After 5 years of backpacking around Europe and the world, I’ve learnt how to make my packing more efficient. This year was no ordinary trip: I was leaving for (at least) an entire year, and most of all, probably crossing weathers from scorching heat in modest cultures to cold snowy winter. Still, my backpack is way too heavy, and I blame my computer (I love you but…) and travel notebooks I’ve filled up on the way. Also, as I am away from home for a long time, I wanted to have “home” in my backpack, so I brought many cool things that would definitely not be necessary on short or extra-light trips, such as my ukulele and watercolours, but they’re definitely fun to have!
My toiletries are rather minimalistic, but my un-necessaries fill up a large portion of my bag. Luckily, even though I am travelling mostly solo, I have met friends on the way with whom I was able to send some things back home, so you’ll find here the list of things I packed, things I sent back, and things I lost (I lose so many things while travelling!).
I was probably going to cross many different climates, from hot and humid China to snowy Northern India, horse-riding in Mongolia on the way and staying in a conservative Indian Ashram for a couple of months. I needed to pack for all possible weathers.
Here is the clothes I packed:
- 1 dress (usually 2 as I wear dresses most of the time)
21 skirt (one sent back when I learnt about the Indian dresscode)
- 1 short (also for swimming, running, etc)
- linen trousers (+ elephant pants I got in Thailand, light and comfy)
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 tank tops
- 1 long merino cardigan
- 1 super-light cardigan (fits in my handbag to fight freezing ACs in Asia)
Pyjama shorts lost in China
- Puffer jacket (lost the good one before leaving so this one is second hand)
- Waterproof jacket
Waterproof trousers. I don’t have them on this trip but they saved my life in Norway and I missed them a lot in Alaska.
- 1 “infinity scarf”, convertible in headscarf to hide from annoying taxi drivers in China
- 1 pair leggings
21 tshirts (one too much for regular travel, ruined in Indian laundry anyway)
- 1 long tee
- 5 undies (2 or 3 enough in hot weather staying in hostels with the method “one on me, one drying after showering with it”), 1 period panties (still unsure about it, black undies should be enough)
- 2 lace bras, light, compact and definitely good looking
- 1 soft sports bra for comfortable night trips on buses and sometimes actually doing sports
- 4 “short-sleeved” socks, 1 “long sleeved socks” (depends on weather and footwear)
- 1 pair black leggings (for dress, skirts and layering)
- 1 pair tights (never used so far, but awesome for conferences in hot countries with freezing AC)
21 bikini s(one too much, still don’t know why I packed it, probably wanted to do my beach babe in Thailand but ended up in mountains!)
- Lunapad for period backup
- Merell hiking sandals that actually look good for a night out and are comfortable enough for walking all day
- Gore Tex low hiking shoes. Heavy, good enough for running, but terrible when it’s hot outside as they’re also waterproof from the inside
- Very old Victoria shoes, ok for the Transsiberian or urban trips, here not useful. Will give away.
A while ago, I decided to not buy any packed water. I try to extend this as well to products such as shampoo and soap. Plus, they pass through security and never explode in a wet mess in your bag. I recently discovered powder toothpaste and it is super compact J
For managing my period, I’m adept of menstrual cups (now I have Sckoon and MeLuna). I brought two just in case I did something stupid like dropping one in the toilets. I have been using this for almost 9 years, saving countless amount of waste and packed sanitary items. Also, I find it was more comfortable than anything else for sports and outdoor adventures.
- Powder toothpaste (you see that tiny black boy? It lasted 6 weeks!)
- Solid Soap & Solid shampoo (that 1/3 of a ring lasted around 9 weeks, washing approx. every 4 days)
- Almond oil for moisturising and haircare, can also be used as makeup remover
- Alum stone for deodorant, very practical for travelling but I prefer using my homemade coconut oil deodorant when I’m settled down for a while. Got rid of the plastic packaging after 30 hours.
- Nail clipper and file (useful for fixing showers in Mongolia and opening essential oil bottles)
- Hair ties and flower hairpin
- Comb (smaller than hair brush and enough for my curly hair)
- 2 menstrual cups
- “Adapter” as my male friends name it, a device for peeing while standing when you’re a person without a penis. Think of dirty bathrooms, skipping the female queue, hiking when it’s super cold and you don’t want to put your butt out there or when you’re wearing mountaineering equipment.
