I’ve been on the road now for eight 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
REI Flash 22 Day Pack
Eagle Creek Compression Sacs
Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Compression Sac
Eagle Creek Wallaby Toiletry Bag – Small
BUILT Neoprene Camera Envelope
Aluminum Eyeglass Case
Outdoor Research Women’s Echo Short Sleeve T-Shirt
Under Armour Women’s Tech T shirt
Ex Officio Camina Trek’r
Icebreaker Long-Sleeve Half-Zip
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
Columbia Women’s Just Right Pants
Columbia Saturday Trail II
NOTE: Less durable than the other pants on this page. Mine are pilling at the inner thigh.
REI Endeavor Pants
Ex Officio Nomad Pants
Soybu Women’s Tahiti Dress
Skirt Sports Ultra Skirt
|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!
Columbia Fast Trek II Full-Zip Fleece Jacket
Marmot PreCip Jacket
Icebreaker Bliss Cardigan
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
Teva Tirra Women’s Sandal
Athletic or Hiking Shoes
Powerstep Pinnacle Insoles
Keen Sport Sandals
|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
First Aid Kit
|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!|
Manduka eKO Superlite
Unlocked cell phone
Mira Water Bottle
Sony DSCW830 20.1 MP Digital Camera
|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!
Lug Flipper Jewelry Clutch
This Ugly Hat