How I Lived Out Of a Backpack for Almost a Year: The Packing Guide

How I Lived Out Of a Backpack for Almost a Year: The Packing Guide

This one is for all the people who have asked me how in the world I packed my life into a backpack for almost a year. The answer is truly you need less than you think you do. BUT here’s what I packed for my World Race!


Backpack: I would absolutely suggest buying your pack in person! If you have an REI close to you, take advantage. The workers are trained to be able to assist you in fitting your pack to your body size, as well as finding the correct size/ style for you. I made the mistake of just ordering a pack online, and my hike at training camp was MISERABLE because it hadn’t been fitted to me! The Osprey packs are definitely the most popular and are great quality.

  • My pack is a Black Diamond Onyx Women’s 75L.

*PRO TIP*: the bigger your pack is, the more crap you’ll stuff inside. I’m telling you. You think you’ll save room and “only pack what you need”, leaving extra room. But you won’t. Just trust me on this one. Some people on my team have packs as small as a 55L, but the average is 60-70L, which is plenty of room to hold everything you need.


Daypack: I would suggest buying a new daypack just for the Race. Some people opt to use a regular backpack, and really it’s your choice. Obviously, you get what you pay for, but for the most part they work fairly similarly. You’ll probably end up carrying all your electronics in your daypack and that can be pretty heavy. Keep in mind, this is the pack that you’ll be lugging through airports and toting on every local transportation imaginable.


  • My daypack is a small backpack made by DG that I found for cheap at TJ Maxx. I like it a lot! It’s small, but packs a surprising amount. (laptop, journal, bible, sleeping bag liner, wallet, documents, etc.)
  • the TOPO bag is another popular one (and it’s real cute), but I’d say it’s not worth the $200 you’ll pay for it.


Tent: People will tell you that you won’t tent on the race. And some (a rare few) people make it the whole race without tenting. However, I’ve used my tent for 5 consecutive months (out of 6 months on the race thus far). BRING A TENT!!! We stayed in a shack in Thailand (check out that little gem HERE), and we had to tent inside. Now in Malawi, we are tenting outside of a hostel for 3 months. Again I warn you, BRING A TENT!


  • I would suggest the REI Half Dome. Pricey but worth it. Above all, make sure your tent is FREE STANDING (meaning you don’t have to stake it into the ground for it to stand). This way, if your team needs to tent indoors, your tent will stand up. Remember to also buy a footprint to protect the floor of your tent during camping! (OR use a tarp!!! Works just as well…)


***TIP: Watch out for REI sales! They have them all the time and if you’re smart about it, you can snag your tent at below $100. There is a particularly big sale on the 4th of July.

***TIP: I also used the Steep and Cheap app! It’s specifically for hiking and camping gear- including clothes, chaos, tents, sleeping bags, etc. They have all kinds of deals on gear that you can get for really cheap.


Airporter: An airporter is essentially a large duffel bag that you put your pack into so that it doesn’t damage the actual pack. You’d be surprised how much your pack will get beat up in airports, on buses, etc. Better to have holes in your airporter than in your actual pack! The airporter also helps so that you can hang things off the side of your pack and not have to deal with shoving them into your pack. (I’m telling you, you’ll need one of these. LIFE SAVER.)

Rain Cover for your pack. Some say not to bring one, but they’re light, you can hang it off the side of your pack, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. My squad has spent all of Malawi in rainy season, so you never know.


Headlamp: You’re not too cool to use this, I promise! I felt ridiculous when I first got mine, but it’ll soon become completely normal and you’ll wonder why you ever used a flashlight. Especially living in your tent. Look for one with adjustable settings (low, bright and red). Good brands are Black Diamond and Petzl. Pack a few backup batteries just for emergencies.