- Perfume. Definitely not necessary but I like having it in hot and humid countries where you just feel sticky and smelly all day. Will send back. Could have packed a “tester”.
- Sanitary items box. Actually I never use it for that but rather use it for safekeeping some things
- Small microfiber towel, but one with “bouclettes” which is more comfortable to use. Sometimes smelly though.
- Epilator, not necessary for short trips, for people who don’t mind body hair, or who decide to go to the beauty salon every now and then, which is cheap enough in Asia
Not packed on this trip but for conferences/party/urban trips:
- Eye shade and mascara (small testers)
- Makeup remover, can be skipped if coconut oil is used
I tend to pack many useful (or not so) things that I either use all the time or end up strongly regretting taking them as I would love to keep them back home but not have to carry them right now.
LifeStraw water bottle, for drinking tap water when it is “questionable” (lost and retrieved in Thailand, definitely lost in India). Will switch to one filtering out viruses and chemicals though, LifeStraw didn’t feel safe enough for India.
- Sarong. I use it as a scarf, a pillow, a dress, a bedsheet, as a towel on the beach…
- Sleeping bag + Matress, both tiny. You never know when you’ll end up sleeping in someone else’s living room or in a freezing cold AC bus. Or lending it to your friend travelling to Himalaya
- Emergency sewing kit (the one I packed is way too big) and knitting needles for knitting hats on the way
- Swiss army knife (I mostly use the scissors for scrapbooking)
- Country guide if unplanned travel in very unfamiliar places (second hand and I’ll drop it at last destination)
- Adaptor, I have a magic tiny one that I got in NZ with loads of luck
- USB charger (the one I have is way too bulky but it does the job)
- Headlamp and extra batteries
- Pharmacy without forgetting my presciption medication and hand sanitiser
- Toilet paper (in a ziploc)
- Small ziploc of laudry powder
- Compact laundry line (still uncertain about this)
- Sleeping mask
- Spoon, for buying ice cream in supermarkets, avoiding single use plastic in take aways or eating in India
This is the section I hate because I often end up carrying my 13″ laptop for projects, and I always pack my e-reader and regret it because I never actually have time to read.
- Fairphone smartphone, very useful double sim. I use a smartphone mostly for GPS (not getting lost, tracking questionable taxis and getting off the bus at the right stop), booking hostels and doing web research about places to go. Also, I like their ethics.
- Sony RX100M2 camera. Very compact, great in low-light situations and macro, flipping screen great for overhead or low pictures. I had a hard time deciding between a very good compact or a hybrid mirrorless interchangeable lense camera. I’m glad I chose the smallest, as I carry it around all the time!
- One small powerpack for emergencies and 2 extra camera batteries (one enough for most trips)
- Tiny tripod for camera
- Sony Reader (or Kindle). I always end up not using it and beign worried about the electronics, as I broke one on my first backpacking trip. Usually I write in my notebook, draw or talk to people, otherwise there’s often book exchanges in hostels. Good for transsiberian though. Will send back.
- Sony Vaio 13″ computer. When the trip includes a 3 month internship in engineering, was necessary…
Depending on how and where I’m travelling, I like to carry a certain amount of food with me to ensure I’ll never be starving.
- “vegan survival food”: peanuts, oreos, bananas…
- A few tea bags and/or instant coffee for hostels
- Oats for easy and compact breakfast
- Moving towards zero-waste… maybe I’ll start carrying around a tiffin and cup
What is travel without fun? Especially for this long trip, I wanted to carry along some cool things.
- Ukulele. Small, fun, and even though I’m a beginner there’s always a guitarist around who can play it better than I can!
- Watercolour paints, compact and nice for travel notebook, with a few cardboards for nice paints
- Exploding Kittens game, very fun but should have left it behind
- And of course my travel notebooks! I’ve been writing since my first trip 5 years ago and now it is getting out of control, especially with the watercolour illustrations! I am currently carrying 3 notebooks and looking forward to send them back with my mom and start a new one with her 🙂