Whatcha Packin’?

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Ready for anything!

I’ve been on the road now for two years. Everything I carry can fit in a single backpack.

I need clothes I can wear for three days, rinse out in a sink, dry in an hour, wad up in a ball, cram in my pack, and wear again. I need my entire summer and winter wardrobes, including coats, to fit in a space smaller than some women’s purses so there’s room in my pack for everything else.

These items may seem pricey, but they’ve taken me from Iceland to South Africa in comfort. Along the way, I’ve ditched anything that didn’t work and condensed my collection to the essentials.

Here are the road-tested, nomad-approved items I’m currently traveling with.


 

* Note: Using the links on this page to shop helps support the site. But the recommendations are 100% genuine. 


 

Pack & Protect

Deuter ACT Lite 50+10 Pack

Deuter Backpack

  • Height-adjustable
  • Puts my load firmly on my hips.
  • Air-channelled cushioning against my back.
  • This workhorse has held up to many years of torture.
  • Available at Amazon

 

REI Flash 22 Day Pack

 

 

flash pack

  •  My purse,carry-on, and day pack
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Stuffs inside my big pack
  • Holds all my electronics & a change of clothes
  • Only available at REI

 

Eagle Creek Compression Sacs

eagle creek compression sac

  • Compresses a LOT of clothing into a small space
  • SUPER durable
  • Only suitable for travel clothes that don’t wrinkle
  • I carry a Large and a Medium
  • Available at Amazon

 

Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Compression Sac

Sea to Summit Compression

  • Almost as good for compression as the Eagle Creek bags
  • I carry one Large and one Medium
  • Wears like iron
  • I use one for laundry, one for odds & ends
  • Available at Amazon

 

 Eagle Creek Wallaby Toiletry Bag – Small

Wallaby Toiletry

  • Holds a TON of stuff
  • Keeps your toothbrush away from your hairbrush
  • Thin foam layer offers protection without bulk
  • One bag to carry to the hostel shower
  • Available at Amazon

 

BUILT Neoprene Camera Envelope

camera case

  • Protects without bulk
  • Pocket holds  memory cards & thumb drives
  • Cute as a bug!
  • Fits my camera (Sony DSCW830) perfectly
  • Available at Amazon

 

Aluminum Eyeglass Case

 

  • Fits my standard prescription reading glasses
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Easy to get in and out of in a hurry
  • Available at Amazon 

 

Luggage Lock 

lock2

  • TSA compliant
  • Use to secure hostel lockers, cabinets and more
  • Set your own combo so you can remember it
  • Flexible band makes is versatile
  • Lightweight, rust-free

Shirts

Outdoor Research Women’s Echo Short Sleeve T-Shirt

OR shirt

  • Lightest, fastest-drying thing I own
  • Resists wrinkles, stains, odors
  • Small hidden pocket on the side
  • Cool & comfortable
  • Available at Amazon

 Under Armour Women’s Tech T shirt

Under Armour

  • Fast drying
  • Ultralight fabric
  • Moisture wicking
  • Resists odors
  • Outerwear or base layer
  • Available at Amazon

 

 Icebreaker Henley

icebreaker henley

  • All-season shirt
  • Never too warm or too cold
  • Icebreaker wool never stinks, wrinkles, or stains.
  • Featherlight, dries super fast
  • Available at Amazon

 

 Ex Officio Camina Trek’rCamina shirt

  • A long-sleeved shirt is your light jacket, modesty cover, sun shield, and insect protection
  • Weightless, resists wrinkles, stains and odors
  • Dries in a flash
  • Vented panels at the back
  • Stretch panels at the sides
  • Available at Amazon

Icebreaker Long-Sleeve Half-Zip

icebreaker half-zip

  • No wrinkles, no odors, no stains.
  • This heavier-weight piece is my go-to base layer when it’s cold.  Add the long-sleeved shirt and cardigan and you will be nice and cozy.
  • Outerwear or base layer
  • Available at Amazon

Icebreaker Willow

icebreaker willow

All the Icebreaker features  in a lightweight, pretty design perfect for all but the hottest and coldest temps.

Available at Amazon

ExOfficio Bugsaway Lumen Hoody

bugsaway lumen hoody

  • Treated to repel mosquitos – lasts through 70 washings
  • Great for malaria & dengue protection
  • Lightweight mesh is moisture-wicking and quick-drying
  • Thumbholes, big pocket & hood
  • Available at Amazon

 

Pants

Columbia Women’s Just Right Pants

  • Feel like yoga pants, look like dress slacks
  • Zippered security pocket
  • Lightweight, stretchy, SO comfy
  • Drawstring to adjust fit.
  • Remarkably stain resistant
  • Wrinkle-free, fast-drying
  • Available at Amazon

 

Columbia Saturday Trail II 

Columbia trail pant

  • Softest, stretchiest fabric imaginable
  • Dry quickly, resist wrinkles and stains
  • Lightweight, packable
  • Capri length is more wearable than shorts
  • Available at Amazon

NOTE: Less durable than the other pants on this page. Mine are pilling at the inner thigh.

