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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Packing for a year in Australia

Alisha McDarris

Here are Josh and I with our packs at the airport, ready to
set out for Australia!
So you've gotten your visa, you've booked your flight, and soon you'll be headed off for the adventure of a lifetime: a year in Australia. A year's a long time, to be sure, but that doesn't mean you have to pack up everything you own in three rolling suitcases and a duffle. In fact, that's a terrible idea. Just the worst. Instead, follow these guidelines for packing for a year abroad (whether that's in Australia or anywhere, really. Just edit the list to fit your needs).

First of all, unless you're planning on settling down in one city for the entire year, you're not going to want to take more than one bag and a carry on. It may seem impossible to narrow down all of your favorite clothes and accessories to such a confined space, but trust me, you will regret it every time you shuffle from one city to the next via plane, train, or automobile.

That said, you will actually need far less clothing and other stuff for a year of backpacking around a foreign country than you do for a week or two in the Caribbean. You'll be doing many of the same activities over and over, moving around a lot so nobody will know you've worn the same shorts for three days, and you'll have more chances to do laundry. And the most important things to keep in mind while laying out your proposed items are utility and versatility. That means layering pieces (as opposed to bulky sweaters and such), items that can be used for multiple purposes (like working and working out), and stuff that goes with everything (solids instead of stripes). So with that in mind, here's the list (and most of it works for guys and girls):

I like to lay out my clothing before I pack so I can get a visual of what all I'm considering carting along. I actually removed at least 7 or 8 of the items pictured here from the packing list. And yes, it did all fit in that little backpack.
  • 3 T-shirts
  • 3 tank tops
  • 1 button up that can be used for work or play
  • A hoodie or zip-up sweater
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of pants or leggings (Yes, 2. It gets cold in many parts of Australia)
  • No more than 6 pairs of socks (make sure at least 1 or 2 pairs are tall)
  • No more than 6 pairs of undies (and 2-3 bras for the ladies)
  • PJs (Don't wear them? Don't care. Your hostel roommates will all but demand that you do)
  • A pair of gym shoes or hiking boots that can be used for working outside and walking
  • Sandals or flip flop (Outdoor sandals like Chacos or Keens might suit you best)
  • A pair of casual shoes for nights on the town
  • A good hat for keeping the Australian sun off during work and play
  • A bandana or two (tame your hair, catch sweat, protect your neck, etc.)
  • A travel towel that packs up small
  • 1 swimsuit
  • A quality rain jacket
  • A warm hat (for those cool southern Australia winters)
  • 1 nicer outfit (like a sundress or skirt for ladies and a nice shirt for dudes)
  • Optional: a lightweight scarf that can be used as a shawl, blanket, or head wrap
Those are pretty much the necessities as far as clothing goes. Although, do keep in mind that if you're backpacking, working on farms or in hostels, WOOFing or HelpXing, you're going to get some things really filthy. Even if you're not doing any dirty work, you'll probably want souvenirs to take home with you. Both scenarios will see you trashing clothes at the end of your trip, so don't bring too many things that are special to you and you'd hate to see ruined or lost. 

But clothes are obviously not the only things that should be in your bag. Here are the other things you'll need to keep yourself fresh, stay in touch with family and friends, and entertain yourself:
  • A shower bag with travel-sized toiletries (yes you'll have to refill or replace them more often, but full size varieties weigh a lot and take up too much space)
    • Soap (castile soap can be used for face, body, hair, laundry, and more)
    • Toothpaste, toothbrush and floss
    • Deodorant
    • Razor
    • One hair styling product
    • Cotton balls and cotton swabs
    • Conditioner, if you must
    • Nail clippers
    • Minimal makeup (just the essentials, and no duplicates)
    • Personal items like extra contacts, tweezers, etc.
    • Optional: Coconut oil can be used for everything from shaving cream to conditioner to moisturizer and more.
  • Medication (personal meds and general meds like pain killers, vitamins, and motion sickness tabs)
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen of at least SPF 30 (I know you want a tan, but the Aussie sun is killer)
  • Two water bottles (collapsible ones can come in handy)
  • A power adapter/converter
  • A camera with charger and memory cards
  • A phone and charger (for which you will get a sim card once you arrive in the country)
  • Travel journal
  • A head lamp
  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • A credit card with no foreign transaction fees
  • Passport
  • Headphones
  • Snacks
  • Handy to have: a travel sewing kit, paracord, lots of zip-top bags for organizing, ear plugs and eye mask
  • Optional: A tablet, e-reader, or small laptop for entertainment and connectivity and something to keep you entertained during long flights or bus rides like a small coloring book or hobby tools
Keep in mind that Australia is not a third world country and you can get everything you need (or forgot) once you're there. Yes, it'll cost more, but if you're coming from the U.S. or Europe, those dollars are currently stronger than the Aussie dollar, so it mostly evens out.

And yes, if you're a savvy packer, it will all fit into a backpack and a smaller book bag. We took even more than this, namely professional gear including cameras and accessories, lenses, mics, recorders, etc. and it still all fit in there. Impressed? You should be. We are every time we stop for a few weeks and watch every single thing we own get vomited out of our bags and all over the floor of whatever room we happen to be sleeping in. Every time we wonder how we made it all fit, and every time it all goes back in. So happy packing, and if there's anything we forgot, add it in the comments below!

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. [Portfolio]


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