I confess I am a “take everything but the kitchen sink” type of traveler. The first time I visited Europe I brought a huge duffel bag with wheels in addition to a large backpack. After three and a half weeks of lugging my belongings up spiral hostel staircases and down narrow cobblestone streets I realized I never wanted to travel this way again.
Still, the thought of figuring out what to pack for a year of travel that would include Mexico in the summer and Paris in the fall sent me into a panic. Suddenly my 68 L backpack didn’t seem so big or its pockets so numerous. It took me three days of sitting in my living room surrounded by a pile of all of my possessions before I finally decided what to take and what to leave behind. I thought I’d share some of the tips I’ve learned along the way to ease your own packing process!
Choosing the right backpack
My backpack is a Klamath backpack that is top loading and bottom loading. It has one large middle pocket, two small upper pockets, two mesh pockets for water bottles, and one medium pocket towards the top. It also has a gridlock system where you can adjust the torso and shoulder length. When everything is packed to capacity it weighs about 35lbs or around 17 kilos (I know, this is a lot. But a YEAR ya’ll!).
I love traveling with it because I can organize everything the way I want and I also have the ability to strap something (i.e. a sleeping bag or tent) to the outside. It has suffered some wear and tear (I don’t have a rain cover for it) but so far I have been very pleased with its quality and durability. The most important thing is to pick something that suits your needs and fits properly. This makes a huge difference when you’re carrying it for hours! How to pack your backpack
These tips may seem obvious, but they weren’t to me! I spent many hours grunting and yelling in frustration before I realized some basic steps that make packing so much easier.
- Pack the heavier items at the bottom. I have my sleeping bag and the bulk of my clothes and shoes packed first because they are the heaviest. This keeps the weight on your hips which saves your shoulders and back unnecessary pain!
2. Loosen all of the compression straps before you pack. This one is super obvious but I still find myself struggling with packing until I realize I have left the straps tightened.
3. Pack the outside pockets first. Once you’ve packed the main compartment it will be much harder for you to find room in the pockets for anything to fit. The strain on the zippers will cause extra wear and tear on your pack.
4. Pack everything in trash bags and sandwich baggies. This not only compresses all of the air but it keeps your items organized and prevents them from getting sunscreen or shampoo on them by accident. It also prevents you from freaking out when you’re caught in the rain because all of your belongings will be protected. It is also easier to find exactly what you’re looking for quickly.
What to pack
I agonized over this for weeks, but after being on the road for three months, I can honestly say I’m happy with my choices. I’ll give you the breakdown of exactly what I’ve packed and why.
I think this is one of the easiest areas to over pack! Let’s face it ladies, we don’t really need millions of tubes of cream and make-up when we’re trekking through the jungle or kayaking in Greece. So keep it simple and stick to the absolute necessities, your budget and backpack will thank you!
I use one bar of soap for my face, body, and shampoo (usually something all natural or organic), and I’ve used coconut oil for deodorant because it is good for so many other things as well. Lavender oil is also good for treating zits and bug bites and it smells sooo nice! Throw in some cocoa butter for moisturizer, some sunscreen, and I’m a happy gal!
Now, let me introduce one product I can absolutely not live without and one that will save you both space and money while traveling.
The Diva cup has been a God-send during my travels and I can’t believe I ever lived without it! I was a bit hesitant to try it as I had never used a menstrual cup before, but now I can’t imagine ever going back to pads and tampons. The Diva Cup is comfortable, easy to use, and has completely changed the way I travel. I no longer have to stress about where I’ll be during my time of the month or where I can find a certain brand of tampons, or how I’ll fit said tampons into my backpack. It’s also better for the environment and your pocketbook, a win-win situation!
For my hiking trip I bought the Sawyer water filter and loved it! It was the most compact, efficient filter I researched and the most cost effective (around $50.00). You collect water in the bag (this one is 32oz but they come in three sizes) and then attach the filter and squeeze the water through the filter into your water bottle. The guarantee is up to 1,000,000 gallons of water, so it’s definitely a good investment!
The other thing I would recommend buying is moleskin. You can get it for around $3-4 at the pharmacy and it is perfect for blisters. Cut the adhesive to the size you need and voila! No more pain.
The only medications I bring with me are Pepto-Bismal and Ibuprofen. I also bring some anti-itch cream and anti-bacterial ointment. If you’re going into a tropical country research ahead of time if you’ll need antimalarials, etc.
