Need to pack for six months in a reasonable amount of space? Whether studying abroad, taking a temporary work assignment, or looking for a new adventure, this list can get you started.
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Needing to pack for six months can feel daunting. What do I need? What will I want once I get there? Do I actually know what the weather will be like?
It seems silly to call it a trip. If you’re backpacking and changing locations every four days, sure. But if you’re headed to one home base, it’s more like a temporary move. When I studied abroad in Australia, I stayed long enough to learn the bus lines, have a favorite beach and watch the weather go from midwinter to midsummer. When my husband deployed, we threw all our stuff into storage and packed two suitcases, my printer (to bring my business with me), and my dog into my tiny car and moved east.
My point here is that during that six months, you can develop habits and
If it helps, here’s a bit of perspective: packing for six months is not all that different than packing for one month. You need WAY LESS than you think. Even with what I brought, I still find that I only wear about 60% of the clothes I brought with me.
Tips to Get You Started
- The biggest question here is the weather. Most likely, a six-month stay means the seasons will shift while you’re there. Research typical temperatures for each month, and ask others if you can. Figure out if you can minimize the shorter season (if it’s first), or buy the essentials if it’s at the end of your stay. And skip the rain boots unless you’re backpacking through Ireland where you’ll wear them every other day.
- Plan ahead. Are you working in an office? Bring a few more versatile business clothes options. Bonus if they can double in another form.
- If there’s one fancy event during that time, you’ve got options: bring a dress (giving precious packing space to formalwear you’ll need once), borrow a dress (if you’re going to know locals OR you can rent one), or buy something there. I’ve done both of the first two options and highly recommend borrowing. Packing for one occasion doesn’t make sense in this situation.
- You can always buy stuff. Even if backpacking on the cheap, you can find some fantastic stuff in thrift stores. Plus, clothing makes great souvenirs! I *may* have cried when the sunglasses I bought in Australia broke, and that was five years later.
- Unless you’re moving to a developing nation AND you can’t live without your specific flavor of shampoo, take travel sizes and stock up when you get there.
- Clothes with flexible purposes are crucial. I list a couple of sundresses, but both could flex to fall and with a motorcycle jacket
thrownon top wouldn’t be out of place on a warm winter day. A nice dress that works at the office but isn’t out of place at a fancy dinner.
- This is obvious, but it bears repeating: make everything match everything. That means limiting your patterns or bright colors to one “section” of your wardrobe (shirts, pants, etc). I usually pick black or brown as my neutral, but not both.
- Be ruthless: pull out everything you want to pack. Leave it alone for a few days and then put back 10% of it. You don’t need it all.
This list should help you get past the overwhelm. I based it on the two times I had to pack for six months; both were in hot weather climates that either started or finished in cold weather. So this list skews that way. If you’re heading to colder climes, mix up the numbers and replace a bathing suit with more socks and add one really warm coat.
How to Pack For Six Months
- 2 pair pants (jeans, black pants)
- 2 skirts (1 maxi, 1 mini)
- 3 pairs shorts
- 1 pair black leggings
- 7 short sleeve shirts, casual
- 2 long sleeve shirts
- 2 dressy shirts/blouses
- 2 sundresses
- 1 nice dress
- 2 sweaters
- 1 jacket (I chose a motorcycle jacket)
- 1 raincoat (best if it’s a trench coat with a hood)
- 2 bathing suits
- 1 set pajamas
- enough underwear & bras for a week
- 4 pairs socks
- 1 pr athletic shoes
- 1 pr flip flops
- 1 pr Chacos (or strap on sandals good for water/outdoor activities)
- 2 pair dressy sandals or heels
Once I got settled, I ended up supplementing with things I bought: more shorts for the hot Southern summer, and more workout clothes because I did a lot of dog walking in the humidity.
If you’re doing a six-month backpacking jaunt, I’d recommend you skip this list in favor of my one-month packing list and plan to do laundry and replace for seasons as needed. It’s not worth dragging all this stuff with you unless you have to!
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It’s not as hard as it seems to pack for six months. What’s the longest trip you’ve ever packed for?