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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Mellor

House Sitting Packing List

What to bring when house sitting


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For those of you who have traveled before you might be like me, thinking packing is the most exciting part of traveling. Partly because you have the chance to buy new gear before heading out. Partly because you get to try out that new gear. So, let's talk gear.

Getting the gear

A suitcase being packed with a laptop, camera, and clothes.

When I first went traveling on my own, back in 2013, I scoured through Sierra Trading Post, REI, local outdoor stores, and even eBay. I wanted the perfect anti-microbial, merino wool, high-tech mesh, quick dry, anti-odor, packing list. Almost $1000 went towards new gear (including the $300 for a Gregory backpack). And, if I'm being honest, I loved every second of that hunt. I imagined how I would use it, I romanticized how people would respond to seeing me in "travel gear." (I'm still not sure where that expectation came from.)

However, times change, and I no longer buy new gear for every trip for two reasons. The main reason is for environmental reasons. After all, it’s in the tagline of Only A Bag: “sustainable.”

Buying new gear is a waste of resources. Both for me, financially, and for the world. How many backpacks, shirts, shoes, etc. do I actually need? More importantly, how many will end up thrown away if I give them to a thrift store or friend? At least with cotton or wool shirts, you can reuse the fabric. But with synthetics, once it’s stretched out, it can be difficult to use it again for anything.

These days, I pack from things I already own. No more big shopping trips for me. Darcy and I have been living out of backpacks for the past few years, so at this point, it’s a little easier to pack things we already own. I don’t really need a quick-dry, wool shirt if I already have a few Old Navy cotton shirts lying around that will probably dry by morning if I wash them at night. Likewise, I don't need a 3-in-1 waterproof jacket if I already have a rain jacket and a decent puffer.

If you are going hiking, or planning an overnight, or multi-night, outdoor excursion, please ignore all of this. Your success can and might be dictated by your gear, so don’t skimp! Wet clothes can cause a number of problems while hiking!

The second reason, as I mentioned, is money. The Gregory pack was great, but it was for hiking. No laptop sleeve, no compartmentalization, but a true workhorse nevertheless. A number of European backpackers will use a hiking backpack for its superior ratio of size/capacity and the fact you can strap it to yourself in a number of comfortable ways. When my Gregory pack was finally starting to go (not the straps, but the coating was starting to peel off and make a mess), I switched it up, and went to the bottom of the barrel.

I started using a $40 Ikea bag that, well, wasn't amazing. It was one of those "great in theory, but wow, no one tried this out" bags. Now I use a $100 REI backpack.

Technology and your packing list

These days, my needs have changed. When I traveled in 2013, I only had to bring a smart phone for Google Maps. Now, like many people, I have to bring gadgets. “Tech.”

The unfortunate truth is: we need tech. We need gadgets. Okay, need is a strong word. But many people who go long-term traveling will try to have some kind of cyber-side-income. Or main income. This means laptop. Which means a bag crafted around a secure laptop pocket. Which is not the bag I have.

At some point, I will make a Big Ol’ Bag post, but for now, I recommend checking out Reddit OneBag or similar places. A good Youtuber to watch is Chase Reeves, who has a big backlog of reviews for bags and sometimes shoes/other gear. These resources can give you an idea on which one bag to bring, if you’re planning on only bringing one.

But if you already know what kind of pack you’re going to bring, great! Let’s get started on the packing list.

The packing list

The key to your house sitting packing list is: modern amenities. When you're backpacking, you're roughing it. Washing your clothes in puddles, sleeping on benches, that kind of thing. But when you're house sitting, you've entered the modern era. We're talking about a clothes washer. Maybe even a dryer, depending on where you're house sitting. A laundromat, if you're not so lucky.

This means you don’t need to bring tons of clothes. More importantly, you don't have to bring your "rugged, quick dry, so-and-so", you can bring nice things. And, if you're somewhat security conscious, clothes that help you blend in to your new surroundings. I don't know if it has actually helped, but when Darcy and I travel, we try our bests to blend in. Sometimes this means not pulling out a phone to look for directions, but instead walking with purpose in some random direction. This can also mean dressing like the people around us to, if not to seem like total tourists, to at least seem like tourists from another part of the same country.