 

REI Endeavor Pants

Endeavor

  • Wind and water resistant
  • Warmth without weight
  • Secure zipper pockets, including one on the thigh
  • Wear like iron
  • Resist wrinkles, stains, odors
  • Dry quickly
  • Available at REI

 Ex Officio Nomad Pants

nomad pants

  • Roll-up style converts to capri without ugly zip-off legs
  • Cargo pockets & zip pocket
  • Teflon-treated to resist stains
  • Lightweight, fast-drying
  • Available at Amazon

 

Skirts/Dresses

Soybu Women’s Tahiti DressSoybu sundress

  • Shelf bra really works!
  • So easy on a hot day
  • Never wrinkles
  • Resists stains
  • Holds its shape
  • Available at Amazon 

Skirt Sports  Ultra Skirt

skort

  • No wrinkles
  • Dries fast
  • Shorts = no chub rub
  • Hidden pocket holds cash & credit cards
  • Cute!
  • Available at Amazon

Note: Short skirts and dresses have limited usability in conservative countries.

If you’ll do a lot of dressing up in your travels, pack a little black dress and foldable flats, too.

Underwear & Socks

 Exofficio Women’s 
Give-N-Go Bikini – 3 pair

undies

  • Dries quickly
  • Lasts forever
  • Doesn’t ride up
  • Breathable, lightweight, odor-resistant
  • Treated with an antimicrobial
  • Available at Amazon

 Bras – 3

Question Mark

I travel with a couple of comfort bras and sports bras. I like that they don’t set off metal detectors at the airport, and I can sleep in them if necessary. I hate that they take two days to dry.

I haven’t fallen in love with a specific brand yet. f you’ve found the perfect travel bra, please tell us about it in the comments!

 Socks – 4 pair

Question Mark

I carry four pairs of lightweight hiking socks, but mine seem bulky and take too long to dry.

If you know of a fast-drying sock that takes up less space in the pack than usual, please tell us about it in the comments!

Thermal Leggings

Amazon.com Duofold Women s Mid Weight Thermal Wicking Leggings Clothing

  • Double as leggings, long johns & pajama pants
  • Moisture wicking
  • Fast drying
  • Lightweight
  • Available at Amazon

Outerwear

Columbia Fast Trek II Full-Zip Fleece Jacket

Columbia Fast Trek Ii Full Zip Fleece Jacket at Amazon Women s Coats Shop

Marmot PreCip Jacket

Mamot PreCip

 Icebreaker Bliss Cardigan

Bliss cardigan

Foul Weather Accessories

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  • Lightweight but cozy warm
  • Layered with a rain shell (right) this kept me warm in Iceland in winter
  • Wad it up and cram it in your pack; give it a shake and it looks fresh and new.
  • Fitted shape fits easily under rain shell
  • Secure zippered pockets
  • Available at Amazon
  • Waterproof yet breathable and moisture wicking
  • Wear by itself or layer over fleece (left) for extreme warmth
  • Underarm zips let you adjust for breathability
  • Chin guard keep zipper off your face
  • Full hood
  • Fits in your pocket
  • Available at Amazon
  • Lightweight yet warm, perfect in your layering arsenal
  • Packable, resists wrinkles
  • Breathable, washable, resists odors and stains
  • Dries quickly
  • Available at Amazon

 

I avoid cold climates, so I don’t carry gloves, hat, or muffler. I buy cheap ones locally and then give them away when I’m done with them.

If you’ll be spending a lot of time in cold climates, consider getting some high-performance accessories and more long-sleeved Icebreakers.

 

Shoes & Footwear

 Teva Tirra Women’s Sandal

teva tirra

 Athletic or Hiking Shoes

one pair

 

 Powerstep Pinnacle Insoles

pinnacle_pair

 

 

 Keen Sport Sandals

Keen

  • Good arch support
  • Good heel cushioning
  • As comfortable as a sandal can be and still look good with a sundress
  • Lighweight
  • Water safe
  • Adjustable fit
  • Available at Amazon
 Hiking shoes or athletic shoes are much lighter than hiking boots, and work just as well for most hikes.Without these, I couldn’t tolerate all the walking & hiking I do in my travels.

I can even buy cheap cute flat and boots on the fly and pop these in them.

Read my full review here.

Available at Amazon

  • Amazing arch support and cushioning for tired feet
  • It’s a hiking shoe! A water shoe! A sandal! A camp shoe! A slipper! A shower shoe!
  • Resists odors
  • Lightweight
  • Mine look like new after years of hiking and trudging on cobblestones.
  • Available at Amazon

Miscellaneous

 Scarf

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Headlamp

headlamp

 First Aid Kit

first aid

 Power Adapter

adapter

Scarves are endlessly useful on the road. The greatest scarf I ever owned was this one.

