Run Long But Travel Light: A Runner’s Packing List

Our family made a pact to pack light during our ten-month journey in 2009-10: one Osprey Porter convertible backpack and one carry-on bag each, plus one communal carry-on-size suitcase for school supplies and tech gear. That’s it. Even the kids had to follow the rule, “If you want it, you carry it.” We each pared down our clothing to three to four main outfits, three pairs of shoes, a lightweight jacket, and accessories.

Packing our clothes turned out to be the easy part. Our running gear, however, made our bags burst. Morgan and I faced a small mountain of hydration packs, water bottles, sports drink mix, and shoes. Here’s how we kept our promise to pack only what we easily could carry, and still have the gear we needed to run on our trip:

Our family of four fit all we needed for 10 months of travel, including gear and tech equipment, into these bags.

  • Wear running shoes everywhere. When I’m home, I keep track shoes for track, road shoes for road, trail for trail, and prolong their life by changing out of them as soon as I return home from a run. On our long trip, however, I wore my trail running shoes everywhere—for shopping, hiking, road running, and yes, for trail running. Their neutral color made made me look a little less dorky than if they had been, say, orange. By keeping them on my feet instead of packed in my bag, I saved space for other things. Did they wear out faster? I guess, but I didn’t really notice. I ran several hundred miles in each pair injury-free before replacing them.
  • Limit yourself to two running outfits, even on a long trip. Get used to doing laundry in the sink; wash the sweaty outfit as soon as you’re done, and hang it to dry on one of my favorite travel accessories: a braided travel clothesline. Pack two short-sleeve shirts and one pair arm warmers for warmth to eliminate the need for long-sleeve shirts.
  • Buy an extremely thin and lightweight windbreaker that can double as a rain slicker for travel and a protective layer for running.

    On this rainy run in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, I used my ultra-light rain shell that folds up small enough to fit in a pocket.

  • Bring a full hydration pack or hydration belt only if you’re sure you’re going on long runs with scarce water. Otherwise, get by with a single hand-held water bottle that can be refilled along the way. I recommend the Ultimate Direction Fast Draw 20 (a handheld bottle with a handy pocket) and any of the Ultimate Direction running/hiking belts that are great for travel.

My running clothing and gear packing list:

  • two running bras
  • one short-sleeve shirt that covers shoulders for modesty if we’re in a place where a tank top would be inappropriate
  • one singlet with bare shoulders for hot-weather destinations
  • one pair shorts with built-in pockets
  • one pair Capri-length running tights, in case of cold weather or if we’re in a place where I want to dress somewhat modestly
  • two pair running socks
  • cap or visor
  • sunglasses
  • running shoes (of course!)
  • arm warmers
  • Garmin Forerunner watch with GPS and charger
  • for cold climates: gloves, warm hat, full-length running tights if visiting freezing climates
  • hydration pack OR hand-held water bottle (see links above for recommended type)
  • calories and electrolytes: packets of energy gels and SaltStick or Nuun electrolyte tabs for long runs
  • for safety and comfort on remote solo runs: safety whistle, Road ID shoetag, iPhone, toilet paper, ibuprofen, ziplock with BandAids and travel-size Aquiphor for blisters and chafing
  • small packets of Woolite detergent and a braided travel clothesline for hanging multiple items to dry
  • Petzl headlamp (not just for running in the dark, but also in case the power goes out wherever you may be!)

Disclaimer: some of these products are linked to retailers, and I will receive a very small commission if you purchase it after clicking through from this site. I only link to products I truly recommend. For more safety tips while running, see “How to Run or Hike Safely: Essential Precautions that Could Save Your Life.”

If you travel and run a lot, what would you add or delete to the list? Please leave a comment to let me know! Also, for more tips on packing light, check out

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7 Responses to Run Long But Travel Light: A Runner’s Packing List

  1. Jennifer December 28, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    First of all, the new blog looks fantastic! I’m looking forward to checking out some other posts.

    I’m not a very serious runners these days, but when I was debating which shoes to bring on this 12 month trip, you inspired me to bring the running shoes and ditch the Gorky city shoes.

    So my packing list is even lighter – one pair of running shoes, running socks and sports bra, and everything else has another use. I bought some very technical looking warm running tights that are doubling as thermal underwear, everything else I would also wear as day clothes.

    I’ve only been for two runs so far. One in tropical Singapore and one in snowy Munich at a chilly minus 7 Celsius.

    Thanks for the inspiration, and I hope I will up my average to at least twice a week – running is a great way to explore a city, and one which I always used to enjoy when I trailed on business.

    • Sarah December 28, 2010 at 7:11 am #

      Bravo, Jennifer! I’m looking forward to following your travels. To others reading this: I met Jennifer and her family in Sydney, when they were planning their long-term, round-the-world trip. You can follow her adventures at

  2. Orange March 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    This is exactly what I was looking for! I’m about to go off travelling for several months and having to keep luggage to a minimum, I wasn’t sure what to pack for running. Thanks!


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