What to pack for one year?
July 22, 2008 9:16 AM   Subscribe

How to pack for one year?

I am very ignorant of the logistics for what I'll need, despite having read onebag.com and other travel resources. I'd love to hear advice from anyone who has been in a similar situation!

My question is -- what type of luggage, and how much should I bring for one year?

I'm traveling to New Zealand in a couple days with my boyfriend. We're from Canada. We both have one year working holiday visas, no jobs yet. We're stopping in Fiji for 5 days on the way over, then flying to Auckland, where we have a hostel booked for 2 days. After exploring Auckland, we're going to travel around the north island for a little bit, and make our way to Wellington and decide which city we want to settle in. Since we will be in one place for an extended period of time, I'm not sure what type of luggage to use and how much to bring.

I was originally planning on bringing a suitcase on wheels, but got horrified reactions from everyone who has actually done this type of travel. (I have never traveled for more than 2 weeks). So I got a good, large, backpack, and despite my cringing at the thought of looking like a pretentious would-be mountaineer, I'm willing to do whatever is the most practical.

Do I try to fit everything into my 60L backpack? I'll also have a small carryon daypack as well. Is it a ridiculous idea to also bring a small suitcase for additional items to store somewhere until we get a permanent place?

Here's what I'm thinking about right now:
- I know I can buy everything I need. But New Zealand is more expensive than Canada for many things, and I don't know if I want to replace a lot of shoes, clothes, etc.
- I'm not concerned about the extra baggage charges (if any) for taking an extra suitcase. We're allowed two pieces of 20kg luggage before extra charges.
- how many pairs of pants, shirts, shoes, socks, underwear, etc. is right?

I'm sorry this question isn't more articulate -- I'm getting a bit frazzled in these last few days. I'd love to hear from anyone who has packed for a year -- what is the most feasible?'

Is a backpack really the way to go? This is the model I just got, although I may take it back if a suitcase is more reasonable.

This is the first trip of this kind I have ever been on, so please excuse my ignorance and I appreciate all your help!
posted by Flying Squirrel to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
For longer backpacking trips, I always pack for 5 days no matter how long and do laundry on the road.

My bag is usually filled with:

5 shirts (3 t-shirts and 2 collared)
2 pants (one pair jeans, one pair of those ultra touristy ones that zip off into shorts. sue me!)
5 pairs of socks
5 pairs of boxers

The freedom a backpack allows will greatly overpower the "luxury" of bringing a bunch of crap you really don't need and can buy if you find out you really do.
posted by nitsuj at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2008

You're overthinking.

You're not packing for a year. You're packing for however long your clean-laundry cycle is.

Have a week or so of clean underwear and socks. This is the most important thing.

I don't know about you, but I (and nearly everyone else I know) tend to wear the same 4-5 outfits all the time. When I was in France for about 8 months some years ago, I had a suitcase and a daypack - I was staying in one place, and had a place to do my laundry, so it was all good (though I was incredibly sick of all my clothes at the end of the trip).

Two or three pairs of pants - one should be "nice", for interviews and dinners out. Five/six shirts. Maybe three sweaters/warm tops - again, one should be "nice." All of this stuff should be washable, not dry-cleaning-only. Shoes are hard because they take up so much room. Settle on two pairs - one that's good for walking/hiking, one that will work with your "nice" outfit.

Unless there's a particular brand of face cream or something that will be ungettable in NZ, leave most of your toiletries at home. They'll take up room and might leak in your bag. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant.
posted by rtha at 9:37 AM on July 22, 2008

Pack as little as possible, and yes, a backpack is better in the circumstances.

I've moved by airplane several times for a year or two - a suitcase works if your going immediately to where you'll settle but if you're travelling at all beforehand, or during, you'll want the convenience of a pack.

