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To get you started on the trip of a lifetime, we’re giving you a packing list for the ultimate backpacking adventure: Around the World Travel! This RTW packing list features a 15 piece capsule wardrobe that is interchangeable between two climates. Read on as I review each and every clothing item you’ll need for your big trip!
RTW Packing List
The biggest issue when it comes to packing for a round-the-world trip is that you’ll be traveling for a long time and encountering various weather types.
Start by reading these tips on how to pack for trips with mixed weather:
- How to Pack for Trips with Mixed Weather
- How to Layer a Summer Dress for Cooler Weather
- Best Shoes for Traveling in Spring and Fall
- The Ultimate Guide to Packing for Long Trips
Another thing that’s a bit overwhelming for new backpackers is the idea of staying at hostels or budget accommodation. While Airbnb is great for regular trips, it doesn’t offer the social atmosphere you’d find in a hostel especially if you’re traveling solo.
These are a few must readers for new backpackers:
- Hostel Checklist
- Budget Travel Packing Essentials
- How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack
- How to Protect Your Passport While Traveling
- Travel Safety Tips
Now that we’ve covered the essentials, take a look at this RTW packing list for everything you need to bring:
RTW Packing List – 15 Main Clothing Items
- 7 Tops
- 4 Bottoms
- 2 Dresses
- 2 Outerwear
- 2 Sleeping/Fitness
- 1-2 Bathing Suits
- 7-10 Underwear
- 2-3 Bras
- 3-5 Socks
- 3 Travel Shoes
3 Short Sleeve Tops and Sleeveless
Pack a basic tank and tee plus an additional top you can dress up with jeans or your maxi skirt. These will be your “summer” warm weather tops and will also act as “winter” cold weather layers. Make sure they can mix and match with the rest of your travel wardrobe!
Read this post about How to Choose the Best Fabrics for Travel.
Light and airy tops are best to stay fresh in the heat but tight fitted tops with moisture wicking properties also work. Keep in mind that you will probably be using these particular tops during trekking activities so make sure you’re okay with them getting dirty.
Travel Fashion Tip: Adjust your quantities of sleeveless vs long sleeve tops according to your destinations. If spending more time in warm weather, replace a long sleeve top with a sleeveless and vice versa.
2 Light Long Sleeves
Don’t forget to add items you can layer to your RTW packing list. You want to pack one or two light long sleeve tops for warm weather destinations for use in temples, conservative areas, and protection from the sun. You can also use these pieces as layers over your dresses too or as a cover up at the beach.
Sticking to neutral colors with your button up top allows for more layering options over your tops and dresses. If it’s a breezy evening, just layer the button up shirt on top like a light jacket. Good neutral colors for button up shirts are olive green, grey, cream, black, and ivory.
Travel Fashion Tip: On round the world travel itineraries featuring a majority of warm weather destinations, one light long sleeve top can be packed – just make sure it mixes and matches with everything.
Choose a basic style in a light easy to wear fabric. A light chambray denim works well because it doesn’t have to be washed as frequently and can be worn in colder weather too.
Tunic length tops are convenient because they can be worn untucked or tucked into trousers and shorts; some are long enough to be used as a short dress at night or during the day over leggings; or they can also be worn as a beach cover up. They’re especially useful in more conservative areas where extra coverage is encouraged.
To learn about clothing guidelines around the world, read these tips for Dressing for Conservative Countries.
2 Warm Long Sleeve Layers
In addition to light layers, also add two warmer layers to yourRTW packing list. Consider these two warm weather long sleeve tops your base layers to your outerwear pieces. When packing for cold weather you can use this easy three layer system:
- Base Layer: Warm Long Sleeve Top
- Thermal Layer: Fleece or Hoodie
- Shell: Waterproof Jacket
When choosing your long sleeve base layers, it’s important to select items that provide the maximum warmth such as a fitness top or thermal. Avoid bulky fabrics by choosing ones that provide the most warmth like wool and polyester blends.
