Packing lists can almost be regarded as a philosophy! Every traveller swears on other important items in their backpack. Before our world trip we studied packing lists of other travel bloggers for hours. Since we also paid attention to sustainable products, this was really time-consuming. That’s why we thought we’d write an post that summarizes everything you need to know about packing for a sustainable trip around the world and helps you to put your backpack together as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
All items on our packing list are available for you to download free of charge in a detailed Excel spreadsheet including information on the products. We hope that our concentrated load of packing list knowledge and everyday travel experience in packing, unpacking and repacking will help you! However, the information is at the moment just given in German. We are working on the English translation.
Below you will find a lot of helpful background information about the items we have taken with us. We do not only describe what is important, but also what mistakes we have made. We also describe a few other products that we don’t have personally, but think are great, and a few links and our favourite documentaries attached.
The first part of our packing guide deals with general products you should have with you — whether you are a backpacker or a cyclist. Afterwards special features for a bike trip are explained.
Have fun packing!
Depending on the climate regions you will be staying in during your trip, you will have to pack your stuff. We have assumed that we will never have to experience temperatures below 10°C on our trip… Far from it — we were even travelling at -10°C! Accordingly, we had to buy some extra clothes on our trip.
In general, we took functional clothes with us that we already had. Much of it is SecondHand or already several years old. We made sure that the newly bought clothes were produced in a fair and environmentally friendly way and were of a very high quality. Of course this costs a little more, but it is annoying if clothes break during the trip and you can’t find a good or quick replacement. In addition, we like natural materials a lot. Our wool clothes turned out to be extremely practical and not scratchy. And we only rarely have to wash them (see Washing). Therefore we don’t have to take so many clothes with us and have less weight and more space.
In some areas, e.g. in some Muslim countries, special dress codes must also be followed, such as veils, long body coverings, etc. However, you can buy these special clothes on the spot.
Each of us has the following clothes:
- 4 underpants
- 3 pairs of socks (preferably wool)
- 2–3 trousers (short or long depending on weather)
- a fancy outfit e.g. shirt / dress
- 1 thick sweater or a jacket
- 1 thin sweater
- 4 T-Shirts/Tops (also available in 100% wool)
- rain jacket and trousers
- headgear such as wool headband (good for warmth and when you sweat)
- 1 pair of shoes, good for hiking and everyday life
- 1 pair of flip-flops (also great for rather unhygienic showers, in hot regions or as slippers)
- sports shoes and jogging pants (depending on which sport you like)
- cycling clothes see below
For cold regions additionally:
- 1–2 long tights (thermal tights)
- 2 pairs of thick socks
- scarf, gloves, cap
- There are Second Hand shops all around the world. One website where you can find them is this one.
- Sustainable clothing companies for everyday life and outdoors.
- You can find all the important documentaries about sustainability at the Swiss association “Films for the Earth”. Simply enter “Clothing”, “Agriculture”, “Energy” etc. in the search mask and off you go. You can also become a member of “Films for the Earth” (only Switzerland and Germany). In addition, you can buy the DVD or Blue-ray or watch the film online for a few euros.
Our top 3 clothing documentaries:
- The True Cost
- China Blue
- Sweatshop I: Deadly Fashion (especially for teenagers)
As mentioned under the point Clothing, we get by with little clothing, so we also have to wash little. Generally we wash only every 10 to 14 days.
In our opinion, plastic clothing cannot compete with cotton or wool because it starts to smell after only one day. We have discovered wool clothing for us because it is easy to clean and smells good for a long time. My sweater is made out of cashmere and is washed approx. every 3 months, even with daily use — otherwise it is just aired. The socks with approx. 35% wool made by the company Falke last approx. 3–4 days without smelling musty.
Pure wool clothes are washed by hand. A small disadvantage, however, is that they dry relatively slowly. The Falke socks and the Icebreaker wool top can even be washed at 60°C in the washing machine. Over time, however, the socks start to stink earlier and the Icebreaker top turns brownish when exposed to the sun.
Before the bike trip we bought a liquid organic detergent for washing functional clothes. But we had problems with it, because it leaked out twice. That’s why we now prefer powder, but since then we have been only using the washing powder from our hosts, because there are no small packs of washing powder available. In general we try to fill up half full washing machines of our hosts with our dirty laundry. If this doesn’t work, all our laundry will also fit into one machine. In many cases we have used our own towels and sleeping bags so that our hosts do not have to do an extra laundry due to us. If we did use bed sheets, we always made sure to stay several nights and used only one towel each.
We use gall soap for hand washing, but not (!!!) for wool washing. Otherwise it would become matted.
In Croatia we heard about a traveller who even has his own inflatable washbasin with him. That is certainly practical if you really travel through remote areas or have a hygiene tick.
