Above: Clothing for a trip to the South for four days, ranging from 40F to 80F.
Have you ever wonder how can one backpack hold a week’s worth of stuff? (Especially for a woman?!)
When I jumped into the backpacker bandwagon, I knew I had a few rules to abide by to ensure that my baggage is as light as I can make it. I’m a travel nomad after all.
When traveling, I love having cute outfits for my travel “photoshoots.” (Actually, I just use an iPhone…or an iPad when my iPhone memories run out.) I also learned to fill less than 3/4 of my backpack with clothing and to make sure my backpack is under 25lbs.
I’ll admit having cute outfits as a backpacker is a challenge! You’re working with so little to make something look great. As I went on more trips, I found it a little easier to pick and choose. Going to cold places will always be a challenge, but for most places above 40F (extreme cold for Californians btw), what I choose to stuff in my backpack is very similar, so I’ve decided to give you a peek of what I put in my backpack.
What a Female Backpacker Needs 🙂
- One Clear Toiletries Bag (AKA, your 1-quart liquid bag)
Always pretend like you’re a hotel and have soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. The scout rule is to always be prepared! Remember to bring your toothpaste (and toothbrush), sunblock, and hand sanitizer.
Additional items you may want to add (which I always do) are: face soap, emergency stain remover, liquid makeup, acne solution(s), a first aid antiseptic cream (such as Neosporin), a tiny perfume vial, and a couple of wipes (although this can be kept separate, putting it in your liquid bag makes it easier to find).
For the springtime, add in bug spray. Also, don’t forget lip balm if you need it or going somewhere colder.
Most of the time, my liquid bag still has space for a small liquid souvenir or two, which is great. It’s how I carried my maple syrup from Canada!
2. A Bag of Clothing
Have you ever heard of vacuum clothes space bags? This is the same concept. You’ll want to be able to gauge how much clothing you have and to separate your clothing from the rest of your belongings, so you’ll be stuffing it in a bag. If your bag has a separation, you can have one of the sides be a “to wash” side. If not, you can carry an additional plastic bag. I usually use a drawstring bag and fill it about 5″ high.
These are the clothing I bring as you see in my photo above. (Not sure if any guys are reading this, but if you are a man, please don’t stare.)
Basics to Wear:
These are clothing you’re wearing on the plane instead of stuffing it into your bag because it takes a lot of space.
- Warm jacket–I brought my favorite hoodie with me since it was a more casual trip. I’d recommend getting a jacket that you don’t mind taking photos in and will be great for the weather you’ll be in. (You may need to test the temperature rating. :))
- Pants– Wear the thicker pair of pants, such as jeans if possible or the most comfortable one if you’ll be in it for a while.
- Sweater/long shirts/t-shirt combo– Wear as many layers as you need or the larger clothing (hopefully it’s comfortable).
- Gloves or mittens– It always gets too cold in the plane.
Basics to Stuff in Bag:
The rule is to bring only the cutest (but still comfortable) clothing you know you’d wear, and mix and match to create multiple combinations.
- One to Two Extra Shirts–Most of the time, I pack in a t-shirt and a nicer blouse, which I know I’d wear and look good in.
- One Extra Pair of Socks and Underwear–Just in case one is being washed.
- One Extra Pair of Pants–You know you’ll probably need another one.
- Tank top or Cami– This is for lighter weather, layer, and for sleeping.
- Comfortable Pants for Sleeping– If you can consolidate, that would be great. For women, we can use leggings.
- (Optional) A Thin Windbreaker– A thin waterproof windbreaker can be great for staying out of the wind chill or the rain. If the weather is below 70F, you might want to bring one.
- Hat– You want your face covered from the sun or your head warm.
- (Optional) Scarf– A huge thin scarf can double as a blanket. Sometimes a scarf can change an outfit.
Basics for Women Only:
- One to Two Nice Dress (that you will wear)– The best things about dresses is that they are a complete outfit and most of them are probably made of thin material that is good for layering or for hot weather. Since I planned to be at the beach only one whole day, I decided to bring a plaid spaghetti-strap dress.
- One to Two Undergarment Women Need to Wear for Some Reason– I like to bring one of these and have a padded camisole or tank top, which works great for thin girls. A sports bra is also a great option, but whichever one you wear, make sure it’s the most comfortable one you have. Depending on the type of clothing you’ll be wearing, you may need a strapless or a substitute for it. What I’ve discovered are cotton bandeau bralettes, which are amazingly cute, so comfortable you can fall asleep in them, and if they have thin straps, you can tuck them in to create a strapless. Or you can just wear it with the straps and pretend it’s like a cami or tank top or part of your outfit. They’re lighter and easier to carry, and you can literally feel the liberalization. 🙂
- Leggings– Guys usually don’t wear leggings… yet? Women can wear leggings for sleeping, under a dress, or casually. It’s extremely versatile and great for traveling.
Now that we’ve covered the body care essentials, you can see how you still have room for electronics, wallet, and even a small foldable nice purse or bag for women.
Here are some other things you might need:
- Electronics– phone, chargers, battery pack, camera, flashlight, iPad (instead of laptop if possible), mini tripod or selfie stick
- Hairbrush or Comb (compact)
- Small Umbrella–If it’s rainy or too hot outside.
- Snacks/Food-The food space can become your souvenir space later on!
- Water bottle or equivalent
- Wallet Bag/Day Bag–This can be your day pack if it’s big enough. Or it can be a fanny pack or a bag where you can carry essentials. Make sure it’s not too fancy but still stylish!
- Makeup bag- Have a few hairbands, etc.– any small things that you want to wear to change your looks, and have the basics: a foundation (in the liquid bag probably), setting powder, concealer, lipstick/lip crayon, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, eye shadow, blush, and mascara. You might not use all of these but it’s good to have a little of everything just in case.
It’s really surprising how much we can fit into a large backpack. If you’re truly backpacking with a backpack all day, make sure your backpack is as light as you can have it. I prefer less than 20lbs and more around 15lbs, and my day pack to be less than 8lb. It took me a while to figure out what I really wanted to pack, and sometimes, I still manage to have a few extra items I didn’t use (good thing they were light). If you ever feel like you needed something extra on a trip, you can always opt for a little souvenir. 🙂