***TIP: Okay, this is a weird one, but bear with me. My mom found this awesome invention on kickstart called a “Loominoodle” and it was one of the best things I brought on the race. It’s basically a string of lights with a battery pack that you can charge via USB port on your computer. We used it to light our bathroom in our shack in Thailand that didn’t have a light. When you don’t need a string of lights, you can stuff it all in the bag and turn the lights on, making it a lantern. It’s kind of the coolest. (The battery pack and only the battery pack was stolen out of my tent when we lived in Africa, so I had to get rid of the rest because I couldn’t charge it/ turn it on anymore, and it was a really sad day.)


Pillow: Thermarest pillows are most Racers pillows of choice. They are comfortable and pack down really small for easy travel. I got mine at Target in the camping isle- it’s a medium. You can also get them on Amazon for cheap. Most people go for the Large or Extra Large, but mine works just fine! They start to lose fluffiness after a bit, but you can wash them and they’ll spring right back up. Other people on my squad brought a pillow from home that they carry in their hands during travel day. Remember, this will be your pillow for one entire year. Don’t listen to anyone telling you you only need a stuff sack filled with clothes or that an inflatable pillow will do!

*Bringing a light pillowcase that you made/bought keeps your pillow cleaner for longer and is easier to wash more regularly than the pillow. They’re also great to stuff things in for travel day if you carry your pillow.

Sleeping Bag: Here’s the thing- depends on your sleeping bag liner and your ability to pack layers of clothes. 99% of people bring one. I dropped mine in Cambodia month one because it was sweltering, and my route was chasing summer. However, months 2-3, we lived in a tiny village in the mountains of Northern Thailand and it was pretty cold most nights. There’ll be nights when you stay in an air-conditioned hotel room for debriefs and you’ll want to crank the air all the way up since you haven’t felt anything but heat and sweat in months. However, my sleeping bag liner is practically a fleece blanket, so I didn’t need one.

Sleeping Bag Liner: Cotton or polyester ones are better than silk from what I hear. You’ll be making a LOT of use out of this item since most countries it is too hot to use a sleeping bag. Mine, again, is made of fleece, so it’s no different than a sleeping bag (temperature wise). I’d suggest a thinner one.

Sleeping Pad and Repair Kit: This will be your bed for several months during the Race so don’t be stingy on spending a little money in this area. Look for a sleeping pad that is durable, packs small and has a foot pump (you’ll appreciate it in weeks when you move from location to location and don’t have to continuously keep blowing your sleeping pad up with your mouth) or one that’s self-inflating. Thermarest, Exped and Big Agnes (Q-Core) are all popular brand choices.


  • My sleeping pad is an old, military grade one that I borrowed. It’s thin and not super comfortable, nor does it pack down small at all. trust me when I say you’ll want something comfortable (especially when you find out you’re tenting for 5 months in a row).

Once you’re on the Race, take good care of your pad. People will step on it often if you leave it lying around on the floor and you’ll quickly discover you have a leak! (Hence the repair kit. This usually comes with your sleeping pad when you buy it.)


Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek packing cubes are the way to go. They’re expensive but I promise you they are SO worth it. I got one set of packing cubes from TJ Maxx, and they ripped at Training Camp. Then I got another kind for the race (also from TJ Maxx) and they’ve held up semi-decent, but they’re super fragile for sure. Go with the Eagle Creek ones- I promise you won’t be sorry. They’re also awesome for packing at home. They’re a good investment and they’ll last. Forget stuff sacks for your clothes: they’ll only leave everything wrinkled and disorganized.


Stuff Sacks:  It doesn’t really matter which brand you buy, but this little item will ensure your sleeping bag and tent will pack as tiny as possible. Sea to Summit ones are really popular though.


Here’s some overall tips:


  • Think neutral! Pack items that can easily be worn in several ways.
  • Pack for WR dress code. Don’t get stuck on the field or at Training Camp complaining that you have nothing in dress code to wear. Pack for dress code and you won’t have that issue.
  • You’ll want to drop clothes/ pick up new items (ESPECIALLY in Asia! If you’re headed to Cambodia/ Thailand first, I’d suggest under packing on clothes, because there are tons of items for suuuuuuper cheap)
  • other countries have clothes that are more suitable for their climates (i.e. Asian clothing is much thinner because it’s HOT. African skirts are thin but durable material).
  • IF YOU DON’T WEAR IT AT HOME YOU WON’T WANT TO ON THE RACE. Now I’m not saying everyone walks around in awkwardly long, WR appropriate shorts at home, but you’ll need to bring them. Some people love basketball shorts, I am not one of those people. So go for cute. I promise that going on the race doesn’t give you a love for dressing like a boy.