We also had a clothesline with us at the beginning. Since we didn’t use it once, we sorted it out. Chair backs, doors, cupboard doors, lamp stands, branches, our bikes, etc. have been serving us as a leash ever since.
- Organic washing powder
- Gall soap (for hand washing)
- (clothesline and clothespins for outdoor)
We also know the possibility of washing with ivy, chestnuts, soap nuts and soda. All these detergents have their advantages and disadvantages and we can’t tell which one is the most sustainable. However, they are all better than the chemical variants of well-known companies or their cheap copies.
Hygiene when travelling is very important, especially when you come into contact with local people. We don’t want the rumour to arise that Germans are raggle-taggle stinkers 😉
We use body and hair soaps among other things because they are much more efficient than shampoo. They need a good, waterproof packaging. Also a small fabric bag would be ok. In the shop you can buy suitable, small tin cans. We also know some people who no longer wash their hair with shampoo or soap, but only with water, soda, rye flour or vinegar. This would be even more consistent and it works well after adapting to it.
Make-up is very important for many women. I rather follow the minimalist approach and only apply make-up on special occasions. It’s good that I have a partner who accepts me the way I naturally look.
In my opinion, the menstrual cup is also essential for women on a sustainable trip around the world. I am an absolute fan and avoid many kilos of residual waste each year. In the meantime you can get the silicone cups in well-known drugstores and in the Internet. In addition, an app is very helpful, so that you know when it will unfortunately happen again. I use this app: P.C.
Toilet paper is available in separate rolls in some countries. But sometimes it is relatively difficult to find recycled toilet paper. We prefer anyway the Asian variant simply to use water. We also save paper and therefore don’t support logging by using real handkerchiefs, those made of 100% cotton. When cycling in summer it was more like a sweat cloth, in winter we used it as a handkerchief due to a cold.
We like the new trend of the bamboo toothbrush, because the mass-produced toothbrush is mostly made of plastic. Meanwhile you can get the bamboo toothbrushes in the usual drugstores and partly already in supermarkets. In addition there is also a special wood which can be used as toothbrush.
- toilet bag
- body and hair soaps
- (make-up and make-up remover)
- menstrual cup
- toilet paper
- nail scissors, nail clipper/ glass file
- hair ties
- hair clipper
- cotton swabs (almost always available at the host)
- bamboo toothbrush
- silk scarf to use as dental floss
- coconut oil
Without microplastics, chemistry, hormones, animal experiments, packaging waste, petroleum… There are many things you can pay attention to in hygiene products. We use as little toiletries as possible and due to that avoid many questions and problems. In general, we find natural cosmetics recommendable, as the companies do not use the ingredients and practices mentioned above. Or you can also make deodorants, creams, soaps etc. yourself. DIY is in vogue right now and we think it’s great, because i.a. you know exactly what is contained in the products.
We used our cooking utensils especially for camping and during the bike trip. Self-made food we love the most. Nevertheless, in many countries we have tried the vegan or vegetarian national dishes in restaurants or at our hosts and were enthusiastic in many cases. We have also tried vegan restaurants in many larger cities such as Thessaloniki and Tbilisi. These can be found at www.happycow.net, tripadvisor or we asked our hosts or at the tourist information.
Back to our own kitchen: We had first got a gas stove, but after further research we found out that in many areas it is not so easy, cheap and ecological to find, buy and dispose the gas cartridges. So then we bought a gasoline cooker. It burns best with pure gasoline, but also gasoline from the gas station is sufficient. Then you only have to clean the stove more often because of the soot.
For our spices we took an old green tea can and got free photo canisters in a photo shop and — dadadada — they fit perfectly into the green tea can! We haven’t listed any food here, but you should plan enough space for it and always have something with you for at least one day.
- gasoline cooker incl. accessories and cleaning set
- cooker windscreen
- titanium cups
- spoon made of titanium
- chopping board
- spice can with photo canisters for different spices
- waterproof Tupperware box for food leftovers
- dishwashing liquid
- kitchen towel
We think camping is great because we can experience nature up close, love adventure and travel more flexibly. All the equipment takes up a lot of space, but has proven itself in countless moments. It’s also more ecological than staying in hotels, hostels and even with hosts, as you don’t have to wash your sleeping bags for a long time. Moreover, we only leave a small spot of earth that is a little flattened. Of course it is not so exciting to camp regarding the social interactions, but now and then we also need some time for ourselves.
We chose the non-vegan down sleeping bag because it takes up much less space and keeps you warmer at the same time. Since we have been traveling in winter, we are now annoyed that we have not bought even warmer sleeping bags. It would also have been nice to have a sleeping bag for couples: two sleeping bags that can be zipped together.
The foldable seat cushions are an worthwhile purchase. We can use them anywhere and our butts always stay dry and warm — no matter which surface we choose to sit on. For picnics, we also spread out the tarpaulin that we normally put under our tent and have a large picnic blanket. It also serves as a quick rain cover during cycling tours, if we hang it skilfully over our two bikes.
