The Ultimate Backpacking Packing List

Although I am not THE blonde abroad, I am A blonde abroad – a solo female traveler that spent three months backpacking through South East Asia. Now, I am a semi-expat living in Oaxaca, Mexico and encouraging others to embrace the gap year.

Packing List:

Before embarking on your journey, packing can feel like the most daunting task. Knowing your personal style and a little help from Google can go a long way.

For some, the “backpacker” style typically resembles what you would wear around the house or to the gym. However, that’s not me.

My packing list included clothes that made me feel both comfortable and confident. If I couldn’t wear it as pajamas, I didn’t pack it. But that didn’t keep me from rocking some damn cute pj’s.

My packing list stemmed from the Project 333 lifestyle which encourages people to live off of 33 items of clothes for 3 months. You will be truly surprised with how little you need once you get away from the comfort of your closet.

Not knowing how long I would be gone for I made sure that every piece of clothing was one of my favorites. Therefore, every outfit could be one of my favorites too.

If you love to shop, try to leave some empty space so you can add to your backpack. I only packed one of my packing cubes half-way leaving more room for souvenirs.

The Backpack:

Two weeks before I was set to leave, I went to REI to a backpack that would work best for me. This is also when knowing your style comes in handy. I like to stay organized, I have absolutely no upper-body strength and if the only color it comes in is burnt orange… nope!

With that, I spoke to an incredibly helpful employee and decided on Osprey’s Farpoint 55 L which is a crowd favorite among other travelers.

Note: with the Farpoint backpack, the 55 L includes the detachable 15 L daypack and a 40L travel pack. I realized this the night before I left and my father witnessed a panic attack nobody should have to deal with.

Funny Fact: the size of your backpack is a bragging right.

Ex. “Your bag is only 40 L!? I would do that, but I needed to bring my hair straighter so I went with the 100 L pack instead lol. Must be hard looking so damn frizzy all the time.”

“Ohhhh, you bought the 40 L pack. I have the 10 L pack and decided to leave my underwear back in Aussie. My jock itch medication takes up less space anyway.”

… you get the picture.

My biggest advice for picking out your backpack is to go to the store directly and see what works best for your needs. A backpack is an investment. You get what you pay for so it is worth it to spend some time choosing which one is best for you.

Footwear:

When you’re in another country, you see a wide range of footwear. You know the saying, “birds of a feather flock together,” this also rings true when traveling.

Tevas:

These are what I call the nutty granola people. Typically, aren’t as concerned about style but they are always going on the coolest adventures (mostly because they know they’re not going to get laid in Tevas), know where the best hikes are in whatever city they are in.

Birkenstocks:

These people knew they were going backpacking and figured this is what people wear backpacking. Not to say that Birkenstocks aren’t great shoes, they’re practically perfect in every way.

Birkenstocks are comfortable and versatile for backpacker day-to-night. You can slip them on and off when going into temples and rock ‘em at the bars later at night.

Nikes:

This is the sporty spice of the shoe community. Always in activewear, rarely doing something active. It is important to have a pair of closed toed shoes while traveling. If you don’t have Nikes I think hiking boots make a great (even better) alternative.

Hiking Boots:

Full disclosure, I fall into this category. People with hiking boots wear them for EVERY occasion, regardless if you are in the outdoors or not.

Going to the market? Grab your boots! Ten-minute walk into town? Practically a hike!

Although you’ll look like a tourist, everything makes you look like a tourist (because you are one). Hiking boots have great traction and are perfect if you know that you’ll be going on… well, hikes.

Havaianas

If you’re rocking Havaianas, you’re probably not from the US. I interviewed a few people on their decision to choose Havianas for their daily shoe need. They are supposedly “very comfortable.” I don’t see the practicality in rubber flip flops for anything other than the shower, but hey, to each their own.

All jokes aside, find a shoe that you’re going to be happy wearing nearly every day. You’re going to form a weird bond with your shoes during your trip, so you might as well like them.

I personally brought three pairs of shoes with me, a pair of leather BORN sandals, hiking boots and shower flip flops. My sandals carried me running through airports, motorbiking, trekking, bar crawling and temple touring. Get something you love, it’s worth the money.

My Packing List:

I knew for my trip I wanted to keep a blog so I brought more electronics than necessary (about 3 different cameras, adapters, etc). You don’t necessarily need these things but for blogging, they are a must.

Also, if you are a book worm I highly recommend the Kindle Paperwhite. With the Kindle, I get free eBooks through the San Francisco Public Library which is open to any California resident. Well worth the investment!

Finding a good book can be tough when you’re backpacking. After traveling through South East Asia, I calculated that I spent close to $200 on books over three months.

Good book exchanges are hard to come by, so I ended up mainly purchasing books at airports (not cheap I might add).

  • 40 L backpack
  • 15 L daypack
  • 1 purse
  • 1 daypack
  • 6 packing cubes (assorted sizes)
  • GoPro Hero 4
  • GoPro 7-in-1 handle
  • Micro-SIM card adapter
  • Cannon EO5
  • Laptop
  • Bluetooth Speaker
  • SIM card to iPhone reader
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • Headphones
  • Portable Charger (thanks Tesla!)
  • Charging adapter with 2 USP ports
  • Headlamp
  • Moleskin Notebook
  • Kindle Paperwhite

Try to bring clothes that are interchangeable. I love patterns, so I tried to pack half pattern and half neutral knowing I could create different outfits with the mix.

  • 3 bikinis
  • 1 one-piece swimsuit
  • 1 rompers (1 long, 1 short)
  • 2 dresses (1 maxi, 1 short)
  • 1 pair of leggings (I recommend lululemon ESPECIALLY if you plan on doing any motorbiking)
  • 1 cotton shorts
  • 1 jean shorts
  • 1 cotton capris
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 3 tank tops
  • 20 pairs of underwear (I hate laundry)
  • 1 bralette
All My Belongings

Finally, my toiletries list:

  • Travel-size shampoo
  • Travel-size conditioner
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Travel hairspray
  • Travel dry shampoo
  • Clinical deodorant
  • Vitamin B Complex (total lifesaver)
  • Diva Cup
  • 6 pairs of contacts
  • Contact case
  • 2 travel contact solution
  • Prescription glasses
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses

You are most likely going to lose some of these things along the way!

It is especially important to have travel insurance for that reason, I used World Nomads (https://www.worldnomads.com/) to insure my trip. Be sure to read through what is covered, especially if you’re planning on going SCUBA diving, mountain climbing, motorbiking, etc.

Thank you for reading! Any questions, comments or thought? Let me know in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.

4 Comment

  1. Nicki Brower says: Reply

    Hey girl, I like those packing cubes 😉

    1. carolynsmurthwaite says: Reply

      Thanks, I actually stole them and hoping the girl doesn’t ask for them back!

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