As for what to take, you really don't need as much as you'd think. Since you're going for the short term, you're probably looking at renting a room or a sublet that has some furnishings and a stocked kitchen (the kiwi sitting beside me says you can get one without too much trouble). Shoes are the hard part - you'll have to compromise. I never take more than 3 pairs to start - one sturdy pair that I can walk/hike in, one dressier pair and sandals (wearing the bulkiest pair when travelling). As for clothes, remember once you're settled you'll be able to do laundry often. Yes you might miss having the choice that you have at home when getting dressed in the morning, but as long as you have an assortment of nicer and casual clothes, you'll be fine. Say a couple pairs of jeans, a couple pairs of casual pants, something dressier and an assortment of T-shirts and nicer long sleeve shirts. Plus a couple of sweaters since New Zealand gets cold. As for socks and underwear, not as many as you'd think - you can do laundry regularly - in the sink if you need to when travelling.

Finally, let second-hand stores become your friend. There's nothing wrong with supplementing your wardrobe, library and kitsch collections from the local thrift store. And it's way cheaper than buying new. Don't take everything you think you might ever need - it's easier to replace a few things once you're there, and you'll be surprised when you realize how many things there are that you didn't really need afterall.

Good luck!!! Moving overseas for the first time is a pretty big adventure - and it can be pretty amazing.
posted by scrute at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2008

Get some of these (beware, audio).

You can find them (although maybe not that brand) in a department store.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:45 AM on July 22, 2008

A cheap way to maximize space is to get huge ziplock bags, place folded clothing inside, and vacuum out the air using a hose attachment.

I WAY overpacked for my year-long study abroad. Of course my host family lived in a tiny four-floor walk up apartment, and I ended up not even using probably 30% of what I lugged there and back. Shoes and toiletries were my biggest problems. Really think about how many pairs of shoes you actually NEED-- they're heavy! So are big bottles of shampoo and toothpaste. I would recommend bringing 3 or 4 days worth of the most basic necessities, perhaps a few hotel-sized containers, and then hit the grocery store when you get there.
posted by jschu at 10:10 AM on July 22, 2008

Also, consider shipping back any souvenirs you might buy there. It may be more economical than paying for overweight baggage fees.
posted by jschu at 10:16 AM on July 22, 2008

If there are things you think you can't live without for a year, but can live without for a few weeks, maybe have those things packed up and ready to ship and when you've got someplace permanent, have a friend or family member ship them for you. Same goes for the return. But really, the best advice is to live lightly for the year you're going to be gone.
posted by cooker girl at 10:20 AM on July 22, 2008

Weird but true: They have stores all over the world. Sorry to be so snarky, but it's not like you can't buy any clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, deoderant, q-tips, books, magazines, hammocks, sweaters over there. So just relax and go with the flow. Having a roll of cash in your bag is a lot lighter than having "going out clothes" that you may not ever need (and if you do need 'em, they might be totally inappropriate for the local environment). Having the money in a bank account is even lighter on the back. They also have ATMs all over the world.

Have a great trip. Just take the bag nearly empty minus some underwear and maybe socks. Then you'll fill it up with great stuff that's impossible to find where you're from. You'll also be able to look more like a local, since you'll shop where they shop and wear what they wear. Note: good shoes are very expensive in some countries, so bring those from home (even though they're heavy). Hiking boots, casual shoes (sneakers / trainers), and flip flops should just about cover it. Unless you need dressy stuff for some reason.
posted by zpousman at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2008

jschu is right, and less snarky than me. so listen to him instead. But definitely plan to buy what you need for your job you don't have yet over there instead of bringing stuff from home. Think about the awesome clothes you'll get over there, not all of your stuff that you'll lug around for weeks in Fiji.
posted by zpousman at 10:29 AM on July 22, 2008

That bag has plenty of space for everything you'll need until you get settled. Remember that you have to *carry* everything you pack. You're going to be shuttling between airports, hotels, transit, cars, etc. and at that point you have to lug everything you bring. It's just *so* much less of a hassle if you're not schlepping a big backpack and a daypack AND a suitcase around the city.