Shirts: Pack 5 shirts that cover your shoulders. A lot of places, it isn’t acceptable to show your shoulders, especially at ministry. However, you should also bring 2 tank tops. Bring at least 2 “dressy” shirts to wear at church or for months when you work in an office. In most countries, it is considered very important to look put-together so beaten up t-shirts won’t always do.

Some of these can be t-shirts, but if you’re not a t-shirt kind of person at home, don’t feel like you can only wear t-shirts on the race. I mean, you’ll want some for sure, but you get it.


Skirts: I suggest 2 skirts that go to your ankles. If you’re traveling to India or Africa in the first few months, I’d probably go ahead and pack 3 since in India they consider even the sight of your ankles to be extremely scandalous and in Africa, women are expected to wear skirts for most ministry work. I brought one printed maxi skirt and one black one. It gets quite boring to wear the same two skirts every day for months at a time. However, as soon as we got to Africa, we all picked up one or two “wrappas”- basically sheets of fabric that all the locals wear.


Shorts/Capris: 3 pairs that go to your knees for ministry or going out in public and 1 pair of athletic shorts to work out in, sleep in or wear around the house.

  • Again, I say this because you’ll want shorts. However, I dropped my khaki shorts and my nicer grey shorts at the end of month 3 because I’d never worn them once. Now I have one pair of athletic shorts (which I actually forgot when packing, so I picked them up at a grocery store in Thailand) and a pair of black cotton shorts, which are really comfortable & I paint in them.
  • DUDE, THEY’RE NO JOKE AT TRAINING CAMP. And you’ll want to wear shorts at Training Camp because it’s incredibly hot all the time. Pack for dress code.

Pants: If you love jeans at home, I promise you’ll want them on the race. They’re also just nice looking, for when you want to feel human in the middle of the race or go out to a nice dinner. Their slightly heavier and bulkier, but hey, if it’s space in your pack you’re worried about, then wear them on travel day! I also brought 2 pairs of cotton pants (PJ section at TJ Maxx!!!)- one plain black and one blue and white patterned. Again, think comfortable and cute.


Lightweight Sweatshirt/ Flannel: You don’t necessarily need both, but you can if you’d like. They also don’t have to be particularly warm, just enough for chilly nights on the plane or on an overnight bus. I brought a flannel from American Eagle and I wear it all the time. I even picked up another one at a thrift stand in Thailand. If you’re a sweatshirt person, bring one.


Rain Jacket: I’ve used this a ton on the Race. Rainy seasons are insane- especially in Asia/ Africa if you’re there at the right times. Mine is North Face, but I bought it at TJ Maxx (can y’all tell I love TJ Maxx? sheesh…)


Thin Cardigan  I love mine- it’s grey from Target, and it works awesome for expanding wardrobe options and quickly making tank tops/dresses appropriate for church/ ministry/ temples/ etc.


Leggings: 1 black pair is all you need. You can’t actually wear them as pants, but theyre great for sleeping, layers, and mixing up your wardrobe (under dresses/skirts).

Bras: My squad is the first all-girl squad, and for the most part, people went with 3 regular bras, 3 sports bras, and 3 bralettes. If you wear sports bras more often, bring more sports bras. If you hate sports bras, still bring at least one for manual labor and working out. If you don’t like bralettes, don’t bring them. It’s all about comfort and preference.

