What to Pack When Back-Packing

What to pack when back packing
After a couple of trips to Europe and one eight week back packing adventure, I learned a lot about what to pack and what to leave behind. Here is my advice for your next big trip, back-packing or no:

Don't leave the house without:

  • Ipad or tablet. Add all your books onto the tablet and you will save big on space. 
  • Ear plugs & eye-mask. For those times when you want to pretend your not on a 10 hour bus ride or spending the night a 'party hostel'. 
  • Smart phone & earbuds. We didn't have a international mobile plan when we travelled, but if your phone connects to the internet then you will still use this resource all the time. Need a Map? Need to send a quick email to your AirBnB host? Stop at a cafe with Wifi and you are set. Also, I keep my music on my iPhone, so I would listen to music all the time. 
  • Camera. Whatever suits your fancy or skill level. I brought a heavy Nikon - no regrets. 
  • Power adaptor! Find out what type of outlets are used in the countries you will be traveling and bring a power adaptor. And don't forget - you will need that iPad charger, too.
  • Lock. You will need to secure your bag while staying at a hostel. Most have lockers or metal cages to store your bags, but you will need to secure the luggage yourself. 
  • Flip flops (for the showers, beach, etc).
  • Camping towel. If you are truly back-packing it, you will need an absorbent towel that dries quickly. You may not need it all the time, but it will come in handy (and most come in compact sizes complete with it's own bag to attach to the outside of your back-pack). 
  • Collapsable handbag or day pack. Nothing screams: I am a tourist like a backpack. Be on guard for pickpockets and never keep all your money and values in a bag. That said, as a woman I still needed a handbag. I just did and I never had a problem. 
  • Money pouch (the type you wear underneath your clothes). Once we had a place to spend the night - we always locked up our passports in the room or with the hotel staff. While in transit, always have your passport and credit cards close to your person. 
  • Melatonin (or some type of sleeping medication)
  • Pepto Bismol tablets
  • Alka-Seltzer tablets
  • Spray Neuosporen/Bandaids
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wet-one (wet toilettes) and travel Kleenex 
  • Nail polish removed pads (individually wrapped). Yep, I did my nails abroad. Too fussy? Then skip this one. 
  • Easy tear tape (like Pritt) - You will find a million uses for tape, strangely enough. 

The Rules:

  1. Leave space in your bag! Even if you are not planning on buying gifts or mementos (which I recommend you ship anyway), you will be buying things and filling up your pack. Give yourself some space to work with before you leave.  
  2. Outside of socks, shoes & underwear, you only need one of everything. Seriously. I didn't follow this rule and I regretted it. All of the duplicates I brought where just dead weight on my back. Turns out I didn't need two pairs of black leggings, white button-down shirts or two pairs of jeans. 
  3. If you are going for a long time (over 2 weeks), remember you will be doing laundry, it's not a bad idea to bring individual detergent pouches of a brand you trust.
  4. Toiletries, If you are not keen on bringing the whole nine yards - Don't worry, you can always buy these abroad. I never had trouble finding toothpaste. 
  5. Bring emergency medicine, because when you need it, you need it & you may not want to pantomime  'diarrhea' when you don't speak the local language. Just saying. 
  6. It bears repeating, ship gifts or large purchases back home instead of lugging them around. Sure you risk that these items get "lost in the mail" - but that's rare and that weight off your back is priceless. Still nervous? Ship UPS or FedEx with insurance. 


  1. Mix and match outfits before the trip.  Make sure the clothes you pack go together, remember layers are good. If you are a woman, like me you can get a lot of miles out of a little black dress.
  2. Remember, you are not going on safari (unless you really are), remember to bring fashionable clothes you like. Everything doesn't have to be practical. That said, don't bring an heirloom that would destroy your trip if you lost it or it was stolen. I left my expensive wedding ring back home and it was a load off my mind.
  3. When packing, roll your clothes - you will save on space in your bag and it makes it easier to find.
  4. A jacket. Try to bring one that is easily rolled up, but if worse comes to worse you can always wear the jacket in transit or strap it to the outside of your bag. 
  5. Bring a cloth bag for dirty clothes. It will make you life a lot easier, knowing your dirty socks and underwear and not mixing it up with the clean clothes in your pack.
  6. Shoes. I didn't bring running shoes, because I didn't want to look like a tourist and guess what? I never regretted it. Just make sure the shoes you pack are comfortable and don't over do it. Again, you can buy shoes in transit, if not having a pair of tennis shoes becomes a major problem. If you plan on hiking, then ignore this "city traveller's" advice. 
There you have it - that is my advice for long trips abroad. If you have anything to add, please share your packing tips and advice! 

And for all of you about to embark on a new adventure, bon-voyage! 

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