Permanent sitters - what's on your packing list?

I’ve seen there’s at least a few people on here who don’t have a permanent base and go from home to home. There’s a lot of ‘one bag’ travel sites and guides about really reducing your life to the minimum - some clothes, a laptop and a washbag is technically all you need really and you can fit it into a 40 litre rucksack.

My partner and I are considering a period of about a year where we wouldn’t have a base. I’m interested in what else you might need if you were away for that period. There’s a few things I’ve noticed that while I could do without, would be nice

  • wrapping paper, scissors, sellotape - important for birthdays!
  • formal wear for occasional weddings etc
  • cooking - a few spices for barren cupboards, a couple of tupperwares, whatever fresh stuff might be left over from the last sit
  • gear for hobbies - polymer clay doesn’t take up a lot of space, but it might squeeze something else out. Could be any hobby - fishing, hiking etc

I’m sure there are bunch more random things that make life easier, have only been considering this for a couple of days.

Do you just give these things up or do you find a way to make space? And where?


@topcat i guess the starting point to answering your very interesting question is is the sitter travelling by car, motorbike, cycle or public transport? Obviously the list would be different in each case. I use public transport and I started out with a backpack…trialed a case on wheels …and then went back to a backpack. I carry between 8-15kg depending on if I might be intending to do some camping and hiking in between sits or the sits being back to back. If I am travelling out of the UK what I carry will be slightly different and includes travel guides and maps. I have a small tupperware type box where I keep handy things such as elastoplast, scissors, ear plugs, small padlock, spare camera battery, paracetamol, head torch, spare face masks, pen, waterproof dressings, antacid tablets, comb, electric toothbrush and spare heads, razors, needles and cotton, and depending where I am going a few extra odds and ends. It has a good clip down seal and I can put my hands on small stuff really easily. I have taken to carrying a half length thermarest which is very lightweight and has been really handy where mattresses have been to soft; really saves the back! I only carry one change of clothes but a really good lightweight raincoat, sun hat, sunglasses (not had much use for those in the UK!), some lighweight crocs (really handy when staying at backpackers between sits when using grotty showers!) I keep anything fluid based seperate in a watertight bag in an outside pocket as I have had stuff leak in the past and this would be things like a small shampoo, toothpaste, eye drops etc. I have a full size micro lite towel which drys really quickly and I hate skimpy towels, it does not add much weight. As I said earlier I might carry a lightweight tent and sleeping bag and that pushes total weight to around 15kg. I always carry a camera, mobile phone and again depending where I am going either a tablet or laptop. Happy travels


carpediem, has made some very good points.
We have the luxury of travelling in the UK and Europe by car, a large estate car for taking dogs with us when looking after hairy hounds. Our luggage consists of two cabin sized suitcases packed with our clothes and wash bags. A very large hold-all with walking boots, extra medical items, knife sharpener(I have moaned about lack of sharp knives in some households), my knitting project of the moment, cheese grater, essential paper work, electric razor, hair clippers and lots of little essentials for us. We also have very small back packs with our electronic devices, a book, money and cards which are easily carried. There is a supermarket bag filled with food essentials.
We are hoping to go long haul in the Autumn so this will obviously have to be cut down - probably cut out the large hold-all and food basics and only carry three days worth of clothes instead of a week.

Things we have found we definitely do not need
Formal clothes and shoes
Lots of books
Bed linen
The list is endless. It’s a try and see situation. What’s suits us may not suit you and vice versa


We have been full-time nomadic travellers for a year and have stayed in Greece, Italy, Spain, and the UK. Using public transport to get around.
When we left home we sold or gave away all our belongings and whittled a triple wardrobe down to one large suitcase and one cabin bag. At the time we thought we had been really ruthless but to be honest, have only used half of what we are carrying around so are thinking to reduce it again into 2 back bags.
As well as clothes & toiletries we have a folder of essential paperwork, a laptop each, a sharp knife, washing sponge & wipe, 4-way plug extention cable, plasters, paracetamol, t bags and we always have a book each on the go which we buy from charity shops and always leave the ones we finish.
It is amazing how little ‘stuff’ we actually need to live - it has been really therapeutic to rid our lives of all the stuff we had collected over the years that we thought we needed but in reality didn’t.


@Colin totally with you on that therapeutic experience!


I think stuff like toiletry bags with compartments, packing cubes and anything that helps you organize your belongings is good to have. Being able to neatly store lots of little things, especially small personal care products that can add up, like bandaids, nail clippers, tweezers,etc…makes a big difference.


Ideally we’d be travelling by public transport, don’t own a car now, but kind of depends on the answer to this question.

@ElsieDownie you’ve got a few of the hobby items I was thinking about - walking boots, knitting, some food stuff. Does that only work out because you travel in the car? You also said no formal wear, no stationary - what have you done for an event/giving a present?

@carpediem @Colin - sounds like the answer is you just go without anything bulky. Has it ever been a sacrifice or you just don’t do the kind of activities that need specific items anyway? I did yoga today and I realised that a yoga mat is another bulky item that wouldn’t fit in a bag. It’s not my passion, but would be a shame to have to forgo it for a whole year.