Find a style that’s basic enough to pair with jeans or even a skirt but that you can also layer. Many yoga and fitness lines offer clothing that is cute and practical, too. Cardigans can be worn as multi-functional clothing items if thought of as one of your long sleeve layers.
Read these general tips on packing for cold weather for more tips:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Winter
- How to Pack for Cold Weather
- How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather (without the bulk)
- The Best Travel Shoes for Winter
Travel Fashion Tip: On round the world travel itineraries featuring a majority of cold weather destinations, add one or two additional long sleeve tops.
1 Travel Pants
It’s ideal to carry one set of trousers that you consider your “travel pants”. These should be a set you can take on a trek that are water resistant and made in a fabric that will air dry quickly. This is one of the most important items in your RTW packing list so make sure to choose something that’s ultra-versatile!
If travel brand style pants are not an option for you, consider casual cargo style pants, or another classic set of pants you would feel comfortable taking on a hike. Alternatively, choose a set of fitness leggings that have moisture wicking properties.
These are the best travel pants for women! Find out why!
Even though jeans are thick and may take forever to air dry, their benefits greatly outweigh their cons especially with easy access to laundry machines around the world. Ultimately, they are durable and multifunctional making them excellent pants for travel.
A pair of jeans is the one item you can go ages without washing and they hardly show their wear. They can be worn casually or formally and are also very comfortable. You can wear them on the plane, on cooler days, and dress them up at night. In fact, they’ve become one of the biggest staples in a RTW packing list.
Travel friendly denim options are stretch jeans made in lighter fabrics. Not only will they take up less room they also weigh less and are more comfortable too. Some travelers also suggest bootcut vs skinny styles for comfort in hot climates.
Alternatively, choose a classic set of travel pants of your personal preference.
Still weary about packing jeans? Read this post on Why You Should Pack Jeans.
Leggings are an essential travel clothing item because they have multiple uses. The provide warmth as an extra layer under your trousers; coverage when modesty is required beneath a dress or shorts; use as sleep or exercise wear; and they also act as trousers with a tunic or longer length top.
Alternatively, pack yoga pants if this is more your style or harem style trousers as a lightweight option.
Check out which leggings get top marks in this readers choice post: 10 Best Leggings for Women that Travel.
Whether denim shorts or something more formal; a pair of shorts is a must. They’re easy to wear in the heat and can be layered with leggings in cooler climates or more conservative areas. Choose a length that’s most comfortable for your personal style.
Denim shorts are almost a backpacker staple in many parts of the world. You can wear them for days even weeks without washing them and they always look stylish paired with cute sandals and a sunhat.
While many backpackers wear shorts everywhere, it’s good to be mindful of the local culture. Locals make exceptions for tourists, but being respectful is important so cover your knees when the locals do!
Great alternatives if you prefer more coverage and aren’t a fan of shorts are Bermuda style shorts which are longer in length and capri pants to fall below your knees.
Nothing’s better than to slip into easy lightweight cute summer dresses for a day out. Pair with flip flops during the day for a casual look and add sandals or flats at night to take it up a notch. Don’t worry if you prefer sleeveless styles – add a scarf for extra coverage and style in conservative regions. Respecting the local culture should always be priority when traveling.
The wonderful thing about dresses is that you don’t have to match them with anything – choose colorful prints for your sundress!
Alternatively, stick with a basic cotton blend dress in a solid color and classic cut that can be dressed up or down with accessories. You want something you feel comfortable wearing out to during the day but you’ll also be happy swirling on the dance floor.
Here are 5 sun dress outfits to transform an every day summer dress!
1 Maxi Dress/Skirt
A maxi dress or skirt is an essential for a round the world trip. They’re comfortable and easy to wear and most importantly, can be worn in practically any setting. A maxi skirt that can also be worn as a dress offers the most versatility.
Choose a fabric that’s light but not sheer and color/print that won’t show dirt easily. Summer maxi dresses and skirts keep you cool and modest for optimal versatility. Look for a lapid dress that can be worn as a summer dress or a maxi skirt.
Take a look at our round-up of the best convertible travel dresses!
