How to Pack the Perfect Sack
A Guide for Backpackers
Your Pack– Buy a pack that is designed for your body that is comfortable with good padding. Many camping stores have online outlet stores that are a great place to find a bargain.
Pack light– If there is ANY advice that I can give you when backpacking, it is to pack light! You will enjoy your trip much more. Of course it is important to be prepared and have your essential items but do anything possible to lighten your load. Remember you can always buy something you don’t have if you absolutely need it.
Large Zip lock Bags– I pack everything in my backpack in oversized zip lock bags. You can find them in grocery stores in sizes up to five gallons. Pack like items together. This makes packing and unpacking much easier when traveling from place to place. It also helps protect your items from spills or water damage. You never know when you will be caught in a flash rain storm
Be prepared for the weather– Research what weather will be like. A must have item is a water proof wind breaker. This can make a drastic difference in keeping you warm during high winds and is great for rainy days. Find out what harsh weather the place you will be traveling to will have and pack accordingly.
Pack layers instead of bulky winter items (unless of course you will be facing extreme temperatures.) Layer up with light sweaters and a light jacket. I always bring gloves, wool socks, a hat and scarf when traveling to cool places. These light weight items can be quickly taken on and off and will dramatically impact your body temperature.
Money– I find the most cost efficient way to exchange money is through an ATM. They generally give the best rates and only charge a small fee. Do the research when going abroad and find out what your bank offers for overseas transactions. Many credit cards are also wonderful for exchange rates, however, many places around the world still do not accept credit cards.
When I travel I carry two ATM cards from two different banks. I store them in two different places, i.e. one in my wallet and one in my backpack at the hotel. I am reminded of a trip to London where an ATM machine ate my card. I luckily had the backup card and was still able to take out money.
Make sure to call your credit card and bank companies prior to going abroad. Notify them of your trip so they do not turn off your card when seeing a foreign transaction
Documents– Make sure to carry all required documents with you. Do research to find out if you will need a visa when entering the country. Know if the airport charges an entrance or departure fee. Factor these expenses into your travel. If you are a student, carry your student I.D. because many places throughout the world offer student discounts. Always carry a back up form of identification. Store your passport and secondary identification form in different places .
Make digital copies of your passport, credit cards, and I.D’s. Give the copies to someone at home and carry them with you either in a secure e-mail folder or thumb drive. If you lose these items it is much easier to get new ones or cancel them when having photos of them.
Sleeping– I recommend buying a neck travel pillow. They allow for great comfort when sleeping sitting up. I carry a large cotton scarf with me. It takes up a small amount of space and can be used as a scarf, shawl or blanket.
I am a light sleeper. If I have a long trip ahead of me I bring Tylenol PM, ear plugs and sleep shades to get a good night’s sleep. Dramamine is also good to carry for those who get motion sickness. It also can make you drowsy. Tylenol PM and Dramamine can take time to wear off so think of your time table prior to taking them.
If you are staying at hostels know if they provide sheets. You may need to carry a set of sheets or a sleeping bag with you.
Toiletries– Save your samples! You know those sleeves of body wash, shampoo, conditioner (etc.) that are mailed to you. They seem silly but save them. They are amazing for backpacking! Instead of carrying around heavy bottles, these sleeves save weight and space!
Often times, laundry detergent samples can be found in sleeves. If you will need to do your laundry, these sleeves can be great to pack. If you cannot find the sample sleeves I recommend bringing a labeled zip lock bag of powder laundry detergent with you. Often times you can buy laundry detergent on location.
Pack over the counter medicine! Being sick stinks! Being sick while traveling is even worse! I highly recommend packing your favorite cold medicine and aspirin to have on hand. Pepto-Bismol is also a great thing to bring. It can help with the symptoms of food poisoning or help if you come down with diarrhea caused by drinking bad water. Buy tablets instead of liquid to save weight. Also I recommend taking vitamins or immune system defense medicine to keep sicknesses away. Hand sanitizer is also helpful for keeping you healthy. Many countries do not offer soap in public bathrooms.
Make sure to pack your prescription medication you will need. It can be near impossible to find them abroad. Know how long you will be away and arrange with your doctor to have the correct amount prior to leaving.
A Quick Dry towel is a great item to pack. Regular towels are heavy and bulky, take hours to dry and begin to smell quickly. A Quick Dry towel can be used anywhere from a quick wash in a train bathroom or to being used at the beach.
Safety– Bring small travel locks to secure easy accessible zipper pockets in your backpack. Having a bike lock to fasten your backpack to a train railing or hostel bed post is also a good idea. If someone really wants to rob you they will find a way. Often times taking these small precautionary measures, however, will deter someone from the extra effort of robbing you.
Travel guides– Travel books can be heavy. I recommend copying the pages you will need and only taking those or printing the info offline. Download helpful apps that do not need the internet, onto your phone or tablet, prior to leaving for your trip.
Electronics– Make sure to first and for most pack the proper converter for your trip. Without this your electronics will be useless. I recommend keeping your laptop at home and using public computers at internet cafes, hotels and hostels. This will lighten your load and keep your expensive laptop safe at home. Bring tablets and internet capable devices instead. Pack a thumb drive for storing travel documents and photos. Pack extra memory cards for your camera if you will be taking an extended trip.
Quick Check List
2 pairs shorts
1 pairs of pants- one dress, one casual
5 pairs of socks
5 pairs of underwear
1-2 light sweaters
1 pair of walking shoes, 1 pair of flip flops for showering
Quick Checklist for women
- Shoes- 1 pair of walking shoes, 1 pair of comfortable flats, 1 pair of shower flip flops
- Rainproof jacket
- 2 pairs of shorts/ or capris
- 2 pairs of pants- one dress, one casual
- 1 belt
- 1 swimsuit
- 5 pairs of socks
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 1-2 extra bra
- 4-6 shirts
- 1-2 dresses
- 1-2 light sweaters
- 1 cotton scarf, light gloves, hat
- Body Soap
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, floss
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Brush/ Comb
- Insect Repellent, Bug bite anti itch cream
- First Aid Supplies: Band aids, Neosporin, etc
- Feminine Hygiene products
- Hand Sanitizers
- Vitamins, Immune system quick boost
- Over the counter medicine
- Quick Dry towel
- Powder Laundry detergent
- Ear plugs
Other great things to have
- Travel Pillow
- Office Supplies- Pen, notebook, sticky notes
- Bike lock, small travel locks
- Water bottle (make sure you know if the drinking water is safe)
- Duct tape
- Hostel Sheets
- Guide book
Don’t forget your documents!
Surviving the element with a windbreaker/raincoat, sunglasses and light weight umbrella
My cotton day pack, light weight and expandable. Can be worn as a purse or backpack