Packing for five weeks on an overland truck (in under 8kg)

I am heading off on a trip with Overland West Africa from Sierra Leone to Ghana (via Liberia, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire), and then I am heading solo onwards to Nigeria (through Benin and Togo).   This is my first time ever on an organised group trip, and a lot of my friends are taking bets on how long I will last travelling with other people.   I will, of course, be blogging as I go, but given my packing posts are some of the most popular, here is the list…….. brace yourself it is more than I have ever packed.

Everything packed into their respective organising bags
the pack

So, this time, I need a slightly bigger pack than my standard, and much beloved, travel companion – the 30L Tortuga Air, as I have to take a sleeping bag and Thermarest.  However, that doesn’t mean I need a huge bag!  And in fact, I don’t want a big bag.  More stuff is more to carry, and more to organise.  I can easily fit everything into a carry on bag, so am trialing a new bag on this trip – the Lowe Alpine Flightlight 45 litre. This pack weighs in at 800 grams and doesn’t look too dorky!.


I have hacked it mildly to keep my stuff in place where I want it to be  – by adding some velcro patches to my cable and toiletries bags to hold them on the bag lid.

the bag packed


I will also carry a little north face pack for when I need a day pack.   I have used the sea to summit ones before but I keep putting holes in them.  This flyweight one is a big heavier, but more robust and still lightweight (200g)


*note I considered buying two other cool bags for this trip, but while both of the alternatives were pretty groovy – the tom bihn hero’s journey (a 45l backpack/duffel with a 15l convertible backpack/shoulder bag that attaches and is configurable in multiple ways) and the Alchemy Workshops very beautiful AEL008 carry on – both of these two options were too heavy and expensive and over-engineered for West Africa

sleeping arrangements

Most of the time we will be camping, so i will be packing for a variety of temperatures, taking

  • Silk sleeping inner for hot nights – this Rab one weighs 130g
  • a 30 degree short Z packs sleeping bag which I love and will keep me warm if I need it (350 grams and compresses down to nothing)
  • my thermarest  – indispensable mattress, but will be taking tape in case of punctures 330G
  • a big luxury – rather than my blow up sea to summit pillow, which is terrific for 3-4 nights camping, I am taking a more luxurious thermarest compressible pillow which is more like an actual pillow 58cmx41cmx10cm (340g).  I will see if it is worth the additional 280grams but I suspect it will be worth it for 5 weeks of a happier neck.  If it is not worth it, it will get discarded en route
the big luxury experiment – a new pillow

All my sleeping gear is packed together into a granite gear air zipsack so i can pull it all out together when i need it, except the pillow


Here is where most people overpack….. I am taking more than usual as want to make sure I don’t have to run in really stinking running gear and we won’t have access to running hot water that often to wash clothes.  I could make do with one less of everything (I have before).  I always swear by icebreaker as you can wear it for days and it won’t stink!  The following is more than enough for all temperatures and all occasions

i love these t-shirts. I have worn one of these shirts for at least 60 days this year – on the GR5 and the kungsleden for over 10 days in a row on each, and they are still holding up great

Clothes are packed in three small compressible eagle creek packing cells.


The biggest difference with overlanding is I won’t be able to rely as frequently on hotels for shampoo and soap, and chemists for when I need anything.  So I am packing slightly more than normal (but still not much)

all my toiletries!

Wet toiletries 

  • Moisturiser, 25 g decanted in a pot
  • Sunscreen (10 hour), – Riemann’s once per day P20 ( lotion), 50mls is plenty for 5 weeks as I only do my face
  • Lipgloss, I use blistex– both the lip balm and the medplus conditioner
  • Antiseptic savlon – 15 ml
  • 100ml of hand sanitiser (normally I don’t bother, but this will be useful for 5 weeks on a truck)
All packed in airport security compliant Muji bag so I don’t have to use a ziplock bag
this soap will clean anything!

Dry toiletries (no airline limits on size)

  • Salt deodorant stick – it works and weighs little
  • Insect repellant – in block form, lasts longer
  • Toothpowder – less than 20g is enough for five weeks
  • Multipurpose soap – Dr Bronners will clean me, my clothes and my hair, and this is more than enough for 2 months
  • Drugs – Sleeping pills/stilnocht (for overnight flights and snoring tentmates), painkillers/nurofen, anti diarrhoea/immodium, dicloflenac, and doxycycline for malaria, 2 packs of rehydration mix
  • Compeed and a couple of plasters for cuts and blisters
  • Earplugs (most important thing in the pack)
  • Razor blade (just one replacement blade, don’t bother carrying the handle)
  • Toothbrush
  • Nail clippers (tiny)
  • Tweezerman tweezers (tiny)
  • Some cotton buds
  • Hair ties
  • Safety pins –  always indispensable
huge weight saving in toothpaste 🙂
all the toiletries in ‘wet’ (airport security compliant) and ‘dry’ bags
  • Garmin watch and  charger
  • iPhone and charger
  • flip belt for runs
  • platypus 1l soft bottle
  • standard money belt, leg money belt, bra money stash
  • macbook (under 1kg) (not shown in pictures)
  • solar charger (helpful to not have to fight for the plug space on the truck), 280g
  • petzl head torch and a few spare batteries
  • an ultra light spoon – always helpful for when i want yogurt or baked beans
  • large quick drying towel ( i have taken the handkerchief size one on trips in the past, this time I have space and desire for a bigger one that will actually cover me up coming and going from communal showers) (135g)
Fully loaded, excluding what I am wearing (shorts, sneakers, t-shirt, hoody), it weighs in at 7.9 kg – easily a weight I can wander around town with for a few hours if I need to, and I have more stuff than I need.  My standard weight is about 6kg, so an extra 2kg of sleeping gear, additional toiletries and a few extra clothes isn’t terrible.
Side note on carry-on weight limits – in the event that the check in staff want to weigh your luggage and have a limit of 6-7kg, my standard tactic is to put a few extra items of clothing on (down jacket and waterproof  – even if just tied around my waist), stick my cables and toiletry bags in my pockets (i have big pockets in the icebreaker hoody), and then put my laptop down the back of my trousers.  Without fail this reduces the pack weight by 2 kg and gets me past any checks.
Everything I am taking with me, except my computer, running shoes and hoody which I forgot to put in the picture
post trip review

So, I am now done with the trip, and a couple of thoughts on the packing.

I wouldn’t take these things again

  • Sleeping bag – I used it three times, but two times were because we couldn’t figure out how to turn the aircon down.  I would have been fine using my down jacket with the sleeping silk liner those few nights it was a bit brisk (and I needed the down jacket and warm hoody for returning to London, so while I didn’t use them, I would still take them)
  • Sunscreen and sunhat – I was too lazy to put the sunscreen on, and it was too hot to wear a hat
  • Waterproof jacket – when it pisses down here, it is still warm, so you can use the rain as a free clean water shower, and you will dry quickly afterwards

I didn’t use any of the drugs or first aid stuff, but would take them again.  I also picked up a cheap course of ciproflaxin for $2 in Liberia as a back up, but didn’t use them.

Next time I would take an umbrella – good for wandering around in the sun and for the torrential rainfall, and take or buy a fan – helpful in the sweltering days.

Apart from that I probably could have done with one less top and one less pair of shorts, but it was nice to have some redundancy.

1 thought on “Packing for five weeks on an overland truck (in under 8kg)”

  1. Wow this is amazing, what a good packing method!! I shall follow something like this from now on, or at least, will try 🙂

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