Here’s our version of Packing Tips for Female Backpackers. Packing for a trip can be one of the most exciting (oh my gosh, I’m really going somewhere!) and stressful (how am I supposed to fit all of this into that?!) parts of a trip. Depending on what you pack and how you pack it can either excite you or make you throw your clothes all around the room in frustration.
I used to stuff more than I needed into my bag. I would pack shirts and pants that I wouldn’t even touch during the duration of my trip. I always end up wearing the same outfits because they are either comfortable, for hiking or walking around, or cute, for going out to dinner. When you’re traveling, no one is going to realize you’ve worn the same shirt three days in a row (“Smell? What smell?”). To be honest, when I was volunteering in South Africa, I wore the same pair of pants seven days in a row- yes, seven- and I was with the same group of people the entire time. Did I care? Nope! As long as my backpack is lighter and there are less things in it, I don’t care.
I’ve compiled a packing list to help you out (specifically you ladies!), so you know exactly what you should and shouldn’t pack.
1. Find the right backpack
This will make you or break you. I highly recommend the backpack I use, the Kelty Redstone 60 L Charcoal backpack. It’s a bit pricey (I found it on sale!), but it’s an investment if you want to travel long term. Price is definitely a big factor when choosing a backpack. If you can’t afford one right away and you have some time before your trip, put aside some money so you can purchase a quality backpack (Kach used to have a Numinous Pack).
A feature that I really like with mine is the strap around your stomach that provides awesome back support. There’s a ton of room, different zippers to access different parts of the backpack without having to dig through everything, and a cover over the top. You can also adjust it to the curve of your back for optimal comfort.
There are other great options for cheaper backpacks as well that are just as great. These can be found online. The reviews that people leave are also incredibly helpful.
No matter what kind of backpack you get, make sure it has good back support, adjustable straps, and that it is comfortable to wear. It should also have a lot of storage space, such as small zippers on the side of the backpack that are convenient for storing small items.
2. Over the shoulder purse/ smaller backpack
I said “over the shoulder” for a big safety reason: It helps prevent people from grabbing your bag and running off with it! If it’s across your body, there is no easy way for them to snatch it and run. If you’d rather use a backpack, then a small regular backpack is great, too, and better for your shoulders (I like to wear my backpack in the front of me on public transportation to prevent theft).
Bringing a smaller purse or backpack is perfect when going on short day trips so you can bring important items with you (camera, phone), and leave your bigger bag at your hostel/hotel. It’s also an important place to keep valuables that you absolutely cannot lose if there is not a locker for storage at your hostel. It’s also a good idea to spread out your valuables between your backpack and your smaller backpack, so they are not all stored in one spot.
How to Prepare your Luggage
1. Pack an extra outfit in your carry on
Whenever I fly, especially for longer flights, I pack one extra outfit in my carry on (if my carry on bag isn’t big enough, only extra underwear and socks are just as good). I do this just in case the flight loses my bag and it takes a few extra days to get to me. This happened to me once, but thankfully, it was on the way home.
2. Copies of Important Documents
Another safety tip, in case you lose something important, such as your passport, credit card, license, etc. It’s always smart to have a copy of each of those things on hand for emergencies.
3. Ziploc Baggies
I love Ziploc baggies. They act as dirty laundry hampers! Bring a couple of the gallon sized ones, and fill them up with your dirty clothes to prevent you from re-wearing them again! I also bring a smaller sized baggie to put my bar soap in to prevent it from making everything soapy. I also put my shampoo, conditioner, and shaving cream in Ziploc baggies. They have a tendency to explode in my bag.
4. Check the weather
This will make your life a lot simpler. It’s easier to plan for the weather if you’re going somewhere for less than a month when the weather won’t change too drastically. However, even if you’re going for a longer period of time, you can check the trend of weather from previous years and plan accordingly.
What to pack?
This is a generalized list. Depending on where you are, this list is subject to change! For example, if you’re somewhere with freezing temperatures, you’re going to pack warmer clothes and no shorts, as opposed to somewhere where it’s very hot, you’ll probably only want one pair of pants.
-2-3 pairs of pants: one pair of jeans/nice pants and one pair of casual pants. Quick-dry pants are the best. These pants are very convenient especially if you’re going to be hiking or walking around in wet weather, as they dry very quickly. Also bring a pair of leggings. These are incredibly convenient in any season and are very comfortable to wear when traveling (bring black ones- you won’t be able to tell if they’re dirty for a long time).
–4-5 shirts: two tank tops, one long sleeved, and one or two nice shirts. Tank tops are small and easy to pack, so weather permitting (and if you have a lot of room) you may want to pack more. Make sure the shirts you’re packing are versatile. You’ll be surprised with how many mix and match combinations you can come up with that will make you feel like you’re wearing a whole new outfit!
