My Packing List Constants

One of the most stressful parts of leaving on a new big adventure (at least for me) is deciding what to pack! When you backpack you carry everything you need, essentially your home around on your back like a hermit crab. Except hermit crabs don’t have to worry about having appropriate shoes.

last year

I’m a little more than a month away from leaving for South America (!!!)  and I’m going through my travel checklist, looking for decent travel insurance, finalizing my itinerary etc. But it’s the packing that really kills me. Packing for Australia and Asia last year was hellish but in some ways Latin America is even tougher. It doesn’t help that I have an extremely open-ended itinerary. I’m basically trying to pack for an entire continent with changing seasons and altitudes which mean I’ll need clothing for a variety of temperatures. I’ll be spending a lot of time in posh cities like Bogota and Buenos Aires so I don’t want to look like a total slob but I’ll probably also be scrambling over ruins, climbing mountains and lounging on beaches.

Add in the totally indecisive neurotic behaviors I seem to develop only in relation to packing and you have a pretty un-happy me. The other day I spent 2 hours just trying to pick out a windbreaker! And I didn’t even buy one!

My one saving grace is my travel constants. I’ve been backpacking long enough that I’ve developed a range of travel gear that I know I can depend on in any scenario. These are the things I remember to take with me on every single trip and can’t live without.

My backpacker uniform

My Packing List Constants

  • Sleep mask- a nice thick sleep mask can help you get some rest in the most adverse conditions- busy hostels, long bus rides, the summer solstice. I have a nice pair from Dream Essentials and I take them everywhere.
  • Crossbody bag– I love crossbody bags to use as daypacks. They are much safer from theft than purses and you can definitely find the right one for any trip. Here’s a great post for you to find your best crossbody bag for travel.
  • Quick drying towel– My first backpacking trip I brought a full size towel and oh-boy that was a pain in the ass. Since then I’ve switched to an REI brand towel that dries super fast and folds up super tiny. You can’t really sit on it at the beach but it’s super useful for packing (you don’t want to know what a damp towel will do after 12 hours in your hot backpack. Trust).
  • Hard-core flip flops– in warm weather I live in flip flops, so I like to have a comfy and durable pair that can withstand a mountain climb or two.
  • A big scarf– So versatile: wear it around your neck when it’s chilly outside, as a blanket on icebox bus rides or fold it up for a makeshift pillow. It’s a coverup when you need to visit a temple and- in a real emergency- can even be a skirt.
  • Comfortable jeans– I don’t care what anyone says, I am pro-jeans on the road. They are just so comfy and warm and nothing looks quite as stylish when you want to go out at night.
  • Built-in-Bra tank tops- They sell these at the Gap Outlet in a variety of colors and I pretty much live in them on the road. They are comfortable, layer-able , good in hot weather and you can sleep in them. I literally own about 12.
  • Eyelash curler- I’m vain, okay? I happily go make-up free on the road, but if you need to look a little polished some nice curly eyelashes go a long way.

What about you, what are your packing constants? 

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34 thoughts on “My Packing List Constants”

  1. I picked up a sarong in Malaysia, and I love that thing. I use it as a makeshift towel, a shawl or scarf when it’s chilly, an eye mask (yes, I have covered my entire head with the whole thing while on the bus) and as a replacement for pants while I’m lounging around in my hotel or apartment.
    I’d also definitely suggest a small travel umbrella. I use mine for rain & shine (both of which happen lots in China in the summer!).

  2. Yes, absolutely the eye mask! I have this cheesy black one with white stitching that looks like closed eyelids/eyelashes. It’s over the top, but so comfortable… I’ve been traveling with it for a decade, and it helps so much on long flights. I’m sure the flight attendants must get a chuckle…

  3. I really wish that I had followed the jean advice these days. I’m learning to drive a motorbike and I would feel so much more comfortable if I was a little less exposed in the case of a tumble.

    1. If it’s any consolation (this coming from someone who rides a motorbike every single day) you may as well be naked. At higher speeds (anything over 40kmph) jeans will do zilch. I fell off once doing less than half that speed, and only the fact that my jeans had kevlar lining saved me from road rash.
      Skirt or jeans, on a motorbike, they are just as bad as each other.

  4. REI travel towels are the best! Also don’t like to travel anywhere without my phone and charger. Batteries and charger for camera a plus if going anywhere for more than a week.

  5. I’d add these, never go anywhere without them!

    1. Combination lock
    2. Flashlight/headlamp
    3. Ibuprofen
    4. Nail clippers
    5. iPod (sometimes all you want is your own music)

  6. Love it… I agree packing is hell! For me aside from my camera and laptop I must bring:
    *wrist watch (time & alarm)
    *electric razor (I hate shaving so I brought my mini trimmer with me)
    *jeans (Im a jean person would die with out them)

  7. The eye mask is a must for me too. I need darkness to fall asleep so an eye mask really helps. I tend to get sick when I travel, so I usually pack ColdFX and other things to help fight colds.

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