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Traveling to remote islands? Here’s how to pack when you’re headed to a destination with limited electricity, fresh water, and without the comforts of home. Be prepared for the unexpected when traveling to remote places like these!
Packing for Remote Islands
In the past eight years of my long-term travels, I’ve found myself “off the beaten path” on several occasions particularly because some of the best scuba diving destinations are in remote islands in the middle of nowhere.
However, they have also been some of the most exciting and memorable experiences.
Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia
I spent one week in Raja Ampat, one of the best islands in Indonesia (“the last underwater frontier”), five weeks living in the Guatemalan jungle, one week in the Borneo jungle, several days exploring Thailand’s natural reserves, and several stints in remote scuba diving locations such as Anilao in the Philippines.
I’ve learned a thing or two about preparation for remote places like these. Read these tips to find out what they are!
Choosing the Best Clothing
Just because you’re headed to remote islands, you don’t have to wear only technical travel gear. The clothing is ideal due to it’s fabric, but don’t feel that you’re stuck with only these options.
The main thing you have to remember is that your choice of fabrics is key.
Learn more about how to choose the best fabrics for travel here.
Because you’ll probably have limited access to laundry, in remote places you’ll need to choose fabric based on:
- weather (cold or humid)
- fabrics with quick-drying, water repellant features
- fabrics that won’t absorb moisture or scents easily
- items you can re-wear repeatedly without showing dust or wear
Look for clothing brands that feature these properties in their fabrics. You can find these items in workout clothes or athletic brands without needing to use tech travel clothing.
My favorite brands for regular clothes that work well for this type of travel are:
- Ibex ( This brand is now out of business. For another option, check out Icebreaker.)
- Old Navy
- Zella Brand from Nordstrom
- Anatomie for their excellent travel pants
I alternate tech, fitness, and regular clothing when traveling to remote islands.
Planning Strategic Outfits for Your Stay
When I’m in remote islands with limited access to laundry I create a mini-capsule wardrobe from my already minimalist travel wardrobe.
The most helpful packing strategy has been the careful selection of my outfits during my time in these locations. For example, I wore the above denim jeans and cotton top every day for five days in the Philippines when I was lounging around after diving.
By re-wearing certain clothing items I can prolong my wardrobe.
Rio Dulce river near Livingstone, Guatemala
With the exception of Guatemala, where I spent five weeks in the jungle, all my shorter trips of one week or less featured this perfect plan:
- Choose 3-5 of the best pieces based on the above criteria.
- Plan to re-wear and rotate only these items during your stay. Washing clothing in remote locations is sometimes difficult due to limited access to fresh water or humid conditions that make it impossible for fabric to dry when wet.
- Hang up and air out items after every use to prevent odors. Bring a long thin rope, travel clothesline, or even dental floss to hang your clothing anywhere.
- By carefully rotating, you can limit your need to wash these items. In fact, the purpose of this strategy is to wear a few pieces repeatedly without washing them.
My room in Koranu Fyak Guest house in Raja Ampat
For example, on a budget scuba diving trip to remote islands in Raja Ampat, I spent one week staying in a local guesthouse Koranu Fyak (shown above).
Travel to Raja Ampat is still in progress. Fortunately it’s not fully developed making it pristine but it’s only been until recently that there have been more resources available for this destination.
My budget guest house had no electricity, salt-water showers, and I slept in a small wooden shack with only a bed on the floor with a mosquito net over it. It may not look like much but it was situated on paradise!
Because I couldn’t wash my clothing with fresh water, I decided not to wash it at all.
I wore the same two pieces of clothing to sleep, the same two pieces of clothing after every shower to lounge around, and a yellow terry cover-up with a bathing suit in the morning prior to snorkeling or scuba diving.
I used a similar strategy for my honeymoon in the Maldives. However, since I was on a luxury scuba diving liveaboard, my clothing had a bit more vacay style as you can see in this post!
Paradise at Koranu Fyak Guest house in Raja Ampat
The items I rotated included:
- To sleep: cotton concert tee plus running shorts
- For mornings: terry yellow cover-up
- Two bathing suits: one for in the water, and one for out of the water
I hung a rope across my small room to air out the only clothing I would rotate during this time. I also kept my toiletries and other essentials easily accessible but everything else remained in my luggage.
As you can see in the above image, I kept the majority of my items locked inside my Osprey Meridian suitcase for three main reasons:
- organization in limited space
- to keep bugs out
I had an overnight stay in Sorong before flying out of West Papua where I stayed in Je Meridien hotel near the airport. Because I only used a few items on my trip, I had access to clean clothing to freshen up before flying to Thailand after my incredible adventure in Raja Ampat’s serene and remote islands.
“Muck” diving paradise at the Photo Hotel in Anilao, Philippines
Most recently, I used the exact same strategy for one week scuba diving at the Photo Hotel in Anilao, Philippines. While this location wasn’t as inaccessible, I thought it would be useful to repeat the process here and it worked perfectly!
These were my clothes of choice (pic above, items below):
- Calypso cotton top
- Athleta jogger pants
- Roxy swim shorts
- Kooshoo wrap
- Black Adea top
- Two bathing suits
As you can see, I had them all hung up to air out as I mentioned previously. As a bonus, no need to look in my luggage for what I needed. It was all there!
Because I was spending the majority of my days in the water, I didn’t use the approach of planning outfits.
Instead, I mixed and matched one or more of the above pieces as it worked with that day’s activities, for example:
- Calypso top plus Kooshoo skirt as a nice outfit to wear on my anniversary dinner
- Kooshoo as a cover-up to wear casually with my bathing suit anytime
- Calypso top plus Athleta pants to wear when I didn’t want mosquitos biting my legs
- Kooshoo cover-up as a wrap around my arms plus Athleta Pants when mosquitos were bad or if it was a bit cold from rain (I try to prolong the use of my mosquito repellant when I can)
- Calypso top plus Roxy shorts for chilling out
- I slept in my “dry” bathing suit or nothing since it was hot
I use a similar strategy when staying on scuba diving liveaboards. Learn more about how to pack for them here!
By following one of the above strategies, you limit the amount of pieces you wear, so you’ll have a fresh batch of clothing when you’re ready to leave the remote islands.
Here are a few more things to consider when packing for remote islands:
- Your Own Light Source: always bring a headlamp to have hands-free access to light at night or during power outages. Find out why I always bring a travel headlamp!
- Back Up Power Supply: you probably wont need your phone so much since you wont be able to charge it; put it into Airplane Mode to make the battery last longer and bring a portable power supply like this one with at least enough power for two full charges to top up when the generator isn’t available.
- Protect Electronics: electronics can deteriorate quite quickly in humidity. If your trip will be in the heat or the tropics, bring a waterproof or dry bag to store them when not in use.
- Toiletries: bring multi-use or biodegradable products whenever possible since the shower water might run directly into the ocean, lakes, or rivers. The one exception might be strong bug repellant but you can also find natural options like this one.
Are you traveling to various destinations on one trip? Learn more about how to pack for a diverse or long trip!
Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia
What are your tips on what to pack for remote islands or similar places? Comment below!
For more packing tips, please read:
- 10 Step Packing Guide to Stop Overpacking
- 10 Step Guide to Packing for Any Trip
- How to Save Space in a Suitcase: 5 Simple Ideas
- Learn the Secret to Packing Light in 60 Minutes
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