Rainbow colors go with anything and bring a pop of life to any outfit.

Available at Amazon.

Good to have even if you’re not camping, in case the power goes out or you have to walk home after dark.

You don’t need anything fancy or expensive. Lightweight, small and economical is good — something like this.

A few pain relievers, cold tablets, band-aids, and antibacterial wipes are good to have with you. I carry a knee brace, too. Most parts of the world have pharmacies on every corner, so don’t go overboard.

You can buy prepackaged kits on Amazon, but you probably have everything you need to pack your own.

  • This one has worked for me on five continents and counting.
  • Two USB ports on the side let you charge several items simultaneously
  • Easy to pack
  • Lightweight
  • Available at Amazon

 Diva Cup

diva cup

Toiletries

seanik

Baggies & Rubber Bands

rubber-bands-503028_640

 Swimsuit

swimsuit betty grable

 

  • Lightweight
  • Uses minimal space in your bag
  • No worries about carrying or finding feminine supplies
  • Surgical silicone is easy to clean
  • If you haven’t used one before, get familiar with it at home before you travel; they take some getting used to and aren’t right for everyone

Available at Amazon

I also carry a cloth pad for backup.

Ziplock sandwich bags store bar soap and leftover foods. Fill one halfway with water and use it to plug a sink while you do laundry. A dozen is plenty.

Rubber bandsthe big size — are so handy. Two of them will hold a pair of shoes tightly together in your bag. They can be used to bags in the kitchen, from frozen foods to rice or coffee. I never stop finding uses for them. A dozen is plenty.

 I can’t recommend one for you, it’s just too personal. But bring one!

Manduka eKO Superlite
Travel Yoga Mat

Manduka

 Unlocked cell phone
(or iPad air)

phone

 

 Mira Water Bottle

Mira water bottle

Sony DSCW830 20.1 MP Digital Camera 

Sony camera

  •  The only travel mat that’s worked for me
  • Lightweight but doesn’t stretch
  • Easy to pack, roll or fold
  • Sticky surface, even when you sweat
  • Durable & resists odors
  • I cover it with a towel on cold or hard floors
  • Available at Amazon
SIM cards are usually available at newsstands and stores. $10 usually buys a gig of data.

Calling home is free with Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime.

This will also be your e-reader, alarm clock, kitchen timer, GPS/maps, music player, video viewer and travel planner.

You might want some headphones for that.

  • No estrogenic plastics
  • Double-wall keeps water cool or coffee hot
  • Unbreakable
  • Pollution-free alternative to buying plastic bottles
  • Available at Amazon

 

  • Good quality photos
  • Tiny size slips in your pocket
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Face detection
  • Available at Amazon

Note: If you’re a serious photographer, you won’t be satisfied with this. The small size is better for me right now, but I miss my big Sony Cybershot!

Pacsafe CitySafe
Handbag

pacsafe

Lug Flipper Jewelry Clutchjewelry clutch

Chicobagchicobag

This Ugly Hat

hat

  • Slash-guard panels, slash-proof strap
  • Locking zipper mechanism
  • Strap opens & locks around a chair; I’ve even used it to lock my backpack to my chair at cafes, like a bike lock
  • Wipes clean
  • Available at Amazon
  • Organizes and protects a huge collection of small items in a compact case
  • Cute enough to use as a clutch for a dressy night out
  • Jewelry, sim cards, memory sticks, hair ties, barettes and more
  • Available at Amazon
  • Stuffs into attached storage pouch with built-in carabiner
  • I use this for shopping, laundry, and as a cute tote
  • Durable yet weighs nothing
  • Washable
  • Available at Amazon
  • Cooling vents
  • Snazzy chin strap
  • Roll it, pack it, stuff it, it comes out looking…exactly the same.
  • Immediately identifies you as a tourist
  • When I wear it I feel like a dog wearing the Cone of Shame, but cute sun hats that say they’re packable are lying
  • Better than sunburn, I guess
  • Available at Amazon

 

Author

Lauren Haas is a nomadic freelance writer. She has been traveling the world, living out of a backpack, since May of 2013. Lauren has written regularly for CBS Local, WebPsychology, Hipmunk, and Hotelplanner, and has also been published in The Culture-ist, Matador, and other online and print publications.

3 Comments

  1. if you ever need something heavier in a coat I recommend Buffalos packable down coat, weighs nothing and fits in its own travel bag the size of a small loaf of bread

  2. Marya Nowakowski Reply

    Smart wool socks come in many different weights and dry overnight in my basement. When i lived in the Dominican Republic, even though it was tropical i preferred wool socks to cotton because they cushioned better and wicked sweat away better than cotton.

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