palo santo creates, so before you consider buying - do your research on where it's been harvested, how it's been harvested, if it's been dried properly, and if you're buying from someone who knows the traditions of this wood.

Electrical tape is useful to travel with but you can pick a roll up anywhere in the world for tens of cents. All sorts of charging cords have started to fray on me and my Suunto watch strap ripped in half - all repaired with electrical tape.


I've found that I can rotate enough to keep everything clean-ish. I've found wearing things a few times and not smelling like fresh laundry every day is alright, especially traveling. Having a few extra t-shirts may have been nice. It's been harder than I expected to find good, second hand clothing. I was planning on picking up a pair of sandals to supplement my shoes for just our time in Cape Town, but decent chanclas that aren't new/expensive have been hard to find. On evaluation of my packing list, I brought a lot of Patagonia gear. It's easy to wash, fits a variety of uses, and can be dressed up or down. If you're in the market for new gear, and your gear is probably fine, buy Patagonia second hand (except maybe underwear). It will likely be in great shape and if it has small nicks or imperfections, Patagonia will repair it for free.

Let's also talk packing cubes. Ariana's mom found several sets at her local Marshalls and presented us with a gamut of choices, the ones we didn't need were returned. All of my tops with the exception of my Zara sweater and button down fit in one packing cube. All my underwear and socks fit in another. My sweatpants, Patagonia baggies, and trail running shorts fit in a third, much smaller one. Medications and electronic accessories like chargers fit in two more, and my toiletries go in a dopp kit my sister bought me for my birthday countless years ago. Style shorts and pants are rolled up and stuffed in, no problem. Packing cubes are a game changer, they take some practice to maximize efficiency, but really do help.

This post is part boast, part how-to. It's possible to pack this light, and I argue I could pack even lighter if I was up to doing wash more often. We'll likely have to reconsider clothing when we get to Europe, ditching our summer clothing for more sweaters and additional pairs of pants. For as much hiking and running Ariana and I do, one set of running clothes has actually been fine. We're lucky that Cape Town has a nice breeze and lots of sun to line-dry our wash.

In summary, solid colored clothing goes a long way. Plain colored t-shirts make it easy for people to forget that you've worn it multiple times. Underwear can be washed and line dried easily, as can running clothes. Running shoes can be doubled up as style shoes. Sandals aren't really necessary. One sweater usually will suffice, as will a single good pair of running shorts. Pack clothing you wouldn't be sad to lose or stain. Packing cubes and packable backpacks are incredibly useful. And finally, you really need a lot less than you think.