Much like researching and budgeting for a trip, packing is one of the steps of preparing for a trip that seems simple enough, yet ultimately leaves many people feeling frustrated and confused. After all, you want to pack the minimum amount of items possible in order to make hauling your luggage to and from your final destination easier. On the other hand, you don’t want to find yourself halfway across the world, only to realize you left something critical at home that’s difficult or expensive to locate at your travel destination.

Obviously, this article isn’t going to go through and tell you exactly what to pack for your next voyage, as the contents of one’s luggage varies considerably from person to person and trip to trip. However, we will be discussing a handful of travel packing tips one should consider in order to pack thoroughly and efficiently as possible. We’ll begin with what’s likely the most obvious consideration…

Weather Conditions

Your main priority when packing for any trip, but especially for an ecotourist centric trip involving lots of time spent outdoors, is bringing clothes suitable for the weather. Prior to leaving on your trip, do some research about the average temperature and rainfall in the area you’ll be traveling while you’ll be there. For example, in my current trip through Southeast Asia, temperatures are always hot, and I can expect a good deal of rain. Therefore, I brought mostly t-shirts, shorts, and a rain jacket. This type of preparation will not only allow you to make the best clothing choices possible, but also helps to formulate an idea of how much room you’ll have in your bag. Speaking of which…

On the way from Chang Mai to the nearby Doi SuthepOn the way from Chang Mai to the nearby Doi Suthep in Thailand Flickr: Bart Hiddink

What Type of Bag?

For many people, what type of bag they bring is entirely dependent on what they already have available at their home. However, if you’ll be doing predominantly ecotourism related activities during your journey, or plan on traveling for a long time, consider purchasing a large hiking backpack. This will be much easier to handle than a wheeled or carry suitcase, especially on rough terrain.

How Much Clothing?

This is always a tough question to consider while packing for a trip, as so many factors go into what clothing you’ll be needing. As a general rule of thumb, I like to bring enough clothing to last 12-14 days without doing laundry (unless, of course, the trip is shorter than 12 days). This allows for enough days of clean clothing to avoid having to spend all your time at the laundromat, while also being a small enough not to break your back when you have to pick up your bag. The real trouble comes if you’re the type of traveller who wishes to wear several different outfits in any given day. Again, the more planning you can do here, the better.

Dont bring the dogDon’t bring the dog! Flickr: Austin Kirk

Cultural Considerations

This is one aspect of travel packing many people fail to look into. In some cultures, especially those that are particularly religious, certain dress codes are required. For example, here in Thailand, visitors to Buddhist temples or Muslim mosques are required to wear long pants and have their shoulders covered, despite the brutal heat. Travelers to these countries may not be aware of customs like these, and could inadvertently come unprepared or even offend the locals without proper research.

Gear for Activities

This point is where people often end up over- or under-packing, especially for outdoorsy ecotourist trips. If possible, try to generate an idea of what types of activities you will need. For example, a camping trip requires a significantly different load out than a ski trip or a beach trip. The key here, as with all things packing, is that less is more. Bring the gear you absolutely need to get by, and nothing more. For example, we opted not to bring a tent on this Southeast Asia trip, but instead took a hammock, bug net and rain tarp. This still allows us to camp whenever we want, but takes up half as much room. Plus, the hammock and tarp can be put to use in a number of other situations besides camping outdoors.

Bored OrangutanEven Orangutangs can use hammocks! Flickr: Ed Coyle

Recommended Items 

Towards the beginning of this post, I assured you that I wouldn’t provide a list of items for you to pack. Well, that assurance turned out to be only half true. There’s a few things that I believe are beneficial to pack, no matter what your trip looks like. First and foremost, a good pair of shoes. Unless you have quite a large budget, travel tends to involve a good deal of walking, which means you need shoes that offer arch support and are comfortable even after a full day of being on your feet. This is especially true if you plan to be trekking or spending most of your time outdoors. I also recommend a well stocked first aid kit, since you never know what troubled you might run into out there. You may also want to pack some paracord, especially on ecotourist trips. Truthfully, there’s no end to the usefulness of a good piece of paracord. Other recommended items include a good camera, a novel, a journal, and a decent pair of headphones.

Be sure to join us next week as we start our journey in Thailand…

Traveler starting her journey

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About The Author

Jack Smith

Jack is an American writer, musician and traveler with a background in biology and a love for Mexican food. He's currently traveling through Southeast Asia to experience the region's natural, culinary and cultural treasures. Read all about the trip through Textbook Travel and his blog, Saunterism.

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