There’s packing lists, and then there’s adventure packing lists. When you’ve decided to go on an incredible adventure trip abroad, you can’t just throw the first things you find in your closet into a suitcase and go. You have to pack your adventure travel gear! With any kind of adventure travel—whether you’re backpacking, cycling, or busing your way through the world—you’re going to need to need to be meticulous about what you bring.
Pack the right gear for the right adventure
It’s important to remember that in adventure travel, you’re almost always on the move, and when you’re constantly on the move, every item in your bag matters. After all, you’ll most likely be carrying everything on your back, in which case, most adventure travelers prefer the carry-on backpack.
Of course, a suitcase offers you much more space when packing, but they can sometimes be too big, too tough to transport on the back of a bike, too unwieldy while rolling over cobblestone streets. If you’ll have a homebase while traveling, then a suitcase is definitely doable, but if you’ll be location-hopping, it’s better to have a bag that is easily transportable.
Pro tip: always bring a smaller daypack for those daily adventures in which you don’t want to lug all of your belongings around with you every day.
Climate & Location
Location, location, location—yes, it really does matter. Before you even think about picking out what shoes to bring, you need to first research the places you’ll be traveling to! Your packing should reflect the type of weather you’ll be facing when you arrive. For example, if you’re traveling to a country south of the Equator, don’t forget that the seasons are flipped—so summer in the United States is winter in Chile. Traveling to Indonesia for those pristine Bali beaches? Don’t forget that the rainy season is from about October to April, and you’re going to want to bring a raincoat.
If you’re packing for multiple climates or seasons for a long period of time, just remember: multiple, thin layers are your best option!
The ultimate adventure packing list
What you bring depends entirely on the type of travel you’ll be doing, where you’ll be going, and for how long. However, no matter where you’ll be adventuring, or what kind of adventure you’ll be embarking on, the following list will cover all the basics of adventure travel gear that you should bring along on your trip.
- Passport: Your most important document when traveling abroad: your key into entering another country. Don’t have a passport? Then be sure to apply for one as quickly as possible! Sometimes, passport processing times can take a chunk of time, especially during busy seasons leading up to the summer. It’s also smart to make sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your trip, as some countries will require this in order for you to pass through their borders, depending on visa restrictions.
- Visa: Many countries require visiting travelers to obtain a visa to enter the country; others may only require a visa if you plan on staying for longer than 3 months. Visa requirements are entirely dependent on the country you’ll be traveling to, so be sure to do plenty of research beforehand. And remember! It’s always a good idea to apply for your visa sooner, rather than later, as some consulates and embassies might take a long time to get your approved documents back to you in time for your trip.
- A copy of your passport: If you somehow lose your passport while abroad, having a copy of your passport’s information page (that one with your super flattering photo and personal details) can save you a lot of time, money, and energy. Keeping a saved picture of your passport information page in your phone or computer is helpful, but not a guarantee, so it’s a good idea to always have a printed version as well. If you ever do lose your passport while traveling, don’t forget to immediately report it to the local United States Consulate (or your country of origin’s equivalent). This will eliminate the possibility of someone stealing your identity and you’ll also be able to apply for an emergency, temporary passport that you can use on your travels and to make it back home.
- A second form of ID: Whether it be your driver’s license/permit or an international student ID, having a second form of identification is always a good idea when traveling! When out on day-trips while traveling, you may not want to constantly carry your passport everywhere (sometimes for safety purposes), and having a second form of ID can come in handy.
- Credit or debit card: When traveling abroad you should always bring a credit or debit card for international purchases. But make sure you do your research—some banks have absurdly high international fees when you withdraw money from an ATM or make a purchase abroad, and you don’t want that! So get a bank card with fair rates, and don’t forget—always alert your bank before any international travel! (otherwise they may freeze your accounts and you’ll really have to budget for the rest of your trip)
- Proof of return or ongoing travel: For many countries, you may be required to show proof of return; that is, make sure you you can prove to the immigration officers that you have a plane ticket home, or at the very least, a plane ticket to another country.
- Travel/Health insurance: Make sure you have your card, or proof of your travel and/or health insurance all printed out when traveling, in case of an emergency! This is especially important when going on any sort of adventure travel program, that includes extreme, physical activities.
- Vaccination booklet: Traveling somewhere in which vaccinations are required for entry into that country? Then be sure to carry proof of having gotten vaccinated with you.
- Emergency contact list: It’s smart to carry a list of emergency contacts, their phone numbers and emails, and their relationship to you (mother/father/guardian/sibling). Although hopefully you won’t need to ever call them, it’s still a good idea to have their contact information on-hand, especially if you’re doing crazy things like ziplining through the Amazon Rainforest.