Pack light - bring the minimum you'll need until you get settled. You can always have someone ship a box of the extras once you've decided where to stay. Rick Steves has great advice on packing light.
posted by cnc at 12:46 PM on July 22, 2008

I've been on two 1+ year trips. I have an Eagle Creek 22" carry-on that doubles as a backpack. Here's a shocker, though: in 2 years and 22 countries (incl NZ twice), I've only used the backpack straps/waist belt a half dozen times. Stick with a rolling bag.

Get Eagle Creek. They'll repair it no matter what happens to it. My wheels were sawn off in Guatemala (don't ask) and I mailed it to them at their expense and they had it back to me in a week, free of charge. They're also super-sturdy.

I only bring things that can go in carry-ons. Pack light, mail boxes back as you accumulate things you want to keep (books, clothes). What you pack is strongly mediated by what you do- I'm a fire scientist who has to tromp around on fire lines but also really likes museums.

My list:

Long underwear (both for chilly nights in NZ and layering)
5 pairs of wool socks
5 pairs of cotton underwear
2 sports bras
1 regular bra
silk gloves

1 pair casual heavy duty pants. I like Carharts, they singe but never burn
1 pair dress slacks, black
1 pair of casual heavy-duty shorts

1 dress shirt (I like the non-iron Fox ones from Nordstroms, they don't wrinkle. Wash, shake, and wear)
1 blouse
2 t-shirts that double as sleep shirts

1 rain shell
1 "nice" sweater that can also double as layering

1 pair jogging shoes
1 pair nice, polished walking shoes (I like Mephistos- you can wear them for long walks, museums, and nice parties)
1 pair Chaco sandals for scrambling around on rocks and showering

I won't get into other minutia but here are the high points:

Pacsafe (weighs ~2 lbs, you can use it to secure your bag, very very nice)
Little medicine folder with multiple pockets. Ask your doctor for some extras.
rubber clothesline and little packets of woolite soap
good camera (I bring my digital SLR everywhere, it is worth the weight/space)
photocopies of vital documents taped to bottom of suitcase (interior) as well as online
Small/mini first aid kit
posted by arnicae at 2:39 PM on July 22, 2008 [4 favorites]

Oh, and I packed it all in 2 vacuum bag, one Eagle Creek "cube", one of the small Eagle creek medicine bags with a hanger on the back. Vacuum bags are great. Make sure you bring duct tape to repair the holes.
posted by arnicae at 2:40 PM on July 22, 2008

On a February visit to New Zealand, I found clothing and (especially) shoes to be surprisingly expensive. If you're on a budget, it might be worth researching prices there before planning what to pack and what to buy when you arrive.
posted by magicbus at 3:15 PM on July 22, 2008

We just got back from travelling for 2 months in Greece and Turkey.

Things I was really glad I brought:
- iPod - for mood management with music and games
- nice digital camera (use this to take pictures of your passport, plane tickets, etc - instant portable file folder!)
- Eagle pack-it cubes to keep everything organized
- Leatherman multi-tool (careful with airport security!)
- a mesh laundry bag or a pop-up cube - keeps dirty laundry separated and is super light

Things you can buy anywhere, sure, but you might as well bring:
- Q-tips
- Imodium (when you need it, you need it now!)

Things I wish I brought:
- a little photo album with pictures of my family and daily life. Takes time to prepare but great for conversation with new friends.
posted by ebellicosa at 10:12 PM on July 22, 2008

Other people have better packing lists than I'd come up with, but I would suggest going with the backpack instead of the rolling bag. The rolling bag will only roll on hard or packed surfaces. A gravel road kills that right quick. So does grass, dirt, mud, metal grating running the wrong way, etc.

And carrying one of those rolling suitcases, filled full of your worldly goods, is going to suck.
posted by Netzapper at 10:41 PM on July 22, 2008

This might not be what you're looking for, but two things you absolutely cannot find in NZ are maple syrup and good peanut butter. Also (it's been a while since I've been to Canada), I remember that you guys had some really good candy bars.

Things like that are important to pack so you have something of home to share with other people, when you're homesick, whatever. Cloths and stuff you can buy if you don't bring enough (esp. with the abundance of thrift stores in cities like Christchurch).
posted by lockestockbarrel at 6:38 PM on July 23, 2008

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