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
REI Flash 22 Day Pack
All the Icebreaker features in a lightweight, pretty design perfect for all but the hottest and coldest temps.
Available at Amazon
NOTE: Less durable than the other pants on this page. Mine are pilling at the inner thigh.
REI Endeavor Pants
|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
Bras – 3
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
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!
Foul Weather Accessories
|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
Athletic or Hiking Shoes
|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.
Available at Amazon
|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.
Baggies & Rubber Bands
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 bands — the 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!|
Unlocked cell phone
|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.
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!