What to Pack When It’s All on Your Back

Does the term “backpacking trip” make your tummy squirm or do you get a sense of excitement? Do you worry you won’t have enough clothes when you go on vacation or all the necessities you’ll need?

I always get super excited thinking about the crazy adventures and all the delicious food I’ll get to experience. I start researching, planning, booking, all-in-all preparing for the trip. And then maybe a week out, I begin to think about my packing situation – “oh ya, I’ll be living out of a backpack”; “I have to wear things multiple times”; “Will it all fit? (That’s what she said ;] )” This is when my tummy flips upside down and I begin to freak out (lowkey).

Over the past year, I’ve traveled to a different part of the US at least once a month and somewhere international at least once a quarter. My trips range from 1-day excursions to 2-week explorations and with each trip I’ve learned what I absolutely need and what I can remove from my pack for the next time. Location, weather and length of time contribute to what goes in the bag, but there are a few (more or less) things I absolutely have to have on each trip. And for most of my trips, short and long, I use my favorite backpack.

Australia Trip 16-Day Supply

Below I’ll go over what I brought on a 10-day trip to Europe during their winter and then what came with me on a 16-day trip to Australia/Hawaii during their fall/spring. It’s possible to travel comfortably without a suitcase and I highly encourage you to try it!

When booking hostels or finalizing housing while away, you can’t depend on a washer/dryer being available. This is important to remember when packing your undies – more is better!

Our Friend in Santorini, Greece

When we visited Santorini, Greece, the hotel we stayed in didn’t have any form of washer and it was extremely windy outside so hanging wet clothes wasn’t even an option. We resorted to washing our skivvies in the shower – shampoo was our laundry detergent and a fan was our dryer. It wasn’t the most cleanly or efficient process, but we turned it into a bonding experience and had a ton of fun, plus we got semi-clean clothes we were able to re-use.

Here’s a secret: no one pays attention to your clothing when you travel and the only time you’re close to peeps is on public transportation or on busy streets. And I can guarantee you won’t be the only stinky person around. 😉 So don’t worry if you wore the same thing the day before, just make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the weather and culture***.

***RESEARCH THE CULTURE: This is extremely important when you visit countries with a high-religious influence: Catholicism, Hinduism, Muslim, etc. Please find out BEFORE you show yourself in their country if your hair and/or shoulders and/or legs and/or anything needs to be covered at any point in time. I can almost guarantee this will be the case if you want to experience the beauty of a temple or church, even if it’s 100 plus degrees outside.

Bali Temple

Gunung Kawi Temple in Bali

Be a respectful traveler, not an ignorant tourist.

These are the items I ALWAYS take with me, for all trips – which most of them make sense, ya?

The Master Lock is a must. You never know if you’ll end up leaving your bag in a hostel or a spa locker. You may even use it as a prop for a cool pic. And the carabiner is perfect for a hanging device for any items that don’t fit or you don’t want in your bag, like your (stinky) wet Vibrams.

My Lock Prop in NYC

And snacks are a must. I, for one, am ALWAYS hungry and sometimes it’s not easy to find food. For instance, on a train or a bus or in the middle of the night. This happened in Santorini as well, it was non-tourist season and the two restaurants closed at 8p and the grocery market was closed well before that. We consumed our granola bars and chocolate in the wee hours of the night when our tummies howled.

*I recommend getting cash out at ATMS when in foreign countries which will avoid any unnecessary fees that a lot of money exchange places charge.

**I also HIGHLY recommend calling your banks BEFORE you leave on vacation to advise of the locations and dates you will be away from your resident town. The last thing you want is for your cards to stop working and you’re on the complete opposite time zone preventing you from contacting your bank OR preventing you from even calling anywhere because you don’t have any money to do so. This pre-trip phone call will also give you the opportunity to verify any international ATM or usage fees you could acquire.

A Lil Joey in Perth, Australia

I purposely don’t bring jewelry, dresses, beanies and scarves because those are all items I love to pick up at the destinations I visit. I get to enjoy them there and I get to have fun wearing them when I return. They’re my purposeful souvenirs.

And don’t you worry, you can always purchase anything you may have forgotten – especially toiletries, but also any clothing items. If there are people in the country/city/town you’re visiting, they probably have similar needs as you, so they will have a solution for them.

If I can live out of backpack for 16 days, with limited clothing options, you can too. Keep these lists handy and personalize as needed. Pack your pack; go enjoy the sites, food and culture.


“I haven’t been everywhere, but its on my list!” 😉




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