Outerwear & Gear
Since I was going to be traveling in a variety of climates I decided to skip the heavy hoodies, etc. and just bring one rain jacket, a colorful scarf, and a hat. These have been invaluable so far. I have worn the hat a lot in Mexico to protect me from the sun! My microfiber towel has also been a huge asset. It dries quickly, is compressible, and large enough to use as a beach towel.
My sleeping bag is something I debated on leaving behind as it adds bulk and weight. However, since I am mostly couch surfing and staying in hostels I wanted the security of having my own bedding if necessary. The Suisse Sport sleeping bag, in particular is light weight and the perfect warmth and size for backpacking. It was also relatively cheap compared to other bags I looked at for this purpose.
Since I knew I would be doing Workaways and traveling in hot and cold climates, deciding what clothes to pack was stressful. I finally settled on two dresses, two pairs of work/casual pants and one pair of jeans. One pair of work shorts, one pair of nice shorts, two tank tops, two cardigans, two long-sleeve shirts, and three t-shirts. My favorite article of clothing so far has been my black maxi dress which I have worn traveling, on the beach, and out for dinner. It’s even comfortable enough to sleep in (I did this several times at the airport)!
I tried to pack clothes that could be used as pajamas and work out clothes. I packed one bikini and one one-pice (for more modest countries), 3 travel ready bras, 4 pairs of socks (wool and cotton) and 9 pair of underwear. My other favorite article of clothing I brought was my long thermal pants. They are comfortable and warm, I wear them all the time!
I decided to bring hiking boots and my running shoes since the hiking boots have the benefit of being waterproof (and are great for workaways) but can be rather bulky. I purchased my Birkenstocks before I left for Europe and I wear them every single day. They are definitely worth the investment and I’ve never gotten blisters even after walking for 12 hours straight! I haven’t worn my flats yet, but I expect when the weather gets colder they will replace my sandals.
I’ve used the combination lock every time I’m in a hostel since a lot of travel insurance policies will not reimburse you if your belongings are stolen in a hostel setting without being locked away. Fiber One bars are my favorite snack on the go (along with pistachios for protein). When you’re traveling you never know where your next meal is coming from so I always carry a water bottle and a snack or two just in case. My headlamp is my favorite travel accessory. It keeps me from stumbling around in the dark and I can use it to read on the overnight bus.
The electronic gadgets I brought along include my Macbook, an android phone, and my Nikon Coolpix p150. I take all of the photos for my blog with this camera and it’s perfect for traveling. I have traveled without a laptop in the past but found internet cafes expensive and time constraining. Most hostels and couch surfers offer free Wifi so having my own computer has been perfect.
I don’t have a day bag, but I use a cheap canvas messenger bag from Target as my carry-on and purse while I’m out and about. It’s versatile and just the right size for a day trip.
Voila! There you have it. I can honestly say I am happy with everything I’ve packed for a year of travel. There’s nothing I feel I am missing or wish I had left behind (except for my emergency whistle, ha ha). I hope these tips are helpful in planning your own ’round the world adventure!
Headed for Chicago, and my one year around the world the morning after quitting my job!
Have you gone on a ’round the world trip? Where did you go and what did you pack? What’s your favorite item you can’t live without on the road?
Nice write on what to pack! I’m really curious about the diva cup, I’ve had several friends recommend it. It think it’s time to take the plug and get one. Cheers to you and your next journey on the road!
Jessie Marie recently posted…Where my heart breaks and falls in love, over and over again.
Thanks for commenting Jessie! I took a look at your blog and I really like some of the photos! Safe travels to you as well 🙂
I’ve never been on an ‘around the world’ trip. I tend to fall victim to overpacking and though I’m a bit better than I used to be, I still find myself thinking ‘but what if..’ rather than being able to slim my pack down and only take necessary items. Thanks for the evaluation of what to take/what to leave. And thank you also for the giveaway. I’ve been wanting to try the DivaCup for a while but haven’t quite made the switch yet.
Thanks for your comment Jill! I think over packing is something most women suffer from, we’re used to having the convenience of our things every day and it’s hard to step outside of our comfort zone sometimes. I’ll be announcing the winner for the Diva Cup giveaway later today, best of luck to you!
