The Ultimate Guide to Your Overseas Tool Belt

An Ultimate Guide for Moving Overseas

Moving overseas is a difficult thing to prepare for and finding accurate, real information can be challenging.

You’ve googled and researched and it brought you here.

You are looking for an ultimate guide and you’ve found it.

We’ve moved across 3 continents.

And we are learning that there is a big tool belt needed to survive it all.

Moving Overseas - An Ultimate Guide for Moving Overseas

A tool belt that might include this very large fly swatter… or as it has been dubbed in our house… a gecko swatter… which we have never done. We prefer to catch the geckos and play with them rather than swatting them. Truly, the name is just for fun.

Not to say you won’t need a good, strong fly swatter… because you will. And, no joke… THIS. buy THIS.

But for real… there is a HUGE list of things that will make your life overseas a little bit easier.

An ultimate guide of sorts that will give you some outside-the-box ideas as you are planning to move overseas. Or, maybe a few things to add to your life if you are already living in a different country.

Moving Overseas - An Ultimate Guide for Moving Overseas

Yes, a machete made our personal list. Well, Jeremy’s list anyway. And he proudly uses it faithfully.

This list will go in no certain order. I wish I was organized enough to put it all into categories for you, but that would be an ebook… and I’d rather just write a list for you to organize.

Honestly, because some of these things will strike a cord with you and others you might not ever use. So grab what you can from this ultimate list and I’ll be praying you have a few easier moments on the field because of it!

Here goes… the ultimate guide to your overseas, missionary life tool belt.

Ready to dive in? ‘Cause the list is big, people.

Moving Overseas - An Ultimate Guide for Moving Overseas

But you’ll thank me.

1} Buy yourself a present. Especially before you start creating an Amazon cart while reading this ultimate guide. You want Amazon Prime. Shop Amazon – Give the Gift of Amazon Prime to yourself and your family. It will bless you in so many ways and make life easier. We used Amazon Prime in prep to leave for the field which saved us SO MUCH MONEY and time. And, we’ve used it while on the field to send presents to family or ship something to someone who is coming to our country. It has paid for itself time and time again.

Ok, now to start shopping…

2} Think water. Clean Water. We have the Big Berkey Water Filtration System and we love it. {biggest reason we chose Berkey over Katadyn was because the Berkey filters will use both Berkey and Katadyn filters. Katadyn will only use Katadyn filters. When you are on the field, it is nice to have options when you need something important! But BOTH are great filters and used widely on the field so do some research and choose what works for you.} Don’t forget extra filters and even a stand. Then, think portable clean water. We use these filter bottles by Brita on the go. And, HUGE tip here… we use them daily at every bathroom sink for brushing teeth. Saves us trips to the filter to refill a regular water bottle and gives us clean water in the bathroom. We also stick empty ones in our carryons for clean water at the airport… lots of ways to use these great bottles! And, don’t forget a few extra filters for them as well! Buy enough for the whole family!

3} The Neat Sheet. I have been a Neat Sheet fan for YEARS. The park or the beach… camping or playing in the backyard… even carrying leaves to the curb… I’ve used the Neat Sheet and I think they are the best thing for families ever. Take that to the mission field and you have a winner.

4} Tents. Babies or littles and going to a place with lots of mosquitoes? This tent will allow for bite-free playtime and naptime. Plus, it is portable so you can take it on the go. For you or the big kids? Try this Coleman screen tent.

5} Coffee gadgets. If you do nothing else on this list, at least have a way to make coffee quickly and easily without electricity. We love our French Press. We have this one and this one. Jeremy’s newest gadget is an Aeropress. He LOVES it. Get the whole kit. If you will be traveling to villages or remote places, try this collapsible pour over and mug! Don’t forget a good grinder, some beans and hot water! {If you want an electric grinder and hot water pot, I suggest waiting until you are in country so that they are the correct plug!} Coffee in today’s world is a true evangelistic tool… you laugh… but we have had people stop by just to taste “toubab” (foreigner) coffee and it creates a great way to build relationships and start conversations. So, the more fun ways to make coffee, the better!