To make our small contribution against plastic pollution, we almost always drink tap water and well water. We fill the water into our water bags and drinking bottles. So we don’t have to buy plastic bottles.
- (multifunctional) tent tarpaulin
- sleeping bags
- inflatable camping mat
- inflatable pillow
- seat cushion
- pocket knives
- lighter or flint stone
- water filter (for remote locations)
- 4l and 2l water bags
- drinking bottles to refill
Since we show beautiful videos and pictures and write interesting blog posts about our travel moments, we have a lot of technology with us. Our blog and social media want to be fed with content. We write the texts and do research on our laptop and smartphones. We are aware that electronics have a big negative influence on nature and people. That’s why we take care to use them for a long time. We have also bought some Second Hand via reBuy or ebay Kleinanzeigen. We got Powerbanks for free and the USB stick and external hard drives are used. I got my mobile phone from a friend who had it in her drawer. Our drone and camera were definitely not sustainable purchases. Three of our products are from Apple, Second Hand, but still not good for a sustainable image. We hope we won’t have to recycle our expensive technical tools so quickly, but when we do, we make sure we dispose of them properly.
- smartphones + charger cable
- drone incl. accessories, insurance paper and flight permit, if applicable
- laptop + charging cable + protective cover
- USB Adapter for Laptop
- SD Adapter for Laptop
- camera incl. accessories, tripod and microphone
- solar cell
- 2 powerbanks
- power adapter
- 2 SD cards
- small headphones
- silica bags
- 2 headlamps
There are a few relatively sustainable electronics suppliers, such as Fairphone and Shiftphones. However, we find the rest of the technology industry very difficult and untransparent. Many negative headlines in the media and frightening documentaries do not make our consciences any better.
Our Top 3 Documentaries:
- Death by Design
- The Story of Stuff
- Toxic shops — the electric garbage scythe
Meds & Protection
We have taken out all our pills of the space-consuming plates, filled them into film canisters and labeled them. We searched online for the instruction leaflets and put them all together in a Word document written in small font size, printed them out and attached them to our first-aid kit.
Since we both have bad eyes, we need glasses and contact lenses. Well, one could live without contact lenses, but they are very practical for swimming, sunbathing (sunglasses) and special occasions.
As we are standing in the sun while cycling and waiting while hitchhiking, we need sun protection. Unfortunately, we have to say that we haven’t found a good eco-sun cream yet. Most of them make us look like white aliens, because the cream is extremely difficult to spread and not as effective as the petroleum version. If you know anything good, please let us know! The same applies to the insect repellent, as we simply took our many years old bottle of Anti-Brumm with us. We’ve heard of black cumin oil against ticks, but as we don’t travel alone, it’s not a good alternative for us.
And since we are travel as a couple, there is always a hot topic: sex. We are a couple and therefore need contraceptives. The pill or other hormones have been taboo for me for at least 4 years already for important reasons and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone either. We have condoms with us, but no eco, vegan or fair ones, because we haven’t found a 100% good alternative to “ours” yet. However, we have a diaphragm and cream with us, which we use from time to time. A nice and sustainable thing!
Some of my friends swear on the method of temperature measurements and counting days, but this is much harder while travelling because you can’t get regular sleep.
First-aid kit with:
- strong painkillers
- sterile bandages
- iodine ointment
- burn ointment
- lip balm
- rescue blanket
- “horse balm” (Is it a German thing? It’s a creme against sour muscles)
- tiger balm
- gastrointestinal tablets
- additional medication for chronic illnesses (treatments are not covered by long-term foreign health insurance)
For (bad) eyes:
- sunglasses incl. case
- glasses incl. case
- glasses cleaning cloths
- contact lenses and contact lens fluid
For the skin:
- sun cream
- aftersun lotion
- insect repellent
For the fun:
The pharmaceutical industry, like the cosmetics industry, is a thorn in our eyes. Tablets are usually pure chemicals and not free of animal experiments. That’s why we rely on the most natural medicines: healthy nutrition and lots of exercise. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always help, but if you suspect a cold, globules are used and if nothing helps: a lot of rest and sleep. The chemical lobe is only used for bad injuries, viruses or bacteria. We only have strong pain killers with us, because if you experience minor or moderate pain, you can also go to the pharmacy or simply take half a pill.
Documents & money
Now to an elementary point: important documents. The most important thing is the passport. In the EU, a ID card was enough for us, so we have it with us. We have our international health insurance from Allianz-Versicherung. If you know a good alternative, please let us know!
Many banks are dirty. In order to not support unsustainable practices with our financial investments, we have our travel account at Triodos Bank. There are also other sustainable banks that only lend money to sustainable companies and projects.