If this list seems too large, then pare down. It’s all down to weight for me. Is it comfortable on my back? Can I run with it if I’m about to miss my train? You might have a different metric, like size, or material.

When house sitting, I find it best to blend in with the locals. Looking like a tourist in some cities might make you a target for pick-pocketing or mugging. By dressing in “normal” clothes and not pants-to-shorts zip off clothes, you will better blend in.

Unfortunately, I can’t give a specific rundown of what you should buy. The only thing I can offer are some review videos of some of the gear we use. But specific recommendations are difficult to make. New things come out every day, which makes any recommendation dated. Plus, you should really only go traveling with things you trust. But before buying something, definitely check out the reviews. You never know what you might find.

(This list is written by a male, so the needs are more male-oriented. Darcy is going to write a female-oriented guide soon! But use whichever one works best for you!)

Right. Let’s get started. The amount of clothes needed will be per week.


Summer- Whenever I go someplace hot, I tend to bring linen button-down shirts. (I found a stack of them at a local thrift store just before summer started. If you’re looking, I’d start there!)

I don’t like how t-shirts stick to me in the summer, especially in a place that’s humid. I know some people prefer wool t-shirts since they’re breathable and moisture wicking, but I still feel like they stick. The Airism line from Uniqlo is also growing in popularity as a lightweight, breathable, ultra-packable, and budget friendly shirt.

If you already have summer-wear, bring that. Especially if you’re trip isn’t long (under a month). Depending where you go, you can go with a few raggedy shirts, and come back with new ones. I try not to use this method since it’s slightly wasteful. However, if you have some shirts that are soon headed for the trash rather than the thrift store, you can bring those, wear them out, buy new ones, and bring those home. Then you'll have a wearable souvenir.

How many to bring: 7 tops.

Winter- Wool is the way to go if you have it. If you don’t, consider investing in at least one wool baselayer. It doesn’t have to be Smartwool or Icebreaker. REI has a good selection of their own branded base layers at affordable prices. These can be worn often and paired with any top. I usually go for long sleeves. I have a few long sleeve, cotton henleys from the Gap that work perfectly for this. Once you have a base layer, I wouldn’t recommend buying any new shirts.

What to bring: 1 base layer, 3 overshirts.


Summer- We’re back with the linen. Linen all day. Cut large, if you can find it. I’ve tried a variety of pants and shorts for summer, and linen is by far the best.

If you don’t have any, and don’t want to spend the money on them since they tend to be pretty pricey in the States, wait until you get to Italy (if that's where you're going, as this is an Italian travel blog). They’re easily half the price here, if not more. The linen isn’t amazingly high quality everywhere, but it’s perfect for summer.

If you don’t want to dress in all linen, try loose weave cotton. If you’ve been living in a hot place, and you’re visiting another hot place, then wear whatever you’re used to, just check the humidity levels! I used to live in Savannah, and it was unbearably humid. However, having spent a summer in North Macedonia, I found that it's just hot, not humid. So I learned to check the humidity levels wherever I go.

Some people prefer pants year-round, and others will use shorts in the winter. I’m a big fan of shorts. They take up less space, they’re easier to pack away, and they keep me cooler. If you need pants in the summer, try finding lightweight pants. In some places, like Rome, it’s not uncommon to have week-or-two-week-long stretches of 100°F weather. Pants can be murder.

What to bring: 3 bottoms.

Winter- Pretty much up to you. I bring 2 pairs of pants. Usually a thicker pant, like jeans, and a thinner one, like corduroy. Honestly, whatever I recently found at the market is what I bring

Some people can travel on just 1 pair of pants, some 3. This is on you. Wear your normal winter pants. Only buy a pair if you really need to, because unless you’re going somewhere you’ll need snow pants, you’ll be fine.


This is where I splurge like crazy. Most of my underwear is about $30 per pair. Well, it used to be, then I started wearing the 32 Degree cool underwear from Costco. So much cheaper, practically the same feel. I also bought a few pairs of the Uniqlo Airism underwear, and it’s not bad, but the cut feels a wee bit small. I’m used to the leg on the underwear going down my thigh about 1/4 of the way. These are about half that. I've already used Exofficio in the past and been really happy with them, if they're on your "to research" list.