Neutrals colors are easiest to match with all your tops but a print is fun too. The choice is up to you! For more conservative areas, remember, you can always wear your leggings under your dress for instant coverage
When selecting your two outerwear pieces, you should plan to layer them together in the coldest of your destinations.
One Fleece, Hoodie, or Soft Shell Jacket
This item will vary greatly depending on your planned activities but generally speaking this should be a travel, yoga, or fitness item made with moisture wicking properties, quick dry abilities, and something you’d feel comfortable wearing in a modern city in the winter.
A fleece is ideal for travel but you may not want to wear it walking around London or Buenos Aires. If that’s the case opt for styles made by popular yoga brands – something you can wear in a mountain and in the city.
Here are the best fleece travel jackets!
Like the above, this item should also be something you feel comfortable wearing in various settings – from cities to jungles. Generally speaking, a basic waterproof jacket will be sufficient on a RTW trip but its thickness and features depends on your coldest planned destination.
Choosing a jacket is like choosing a dress – go with either a neutral color that will match all your clothing or select a vibrant color that will breathe some life into your basic travel wardrobe.
When in doubt, stick to a classic style like this Columbia Anorak. Remember that layering is key so don’t get one that’s too thick!
For more ideas, take a look at our list of stylish travel raincoats!
2 Bathing Suits
You should always pack at least one bathing suit whether you’re going on a beach vacation, ski holiday, or round the world trip trek. It’s a small item that is multi-functional and doesn’t take up much space or weight. Plus, you can wear it as underwear or a bra, too!
A reversible bathing suit ensures maximum versatility especially for girls wishing to pack ultra-light. Even if packing non-reversible sets; two swimsuits is usually a good quantity to offer variety in style and practicality between wears. Even if you don’t hit the beach; a bathing suit can also be worn in a hot tub, spa, or double up as extra underwear.
It seems to be a general consensus that three is the magic number when it comes to bras. However, every girl is unique so you will need to adjust according to your personal needs.
- Basic Bra: A t-shirt bra is seamless and easy to wear making it very versatile with all your travel clothing options. Nude is a color that works well under any color even black tops.
- Convertible Bra: A convertible bra conveniently offers you the ability to adjust your straps for any clothing item which can be very helpful especially if you buy new clothing styles on the road.
- Sports Bra: A sports bra is great for trekking and working out, but it can also spare some pain on bad roads especially if participating in overland truck tours in Africa.
A bikini top makes a great back up bra option and is also commonly worn in place of bras when by the beach. If you like to go braless, choose tops with built in shells especially when traveling in more modest countries or villages.
7-10 Pairs of Travel Underwear
Women’s underwear, unlike men’s, is very small and compact. Ten women’s underwear takes up as much space as three sets of men’s boxer briefs. If you are a minimalist that plans to wash your clothes every other day, pack five. If you want to pack light but want to have a comfortable quantity of underwear, pack ten.
Read more about How to Choose Travel Underwear for an Around the World Trip.
While thongs and g-strings take up the least amount of space, you may appreciate a boy short style on long travel days. Choose a variety of styles and pack at least a few in neutral colors like nude that won’t show through.
Underwear is something you do want to dry quickly especially if you’re packing less. You don’t have to pay top dollar on expensive travel brands to get moisture wicking properties though; fitness brands work just as well! Microfiber and synthetic blends dry quickest.
You can save money on great travel underwear at discount retailers by looking for fitness quality or microfiber fabric blends.
This is the best travel underwear for female travelers!
Like underwear, the best options for socks are fitness brands with moisture wicking properties. This means they’ll dry quickly and also keep your feet less sweaty too.
Because they’re small like underwear and can be washed easily, you don’t need to pack that many. However, the quantity you choose will depend on your planned activities and the shoes you select to take. See below.
If you know in advance you plan a 4 day hiking trip to Machu Picchu, pack 4 pairs of socks – enough for each day of the trek.
Choose two items that you can use to sleep in but that can also be worn for other activities as well. Don’t just pack your flannel PJ set from home.
Ideally, the clothing you choose should be quick dry so hopefully you can wash and wear the same day! A good idea is to pack a pair of running or yoga shorts and a fitness style tank top. Not only will they have quick dry properties but you can also wear them to work out.
