After learning the hard way with 60 liter packs, you need less than you think you do. It’s easy to over pack because you have no idea what you might need. As a general rule, I believe we are better off packing less and trusting ourselves more.
My goal is pack light to allow me to spend more time focusing on the things that make travel amazing – the people, the places, the food – and less time worrying about what I’m carrying.
If you feel the same, great! Keep reading. Remember, you don’t need any of the expensive items to travel (although having them will make your life easier). The most important thing to have is the courage to explore and learn.
I spent hours of online research on the ‘perfect’ bag. After visiting countless backpack stores like REI, I know what works – all the good qualities and criteria a backpack should have, and knowing it’s going to last forever.
Look for a bag that is light weight, with comfortable hip and back straps. If you have a smaller bag, you will bring the stuff that only matter. Also look for internal frame (great support for your back and help you stay stable while walking all day).
Size – If you find a backpack that fits everything you want, and feels comfortable, that’s the perfect size. In my opinion, 40 liter or less is perfect. Carrying it light and small means you don’t need to worry about carry-on on a plane and can leave your bag under your seat. You never have to part ways with your gear. In fact, you can sightseeing around with it without much hassle.
Go ahead and try several backpacks at the store (any camping/outdoor store like REI) and stuff your backpack to feel what it is like.
Multiple compartments – I’d rather know where I put my stuff in my bags than putting everything in one area.
Avoid suitcase – it’s a pain to walk up hills and stairs with your suitcase. If you’re moving around a lot, backpacks are a way to go.
Price – Depend on size, fabric, and brand, prices for backpack can be from $50 to $300 USD or more. I don’t believe any backpack is worth over $300, no matter how nice it is. Anything in the $100-200 range will be perfect. Make sure to check if it’s on sale. They always do if you’re willing to wait.
Remember there is no ‘perfect’ bag
Note: I’m a man. Make sure to check out Deafinitely Wanderlust for female advice.
Avoid cotton clothes because they don’t dry well, and can weigh more than other fabrics.
No more than two T-shirts or similar. You can always buy more on the road if needed. Go for nice fabric like moisture wicking polyester, synthetics or merino wool.
A shirt – wearing a shirt is the way to go as it makes you look less of a tourist. They can look and feel both casual and smart.
Ultra-light down jacket. It can get chilly on airplanes or air-conditioned buses/trains.
One or two pants. If heading somewhere hot and wishing to travel light, don’t bring jeans. Go for quick drying, light travel types.
Swim shorts– aim for quick drying if you know you will be wet. Avoid wearing short if you know you will visit churches, mosques or temples since it is considered disrespectful to wear shorts.
Two to six underwear – Get the ones that is moisture-wicking, fast-drying and odor resistant if possible.
Two to six socks is a good basic rule of thumb. As with underwear, spending a little bit of money on technical fabrics is worth it.
Shoes– one pair is more than enough. If you want to travel light then light running shoes works perfectly. Light flip-flops or sandals can always be bought locally.
Consider some packing cubes to keep clothing together and compressed. Roll than fold to save space and avoid wrinkle.
Hat and sunglasses to protect your skin from the sun all day.
Bottom line: Bring clothes you are comfortable in and like. If they are light and practical all the better.
I’ll be only listing essential stuff to pack.
Regular or small size case to pack in:
Toothbrush (replace every month)
What else to pack?
Don’t forget about smartphone. I would invest one if you don’t have one since it’s portable, has calculator, camera, GPS, translator, access to internet, taxi finder (Uber), communication, and many more.
Portable charger (if you use technology often and want to charge on go – this is optional)
Travel Adapter – there are different outlet styles around the world. You need an adapter to fit your North American plugs into Asian or Europe outlets.
Credit card and/or debit card (see here for more details).
Passport – make sure you have enough time on (at least six months) and pages in your passport.
Student ID – it is worth having because you might save money on discounts.
Pen (optional) – when you need to fill out custom forms
Several plastic zip lock bags and maybe some duct tape to keep small items together.
Photocopies of everything important like passports, credit card, etc on the internet like your email, saved to photos or drop box.
Laptop (optional) if you plan on working from a computer, bringing a small, light laptop is a good idea.
Camera (optional) If you’re satisfied with pictures taken from your smartphone, you may not need a camera. Photography is my hobby so I bring one to take high quality photos. Focus on very lightweight camera set up like mirror-less camera.
Memory card (optional)
A good book (or kindle) – There is always down time when traveling. Perfect time for reading. Take a look at my recommended reading list.
Water bottle (optional)