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Packing my Backpack for a Big Trip

Sep 12, 2012

How does one pack for 6 months on the road? What shoes and how many pairs? Is $10 too much to spend on a titanium spork and will my new spork make it through airport security? These are the questions that have haunted me over the past month.

Here are the principles I have used in packing:

1. One of everything.
As in, 1 dress, 1 pair of shorts, 1 long sleeved shirt, 1 pair of jeans, etc.

2. 20 pounds or less.
I’ve figured out that 20 pounds is a comfortable weight for me to carry and more than that is a burden. So I weigh my bag before leaving and won’t leave with heavier than that. This is the hardest part. Some packing words of wisdom I like are:

– Don’t pack more than you can carry at a dead run
– Lay out everything you want to take on your bed, then pack half
– When packing for a long trip, just pack for 1 week, then do lots of laundry and pick up needed items along the way

3. Black on the bottom.
I learned the principle of wearing black on the bottom (black pants, black shorts, black skirt) from this blog post about how to not look like a backpacker while living out of a backpack. Makes sense.

4. I love things that fold into little pouches.
So far I have three such things: a travel backpack, a rain jacket and a down jacket. See below.

5. Be comfortable.
As in, be realistic about what’s important to feel comfortable and at “home” while on the road. I need some books, a journal, running sneakers – can’t skimp on those. I’m bringing clothes I love, nothing I’m iffy about. I’m bringing a mini hair dryer because I don’t like the 1/2 frizzy, 1/2 curly look that my hair defaults to when it air dries.

There are a few things I’ve picked up that I’m quite excited about. I tried my best to make practical purchases that would come in use all throughout the trip and pick up things that I felt I won’t be able to get in India and beyond. (Whereas if I need a shirt or pants or toothpaste or even medicine I can easily get that in India.)

5 Fingers
I finally took the plunge! This was a HUGE decision for some reason, I returned 3 pairs of these funny looking shoes before making up my mind. They make my toes feel confused, but you can’t beat their compact size. They will be my running shoes and possibly hiking shoes for the Camino de Santiago.

Handy Dandy Travel Backpack

This is a very small daypack that came recommended by my friend Erin. It folds into a tiny pouch but is also sturdy. Click photo for link.


Treehuggers rejoice! I picked up a Platypus water bottle to use for hiking the Camino, it holds 2 liters of water and has the straw so I can keep it in my backpack and sip away. No tossing out plastic water bottles for me!

ExOfficio Jacket (which folds into a travel pillow)

This is my warm layer. And best of all the jacket folds up into a little travel pillow. Another big decision for me, but it got great reviews all across the internet. ExOfficio is also famous for their travel undies that are quick drying and I got some of those too.

And finally – a travel size of my favorite Hanae Mori perfume, $20 from Bloomingdales so I can still smell pretty! Yes those feminine touches are important – I can’t feel like a grungy backpacker for so many months.

Next step – put these items plus the rest of my clothes in my backpack and see how it all fits – I will keep you posted!

This article has been helpful with a master packing list. And this Tim Ferriss article on packing fashionably light (travel the world in 10 pounds or less) is inspirational although his challenge was easier than mine because he just went to Hawaii for 1 week, whereas I’m hitting multiple continents plus colder climates 


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