If you would like to work abroad, it is advisable to have application documents and specific certificates with you. Via platforms such as Wwoof or Workaway.info, you can score points with a well-maintained online profile. Here, too, you can make sure that you choose a sustainable project that benefits people and nature and does not harm them.
- passport plus printed copies in your backpack and digitally on your laptop, on a platform or in your e-mail inbox.
- (ID card)
- passport photos
- vaccination card
- proof of International Health Insurance
- further evidence such as diving license, application documents and certificates (International Driving License)
- EC card
- credit card + emergency number for blocking
- cash (Euro/Dollar and local currency)
Top 3 documentaries about money:
Too Big To Tell
Let’s Make Money
Leisure time & memories
On our journey we meet many inspiring, interesting and lovable people. In many cases they become our friends. We have long thought about what we should take with us as a gift for these great people. We wanted to take salad seeds with us, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. Instead, we came up with a nice idea: a friendship book. At the end of our stay we write a few suitable questions on a page of our book. Our host(s) have to answer those questions. Below this is a selfie from all of us. In addition, we have simple business cards so that people can stay in contact with us.
For the time together it is worth to have some games. In the mountains of Georgia we played e.g. Who am I, rock-paper-scissors and hangman. Also pictures of the family offer interesting topics of conversation.
When hitchhiking, wax crayons are pretty good because you can write with them on the cardboard. An offline translation app makes sense especially while hitchhiking, because we can’t communicate with the non-English speaking drivers much with gestures and facial expressions.
- travel diaries, notepads
- pencils (coloured pencils, cullis and wax crayons)
- games (card game, tricks, juggling balls…), partly also on the mobile phone and group games in the head
- friendship book
- gift for hosts and encounters
- dictionary and translation apps
- pictures of family and friends
- sport equipment: diving logbook and computer, diving and swimming goggles
Packing & Carrying
We tried to take as little as possible and as much as necessary with us following the minimalistic concept. A backpack has to be comfortable, very robust and still look good. Our backpacks are of high quality and have already survived at least one year of travel. If you don’t have a backpack yet and a new one is too expensive, you can check with your friends to see if they can lend you one. We haven’t seen any travel backpacks in second-hand shops yet, but you never know.
We swear to have a daypack with us despite our travel backpack. If we stay overnight with someone for at least 2 nights, we can only take this small backpack for an excursion for one day. In addition, we always have our valuables in it and carry it in front of our chest.
In addition, we still have two cotton carrier bags with us. So we have already avoided hundreds of disposable plastic bags.
- combination locks
- zip plastic bags and other storage bags
- tupperware box
- cotton carrier bags
Top 3 Plastic Documentaries
- Plastic Planet
- A Plastic Ocean
Bike touring packing list
We were very lucky to have the bicycle specialist Zweirad Joos from Lake Constance as a sponsor. He adjusted our second-hand trekking bikes with a millimetre accurate measurement to our bodies and gave us professional advice on many other bicycle issues. We received ergonomic seats and handlebar grips and some other things.
For navigation we initially used the Garmin 62s navigation device. However, we used the two offline route planning apps Komoot and maps.me more often, because they are super easy to use. During the bike trip we also cycled long distances on the Danube cycle path.
The advantage of two people is that one can always stop and watch while the other person does the shoppings. However, we always used the bicycle lock overnight.
Regarding our bicycle stuff, we have unfortunately not done much research regarding sustainability. The bike bags are from the sustainable Outdoor company Vaude. Our bikes are Second Hand and we already had some repair items at home. If there is anyone who knows a good alternative for items, please let us know.
- (bicycle navigation Garmin 62s)
- bicycle lock
- cycling shorts with padding
- drinking bottles
- USB- LED front and rear lights incl. charger
Good panniers are very important for any bicycle trip. Ours are from Vaude and we are very happy with them. Ortlieb also has good panniers. Depending on how much stuff you want to have with you, you can mount panniers both in the front and in the back.
We fixed our gasoline bottle from the gasline cooker separately in front of the bike in a bottle holder. So our things were not smelling like gasoline.
- bicycle bag top case
- frame case
- top tube case
- bicycle bags for luggage carriers
- front bag
- camera bag with carabiners and Velcro fastener converted into a handlebar bag
- daypack with luggage tensioners converted into a top case
- cable tie
- bottle holder
Concerning the repair kit we dragged everything along during the 3 months of cycling — for nothing, because we didn’t have a single breakdown! We hope it will work the same way for you 😉
- brake pads
- replacement hose
- bicycle chain
- repair kit
- cable tie
- chain lock
- air pump
- duct tape
- tire lever
- lubricants, cloths
- screws & nuts
- spoke tensioner/wrench
- snipe nose pliers/leatherman
Remember: You will find all our things with a detailed description in our excel sheet above.
Have fun preparing your trip!