Undies 20 pairs or more! Honestly, the more the merrier. Foreign underwear is weird and uncomfortable and since you’ll have to use the buddy system even for shopping, you might end up having to take one of the men on your team with you. (Not a problem on my squad, but you know…)

  • I brought 10 pairs for the first half and kept another 10 wrapped up until the halfway point of the race (which happened to be Valentines Day), and had 10 new pairs! It was the best feeling in the world

Also, While you don’t have to pack granny underwear, know that your laundry will be drying within in view of everyone so don’t pack anything you wouldn’t want them to see. My team was all girls, so we didn’t necessarily have this problem, but you’re still living with hosts, doing your own laundry, etc.

Socks 5 pairs (2 of them should be warm pairs).

2/3 pairs of shoes  I brought one pair of Nike tennis shoes for working out in and a pair of Chacos. Another popular choice on our squad was Birks or other slide on sandals. That’s really all you need. I’ve worn my Chacos every single day of the race, except for month 3, when I picked up a pair of knockoff Birks in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I wore those every day to teach English, and by the end of the month they weren’t worth it to pack up, so I gave them away.


Dirty Laundry Bag for times when you can take your laundry to a laundry mat. Or even just having a place to put it so you’re organized. Save yourself money by using the bag your sleeping bag came in, or use a bag that sheets come in. I got mine at (guess.) TJ Maxx. It zips into itself and packs down to literally nothing.


Bathing Suit Bring a tankini or a one piece. You’ll be asked to wear a t-shirt and shorts over your bikini otherwise. Just do it. Get a cute one piece and rock it. No-one quite loves the idea, but it’s better than sitting at a debrief on a beach and having to wear a t-shirt over.


Quick Dry Towels: Pack two and make sure they work! Mine was awful (Triboard)- it just moved water around. Then I bought an actual towel in Thailand, but it was a pain to pack. Now I have a sarong that I got in Africa (they’re WAAAAY easier to find in Asia though- especially Thailand). Most girls bought sarongs and dropped their towels. I promise you’ll forget how amazing real towels actually are (my mom left me with hers at PVT and I’m now convinced real towels are straight from the good Lord himself.)

Baseball Cap: You’ll wear it for manual labor/ other times. It’s always nice to have.


Laptop: If you have a choice between bringing iPad/tablet or a computer, bring a computer. The best option is a Mac computer that has a USB port and CD drive (you’ll want them for buying cheap DVDs of movies that have come out since you’ve been away from home and for trading pictures with your teammates). Apple products always pick up internet much better than PCs, which you’ll be thankful for when using extra slow internet in Africa. If you already have an iPad or tablet and you can’t afford to purchase a computer before the Race, bring it, but remember that it is not a computer. Even if you bring a keypad, it can’t do everything a computer will do. But don’t stress! You will be on a team with 5 or 6 other people who will have computers for you to borrow if you need it for writing blogs and longer emails. Either way, make sure to invest in a strong hard case cover for your laptop or tablet because it will take a beating over the course of the year.


5-way Headphone Splitter You’ll want this for movie-watching with friends while some of your teammates are asleep. These are the BEST.


Headphones Bring at least 2 comfortable pairs; you will undoubtedly lose/break a pair.


External Hard-Drive Load this up with movies, tv shows, music and photographs from home. There’ll be months where you’ll have so much free time, you won’t know what to do with yourself. Movie watching is great for team bonding and you’ll want to show your team pictures of your friends and family. Mine is 1TB and it holds all of my pictures/videos and TONS of movies. This thing is the absolute best thing that I have on the race. Get one it is SO worth it.


Kindle If you enjoy reading, this is the best thing you could bring on the Race. It will make long travel days (24 hour bus rides) enjoyable. Stock up on at least 10 good books you’d like to read and you can buy more whenever you find fast internet. You can also download the Kindle app on your iPhone or Mac, if you’re looking to save space (or just use iBooks!)


iPod/iPhone for listening to music. Y’ALL. two words. SPOTIFY PREMIUM. Best decision of my life. Students get half off. Our first team hacked the family plan, and it only cost us $30 each for the full year (you’re totally not supposed to do that, but oops).

