Mar 6, 2016

Backpacking Girl's Ultimate Travel Guide: How to Pack Light

     I still remember when I first saw a what's-in-my-bag video on YouTube years ago. After clicking play and watching for a couple of seconds, I was flabbergasted, jaw hitting the floor, eyes tearing up, muscles cramping from laughing, the whole shebang. And so I called a friend of mine, telling him about the video, pressing him to watch. When he thus started watching it himself, he said a few moments into the clip, "Does she have a gun in there? Because I have a flaming urge to shoot myself." And I thought, "My sentiments exactly." I mean, who the fuck would watch this shit, who cares what in other people's bags is?
     As it turned out, a lot of people would watch that shit — that video alone has over a million views, the girl has over 2 million YouTube subscribers and there's over a million what's-in-my-bag videos. I guess the joke's on me. But as if that wasn't enough, that started an avalanche of similar videos: what's in my backpack, what's in my beauty bag, what's in my travel bag, what's in my purse, what's in my beach bag, what's in my dance bag, what's in my hospital bag, what's in my boyfriend's mom's second cousin's saddlebag, etc. So no wonder, I one day stumbled upon a video of a girl showing what she packs in her suitcase when going on vacation. And once again, I was flabbergasted.
     I distinctly remember repeatedly slamming my head against the desk thinking, "Where the fuck are you going? The beauty products addicts anonymous convention? And did you buy an extra plane ticket for your Sherpa to carry all that shit around for you?" So I decided to put together something a tad more useful for a girl that's not ... How do I put this nicely? For a girl that's not all that girlie and here we are — Backpacking Girl's Ultimate Travel Guide: How to Pack Lightly.
     First off, I just put ultimate in the title because it's catchy — I'm not delusional, I don't think I'm an authority on anything, it's just something to grab the reader's attention. BUT. Since I've backpacked all across Jordan with my brother and his then girlfriend now the best wife ever, zigzagged the States on a San-Fran-to-NYC road trip with an awesome friend of mine, backpacked all over Thailand with my ride or die boyfriend and visited a bunch of European capitals and other cities were I've slept on/at/in hostels, cars, airports, ships, hotel rooms, tents, couches, sail boats and even on one pallet under the stars in the middle of a desert as well as couch-surfed and Airbnb-ed, maybe I could share a tip or two on how to pack lightly whether you're going somewhere warm for a week or for a whole month.
     The following tips are pretty much useless, though, if you religiously watched Gossip Girl and/or Sex and the City thinking that you're 'such a Carrie' because in that case you'll probably need something more elaborate (find that video of the girl going to the BPAA convention mentioned above) and will think this is too hardcore. But if you aren't all that demanding and need some tips on how to downsize your packing list, look no further. There are also a few other useful tips thrown in there, so you might want to read on even if you are indeed a Carrie.

5 to 10 (10 is actually far too many, trust me) shirts and just (hand) wash them on the go. I usually take mostly (if not only) black and white tops because sweat stains aren't (as) visible, but to avoid looking like a mime, I take some with prints and slogans.

2 pairs of shorts or skirts. Again, to not look like a mime, I take colourful, fun pieces which all go with black and white tops. I also make sure I take stuff that's comfortable and that covers the entire expanse of my ass and all my lady parts. Oh, and has pockets, pockets are always handy.

A set of warm clothes: one top (sweater, cardie, hoodie, knit, whatever), one pair of pants (jeans, jeggings, leggings, sweatpants, whatever) and that's it. You can go on a plane in that and save space. Another tip on what to leave your house in if you're going someplace where it's a lot hotter that where you're from, is a tunic or a dress with leggings under it and a cardigan (which then acts as your warm top piece) so you can simply take your leggings and top off when you land. Then put a pair of leggings in your hand luggage when you're going home and put them on while flying home.

A thin, roll-me-up-and-squeeze-me-to-a-size-of-a-pea waterproof and windproof jacket.

A giant light thin scarf — you can cover with it when needed (if it gets cold or if you decide to visit a church or a temple) and it can act as a beach dress as well.

Pyjamas or whatever you sleep in. During summer, I sleep in boxers and a t-shirt so that's what I take. For longer periods of time, I take two of each, and wash them when needed.

Underwear. This might seem puzzling, but make sure to take some pieces (if not all) that are synthetic because they dry quicker since you'll be washing them on the go. And since you'll be washing them, you don't have to take all of your lingerie wardrobe with you (I take a weeks-worth of underwear, even if I'm traveling for 6 weeks, for example).

Socks. Similar than above applies.