Underwear is, again, up to you. I like the kind that’s all fancy. Anti-microbial, anti-odor, flat seams so it doesn’t chafe, quick drying (which isn’t that quick, so not a huge selling point), etc. Some people like Hanes, or Fruit of the Loom. Totally up to you. Bring as many pairs as you can fit. I bring 10, usually. Someone once said “Pack underwear as if you’ll sh*t yourself on every day of the trip” and I’ve stuck to it religiously.

What to bring: Up to 10 pairs. Or, honestly, however much you want.


Summer- For summer, I tend to use flip-flops or sandals, so I rarely get the chance to need socks. That being said, I do travel with a pair of shoes and 5 pairs of ankle length socks. They’re small, pack down easily, and are great for summer. If you’re the type of person to bring hiking boots in the summer, then you’ll need longer socks, but I would recommend wool socks if that’s the case. Cotton will chafe like crazy when you sweat.

Winter- Wool socks. 5 pairs.

What to bring Summer/Winter: 5 pairs.


Summer- Sandals are fantastic if you’re okay with sandals. Try not to buy some on your trip, because it's asking for a bad time to break in a pair of uncomfortable sandals. I would bring whatever you have at your house. Anything comfortable, from Old Navy 99¢ flip-flops to Birkenstocks. If you need to bring shoes, try to bring something lightweight. Shoes can be a huge part of your packing weight, and a heavy bag in summer is murder. Personally, I like barefoot shoes, so I pack a pair of those.

Winter- Boots are amazing, if you can swing it. Boots tend to have better wet/snow traction, and they’ll create an overlap with your pants, keeping you warm. If you bring boots, also try to pack a pair of sneakers. You might need them for the days your boots are too wet to wear, or during the rare warmer days where boots will just be sweaty.


Summer- Very rarely will you need a summer jacket. I don’t think I’ve been to a single place that gets cold enough during normal hours to need a jacket. I know that some places get cold at night, and if you’re going to be out after midnight, then bring a lightweight jacket.

A good rule of thumb is elevation. The higher you’re visiting, the more likely you will need some kind of cover at night. We live on a hilltop town in Southern Italy for some of the year. Some summer nights, especially at the very top of the town, the temperature might touch 60°F, which is chilly after a 90°F day.

Winter- You’ll need a warm coat and something waterproof/water-resistant. I recommend a 3-in-1. I know what I said earlier, but if you don't have any kind of winter jacket system, this is a great place to start. They are made to fit together, providing warmth, dryness, or both when you need it.

I would also recommend a puffer jacket. Many 3-in-1s use a puffer jacket as the liner instead of fleece. I’ve found puffers to be warmer, but it’s also a common jacket in Italy. Fleece jackets are a rare sight, so if you would like to blend in, puffer is the way to go.

An image of a packing list.

A few brands, like Patagonia, make theirs from recycled plastic. I’d recommend not using down, for environmental reasons, but if you have to, try Uniqlo. They’re supposed to have very high down standards, only using down from ducks being killed in China for food. Not to mention, their jackets are very reasonably priced and pack down into nothing. Which is why a puffer jacket is important.

I once brought a nice, knee-length cashmere (found at a Goodwill for $15) jacket to Italy a few years ago. Although nice, totally impractical. Can’t really wear it on a plane, not maneuverable enough to wear a backpack with, and overall not as warm as a puffer jacket with a windproof cover.


  • REI (REI Outlet and Used are potentially better, since you’re giving life to an old product.)

  • Patagonia

  • Patagonia Worn Wear

  • Moosejaw — Affiliate Link (Moosejaw is a US-based third party seller of products, like REI, but I don’t believe they create any of their own products, unlike REI.)

  • Lems (For shoes)

  • VivoBarefoot (For shoes)

  • Thrift stores

  • Sierra Trading Post

I listed these as shops to buy clothes from that are environmentally responsible, or somewhat environmentally responsible. Sierra Trading Post isn’t, but you’re buying clothes before they end up in a possible landfill. Of course, not all outdoor brands will trash unsold clothes, but major clothing labels will, so maybe outdoor brands do as well?


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