TIP: If you bring an iPhone, have it unlocked before coming on the Race so that you can buy local sim cards in each country and call/text home for cheap. Alternatively, you can download apps for that use wifi to allow you to text for free.

  • Personally, I didn’t bring my iPhone one the race, so I didn’t have to this, but my whole team did in Africa.

Adapters: Get some that pack small! Some even have a portable charger inside, which is even better!


Speakers You’ll use these all the time for watching movies and for worship with your team. There are great ones on Amazon.


Power Strip with at least 3 outlets. You’ll also want to make sure it’s surge-protected (for power outages). Your teammates will thank you.

Camera: I have the Canon T3, and I love it. I’d also recommend the T3i. I wouldn’t go out of your way to buy a DSLR camera though unless you’re an avid picture taker at home. I didn’t bring my iPhone, so this was my only form of documentation  It also came in handy for making videos, etc. Don’t forget to pack a few extra SD cards just in case and if your laptop doesn’t have an SD card slot, remember to pack a cable to transfer pictures onto your computer or external.


Hanging Bathroom Bag: This is super handy for showers where there are no shelves. Eagle Creek makes a good one with a built-in mirror (the mirror is breakable, though. Mine bit the dust in month 3) and a hook for hanging on a bathroom door.

Small Mirror: There’ll be months where you don’t have a mirror. You’ll get used to not seeing what you look like on a daily basis, but until then you can find an unbreakable mirror at most camping stores.

Travel-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and face wash. Your team will most likely buy team toiletries each month and share, so it helps to have travel containers to fill up your share. Do NOT bring full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash with you to launch unless you are very adamant about a specific brand name. Big bottles will only weigh your pack down.

Contacts Lenses: If you wear them, bring a one-year supply and glasses just in case. Make sure they’re packed in a sturdy case so they don’t break. If you wear glasses all the time, pack at least 2 pairs.

Contact Lens Solution: One large bottle is enough to start with.

Razor: I packed one nice razor and just brought a few extra blades. Some people brought disposables, but of course, that takes up a bit more room.

TIP: You can buy Gilette razor blades anywhere.

Feminine Products: tampons are difficult (though not impossible) to find. Pads are just about everywhere. Almost everyone on my squad uses a Diva Cup, which you can buy at Target or Walmart for $30 and reuse over and over again. If you’re about it, go for it.

Baby Wipes: 2 x small packs are enough to start with, but these things are LIFESAVERS. Don’t worry about packing enough for the whole race- other countries have babies.

Sunblock/ Bug Spray: You can bring small bottles of each, but they are on team budget, meaning AIM pays for those things when you’re in country. No need to stockpile.

Baby Powder is totally optional, but it is very handy for dirty-hair days or for dusting your body/face to prevent excess sweating. Sounds gross, I know, but some countries we sweated non-stop and sweat rashes are no fun.

Make-up: If you wear it at home, having some on the Race will make you feel pretty even when you’re wearing the same worn blue dress for the 50th time.

Nail Polish/Remover: I thought I could go a year without painting my nails, only to find out: if you do it at home, you’ll want to do it on the Race as well. You can always talk with the girls on your team and agree to each pack one different color. Also, finding nail polish remover on the race is nearly impossible unless you’re in capital cities.

Hand Sanitizer: Two small bottles to pack in your daypack will do (you can buy more in most countries).

Deodorant If you only like to use stick deodorant, pack some extras. It’s not impossible to find overseas, but it’s much more common to find spray deodorant. I’ve used men’s deodorant the whole race- it works way better than women’s.

Body Spray: For smelling good on days when you missed a shower or to freshen up your clothes that may have gone one too many wears without washing. Some people use Febreez honestly, and its good too.

Toothbrush/Toothpaste: If you use an electric toothbrush at home, bring it.

  • ••TIP: Pack a box of crest wipe strips to use. Everyone complains that their teeth are the most yellow they’ve been.