6} Sporks. You really do want these. So often when we go to the village, they don’t have enough spoons for everyone to eat. This helps out a lot!

7} A man bag. Men overseas really do carry bags. Having a wallet in your back pocket isn’t safe and you also need to carry a lot more paperwork, cash and other items with you. Things like toilet paper, wipes, hand sanitizer, a spork, tylenol and other things a man doesn’t normally carry with him. Jeremy uses this Timbuk2 bag and it works perfectly.

Moving Overseas - An Ultimate Guide for Moving Overseas

Another great idea is a Travelon Anti-theft bag. And ladies, they have some cute purses too! Kipling is another great, durable, washable brand I love for a good travel safe purse. I have this one.

8} Camelbak. Anything Camelbak is going to be helpful on the field. We used a backpack like this one every day in Paris. Jeremy uses it now in his truck as a “just in case” type bag. He has first aid, water tablets, toilet paper, wipes, sunscreen and other essentials stocked inside.

9} Sanitization. Wipes. Hand sanitizer. Easy Towel Tablets. You will want it all. Jeremy’s newest favorite? Dude Wipes. You’ll want some too.

10} Health. Medicines, first aid items… but don’t forget essential oils. But not just the oils. A good book to tell you how to best use them for your family. My favorites are Tea Tree or Melaleuca , Peppermint, and Lavender. With just those three you have stress relief, antibacterial help, headache relief, sinus clearing and so many other great things! Starting with a small kit will really help.

11} Foot Care. So not beautiful feet, remember? Which means you are going to need a home pedicure kit, some Vicks Vapor Rub {read this} and Epsom Salts.

12} Body Care. We love our foam roller and our treadmill, which we bought used here on the field from another M. Some hand weights. Yoga mat. Anything that will help you stay healthy on the field. Exercise reduces stress and really does make your life better.

13} Kitchen. If you can get a Kitchen Aid Mixer, it really will be worth the expense. Jeremy is using it right now to make sourdough pizza crust. We are saving TONS of money on bread and baked goods because of our mixer. Splurge on the attachment pack. You’ll be grading your own cheese and even meat so it is worth it. {we will be saving for some attachments to bring with us for our next term!} Speaking of sourdough, if you think you might need to make your own breads, sourdough is a GREAT and healthy way to go. Bring a dry starter pack with you so you are ready to start when you arrive! Another kitchen item you will want to have is a good set of knives and a sharpener. We do a lot of our own meat processing so this is very helpful. Jeremy loves Victorinox. Cheaper, high quality and highly rated. This small set will be good or you can go big with this set that includes a sharpener. Or, you could think big for all your knives and tools and go with this bad boy. And my favorite thing we had shipped over because tortillas are VERY hard to find in West Africa, my tortilla press. LOVE it. One more thing. Tupperware. REAL Tupperware.

14} Tips for Moving Overseas. That post has a lot of great links as well. Links to the wagon we use, the bins we use and more.

A bit overwhelmed with all these links and information? Get it in bite size pieces through helpful tips, resources and encouragement delivered to your email. Just enter your address below!

15} Books. Let me tell you how much our family loves books. When we moved, we sold nearly ALL our books. Now, we use Amazon Kindle Unlimited {you can click that link and get a free 30-day trial!} and we love it! It is $9.99 per month but we have used it for everything from language help books to school books to kids books to cookbooks to health books and so on… devotionals, study books, fiction and more. We love our Kindle Unlimited and won’t be getting rid of it anytime soon.

And even if you don’t have a kindle, you can use – the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

But here are a few you might want to buy (that aren’t on your mission reading list) and have always available for your family to use.

Live Dead Joy by Dick Brogden – perfect first-year-on-the-field devotional and daily encouragement

Looming Transitions by Amy Young plus the family activity book to walk your kids through transitions. Get both.