–2 nice outfits: two dresses, or one dress and one skirt. The skirt can be mixed and matched with the shirts you bring. If you wear a clean tank top with a skirt, that’s already another nice outfit!
–3 pairs of shorts: Shorts are easy to pack and small. I like to pack one pair of denim/ nice shorts, one pair of hiking shorts, and one pair of comfortable shorts that I could also sleep in.
–8 pairs of underwear: Bring one pair of underwear for each day of the week, and then one more. This will be helpful if you can’t do laundry in a week’s time. Make sure you pack comfy underwear too — Knix has one of the most comfortable bras out there, great for traveling.
–7 pairs of socks: Make sure you have quick-drying, good quality socks. This will not only help prevent them from ripping, but also help eliminate odor. This is convenient if you can’t wash them for a few days!
–2 sweaters/sweatshirts: One cardigan and one sweatshirt. The cardigan is a perfect coverup if you need to dress up for something. You can easily wear it with a tank top. I like to pack one sweatshirt as well for comfort and warmth.
–2 bathing suits: These are very small and easy to pack. If you bring bikinis, mixing and matching is another option!
–For pajamas, I usually wear a tank top and a pair of comfortable shorts. If you have room, pack an extra pair of shorts and a tank top (they’re small) and keep those as your “pajama clothes” so you don’t need to worry about washing them as often.
I recommend only bringing one pair of sneakers, one pair of cheap flip flops (for the hostel showers) and one pair of nice shoes, such as ballet flats or comfortable sandals. You’ll be wearing the sneakers most of the time, which will help prevent blisters and foot pain.
I have a pair of waterproof hiking sneakers that I love. If I’m in a location with a lot of rain, I can still walk around in them and not have to worry about ruining them or bringing rain boots. Depending on the weather, bring a pair of regular boots instead of sandals to keep yourself warm.
Try and buy shoes that are multipurpose. For example, buy boots that are waterproof and would also be good to wear with a nice outfit. The sandals that you wear in the hostel would also be perfect to wear on the beach or on a casual walk.
Again, this all depends on the weather. If I’m going somewhere warm, I like to pack one rain jacket. If it’s a bit cooler, pack one fleece. Fleeces are great because they’re easy to pack and provide a lot of warmth.
Invest in a quick dry towel. These are especially great if you’re on the move a lot and don’t have a lot of time to let your towel dry overnight. They feel strange and you won’t get the comfort you would if you had a cotton towel, but they get the job done and your bag won’t end up smelling like wet dog!
Baseball caps are great. They protect your face from the sun and are small. I also like to bring one scarf and one pair of sunglasses, both of which are also small and easy to pack.
6. Cosmetic Bag
I put everything into my cosmetic bag! Toothbrush, toothpaste, Advil, mascara, nail clippers, floss, glasses, contacts, contact solution, tweezers, chap-stick, deodorant, etc. Remember, you can buy these items at any convenience store, so don’t worry about having forgotten an item or not packing enough of one item.
Cosmetic bags are an inexpensive way to organize your toiletries and prevent anything from exploding onto your clothes (such as your toothpaste).
If you’re not checking a bag at the airport, buy carry-on sized bottles for your shampoo and conditioner, and airport approved toothpaste and contact solution if you need it. You can always buy bigger bottles at your destination.
Stick to the basics, especially if you’re going somewhere warm where you’ll be sweating a lot. I like to bring face moisturizer and mascara. Eyeliner and blush are also small, easy things to pack that won’t take up a ton of room.
I carry around a lightweight, cheap lock that I can put around my backpack strap and around the leg of my hostel bed. You have to buy a lock with a cable so you can wrap it around the bed post. I know this wouldn’t prevent anyone from going inside of my bag (unless there was a lock on that too) but it would prevent them from taking my entire backpack! It’s easier to cheaply replace clothes than a nice backpack.
Be careful which electronics you bring. If you’re not going to use your Kindle, don’t bring it! Pick up a book at the airport instead. Bring any chargers and adapters you may need, and anything else, such as your phone, camera, and laptop if you need it. These items are going to be the most expensive, so make sure to keep an eye out for them.
10. Re-useable water bottle
This will save you that precious cash and prevent you from continually buying water bottles. If the water is safe to drink at your destination, drink it! If it’s not, you may also want to invest in Iodine tablets that will clean your water and make it safe to drink.
What not to pack?
Leave the expensive jewelry at home! Not only may you risk losing it, but it makes you more of a target if you’re wearing a nice ring. It’s just not worth it.
2. Think before you pack
Picture yourself wearing the item multiple times. Don’t pack any outfits for a “special occasion” you think might happen. It’s just going to take up unnecessary room that could be used for other things. Remember, less is more! You’ll have to get creative with outfits, but that’s part of the fun.