- Copies of EVERYTHING: Always, always, always make a paper copy of every single document, ID, and travel plan, and then be sure to carry those copies separately from the originals. That way, if the bag where the originals is lost or stolen, your copies will be in a different place for you to access!
Health and Wellness
It’s always a good idea before traveling to stop by your doctor’s office and get a physical, just to check everything out. It’s also important to get any medications or prescriptions that you’ll need to take while traveling, and make sure that you have as many refills as you’ll need throughout your time abroad. It may be difficult to get a prescription refill of your medicine in certain countries, and it’s easier to just pack as much as you’ll need.
It’s also smart to bring some basics of a first aid kit: over-the-counter pain-relievers, allergy medicines, bandaids, and antibiotic cream are just a few good things to bring, especially when on an adventure travel program that requires intense physical activity.
What kind of electronics you bring totally depends on you and the type of travel you’ll be doing or program you’ll be on. Documenting your travels via photographs is fun (I mean, you need those Insta-followers, right?), and it’s always a good idea to have a way for people to get in contact with you via a cell phone, but overall, you might not want to bring a lot of electronic devices with you. Travel allows you to break away from your daily routine and to fully immerse yourself in another culture. If you’re constantly engrossed in screens that connect you to your world back home, you might not realize what you’re missing out on while abroad.
- Cell phone: Your friends and family might occasionally want a “Hey fam, I’m alive!” message every now and then, so bringing your cell phone on your travel abroad program might be a good idea. Your cell phone can also double as a camera! If you plan on using a local SIM card while abroad, make sure your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, you can check to see if your phone carrier has an affordable international plan, or you can just keep it on airplane mode. Pro tip: A waterproof and shockproof case is also a good thing to add to your travel gear list if you plan on scuba diving in the Galapagos and using your phone as your main camera.
- Laptop: Ok, we get it: bloggers gonna blog. When traveling abroad and having the time of your life, you might feel the need to bring a laptop to document all of your experiences (and maybe brag about them all over the internet, we’re not judging). However it’s not the worst idea to leave your laptop at home! Not only is this one more thing you’ll have to carry across the Andes, but a laptop will also distract you from the exciting experiences all around you. And the reality is, carrying around a big, flashy laptop will make you a potential target for pickpockets and thieves. If you don’t really need it, it’s probably best to leave the big, expensive electronics at home. Especially on an adventure travel program! No one wants to accidentally drop their computer off a cliff, or into the ocean, or get the keyboard all clogged up with desert sand—better to just go without!
- Camera: If you want to go beyond just a camera phone, bringing a fancy digital SLR, an action-ready waterproof camera, or an old polaroid (#oldschool) is a great way to document your amazing adventures abroad!
- Chargers: The most obvious and yet the easiest thing to forget: always bring a charger.
- Adaptors: Pretty much every single other country you’ll travel to will have entirely different voltage levels coming out of their electricity sockets, so you’ll need an adaptor plug to plug your electronics into. Not only will your chargers not fit in the sockets, you could also accidentally fry your electronics if you don’t use one of these, so be sure to invest in an adaptor that is specifically for the country/region you’ll be in!
- iPod/mp3 player: For those long plane, train, or camel rides—music is your new best friend.
- Headphones: Just in case you need to jam to some tunes, fall asleep on the airplane, or block out the snoring from your loud tentmate.
The type of activities you’ll be doing on your adventure trip will determine exactly what you decide to pack, but below are a few basic essentials to add to your adventure gear list that could come in handy on your travels.
- Reusable water bottle: Traveling and doing a lot of physical activities? Your first instinct might be to bring a reusable water bottle on your trip, but keep in mind that in many parts of the world, purchased bottled water is the norm. This is often because the tap water is not necessarily safe to drink, and although using a reusable bottle might be the best for your wallet and for the environment, it might be safer to just buy the bottled stuff on your trip. But if the water is safe, then bringing a reusable water bottle is a great way to be environmentally-friendly and save money!
- Locks: Bring 1-2 combination locks with you to lock up your luggage, and especially to keep things safe and protected when staying in hostels.
- Packing cubes: These small, zippered bags keep your clothes organized and saves you packing space (and saves you a lot of frustrating moments trying to cram your clothes into your bag)
- Journal/diary: Don’t just do things for the Insta. The small moments matter just as much as the big ones, and that’s why bringing a physical journal or diary that you can write in gives you a chance to really express your true feelings, without worrying about what someone on the internet thinks about it.
- Sunglasses/Hat: Polarized sunglasses that won’t break easily and a hat to keep you shielded from the sun are crucial for any kind of adventure travel.
