Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania. He prefers a slower pace to his travels to explore destinations more in-depth and to get a feel for what life is actually like there. When he’s not writing, he’s usually off exploring trails with his fiancée, Kaitlyn.
Explore a concise packing list for travel through a seasoned traveler’s lens. Discover essentials that are easy to overlook, ensuring a hassle-free trip.
Did you know that about two-thirds of travelers admit to packing more than they actually use?
Okay, I made that stat up. But I can say confidently that most people overpack.
As someone who considers it a challenge to limit myself to the smallest amount, I’m here to guide you on how to break free from the overpacking trap and journey with just the essentials.
Now, I’m not saying I’m the best packer or ultimate minimalist. Far from it.
I try to find the balance between comfort and minimalism. How much can I take but still enjoy myself and not regret leaving anything?
It’s a packing checklist I’m always experimenting with.
But whether you’re on a mission to see the world or just about to embark on your first-ever trip, this packing list can help you.
So, I’ll dive into how to get everything you need into a 35-40L backpack. And, with the right strategies, you can have all your necessities comfortably tucked away for easy carrying, avoiding check-in queues and excess baggage fees.
Let’s get started.
Choosing the Right Backpack
Your trip starts before you even leave your home.
Heck, it starts before you even pull out your suitcase, or in our case, backpack. And no, it’s not lazing around, daydreaming about the mojito you’ll be sipping on a tropical beach.
It’s about selecting the right backpack for our purposes.
You see, our love for backpacks isn’t just a quirky preference. It’s logic-infused. By sticking to a 35 to 40-liter backpack, you ensure your travel gear isn’t going to exceed the airline’s carry-on standards.
And who doesn’t like skipping the wait at the luggage carousel? (I try to avoid it at all costs.)
Also, make sure it’s water-resistant and, obviously, comfortable.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with this pack, so make sure it’s a goodie.
So, let’s get into what to pack.
1. Clothing to pack
- 5 basic shirts: Neutral colors that can pair with anything are best.
- 7 pairs of underwear: Pack light and wash often. A week’s worth is perfect.
- 8 pairs of socks: I run often when I travel, so extra is good.
- 1 thermal layer: This can be a long-sleeve or anything that keeps you warm.
- A lightweight hoodie: Great for layering and keeping cozy on those long days.
- 1 pair of jeans: You’d be surprised how often you can re-wear jeans.
- 2-3 shorts/skirts: Varies depending on exercise/activities, but 2-3 is good.
- 1 bathing suit: I just use my shorts, but you can include one if you want.
- Lightweight rain jacket: For those unexpected downpours.
- 1 pair of versatile footwear: I pick running & walking shoes.
- 1 pair of sandals: Simple, easy, and light.
Also, consider the color of your clothes.
If everything is color coordinated, it’ll be easier to mix and match each day — saving you space and reducing the number of items you need to pack.
2. Gear to pack
- Macbook/Laptop: Indispensable for work or entertainment
- iPhone: Maps, apps, music, or movies — everyone uses their phone.
- Sony Camera: For shooting the best moments and landscapes.
- Portable Chargers: Lifesavers during long travel days.
- Chargers: I always have chargers for all my devices.
- Noise-canceling headphones: For those long flights or noisy hostels.
- eReader: Books add a lot of bulk, so an eReader is a great solution.
- Universal power adapter: Always useful.
3. Toiletries and personal care
I don’t have any prescription medication, so be sure to include that with your own list:
- Small toothbrush: Travel-sized and easy to carry.
- Small toothpaste: Also travel-sized.
- 1 deodorant: Smaller, travel-sized versions do the trick.
- 1 razor: I like to use a compact travel razor.
- A travel towel: These come in handy more than you know.
I love compartmentalizing my stuff, so I use a lightweight travel toiletries bag.
Top packing tips
Packing for a trip, especially as a beginner, can seem overwhelming — what to bring and what not to bring.
And the ultimate question—how does it all fit inside a single backpack?
As a person who’s lived out of a 35-40L backpack longer than I care to admit, here are my top packing tips to lighten your load without missing essentials:
- Maximize space with packing cubes: If I joined a church, it’d be for packing cubes. These compact organizers save space and make locating your items quicker and easier. I break them down according to categories — shirts in one, pants in another, underwear/socks in the third.
- Pack smart with layers: Pack clothes that can be layered over one another and adapt to varying weather conditions. It makes you more prepared for the weather and means you pack less.
- Multipurpose items to save space: Carrying multipurpose items is also a smart hack. For instance, a microfiber towel doubles as a blanket and can be a pillow on those long-haul flights.
- Pack efficiently: Only bring necessary items. And pack your heaviest items closest to your back to help with weight distribution. Pair of shoes? Try to put them in the center of the backpack to help your back out.
- Laundry hacks for long-term travel: If you travel for an extended period, consider how often you’ll be able to do a wash instead of packing multiple outfits. Carry a travel-sized detergent and a universal sink plug, and you’re set for a quick laundry session.
Armed with these tips, I’m confident you’ll be packing smarter and traveling lighter in no time.
Trust me, if you can slim down to a 35-40L backpack, you’ll feel free from airline constraints (not to mention you’ll save A TON of money).
Ready to start your trip?
Packing lightly is not just about saving space and weight; it’s also about the freedom to move around easily, to be spontaneous, and to not be bogged down by stuff.
So grab that 35-40L backpack of yours, and let’s get packing!
Let me know if these tips helped you and what you’ll be packing for your next trip!