Djiboutilicious Cookbook by Rachel Pieh Jones for learning to cook on the field

It Will Be Okay by Lisa Terkeurst for your kids {and maybe you too}

What Women Fear by Angie Smith

A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness about the life of Lilias Trotter – it will change your world and impact your heart

It’s Tuesday… Now What do I do? by Richard Lewis – help for those first weeks on the ground {plus his daughter is my neighbor and I LOVE this family}

Champions in the Wilderness by Bob Santos – 52 devotions to guide and strengthen emerging overcomers. LOVED this book.

And if you have a book you love that is new or off the beaten path a little in missionary books, I’d love to know about it!

16} Youtube. You can learn anything you need to know from youtube. Language, electrical, cooking, and any how-to you can think of. Youtube must be in your tool belt.

17} Google. We use google mail, calendar, contacts, maps and of course, for searching. It works seamlessly with our apple devices but seems to better equip us around the world. Especially google maps. Being able to pin things, text those pins to a friend {or your spouse trying to find where you are #beentheredonethat} and find directions for things in a place where there are no road names or house numbers is SOO valuable. Learn how to use google maps. You will thank us. We have found google maps to be the most accurate mapping system from country to country.

18} 3 Must-Have appsTinyscan for scanning documents and turning jpegs into pdfs that you can save to dropbox, email, text or whatever you need to do! You will be amazed how often you have to scan things and email them. Doing it on an app is so easy and efficient. mSecure is what we use to keep all our passwords, travel documents, IDs, important numbers… organized and in one place. It takes time to set up but worth every second and penny. It is fluid from device to device so we both can change info or add info and it updates everywhere we have the app. We don’t pay for very many apps, but those two are worth it. is our newfound organizational tip that will make your life easier. {plus help your marriage on the field} It is free. You can keep track of groceries, to-do lists, house work and whatever else you are keeping lists of… again, fluid from device to device so if I add cereal to the grocery list, Jeremy will see it when he is at the store. We use it every day.

19} It Luggage. I LOVE these suitcases. They are super light-weight and very durable. We’ve traveled hundreds of miles and flown around the world with them and they still keep going with no issues. You want this suitcase. or 2 or 5 of them. Cute colors too which makes them easy to spot at the airport. And don’t forget your luggage scale!

20} Universal Power Strips. We have about 3 of these and they travel with us. Plug ins are limited pretty much everywhere in the world except the US so having extra outlets is very helpful! Buy a few for your country and you’ll be set. {linked to the french plug which is what we use in West Africa}

21} Pets. If you think you’ll be getting a dog while on the field, bring a collar, a leash, and some toys with you. These things are easily found here but our dog destroys them in minutes. So glad we have this little guy for him to chew on!

22} Shoes. Other than my Old Navy flip flops, which I love… I’m so glad I brought two pairs of Tevas and these crocs. BEST shoes ever. Comfortable, washable, durable and cute. Can’t beat that.

23} A few Must-Have ToolsHex Key Set – Jeremy uses these all the time and don’t forget to get them in metric! A Craftsman mechanic set, also watch for metric. Add a deep socket set for plumbing. A wire stripper and voltage tester. Even if you are not tool savvy, you want to do some research and start collecting some solid tools. In many developing countries, the craftsmen arrive at your house with little or no tools to do a big building, plumbing, electrical or whatever kind of job and they’ll ask to use your tools. Remember, use youtube to learn how to use some of these things as well!

24} Language Learning DREAM Tool – These Rory’s Story Cube Sets are PERFECT. All three together are a power-house tool that will help you learn vocabulary, story telling and more.

Hopefully, those 20+ things will get you going on your “to move overseas” shopping cart.

Be sure to check out the things we brought with us and our tips for moving overseas post for more ideas.

Also, here are a few links from around the web that might help you in this season:

Preparing to Return with a PDF Expat Packing Planner download by Kelly Hallahan

A great list of comments about what to pack on Velvet Ashes

And, if you’ve noticed, this post has a lot of amazon links. Why?

Well, because when you shop via those links, it helps us keep doing what we are doing and keep this blog up and running. We appreciate the support!

