Light Backpack - Woman Edition
You're a woman about to pack for a long trip. Where do you start? All the answers here. As a woman, I know how hard it is to pack for a trip. It's not about how many days we have to stay in a place; it's about the CHOICE. We want to be able to wake up and decide what to wear based on the way we feel that day. That's the reason why we pack a thousand clothes and shoes. I had to change this behavior when I realized that there is no space for the CHOICE when you have to leave for a six-month round the world trip. You have to carry the backpack on your shoulders, and you have to make sure that your back is safe. Sure, you can bring a suitcase if you want, but that's not going to be comfortable.
My husband backpacked South America years ago, and he learned that lighter is better. This time he decided to carry the essentials, nothing more and nothing less. You can imagine my face when I heard his reply after the question: "How many clothes should I bring?" I will give you the answer shortly with the full list of the items that I decided to bring. I'm happy to share the info with other women that want to backpack for the first time. Hope you will find this useful. I have to admit that, despite the sad feeling of saying goodbye to the CHOICE, I'm happy with the way I packed. My back is grateful and, if I need, I can buy more clothes on the road. Choose wisely based on the locations you visit and the different temperatures. My list is for summer; we will buy warmer cheap clothes for the last part of the trip to Patagonia (if needed).
Documents and papers: Passport, credit cards (more than one, so if you have issues with one you have a backup), cash, Visas (if needed), vaccination record (make sure you consult your doctor to get additional vaccination if needed), a journal with a pen (to record your thoughts along the way). Use a small money belt to hide under your pants (put the passport, credit cards, and cash). Scan your important documents before leaving and save them on a memory stick to have them with you at all times.
Clothes: Underwear (5), socks (5), shorts (2), t-shirts (3), pants (2), shoes (3): tennis, flip-flops and hiking shoes, jacket, sweater (Under Armour is my fav), bathing suit, laundry bag. Use anonymous colors (black, brown, gray). Better not to appear as a tourist, especially in certain locations.
Personal hygiene and beauty: Toothpaste and toothbrush, floss, use airport size Go Tubes (from REI) to store your fav shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, cream (highly recommend aloe, it's fresh and great to smooth any types of scratch and irritation on the skin), deodorant, hairbrush, nail clippers, makeup: the basics (concealer, lip balm), shower cup, razors, travel towel (from REI, easy to dry).
Medicine (health): Bug repellent, Midol, Excedrin (pain reliever), Vitamin C (tablets) and general vitamins (your choice), motion sickness pills (if needed), laxatives and anti-diarrhea (you never know what you eat on the road), band-aids.
Miscellaneous: Headlamp, padlock, stuff sacks of different colors (so your stuff is easy to find), sunglasses, contact lenses and glasses (if needed), a couple of books (or kindle), iPad and keyboard (if you don't have to work this is a lighter solution instead of the laptop), universal adapter, phone and phone charger. Remember to download your favorite music and podcast before leaving (one less thing to think about when you find wi-fi on the road). Finally a smaller daypack for hikes and excursions (from REI light and foldable).
When it's time to pack, put your shoes at the bottom and your stuff sacks on the sides (I used one for the underwear, one for the liquids and one for a couple of items from the miscellaneous list). Then put your other clothes and leave a space in the middle for your day pack that you will fill with the basic stuff you need to keep under the seat on the plane (phone, book, sunglasses, sweater, etc.). Place your travel towel on top of everything. Put the remaining things in the side pockets.
The last piece of advice is: spend some time to know your backpack and the spaces inside. If you stay in hostels and share the room, you have to know quickly what to look for in the dark :)