Alternatively, depending on the weather, you can replace the shorts with leggings or wear them interchangeably throughout the trip with the pair included in the “Bottoms” section.
You can maximize your wardrobe by ensuring that these two pieces can serve various purposes. Running shorts can also be worn at the beach for extra coverage or to lounge around at hostels.
Take a look at our post on how to choose the best travel pajamas!
Read this post for more round the world travel outfit ideas!
Depending on your activities, two pairs of shoes is the ideal minimum and three pairs is the magic number. Even if you pack ultra-light, there’s always room for two. A nice balance for three travel shoes is comfort, function, and style.
Read this post on how to choose shoes for a round-the-world trip!
1 (Sightseeing) Walking Shoes
These are the main travel shoes you’ll be using to do your daily sightseeing. They have to be comfortable but you also have to feel good wearing them too. You’ll walk through the streets of Bangkok, Sydney, and Cape Town and should feel happy to pair these shoes with all your travel outfits.
Travelers wanting comfort as a top priority opt for traditional set of cute and comfortable travel sandals or even Birkenstocks for a more feminine style. Crocs make comfortable and cute flats that many women swear by but many prefer the flexibility of these cute and comfortable ballet flats for travel.
If you’ll be spending the majority of your trip in cooler city climates, a pair of ankle boots will keep you warm without the bulk of tall boots.
Sneakers are hit and miss because they’re comfortable for some people but not everyone. If you do wear them at home and find them comfortable then Toms, Converse, and Cushe slip-ons are a lightweight, stylish choice for many fashion conscious travelers.
Look at our round up of the most comfortable and cute walking shoes for travel!
1 (Activity) Trekking/Hiking Shoes
When you’re on a RTW trip and you want to scale mountains in Peru, Tanzania, and Nepal you’ll need good trainers or hybrid hiking shoes.
Popular choices range from Merrell Hiking shoes to Nike Free trainers. The choice is yours but select a pair that you also feel comfortable wearing when you’re not on a mountain. Pack a pair that go well when worn with your “travel pants” and leggings.
1 Flip Flops
A must for every backpacker, flip flops are essential if you’re hitting the beach; lounging around; or just want to keep your feet clean from those grimy hostel showers.
To maximize space, look for a set that can double up as dressier sandals such as nicer styles by Havaianas and iPanemas. I’m in love with this Maya Thong style by Ipanema. Alternatively, choose a pair of versatile beach sandals like these .
Learn more about why women’s flip flops are must on a backpacker trip!
1 Nice Shoes
If you’re headed to more cities than beaches, you may prefer a nice pair of ballet flats or cute walking sandals. Ultimately, bring no more four shoes, ideally three and make sure they’re appropriate for all your activities and can mix and match with all your outfits.
Don’t forget to break in your shoes and try them on with all your outfits to ensure they work well together!
RTW Travel Gear
The gear you choose for your round-the-world trip is even more important than the clothing. Read these articles for all the gear that you need for your RTW packing list:
- How to Choose a Travel Backpack
- Why the Osprey Farpoint 55 is the Best Travel Backpack
- Top 10 Hostel Checklist Essentials
- 8 Budget Travel Essentials
- How to Do Hand Wash Laundry While Traveling
Packing cubes are the secret to packing in a small bag. They’ll literally change the way you travel! In this packing video tutorial, learn how to travel carryon only and pack light using Packing Cube Set to pack the quantity of clothing shown in the above RTW Packing List:
Packing Cube Set Review and Video Tutorial
If you’re already packing light but want something to keep your stuff organized, check out this backpack organizer! It’s especially helpful if you’re planning to stay in hostels and budget accommodation.
Have any tips on RTW pakcing list? Share them below!
For more useful tips to help you plan your backpacking trip, please read these articles:
- Backpacking Europe Packing List
- Backpacking Southeast Asia Packing List
- Backpacking Australia Packing List
- Backpacking New Zealand Packing List
- Backpacking Central America Minimalist Essentials
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