You can use this link for any of your shopping and it will also help us out!

So, if you have missionary friends who are going through this process as well, we’d love for you to share this post!

And, if it has been really helpful, post it to your facebook. Or, use it as your Christmas list this year by sending the link to family and friends.

Truly, life on the field can be made easier with a few of these things!

What would you add to the moving overseas packing list? What is something you’ve found super helpful on the field? What would be on your ultimate guide or tool belt?











  1. I love your posts – and this one is particularly insightful! Water purification is extremely important in underdeveloped countries, so I just want to point out that the Brita filters you recommend do not purify water of harmful microbes – they just make the water taste better. We use the Katadyn clay filters to purify the tap water, then use Brita filters for the taste.

  2. Would it be possible to get an even more in-depth list from you? I am planning to move to East Africa and have absolutely no clue as to what I need to take with me. I am a single woman so that cuts down on a lot of stuff, but I am still a planner and would love some direction in finding things that will be useful.

  3. Moving to West Africa in less than two months, for a year with 4 kids for missions! Thanks for the list. Almost none of that would’ve been on my list!!! Now to go add these things!

  4. You could certainly see your enthusiasm in the article you write.

    The world hopes for even more passionate writers such
    as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

  5. We’re getting ready to move overseas for our first term & this list gave me a very practical starting point. Thanks, especially, for the book recommendations. Can’t wait to dive in with them as we have 3 kids & preparing them is something I think about constantly. Love this post & others you’ve written – it makes me feel more confident that this really can be done. Thank you so much for sharing what has been useful, etc. It’s been a blessing and encouragement!

    1. Yeah for feeling more prepared! A practical starting point… that is the goal of this post. Please let me know if I can help or resource you further in any way! God Bless as your prep for that big move!

  6. 4- the Tent! We got one pretty similar to that brand when we went to Central Asia with our 10 month old. Families there co sleep so we were without a crib during our time. FAR FAR FAR worth the investment. It made traveling in country for over night trips SO easy!

  7. Love the list, don’t love the mentality that comes through. Reminds me of the Veggietales episode on Stuffmart. Our lives are not always made better by the stuff in them.

    1. Although I wouldn’t quite go that far, I can totally see how it looks that way. In fact, just a few years ago, I might have agreed to some extent. We sold nearly everything we owned to move overseas. Flew out with about 16 suitcases for 5 people. But the longer I am here, the more I feel a burden for missionary health. For family health. And I have seen the differences of many missional thinkings/lifestyles played out {come with nothing to come with EVERYTHING}. And although living simply and without excess is still the best way… being ready for anything, to go and to be wherever God leads… I also see how having some of these things can greatly help not only the missionary family but also their ministry on the field. Being prepared, having key tools, proper and long lasting home items will greatly impact a family’s longevity on the field. So I hope this doesn’t come across in any way greedy but more of a true list of things that can greatly impact a family living in an overseas context. Physical, mental, spiritual and relational tools to help further the gospel in a lasting way. For us, we are slowly researching and accumulating things that will help us here and this list is a reflection of that. As funds allow, adding things that save time, money and bring health to our family so that we can be good stewards of our time on the field. Something like my kitchen aid mixer, that I never had stateside, here on the field is used daily and saves us a lot of money in our weekly food budget. I could go on but hopefully that helps you understand the list a little bit better.

      Remembering this is also meant to be a tool for new families going to the field. Praying our research will help others leave prepared!

  8. Brilliant! Already looking some things up for our second term! Here we needed things that can be used without electricity and Internet (both unreliable), like hand-grinder for coffee and solar lights. My kids live in Saltwater sandals; they’ve held up through 9 months of constant use (only shoes they wear), dirt, water, etc.
    Thanks for the great ideas!

  9. This is a great list for churches and small groups that want to help missionaries. It can go be so hard to know what practical things to help with.

    1. Oh I hope it can be a help in that way! These are not inexpensive things but when you are talking the health and safety of our missionaries on the field, these things can make a HUGE impact on missions!

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