(This is what I pack as a woman. If you'd like to see a male version, check it out here.)
Over the past 12 months, I’ve lived and travelled across Europe and Southeast Asia. I move often - either for work or to meet friends - so number one on my agenda is staying prepared to fly. When I started my trip, I had no idea how long I would be gone for and I still never really know the kind of places I’ll be staying in. So, how did I decide what to pack or how much to bring?
I read a few blogs on how to become a minimalist and capsule pack (against my instinct), then devised a cunning framework. Everything that came along had to be: (1) practical; (2) adaptable; and (3) strong. Practical meant designed to serve a proper purpose - no fur capes or high-heeled jelly shoes then. Adaptable meant good for a hike, the city, and the beach. And strong meant decent quality - rugged and long-lasting.
Initially, I felt a bit of separation anxiety knowing that I wouldn't have a choice. Living in one place I’d dress according to my mood and select freely from a wardrobe I’d be growing since my teens. Yet, as a nomad, I had only what packs into my 50 litre backpack. Nonetheless - it wasn’t long before I realized why so many people bang on about minimalism. Physically travelling light means mentally traveling light too. Spending 5 minutes getting ready in the morning frees up my mind, so that I feel hyper-efficient and ready to take the day by storm. Much better than being hit by decision paradox over black or blue jeans before 8am.
So - here is what made the cut for warmer climates. Quick note: I collected everything I could for the photos, but some items are missing.
- 3x vest tops (or tank tops in the US)
- 3x T-shirts
- 2x shorts
- 1x harem pants
- 1x jeans
- 1x yoga pants and sweat vest
- 2x long dress
- 1x short dress
- 1x long-sleeve top
- 1x hoodie
- 1x light jacket (a bomber jacket is great)
- 5x underwear sets
- 1x running shoes
- 1x canvas trainers (or sneakers)
- 1x flip flops
- 1x smarter sandals
- 1 x packable rain jacket
- 2 x patterned silk scarves
All my clothes are plain - usually black, navy, grey or white. This ensures that each combination works and no item is too recognisable. (And I never get called out for wearing the same clothes twice). I’m not into brands but to pass the strength test I check the fabric of everything I buy meticulously. For example, nothing beats a pair of cotton denim shorts for longevity, but I'll also pack a lightweight blended cotton pair that dry quickly. For T-shirts and vests, I love bamboo fibre. It's breathable, strong, doesn't get creased - and better for the earth than cotton. I’ve found that Nooboo, a Dutch brand, make the best bamboos.
For shoes, I pack canvas trainers because they’re comfy, strong, super light and breathable. Often I don’t have to wear socks. I always buy Birkenstocks because the leather is great quality and they're the toughest sandals out there.
With all the shorts and tank tops, it's easy to look a little post-workout whilst traveling. Packing a couple of looser, floaty items like harem pants or a maxi-dress can sort that out. They feel and look more elegant than jersey fabrics and are great in humid climates like Bali. I also make sure to pack a couple of silk scarves, picked up in markets on previous trips. These take up no space at all and add a splash of color when I need it. They're also very handy for covering shoulders in Southeast Asia when it's too hot to carry a pullover. If you want to visit temples this is key - so yes, even they pass the practicality test.
- Smartphone (unlocked!)
- Noise-canceling earbuds
- External hard drive
- Wireless keyboard
- Wireless mouse
- Laptop stand
- Universal plug convertor
- External battery pack
- Old school manual camera
- Portable speaker (I love my Minirig)
Since I work online, it's super important that I keep my electronics and chargers accessible and organised. The ESCAPADE gear pouch ensures that I know exactly where everything is. Before, I'd spend at least 2 minutes per day untangling headphones and cables from the depths of my backpack. Now, 2 minutes is a long time when you’ve just connected to wifi and running late for a Skype call! I’m tall, so I make sure to set up with a laptop stand, mouse, and keyboard at my coworking space. Prevention first - no amount of yoga and pilates can remedy a back screwed up from hunching. On the go, playing music makes me feel instantly at home so I always pack a portable speaker. Paired with a deck of cards, this doubles up to be a useful friend-making device in locations such as campsites and beaches.
- Wallet: ID/ credit/debit cards (I use a Monzo card to avoid foreign bank charges)
- Sleep mask
- Foam ears plugs (still better than silicon)
- Pack of cards
- Reusable water bottle (they’re big on travelling responsibly in Asia)
- Pack of cards
- Good quality sunglasses
- Old school manual camera
- Notebooks and pens
These random items, I've come to realize, can make or break a trip. Reaching full sensory shut off with an eye mask and earplugs means that I can wind down and get some sleep even if I land in a really in hectic place. Working online, it’s important to make time to switch off digitally too. I find that going out for an afternoon sans-phone, with just a manual camera, notebook and pen balance me out creatively. Recording things this way also makes for great reflection and storytelling back home.
- Tooth powder (not toothpaste)
- Minimal makeup (eyeliner, mascara, BB cream)
- Day + Night face cream
- 3 x essential oils
- SPF tanning oil
- Coconut oil
- Travel towel
Everything on this list is stowed away neatly into a DASH Dopp kit. I chose this washkit because it's the most hard-wearing out there and has little compartments to keep everything separated. The orange zipper tags also help me to recognize it if I’m sharing a busy hostel bathroom!
For my washkit, I use powders and oils, all under 50ml. They're more concentrated than lotions which means I can fit my entire kit in a carry-on. (Essential if you've ever experienced the horror of 36 hours without a toothbrush). I always carry a few 10ml bottles of essential oils - sounds luxurious but they're actually really practical. Lavender, for example, works as a perfume, sleep aid, and a bug repellent - and eucalyptus oil cleanses hair. I find that if I moisturise well, I don't really need much makeup. One of the smug advantages of living in hot climate means having a healthy year-round glow.
We all have different needs and things that are important to us. Whether you’re an organized control freak or have the tendency to be a little scattered (putting my hand up) - no one can go on a long trip without keeping their gear organized and protected. It’s better to decide on a kit system before you go than realizing you need an extra pack whilst out there - there's no way to shop online when you don’t have an address and I would not vouch for the quality of locally-bought items. I went with Bond Travel Gear packs because I trust that they’ll last and they force me to be organized. Now that I know where everything is and I’m a ninja through security, I’ve lost a total of 1 item this year. And that, I think, is pretty good going.
Katie is a freelance copywriter and brand marketing consultant. Hailing from London, UK, she’s lived everywhere from an open bamboo house in Bali to an 8th floor piso in gothic Barcelona. Check out her words at www.katherinemjones.com
Hiking in Montserrat, Spain.