How to Pack for Backpacking

How to Pack for Backpacking

By Katie Ford

I am about to embark on another backpacking trip, this time for 19 days. Whenever I plan these adventures, it never really occurs to me that packing for 19 days with a carry-on bag that will be RyanAir-approved is a lofty task. I seem to have come up with a method that limits the madness, and actually accommodates for my needs while I’m traveling. I’ve looked at other travel gurus’ websites to see what their packing tips are, and I’m never happy with what I see because most of these tips are written by men who scoff at the idea that women may actually need more than one pair of shoes to cover all of the anticipated activities, or that a woman may actually want to wear some make-up so that her face looks good in those photos she’s going to have for the rest of her life. Well ladies, here I am- a woman, a travel fiend, AND I actually like (most) of the photos I end up with after a trip.

When I plan a trip, the first thing I do is put all of my destinations in my phone’s weather app so that I can briefly look at it every day to see how it’s changing. When I start packing, I consider the fact that it might actually rain every day (plan for the worst and all), so I make sure I have appropriate clothes for that as well. For this trip, it was not feasible to pack for the entire 19 days without doing laundry, there’s only so many times that you can re-wear a pair of jeans, so I’m bringing a tiny little tupperware container with laundry pods in it.  Buying a single-use dose of laundry detergent can be expensive abroad, so it’s worth having some with you, that way you know you won’t get stuck.

I brought two pairs of jeans (plus I’m wearing one on the plane- always wear your heaviest/bulkiest things!), and a light pair of shorts because I noticed the weather is going to be beautiful and warm!  I packed 9 shirts that are easily washable without being separated so that I should only have to do one load of laundry. I’m wearing a pair of boots that are good for walking (and for rain) on the plane, and I packed my trusty TOMS and a small and cheap pair of black flats in case I want them for a night out. For traveling days, I have a bigger purse which will hold my wallet, passport wallet w/ travel documents, camera, sunglasses etc., but I packed a smaller over-the-shoulder bag for days when I only need my wallet and camera with me. As far as toiletries go, I have a clear but sturdy plastic case for my liquids.  Remember, in the US liquids are restricted to 3 oz for carry-on baggage, in the UK/Europe they’re limited to 100 ml. I have re-usable containers for shampoo, conditioner and body wash which are virtually indestructible. I think it’s worth buying these containers because one of my least favorite things ever is getting to my destination and finding I have shampoo all over everything in that bag.  Also be sure to get containers for travel-sized liquids with screw on tops, that way there’s minimal chance of leakage.

I put my make-up, contacts, razor, etc. in a Vera Bradley bag that’s served me well (also virtually indestructible).  I keep my jewelry in a small pouch which folds up to be very small and squish-able, but still keeps those items safe. I keep all of my electronic cords (camera charger, adapters, extra phone battery, etc.) in their own little bag so that they’re always together, untangled. My favorite travel toy is definitely my travel hair dryer- it has adjustable voltage settings that you can use it without an adapter in the US or in Europe, and it folds up to take up minimal space.  I realize that this particular item might be a luxury, but if it fits, I don’t see the problem!

You may notice in the photo above that all of my clothes are rolled. I pack this way for several reasons: the clothes tend to stay less wrinkled, they take up less space, and I’m able to quickly see all of my items without rummaging too much inside of my bag.  I actually store my clothes like this at home, too!  I also make sure to carry my bag of liquids and my iPad in my purse so that it’s even easier to get through airport security.

All of these items were able to fit easily into my backpack, and I’ll have no problem carrying it around airports, buses, trains, or wherever I have to go!  Backpacking is a really great way to see a lot of places in one trip, but the logistics can be stressful if you don’t plan ahead and stay organized.  This method works for me, and hopefully it’ll work for you too!

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