I would love to go backpacking across the world or anywhere for that matter. Kinda hard to do with two little ones. Great advice on what to pack though, the advice would be applicable to packing for any occasion though. Love the post and love the blog. 🙂
Kathren M recently posted…Emergen-C® Friends’ Mission
Thanks so much for reading Kathren! I’m sure packing for little ones would be a challenge!
I backpacked across Europe for a couple weeks about 12 years ago, and I loved having a money belt that I could wear under my clothes. I didn’t really have any personal electronics like a laptop or cellphone then but now I’d definitely want them! The menstrual cup would’ve been great! No idea how I managed to pack pads and tampons…I only backpacked for 2 weeks so maybe I was lucky enough to not need them!
Thanks for your comment Rachel! Where did you visit in Europe? Yes, it has been a life-saver for me! Thanks for your comment!
Awesome blog! like this post as well. I have always wondered what to pack when you have just a backpack 🙂
Thanks Melissa! It’s definitely been a learning process for me as it was my first time planning for this kind of long-term travel! Thanks for reading, hope you’ll follow along as I continue my journey!
This is great! I would probably go a little lighter on my packing. Ha ha, but you have it down to a science!
Thanks Melissa! I also wish I could go lighter but I refuse to live without some things, and I’m allowing myself to keep them since I’m carrying my home on my shoulders, haha!
I couldn’t imagine going anywhere without my menstrual cup let alone on a year long trip!!
Me either Susannah!
Great information–love to travel light, but it is not always easy.
Thanks Debra! It’s hard for me too 🙂
I haven’t gone on a ’round the world trip, but I’d love to. Of all the places to go, I’d definitely have to go to Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, Greece, Korea, and Canada. I’ve been to a few places in the US, but haven’t been outside of it yet.
I usually just pack the essentials; clothes, a little bit of makeup and moisturizer, and the camera. There’s no way I’d go on any trip without my camera.
And The Dreaming Moon… recently posted…Free Blogger Opp | It’s Christmas Event
Where are you from? I’ve been to both Italy and Greece and I would highly recommend them! Check out my photography page for some inspiration!
Kudos to you! I have trouble packing for a weekend in the city!
Wow, that’s impressive. I wish I could pack lighter, but wherever I go, I now travel with 3 kids and a FULL van. 🙂 Love Diva Cup and I am about due to order a new one, would love to win one!. Thanks for the chance.
Welcome Holli! I can’t imagine traveling with kiddos, you’re the one who’s impressive! Good luck for the win!
Love it! I would add some sort of bug repellent to the packing list too though.
Definitely! I use a citronella and eucalyptus repellent that’s natural and seems to work pretty well! Thanks for commenting Natalie!
I have been a long time scouter and do plenty of long and light wight camping trips…. but I have learned a few things from your posts! thanks!!
Thanks Dawn! I’m glad my learning experiences can be helpful for others.
Thank you for sharing. Wish I would have had your useful info when I traveled abroad. Makes me want to travel again. Best of luck in future travel.
Thanks Kimberly! When I’m not traveling I’m always thinking about traveling, so I know how you feel! It’s never too early to plan your next trip 😉
I am hesitate to use the Diva Cup, I just recently heard about it. But after reading this post I think I might try it. If it is that amazing for use to use traveling around the world then it is worth a shot.
Jennifer, I was hesitant to try it at first too, and I’ll admit the first week takes some getting used to. But soon you’ll realize it’s much easier than tampons or pads and you’ll never look back!
I’ve never gone on a trip around the world, but I do something similar whenever I have to move… there’s always a small box or bag that fits all the essentials and I live out of that until I can get everything unpacked at the other end.
Hi Elizabeth, it’s always easier to transition when you’re organized. The last time I moved it took me an entire week and I vowed to do it differently next time (and get rid of some of my stuff)!
I absolutely love this list! Everything one needs for a great trip during autumn! I love my diva cup too! So darn easy to use and I never have to worry about carrying a large bag of toiletries!
Thanks Katie! It’s hard to pack for all of the seasons, but layering clothes and having a good rain jacket have made it easier! Happy to hear from a fellow Diva!
Great post! I am a fellow over-packer, so this was super helpful! I use the DivaCup too, and so I can relate to wanting to promote this product as much as possible!!! You seem like a definite diva!!!
Thanks Lily! I think this product really promotes itself! Happy you’re already getting use out of the benefits 🙂
I have never traveled around the world, though, I LOVE the Amazing Race and would like to do so 😉 I have visited France and England for a month and it was wonderful!
