Backpackers Checklist

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

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Fanny pack (carry-on) + Backpack

What I packed [Fanny pack/carry-on]:

  • Journal, pens
  • Watch
  • 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
  • Headphones
  • Eye mask (highly recommend)
  • Ear plugs (highly recommend)
  • Make up bag
  • Face and hand wipes
  • Tissues
  • Small lotion
  • Chap stick
  • Toiletries
  • Glasses/Contacts
  • (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)
  • Band-Aids
  • Antibacterial lotion
  • Mints
  • 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
  • Bikini
  • Sleeping bag
  • Travel towel
  • Water bottle, water bag + filter
  • Mace
  • Flashlight

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.

Last Thoughts…

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.

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