Dental Floss

Cotton balls



You only a few of each medicine, unless specified since you can stock up in most countries. Make sure you have something for:

*Malaria Prevention (Malarone or Doxycycline).

*Upset Stomach (Tums, Imodium, Cipro etc.)

*Fever Reducer

*Anti-itch Cream

*Cold and Flu Meds (you’ll probably need these most frequently. NyQuil & DayQuil are good choices.)

*Eye Drops (The kind that imitates your eye’s natural tears and if you are a contact lens wearer, go ahead and get an antibiotic. One of my teammates developed an eye infection and has been unable to wear contacts for the rest of the Race and another teammate got Pink Eye).

*Basic Pain Killers for headaches, aches, and pains etc.

*Bandaids (Pack lots of different sizes)

*Allergy Meds

*Motion Sickness Meds (if you get sick during travel, you’ll want to pack a TON of these. I used Transdermal scopolamine patches that you stick on behind your ear and they can last for 3 days.)


*Laxatives (I have never used these but with all the changes in diet you’ll be experiencing, people on my team swear by them)

*Sleep Aid (For long bus rides)

*Small Bottle of Lice Shampoo and a Lice Comb: Okay, my whole team got lice in rural Cambodia and didn’t have this, but we found lice combs in the market. Also, we basically drowned the bugs with menthol shampoo and a TON of essential oils. Then we found out Yellow Listerine (yes, the mouthwash) works so well as lice shampoo.

*Emergen-C (To boost your immune system)

*Essential Oils: These are the best, and they help for everything. Look up the uses and throw them on into your pack (I’d recommend tea tree, lavender, peppermint, thieves, lemon, etc.)

*Yeast Infection Meds (It SUCKS to have this in a 3rd world country)

*Cyst Meds (3 of the girls on my team developed multiple cysts on the Race)

*Anti Nausea Meds (The Dissolvable kind are great)

*Anti Fungal Cream (for curing athlete’s foot or ringworm)


Carrabbeaners: Pack around 4 or so small carrabbeaners. You’ll use them to hang things off of your pack and daypack like your pillow (You’ll want it handy for travel days), water bottle or a pair of smelly tennis shoes that need to air out. They don’t need to be super expensive.

Deck of Cards for travel days when you have 12-hour lay-overs.

Pens (lots… these magically disappear), Glue-stick, Clear Tape and a small pair of Scissors and if you like to be a bit creative, bring colored markers/pencils as well. You will use these all the time and your teammates will borrow them continuously.

Journal: Look for one that is lightweight (ones with recycled paper are usually lighter). In some marketplaces in Asia you can buy cute, unique journals, but personally, I preferred to have my whole year fit into one journal so I brought a large sturdy one with me from Barnes and Noble.

Bible Some people brought their massive study Bibles, others brought small ones. Up to you and how you’ll like to study the Bible on the race.

Mess Kit: Literally all you need is a mug and a spoon. I promise. Get an enamel mug so it won’t break and a spoon (or a spork if you want to get fancy) and you’ll be set.

Pocket knife with a can-opener option is also really handy. The Leatherman multi-tool is great, but if you’re like me and opt out of bringing one, don’t worry, most people on your team will pack one anyway.


Schwab Card & Another Visa Banking Card: Don’t leave home without a Schwab card! I know the process to apply and get one is a bit of a pain, BUT it is completely worth having zero ATM fees while your teammates will be paying $5 per transaction. Start the application process early and don’t forget to do a Power of Attorney form if you’ll be having someone at home handling your finances and keeping your account topped-off while you’re away.  Note: Schwab has a Power of Attorney form that is specific to them and a standard POA form will not do.

Bring a second banking card (also a Visa) and keep it separate from your wallet in case it gets stolen. That way, you won’t be stranded without any access to money. Visas are accepted everywhere so it’ll prevent you from having to ATM-hop to draw money.

Water Bottle: Bring one. Just do it. Hydroflasks are super popular among racers because they keep your water SO COLD FOREVER, but Nalgenes (etc.) work just fine.