I didn’t pack like this, though, since I stayed in only a few places and used them as I satellited. My favorite item on the road are a reusable bamboo cutlery set. The “other” stuff just doesn’t cut it – LOL! I would love to try the Diva Cup. Maybe that would become my new favorite thing!
Hi Danielle, I would actually love to have the bamboo cutlery! I’ve been eyeing a few different reusable items like this, but haven’t made any purchases yet. Where did you travel to in France?
I’ve always wanted to try the DivaCup. I would love to win one 🙂
Good luck Kara, thanks for commenting!
These were great tips! I have not gone on such a trip, but I definitely have it on my bucket list! Thanks so much.
Thanks Krystie! I planned this trip for two years, so even if you can’t do it now, it’s never too early to dream!
Awesome tips! Thanks! Crossing my fingers for the giveaway 🙂
Thanks Kiersten, I’ll cross my fingers for you too! 😉
Thanks for these great tips! It’s gonna be more easy to pack with this when I’m gonna make my travels.
You’re welcome Catherine! Safe and happy travels to you!
Looking forward to traveling with your packing tips, and especially interested in the Diva Cup giveaway!
Thanks for commenting and reading Bethany, where are you planning to travel?
Love your pictures of everything you pack for your adventures, make it seem less overwhelming and more doable.
Hi Angie, yes I’ll admit I was very overwhelmed with the idea of packing for such a long journey! It took me about three days to organize all of my things and try to get it all to fit! I hope this list makes it easier for others so they don’t stress as much as I did!
Great idea! Thanks!
Thanks for reading and commenting Zoe!
Awesome and informative! I’ll be following your blog from now on!
Thanks Melissa! Glad to have you follow along!
I’ve been working at sorting out what to pack in my backpack to be ready to travel at the drop of a hat basically, and wondering what to do about feminine products. Found your blog actually through Diva Cup. Thanks for the additional tips! Good stuff. Happy & Safe Travels to you!
Thanks Kimberly! It’s always good to be prepared. Where are you planning on traveling to?
I have thought about trying a Diva cup but I’ve been too nervous to buy one yet… they’re kind of expensive but I imagine it’ll save money in the long run.
I just spent the summer in rural Cambodia and can’t figure out what on earth those women do about periods! There is no sign of any tampons, pads, or places to throw them away! Mysterious… and I am planning to go back and live there for the next 2 years, so yikes, I better figure that out soon 🙂
How do you clean it when you’re travelling in a place where the water isn’t safe? Boil it or put chemicals in it or filter it or something? That’s probably my biggest concern.
Hi Caro, all good questions! Traveling and periods are a pain, but honestly the Diva Cup takes so much stress out of it! Potable water hasn’t been an issue for me, but I would clean it with the same water you drink (bottled, etc.) and it’s recommended to boil it in hot water once a month before putting it away as well. And having a Diva Cup definitely saves money! The material is sustainable and the product guarantee is for a year, though many women have been using theirs longer.
Sounds manageable 🙂 thanks for your answers! I think I’m gonna be a Diva Cup fan!
I’ve never been on a world tour but I was a nanny for 5 years and traveled with a family whose job required them to travel for 9 months of the year. I would have loved to have known about the Diva then. One thing I never leave home without is a book. It was really hard packing for being gone so long and limiting my books. I would have loved a Kindle then as well! So many great new things for travel and I rarely go anywhere anymore. I’d love to have Diva.
Hi Lace, I managed to sneak two books along for my travels. Unfortunately, I’ve been doing a lot more work on the blog during this trip so I haven’t had as much time to read! What are your favorite books to take with you on the road?
Hawaii! The essentials….y’know…summer dresses, sandals, sunscreen, bikini, necessary toiletries … and of course the Diva Cup and Wash! 🙂
Heck yes! The Diva Cup makes going to the beach a must! Thanks for reading Toby!
Great list! It’s always been my dream to travel the world. Maybe some day.
Thanks Shelby! It’s never too late or too early to plan your own round the world trip!
I just found your website through Diva Cup on Facebook. I can’t wait to read more about your adventures! I can’t imagine living out of a backpack for a year – brave lady!
Thanks Cristy! It certainly is a challenge to travel long-term, but very rewarding! I hope you keep following along!
Wow! What great advice! I’ve been reading a lot about the Diva cup but have not had the chance to try it yet!
