What to Pack
Traveling for a year? Here's our thoughts and decisions on how to pack for beach activities, mountain trekking, city tours, holy sites and even a bit of night life.

First off, we have very limited space based on our theory: "you bring it, you carry it". We laid everything out on the floor, checked the fit and found that we needed to get rid of about 1/2. The first conversation we went through was "OK, what are the critical things we think we need to bring. Let's sort that out, then figure out the clothes."

Non-Clothing Essentials
We already have the laptop, camera gear and med and toiletry needs sorted (see separate sections). There are a few other non-clothing essentials we'll need to consider. We’re going to several places with endemic malaria. We’ll have meds for the really bad places but too much can destroy a liver so a mosquito net is a must-have on our list. Other must-haves are headlamps for night hikes but also great for caves, reading on a long bus rides and the dodgy electricity service we found in much of the third world. A few other things that we found invaluable were ear plugs for busy thin walled hostels/hotels and over-night buses/planes, a knee brace (we’re old), pocket knife with bottle opener and wine opener, a lighter, clothes line (a 30 foot nylon line will work as a clothes line, tie-down or even a line to hang the mosquito net) and a good book (we chose a Sudoku book of 500 and 1 book each we traded along the route). 

Drinking Water
One more essential is clean drinking water so I'll digress for a minute because it is worth mention. One bad sip and you can be hiding in your room (bathroom actually) for days. What to do? Buy bottled water everywhere? Bring a filter system? Iodine tablets? Some other new fancy-shmancy gadget? We looked at many of these things and in the end, decided on a combination. When we’re in developed areas, it’s easiest just to buy bottled water. But in the mountains or remote areas, that may not be possible. We’ve done the Pur filters in the past and always found them cumbersome. Just before we left, we stumbled onto a new treatment system by Steripen. It’s a UV light pen that treats a liter of water in 30 seconds by simply stirring. The UV light destroys the DNA of any living organisms in the water, making them unable to reproduce. As long as the water is clear of dirt or chemicals, you’re good to go. We used this all through our travels and loved it. It is small, weighs only a few ounces and packs up easily. Our only complaint was in Nepal (where we needed it most). It failed us above 4,000m going over the Annapurna Circuit pass. I’m not sure if it was the cold or the altitude but it wouldn’t stay on the full 30 seconds (even with fresh batteries). Unfortunately, Giardia is rampant up there and we both came down with it. But, this was our only water issue in over a year and we were able to treat in immediately on the mountain. So in the end, we still swear by it. Just make sure you bring extra batteries. (Learn more about the Steripen)

NONE! We did buy $50 watches with an alarm and night light and $20 stainless steal wedding bands. Susan had 1 pair of earrings. We decided to enjoy the freedom from worry about loosing valuables along the way...ie. we didn't bring ANY. We even bought $2 sunglasses several times (when we lost or broke the last pair) as we traveled. This limited our concerns to the cameras, laptop and iPods which we could carry around during the day if we felt security was an issue. Everything else was replaceable and worry free.

OK, so the things above don’t take up all that much space so the big question now is what clothes and shoes to bring. We’re gone for about a year. It’s impossible to think of all occasions but we know we’ll be in climates from snow to tropical. Think LAYERS. We start with a lightweight Gortex shell. Great for wet weather in either cold or hot. We also have lightweight polyester base layer (think ski thermals) for the really cold weather. We also threw in a hat and a pair of gloves. With these as inner and outer layers, we can now withstand any normal temps. So the question is now just clothes and shoes.

We decide that the right way to think about this is that we’re not packing for a yearlong trip, we’re packing for 90 4-day trips. That makes things much easier! Second thought is that we’ll likely have to do our own hand washing quite a bit... no washers and driers in most of the places we’re headed... so cottons are out. We want quick drying synthetics. This type of material works best for layering too. So no jeans, no heavy shirts, no cotton socks or underwear. Luckily, most outdoor stores sell great travel clothing for just such a trip. Brands like North Face, Columbia and REI are durable and nice looking as well. Erik bought a few Columbia short sleeve shirts that are made of quick dry material. They look and wear like cotton but are light and dry very quickly. Susan had a few workout shells, 2 thin t-shirts and 2 long-sleeve t-shits. We also picked up a couple pair each of convertible pants. They’re made out of the same lightweight, quick-dry material and the legs zip off at the knees to allow for shorts and slack in a single pair of trousers. These worked great for both of us. We also both picked up a few pair of crop pants/shorts. With a couple pairs of socks and undies, we have our wardrobe for the year. Of course when we found we were missing something, it was easy enough to make a quick purchase along the way. Susan’s favorite was a $2.50 scarf she picked up in SE Asia that kept her neck warm as well as provided a great shawl for those church and temple visits and became her dress up ware for nice dinners.

The biggest problem was choosing what shoes to bring. Shoes can pose a big space problem, especially if you wear a size 13 like Erik. We decided on a pair of hiking boots, keens and flip-flops for each of us. I would have liked to bring a pair dressier shoes but figured we'd make do with the boots. There was just no room for more shoes.

Final rule for wardrobe is the burn rule. If we get sick of something the other is wearing we’re allowed to strip it off them, burn it and replace it with something new. After all, seeing the same 4 or 5 pairs of shirts and trousers for a year can get old fast. Interestingly, while we did replace a couple things along the way, we didn’t get to an actual burning ritual until the end of our southern Africa adventure in month 8 of the trip. (See the photos here). But in the end, we've been pleasantly surprised that our selections took all the ware and tear we threw at them and lasted just fine.http://www.steripen.com/travel/index.htmlBlog/Entries/2008/8/9_Parks,_Dunes_%26_Canyons..._Our_Last_Days_in_the_4x4.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1