@KC1102 packing cubes are great, been using them a while now. But there does come a point when there’s more stuff than you can organise into a single backpack!

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@topcat - I don’t think we have had to sacrifice anything. Most things, a yoga mat, for example, can be borrowed or bought cheaply and then given to the local charity shop.
Our biggest problem has been constantly joining gyms and having to negotiate out of paying joining fees!


What an exciting journey you’re considering @topcat!

We had a similar plan 5 years ago, sold and donated 95% of our belongings, gave up the keys to our apartment and our car. We’re from the US but took off for a year in Europe. We did 18 house sits, visited 23 countries and 60 cities in that year. We loved it so much that we didn’t stop and have continued to be full time, digital nomad house sitters ever since.

As you mentioned, we’re ‘onebaggers’ and travel with a 36 litter backpack apiece. We started with it jam packed and quickly realized that it wasn’t sustainable. We now travel with extra space on our bags, keeping them around 15lbs (7 kg). It’s incredibly easy to move around and we rarely feel that we’re sacrificing!

Our biggest tip is to keep in mind that you can purchase small things along the way. For example, most house sits will welcome you to use a bit of their spice, but if they don’t have what you want, spending a couple dollars to buy what you want and then leave it behind might be worth not packing it. The same goes for toiletries, we pack about 1-2 ounces and then buy what we need when we arrive to a new spot. For us, it’s the cost of doing business :slightly_smiling_face:

We also pack our standard wardrobe, but for winter months we make a stop at a thrift store (charity shop) or department store and purchase a jacket, gloves, beanies, and thermals as needed. We donate everything once the weather warms up.

We do carry a few must have items that might not be considered must haves for everyone. Sergio travels with a video game controller and Shannon with a full-face set of makeup.

We have more information on our gear and packing lists, and happy to send a link to our series on how got rid of 95% of our belongings (and then even more once we started traveling), and tips on DIY packing cubes and travel containers :slight_smile:

We look forward to hearing more about your travel plans and how it works out! Happy travels!


Hi Topcat
We very rarely go to events. It’s usually dinner in a laid back restaurant or a beach party but if I got caught out there’s always charity shops where you pay very little for clothes and can hand them back. Instead of cards I usually leave flowers or cook/bake something for them coming home.
Walking boots are essential to me. I use them as my preferred foot ware all winter and have walking sandals for the summer so they are not a luxury. Merril are the best fit for me. I have a roll of knitting pins and a satchel full of needles, scissors etc. Most of the knitting patterns are from the internet or I make them up as a go along. I do take some wool with me but there’s always wool shops where ever you go. It’s good to other types or makes. I think my knitting will come with me even when we don’t have a car, maybe not so much.
If you are from the UK most of the libraries do book lending remotely, even audio which is fantastic. Sign up before you give up your address as you need to prove you live somewhere.
I lived on a 40 foot sailing boat for over five years so I’m used to minimal clothes and personal belongings. Before that we lived in a six bedroom house. That’s when the real wrench happened - packing up and leaving that.


are you on Ravelry Elsie?

Yes, amongst other sites.

@topcat if i was planning to camp somewhere or do a hike before getting to the sit or after I would take a lightweight tent and sleeping bag; the thermarest would be worth you considering…packs small, is lightweight, great to use on lumpy and soft mattresses AND could double as a yoga mat! Oh I also have lightweight hiking boots that I get out of at the house. Happy travels.

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The longer i do this the more I discover that I need to carry very little. As a full timer I have a schedule and I know where I am going to be when and for how long sometimes months in advance. I have become quite good at strategizing my needs.
I started out with a truck and an open bed which was multipurpose from pantry to back porch, yes I had a folding chair :grinning:
Now I have a 30L backpack and a mid size case. No vehicle. I fly and never pay to check in my case so I take advantage of that. When I go overseas, I will minimize that case to a carry on (maybe) just because it is easier to maneuver through the many steps and cobblestones…
I have found that I can live with less, minimize my burden and anything and everything I need is always available at the right time.
I pack what I will wear for the climate for the next 6 months or so. All my clothing is light, wash and wear, quick dry. I have 3 pairs of shoes, a small personal sack with bare essentials. A lightweight jacket, a rain poncho (I have yet to use so it’s becoming questionable). Stopped carrying soaps, lotions and such as more often than not that is provided if not I go get what I need.
Always carry my laptop, ipad, iphone and chargers. I am an avid reader, always studying and everything is available online or stored in my hard drive or cloud. I have even been able to complete my course of studies for a PhD while home and pet sitting.
In Europe, charity shops are fantastic for picking up and dropping off.
I am a very weird but very happy bird.


Totally get it! I have packed and sold several homes and also have lived on 3 boats for several years. You learn so much.


@Amparo not weird at all! I like your thinking and you are a good organiser…happy travels.

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Gratzie @carpediem Seize the day is the secret to life!

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@carpediem which type of thermarest do you have / would you recommend? I googled them but there are various different ones. My back can suffer if beds are too soft so I love the idea of having something I could use to provide better support on housesits.

@Debbie its just called thermarest and i believe this is a trade name…they have beem around for years and recognised as one of the leading brands for serious hiking…let me know if you cant find it and I will chase it up

@carpediem Like this?