Also like that your pack loads from both ends! I always found my top loader so cumbersome!
Hi Amy! Yes, I heard the same complaint from a lot of the backpackers I talked to before I purchased mine. I also love all of the pockets, perfect for packing in a hurry and organizing all the little stuff!
I am going to send the link to this blogpost to all my sisters and friends. I think the Diva Cup would be an awesome gift for a certain friend of mine!
Please do Christina! I’ve been telling all of my girlfriends about it too, though a lot of them are still skeptical!
My husband and I like to go light weight backpacking/camping and I wish I had a Diva cup the last time we went. It’s super inconvenient to stop every fifteen minutes to clean up when things aren’t going quite as planned. Thanks for the tips.
Yes, my periods always seem to be heavier when I’m camping or traveling, but the Diva Cup is perfect for those instances. No mess or worries at all! Thanks for reading and commenting Kaiya!
Love this post and would love to try out the Diva Cup. Thanks!
Thanks Rhiannon! Check back tomorrow, I’ll be announcing the winner and sending them an email!
Hello,Awesome blog!Be blessed!
Thanks Darlene, right back atchya!
This was great! I’m hoping to go on a backpacking trip to Europe next summer, and I was at a loss for what to bring. Thank you!
Hi Jen! Europe in the summer is absolutely lovely! Where are you planning on going? I just put up a guide all about France and I have one for Italy too. Don’t forget to check out my photography page for some inspiring photos 😉
This is awesome! Thanks for all the tips 🙂 (And I would love to win a DivaCup…)
Thanks Rebecca! I’ll be choosing a winner tomorrow, best of luck!
Great tips!! I’ve never gone backpacking but I know it’s somewhere in my immediate future and this will be a great guideline for me! Also, menstrual cups are awesome and they are so perfect for backpacking! No waste!
I agree Rebecca! Good luck on your future travel endeavors, I hope you find some of my other travel tips on the blog helpful!
thanks for the great article, i’m currently packing for a 3 week vacation. i was having trouble figuring out how much to pack. the diva cup is a life saver! I’ve gone camping with it once now. hope to hear more about your adventures!
Thanks Jeanne! I hope you keep reading and following along on the blog!
Great tips on how to pack….love the diva cup, small and compact to bring along for travels…one for my house and one for my purse 🙂
Thanks Melissa! Yes, saving space is just one of the benefits of the Diva Cup! I’m an over packer so this was another selling point for me!
i used a steripen while i was traveling, instead of a water filter – a little pricier and requires batteries but works really well and is immediate. and of course, the divacup is the best 🙂
Hi Kira, I haven’t done much research on steripens. I love the Sawyer filter because it has such a long duration and is so simple to use. I’ll look into the steripen too though.
I first found out about the Diva Cup from a friend who was researching options for a 3 month backpacking trip through Australia. I spend a lot of time in the outdoors camping and hiking and that time of the month can be so inconvenient when you’re miles away from any facilities. I need to invest in the cup!
It can definitely be a hassle without the Diva Cup! It’s perfect for hiking and camping, just make sure you have clean water and the Diva wash or soap to properly clean it!
What a great blog! I’d love to win one of those Diva Cups 🙂
Thanks Jestina, best of luck to you! I’ll announce the winner tomorrow.
Awesome advice! I’d love to do workaways at some point and stay in a foreign country for an extended period of time!
I highly recommend it Laura! I’ve loved the Workaways I’ve done in France, it’s the best way to immerse yourself in a culture and save money at the same time!
Just found your blog through herpackinglist.com and loving it. 🙂 Great idea about packing snacks, that’s an easy one to forget!
Thanks so much for reading Ijana! Are you traveling now or planning a trip soon? I’d love to hear about it!
Great tips- especially on how to pack! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for reading Alex!
I wish I would have read this before my east coast adventure- I started my cycle the day I landed and it was so stressful trying to navigate the whole week around my feminine products. Boo!
Uh, it’s absolutely the best! Sometimes I literally forget I’m on my period. No mess or stress! It does take a little bit of getting used to the first month or two but it’s totally worth it!
I think I have a very similar striped shirt and floral scarf combo. Haha! Great minds.
Colleen Brynn recently posted…I Live For You
So funny! Yes, my scarf is something I can’t live without, I love it. Thanks for reading and commenting Colleen! Safe travels 🙂