Blank Cards and Envelopes: While you’ll most probably just send postcards from each country to your family and friends, it’s nice to have a few cards and envelopes to write encouraging notes to your teammates or to write a ‘thank you’ to your ministry contacts at the end of each month.

Ear Plugs: Your teammates will snore, sleep-talk and bang doors whenever you try to sleep. Oh, sweet community living. 🙂

Eye Mask: The first international flight you take will give you one of these for free. Save yourself some money and snag it.

Watch I have no idea how I didn’t wear a watch before the race. It drives me crazy if I don’t wear one now.

Clothes Line for hanging your laundry to dry after hand-washing.

Headbands to keep your hair out of your face during physical labor or to protect your hair from lice.

Duct Tape: You’ll use this for the oddest things!

Sewing Kit: One of the best investments you’ll make, assuming you know basic sewing skills. Your clothes will get so many rips and holes. Having one of these will save your wardrobe over and over.

Jewelry: The Race doesn’t mean roughing it as much as you’re assuming it does. You will not be hiking everywhere you go. You will go out for dinner. You will go to the mall. You will see a movie. If you wear earrings at home, bring a few pairs. If you wear necklaces, bracelets, or rings, pack some. Remember that you can always pick up cute jewelry for cheap in marketplaces and it might be a fun thing for you to collect over the course of for Race.

Sunglasses: Make sure they’re sturdy and have a good, strong case!

Mosquito Net: This is optional. I have gone the whole Race without one and just lather in bug spray if we are in a bug zone or malaria area. If you have sweet blood, you might want to invest in one of these bad boys, but make sure it packs tiny or you’ll probably drop it fairly early on in the Race. Most hosts will have them if you need to sleep under them.

Hair Ties: It’s difficult to find ones that aren’t frilly or poofy on the Race so go ahead and bring enough for the whole year.

Bobby pins: These are not easy to find and jumbo bobby pins are non-existent internationally. Pack enough for the year and save yourself the hunt.

Belt: If you wear it normally. Ladies- all women gain weight on the race. It’s inevitable.


Allow yourself one or two luxury items (don’t go overboard). These will make you smile on a rainy day or add a little pep to your step. Here are some of the luxury items I’ve seen some of the Racer on my squad toting along:

Mini Flat Iron: Several members of my squad brought one and they’re great.

Guitar/Musical Instrument: This will get used a ton for squad worship, team worship, and leading songs at ministry. It might be a pain to carry a guitar case all the way around the world, but your gift will be such a blessing to everyone, and if playing music is a regular part of your life at home, you’ll be dying to play as the year goes on. If you think it’ll be too much to carry, consider ditching your daypack. Seriously.

Hammock: A handful of my squadmates have these and pull them out whenever there are trees or pillars to strap them to. I put this under luxury items because, although hammocks are cool, you won’t always have the option of some trees or be living in a house that is stable enough to support one. You might be surprised at how often you have an actual bed to sleep in on the Race. Other times you’re tenting for 5 months straight and then sleeping on the floor of a classroom for the last 3.

Pocket Shower: Although we don’t “rough it” near as much as I had imagined, bucket showers are a pretty consistent shower option, so if that bothers you, pack a Sea to Summit Shower Bag. It’s barely bigger than a deck of cards and with the Race taking a turn toward more tenting months, it couldn’t hurt.

Paperbacks: Books are HEAVY, especially in comparison to a Kindle, which can hold thousands of books. Some Racers pack 1 paperback and spend the year trading out with each other or swapping their book out for a new read on a community bookshelf in a hostel.

Paints: I brought watercolors and don’t regret it one bit


The most important thing to remember is that there’s grace. You don’t need everything on this list. In fact, you shouldn’t have everything on the list (your bag would weigh 70 lbs!). Pick and choose what is important to you, and you know what? If you miss something, you will either find it abroad or other people on your team will have it and be willing to share. YAY Community!!


AAAaaaannnnd that’s the longest blog ever, but there ya have it! How to live in a backpack for a year 101.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: