You would think by the end of the trip I would have mastered putting on a bag that weighs about a quarter of my weight. The truth, I never got better at lugging it around.
This list is most appropriate for traveling on a budget, in summer, in Australia, if you’re constantly moving, and if staying in hostels or somewhere that provides bedding. I arranged the bag to have my sleeping bag at the very bottom, followed by heavy items, then all the rest. Putting the weight on your hips with a buckle/belt helps more than if the heavy items are up high, weighing down shoulders or upper body. I went very light with the packing, and although I did have to buy items (a bag, clothes and food) along the way, minimalism is key. I also, somewhat regrettably, went for practicality over fashion.
What I Brought vs. What I Should Have Packed
Fanny pack (carry-on) + Backpack
What I packed [Fanny pack/carry-on]:
- Journal, pens
- Small lock (to secure items in room/hostel)
- Universal adapter
- Passport, license, two credit cards, one debit card, insurance card, Visa info
- Yen and Australian currency
- American phone and foreign smart phone + chargers
- Eye mask (highly recommend)
- Ear plugs (highly recommend)
- Make up bag
- Face and hand wipes
- Small lotion
- Chap stick
- (2) Sunglasses (I recommend cheap; I lost a pair and another shattered when a basketball hit it)
- Extra cloth bag/extra purse (this was used to put all my clean clothes in so they weren’t just floating around my bag)
- Plastic bags (good for putting food, cell phone, or dirty laundry in)
- Antibacterial lotion
- Secure pack/belt wallet
- Pictures – one of my family and one of GK
- Snacks: Clif bars, almonds, cashews, fruit snacks
What I should have brought: A small backpack or bag (not fanny pack), nice purse or clutch to take out, and a book. Everything else I would recommend and was used at least once. I ended up buying a medium size, water proof bag from Target ($15 AUD) the first week there.
What I packed [Backpack]:
- Toiletries: contacts, small shampoo/conditioner, razor, face wash, moisturizer, nail clippers, deodorant
- Food: clif bars, nuts, crackers, oatmeal and fruit snacks
- Shoes: Hiking boots, hiking sandals, TOMS, flip flops
- Clothes: [tops] 1 dry fit, 1 v-neck, 1 long sleeve pullover, 1 rain jacket, 2 tank tops, 1 long sleeve button up, [bottoms] 1 long skirt, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of gym shorts, 1 pair of yoga pant capris [other] 2 bras, 7 underwear, 6 pairs of socks
- Hats: fedora, skull cap
- Sleeping bag
- Travel towel
- Water bottle, water bag + filter
Total weight leaving: ~30 lbs. vs. Total weight returning: ~40 lbs.
What I should have brought: I took soap and razors from hostels/Japan hotels when they were available, and they ended up lasting me the entire trip. I wanted to save as much money as possible and not waste it buying food for every meal. I made oatmeal most mornings, then had snacks throughout the day, so only would have to buy lunch and/or dinner. Since I was moving hostels every day or few days, I couldn’t easily stock up on groceries. While the food I brought lasted most of the trip, I ended up buying fruit, peanut butter, rice cakes and some more bars at grocery stores along the way. A lot of the trips I went on had a meal included in the cost, so that also helped.
I did not pack near enough clothing or appropriate clothing. I packed as if I would be living in the outback the entire time I was there. But, clearly I didn’t. I should have packed nicer outfits (dresses, blouses, nice shorts, etc.). I ended up buying two pairs of shorts, three tank tops and a dress while there. I did laundry about once a week, or depending on how quickly I went through my clothes. Every hostel charged anywhere from $6-8 AUD to wash and dry, so I tried to wait as long as possible. I didn’t mind repeating outfits throughout the trip, and I wanted to keep my pack as light as possible.
The sleeping bag and water filter weren’t needed. Every hostel provided sheets and I filled up my water bottle in faucets and fountains. I didn’t use the mace or flashlight, but I would still recommend taking both, just in case.
I was happy and prepared with the majority of my packing. I would have packed “nicer” casual clothes than what I had, but I also didn’t want to take anything I didn’t mind accidentally losing or ruining. I may have only had about five outfit options, but I didn’t care and you notice all other backpackers doing their own rotation of limited choices. I brought no jewelry, which was worth leaving at home. Since I didn’t camp, taking out the sleeping bag would have given me about 1/4 to 1/3 extra space in my bag. Another challenge was souvenirs. I bought few, but when I did, I strategically put them in my bag in places they couldn’t break or get lost.
It was great living out of my bag. It proved that I can easily and comfortably live with close to nothing.