- Daypack: Have we mentioned the daypack? Bring a daypack. No matter what kind of travel you’ll be doing, it’s always a great idea to have an additional, smaller backpack for daily use. Make sure it can fit all of the daily essentials you’ll be bringing!
- Linens/Towels: If you’re traveling with a program provider, check to see if you’ll be required to bring your own bed linens (this is a great way to save money at hostels, so you save yourself a rental fee) or towels (whether staying at a hostel or camping in a tent, it’s always a great idea to have your own quick-dry towel available). Otherwise, do some advanced research on the places you’ll be staying and if they provide these amenities, or if you’ll need to bring your own.
- Extra tip: a quick-dry towel is a great thing to pack if you’ll be doing any sort of water sports or activities!
Don’t forget, less is more! Bring the the essentials, but remember that you’ll easily be able to purchase replacements at pharmacies and grocery stores abroad. And if this is really an adventure trip, do you reeeaaallllyyyy need all that makeup?
- Toothbrush and toothpaste: If you forget or lose these, you’ll always be able to find these on your travels, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own so that you can brush along your trip.
- Deodorant: Oh, you’re doing adventure travel? You mean you’ll be exercising, spending time outdoors, and probably sweating a lot? Yeah, packing deodorant is a no-brainer.
- Shampoo/conditioner/soap: If you can find a three-in-one combo of all of these products, you’ll be able to save space and weight in your bag! Also keep in mind, again, that you can find most if not all of these products abroad. However, if you’re particularly attached to a specific kind of shampoo, make sure you pack enough for the entire trip! You can pack it in a small, travel-sized shampoo bottle so that you can pass the airline restrictions with your carry-on bag and save space.
- Facial products: Again, you’re doing adventure travel, so makeup might not exactly be a top priority, but a good face-wash does wonders after trekking through the jungle.
- Nail clippers/tweezers: Trust us. There will be a day when you’re scaling rocks on a mountainside, or brushing up against a tree, and you’ll trip, injure a toe, get a splinter...and for the rest of the trip, you’ll be limping along in pain (and probably be whining a lot). Unless you bring nail clippers! They will quite literally save your trip, so be sure to pack some.
- Suntan lotion/lip balm: Protect your skin from painful, sunburned days or chapped lips, slathered in aloe. You’ll thank yourself later.
Don’t forget: Assuming that you’re packing in a carry-on bag, make sure that all of your liquids fit the liquid restrictions of the airline you’ll be traveling on! Otherwise, you’ll lose all of your shampoo to airport security.
- If you’re traveling somewhere in the winter, or where the temperatures will drop below 50 degrees fahrenheit, pack a heavier winter coat that is at least water-resistant, if not waterproof.
- When traveling in slightly warmer temperatures and locales, pack a light, breathable jacket (bonus points if it can double as a raincoat).
- A heavy-duty raincoat is more practical than an umbrella, and can be packed tightly in your suitcase/backpack.
- When it comes to shoes, less is more. It’s tempting to pack every pair in your closet, but you’ll only end up weighing yourself down.
- A comfortable pair of tennis shoes or hiking boots are crucial for your day-trip exploring and adventuring. When it comes to shoes, it might be tempting to pick something that looks better than it feels but after a few days of walking, your feet will thank you if you pick your kicks for comfort over looks.
- When traveling to warmer destinations, be sure to bring a pair of sandals.
- If you’ll have any days or evening out on the town where you don’t want to look like you just spent the day on an Australian beach, one pair of dressy shoes/sandals is always a good idea.
Tops and bottoms
Always try to stay with neutral colors and tones when picking out clothes to pack, so that all pieces can be mix-and-matched with each other. When doing athletic activities, it’s crucial that you bring along quick-wicking, breathable material
- 2-4 short-sleeved tops
- 1-2 long-sleeved tops or 1-2 light sweatshirts
- 1 heavier sweater or fleece (even if you’re heading towards warmer weather, you’ll want this on chilly nights or on the airplane)
- 1-2 dresses (if you’re a lady, dresses are a great, comfortable and versatile option while traveling and spending a day in the town!)
- 2-3 pairs of shorts or pants
- 7-10 pairs of underwear
- 2 sports bras and 1 bra for women
- 3-5 pairs of socks
- 1-2 swimsuits
Remember: the less you bring, the better! You can always do laundry on the road, so if you’re traveling for a month days, you don’t need to bring a month’s worth of underwear. Just bring enough for a week or a week and a half, and then do some washing!
Specific adventure packing lists
We’ve said it a million times, but what you include in your adventure packing list really depends on the type of travel you’ll be doing while abroad. If you’re going to travel through a program provider, be sure to reach out and ask them if they’ll be providing activity-specific gear on your trip. After all, they can’t exactly expect you to pack your own kayak as a carry-on.
Pro tip: high-impact cameras like GoPros are great for adventure travel, since you don’t have to worry about hurting your camera while out in the water and/or wild!
Adventure Cycling Packing List
Doing a cross-country bike trip...across another country? We’ve got you covered for all of your adventure cycling packing list needs.
- Bike: You can absolutely rent a bike while abroad, but if you’re really attached to your wheels, you can absolutely transport your bike on certain airlines as a checked item.
- Helmet: You’ll most likely be able to rent a helmet as well as a bike abroad, but this is something that will be attached to your noggin’ for a few days, weeks, or months, and you want to be comfortable. Even more importantly, you want to be safe. If you’re not sure of the quality of helmets that you’ll be able to rent once you arrive to your travel destination, it might be a good idea to bring your own!
- Hydration pack: Water bottles are one thing, but if you’ll be biking for days out on the open road or on a rugged trails, you might need to bring your own hydration pack.
- Gloves: keep your hands blister and sweat-free with bike gloves!
- Reflective clothing: Be sure to wear bright clothing, preferably with reflective patches, that will make you very easy to see while on the road.
- Headlamp: If you’ll be traveling during dawn, dusk, or nighttime, it’s always a good idea to bring a headlamp for safety.
If you’ll be burning rubber on a motorcycle instead of burning calories on a bike, you’re going to need to keep your adventure motorcycle packing list pretty much in line with our adventure cycling list! Too much weight on a motorcycle is bad for balance, so be sure to keep things light and always wear a helmet! A tough, warm motorcycle jacket and sturdy boots to wear on the bike!
Adventure Kayaking Packing List
Ahhh, life on the sea...or on the river, lake, or stream. Wherever the current takes you, we’ve got your adventure kayaking packing list all set. Don’t forget to check with your kayak rental or your program provider to ensure that they include things such as flotation devices and paddles.
- Waterproof shoes: Waterproof shoes or sandals with tough soles are crucial when kayaking. If you need to wade through the water or if your kayak flips, you need shoes that will stay on your feet, protect you from anything sharp in the banks, and will dry easily once you’re back on land.
- Drybag/floatbag: many outdoors outfitters sell drybags, which seal off their contents from any potential contact with water. This is really important for personal items that could easily be damaged by water, like ID’s, electronics, or cell phones. A floatbag is pretty self-explanatory—it floats. If you accidentally dump your stuff in the water, you’ll be thanking yourself for this purchase.
- Signaling whistle: Safety first! Having a whistle is a great thing to have to get the attention of your fellow kayakers.
Adventure Hiking/Backpacking Packing List
Again, always check with your program provider to see how much technical gear they’ll be providing you. Many program providers will provide its participants with a packing list for a hiking trip, as well as things such as tents, sleeping bags, or sleeping pads; or, you might have to pack and carry them yourself! Regardless of your program, be sure to do your best to keep it an ultralight backpacking gear list—you don’t want to be carrying extra stuff across mountains or entire countries.
- Bug spray: Don’t even question it. Aside from the fact that you don’t want to be scratching mosquito bites for weeks, or nursing painful stings, many bug bites and stings can be dangerous or carry diseases. You don’t want to deal with any of that, so always pack and apply bug spray.
- Headlamp: Trekking through the mountains in the dark? Camping without any light other than a fire? You’re going to want to bring a headlamp to find your way around. LED lights work best!
- Multi-purpose knife: From cooking dinner to hacking through brush to protecting yourself on the trail, having a multi-purpose knife for all of your hiking, backpacking, and camping needs is always a smart idea.
- Compass: Who knew compasses were more than just cute things to get a tattoo to prove your wanderlust? Packing (and knowing how to read) a compass can also help you navigate your way through the mountains.
Now that you’ve got your adventure gear...
No matter where you decide to travel in the great wide world, and regardless of what sort of adventure you’ll be jumping on, the three most important things to remember on your adventure gear list are: 1. Do your research, 2. Pack lightly, 3. Wear comfy shoes. If you’re thinking of investing in some new clothes for this adventure, splurge a little on high tech gear—when it comes to athletic activities that put a lot of wear and tear on adventure gear, quality is everything.
But most of all? Have fun. Traveling through the world is an incredible experience that opens your mind to new ways of living. Traveling through the world on an adventure program that pushes you to your physical and mental limits, where you can test your own guts as well as your knowledge of the world, is even better. So what are you waiting for? Jump in that kayak, hook up to the zipline, lace up your hiking boots! You’ve got a whole world to discover.