In the last month, I’ve discovered just how complicated packing a backpack can be. My 55 liter Osprey will have to fit all the belongings I need for the next 3 months. To make things even more complicated, I will be traveling to the hot and sticky climate of Southeast Asia, then to the cold and dry high altitudes of the South American Andes, and then to the hot and sticky (although considerably less hot and sticky than SEA) climate of Europe this summer. I will be doing very different activities in each place–everything from snorkeling and hiking to visiting museums and restaurants that run the gamut from casual to dressy. How do I fit enough outfits to cover my very different activities on 3 very different continents this summer? What can I absolutely not live without for the next 3 months? How do I fit it all into “Oscar” (my name for my backpack…silly I know)?!
After several iterations of folding, rolling, packing, unpacking, removing, refolding, rerolling, and repacking, I have found what I finally believe to be the perfect equilibrium of clothing and supplies for my trip. The very last packing revision happened when I was leaving my apartment to head over to stay at my friends’ place the night before I moved out of my apartment. As I put the backpack on, I very much felt like Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cheryl Strayed in Wild–I almost fell over from the weight of the pack!
Fortunately, my short trek from Hell’s Kitchen to Park Avenue left me with enough flexibility to remove a few last minute items from the pack and put them into my NYC storage unit. I’ve included a comprehensive and notated list of final items that made the cut below!
-1 55 liter Osprey backpack (Oscar) – As alluded to above, Oscar and I really bonded in Africa last December. He is super reliable and even has a detachable day-pack that is very handy for hiking and squeezing into tight overhead compartments on airplanes!
-1 carry-on crossbody purse – I have read a lot online about the PacSafe for traveling. Apparently, it is slash-proof and RFID protected. However, once I googled this magic travel bag, I immediately thought it was super ugly. I don’t care how “safe” it is, I did not want to pay $80 for what I consider to be an ugly bag. So, I found a bag for $30 at TJ Maxx that I think will work just fine! I will not be heartbroken if it gets lost, destroyed, or stolen, and it’s a lot cuter than the PacSafe.
-1 small crossbody purse – This is for going out; squished and packed in Oscar.
-1 wallet – I am just taking my regular, everyday wallet.
-4 packing cubes – 1 large for clothing, 1 large for accessories and outerwear, 1 small for underthings, 1 small for dirty clothes; a set of 2 are $30 at REI
-1 pair North Face hiking “boots” – they look more like sneakers, but have added support and Goretex (which makes it waterproof and breathable) for hiking
-1 pair Haviana flip flops – to wear in the shower or casually out. I chose a pair that look a little dressier than standard flip flops but are made out of the same material for only $15 at the Bloomingdale’s outlet in the UWS.
-1 pair dressier sandals – I made sure they were comfortable for walking.
*3 pairs of shoes…yes, that’s all!! Will I make it? We will see in August…
-1 pair jeans, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 pair leggings, 1 pair cut-off jean shorts, 1 pair green shorts, 2 pair running shorts
-4 tank tops, 1 dressy blouse, 1 t-shirt (Vandy, of course!), 1 long sleeve t-shirt, 1 sweater
-1 romper, 2 sundresses
-1 zip-up sweatshirt/cardigan
-1 Ultra Light Down Jacket from Uniqlo- I am very excited about this purchase! This jacket squishes down into a small ball and weighs less than a pound, and is also super warm and water-resistant. I will be wearing this a lot in South America, but it is also easy to carry/pack in a purse for a chilly evening in Europe as well.
-1 straw brim hat – Another exciting purchase! This hat is also “squishable” and can be crushed into a bag without ultimately losing its shape. It also offers SPF 50 protection.
-1 baseball cap (Alabama, of course!)
-1 Buff – you can read about how much I love the Buff here.
-4 bras – 1 sport, 1 strapless, 2 regular
-A week’s worth of undies
-5 pairs of socks
-eyeglasses and case
-small bag of assorted, non-valuable necklaces, earrings, and bracelets
-hair ties and hair clip
-2 mini-bottles shampoo, 4 mini-bottles conditioner, 1 mini-bottle facewash (I am pretty particular about my shampoo, conditioner and facewash, so I filled some empty travel size bottles to last me as long as possible before I need to buy refills on the road.)
-2 razors, toothbrush and toothpaste, dry shampoo, baby powder, deodorant , retainer (lol!), contact case and solution, extra contacts
–stomach sickness medicines, vitamins, malaria tablets, Melatonin (to combat jetlag and to help with getting some rest on long flights)
-cosmetics (bronzer, mascara, lipstick, chapstick, travel-size brush, tweezers, nail file), small hairbrush, small perfume
-headlamp flashlight – this proved to be so useful in Africa! I literally did not go anywhere at night without it. I may not use it as frequently this summer, but I know it will come in handy at some point.
-DEET mosquito spray – Mosquitoes don’t play, and I don’t have time to get a tropical disease!
-reusable water bottle, reusable plastic chopsticks
–quick-dry travel towel – this towel has a strange texture, but can hold 2x its weight in water and dries overnight. Needless to say it is also very compact!
–travel laundry detergent – I anticipate I will be doing a lot of handwashing of clothes on the road. This travel detergent looks like a packet of Listerine strips, yet each “strip” becomes detergent for 1 load of laundry! The packet contains 50 strips/loads.
-guidebooks for Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, “This Please!” pointbook, 1 book for pleasure reading (I could have packed my Kindle, but decided against it for the simple reason that I want to use the hostel book exchanges. I think the idea of trading real books with paper pages with other traveling strangers is romantic and old-fashioned in the best of ways, and I want to count this as part of my adventure!)
–Chromebook and charger- I had originally decided to bring my regular laptop along on the trip. However, I realized that even though it was designed to be light and sleek, it was still a little too big. I purchased a Chromebook for a reasonable price that weighs 2.5 pounds and is a perfect size for travel. Plus, if it gets lost, stolen, or damaged, I won’t be devastated.
-phone and charger
-portable battery charger – This item is a lifesaver, and I already keep it in my purse for long days in NYC when my phone battery gets drained.
-power outlet adapter – I made sure to buy a 1-piece adapter that works on all 3 continents.
-camera – I’m bringing a simple point-and-click Nikon digital camera.
-extra batteries for camera and flashlights, extra camera memory card
-memory card USB reader
-yellow fever certificate
-credit and debit cards, cash, and currencies
-small moleskine notebook and pen
-printed copies of reservations for flights, hostels, transportation, etc; photocopies of passport and yellow fever certificate
Did I leave anything important out? Am I packing too much? I guess I will find out once I leave the U.S. tomorrow!