If you're like me and are planning on exploring the night life here or there as well, one fancy night time outfit (which works with your sneakers (or flat sandals if you're taking them)), for example a playsuit, a high wasted skirt and a crop top, a fun summer dress. And here's where make-up comes in: I take one concealer if I get a zit or two, one tiny brush, one eyeliner, one mascara, two eye shadows (a dark neutral one and a light one) and do a quick 3-minute smokey eye. The fucking end. No need to take the entire Rimmel and half the Maybeline beauty line with you. Which brings me to nail polish: a, a as in one, nail polish is optional. I stopped taking it because in the end I just couldn't be bothered with that since I like to spend my time doing other stuff rather than watching (my nail) paint dry. I used to take some jewellery too but not any more — honestly, with my blue/red/purple hair and a tone of piercings and tattoos, I can do without. If you can't, take a cool necklace or a pair of earrings that complements your party outfit.

A few plastic bags for storing your dirty clothes so not everything in your backpack smells.

A pair of sneakers (if you're about to do city hopping) which you couldn't care less about if you dirty them, rip them, throw up on them, step in shit in them or in any other way wreck them completely. A good pair of hiking shoes (if you're about to do mountain hopping), which you've worn before (to avoid getting blister). A pair of open flat sandals is optional. And what about flip-flops? You can always buy them at your destination if it turns out that you simply cannot live without them. Another smart thing to do is to wear your heaviest footwear on the plane — it's a lot easier to carry weight around that way than having everything on your back.

A bottle of hand sanitizer.

Wax before you go. I always wax all my body hair that needs to be gone (yes, all of it, armpits, privates, legs, all of it) before I go on a trip so I don't have to bother with that shit for a while and just take a razor with me to deal with it when I have to (sometime before looking like a Chewbacca).

Nail clippers or scissors and a nail file, the smaller the better.

Toothbrush and toothpaste. If you're traveling with someone, talk about who takes what and then share, it saves space. This goes for other items on the list as well (shower gels, hairbrushes, repellents, creams, medicine, etc.).

A few cotton swabs. Just wrap them in a piece of toilet paper. Trust me, those feel like an orgasm when you remember you have them halfway through your trip.

1 medium size shower towel and 1 beach towel.

Tampons and/or pads if you're a girl, you lucky bastard, you.


A lip balm.

A bottle of bug repellent.

lotion you can use for body, face and hands if your skin isn't fussy. If it is, take whatever makes it happy. But not EVERYTHING that makes it happy.

I only take a bottle of shampoo and use it as a body wash as well and I wash my clothes with it too.

Wet wipes, the kind you can use on your face as well as genitalia.

A deodorant, a spray not a roll-on or a stick one because chances are you're not always going to be squeaky clean on your trip and by using a roll-on deodorant on unclean skin you're just smearing bacterium around and transferring them onto the once-freshly-smelling-but-not-so-much-any-more deodorant stick. Plus, a spray deodorant can act as a perfume for the duration of your trip, which for the purposes of saving space, lessening your luggage weight and avoiding spillage I advise against taking.

A small wallet for change.

Ear plugs and a sleep mask. I actually never use ear plugs, because I'm too freaked out to close my eyes if I can't hear my surroundings, but I'm mentioning them because they're actually a smart thing to have if you're not a weirdo like me.

A pair of sunglasses which, similarly like with shoes above, you couldn't care less about if you scratch them, step or sit on them or in any other way wreck them completely. Make sure you can put them on and off of your head without ripping half your hair out.

Medication. Try taking some antibiotics, painkillers and antihistamines if you suffer from allergies, a disinfectant healing cream and a couple of bandages.

Travel insurance. Don't be an idiot, get one. Save money elsewhere.

All electronic devices you need. I take my cellphone, a DSLR camera, a tablet and a portable disk, but what you need is up to you, just leave your electric toothbrushes and portable massagers at home.

Chargers for all of your electronic devices. Go through all the devices you plan on taking and pack all their chargers. Or else you risk running around Chiang Mai looking for a camera shop because you forgot to pack the charger for your camera's battery. Just as an example.

Take a photo of your passport with your phone and save it as well as send it to your email address so you always have access to it in case you lose your documents. The same goes for all other travel documents (tickets, visas, forms, etc.).

A small backpack (use it as hand luggage) for water, snacks, your camera, a guidebook, etc. It doesn't hurt to have a lock on it.

A backpack cover. I hope you plan on traveling with a backpack, because suitcases are just extra annoying to carry around, so be smart, travel with a backpack. But since those have a ton of straps and cords and shit, make sure to get a cover or some sort of a sack, to put it in before you check it at the airport — those loops and straps can get snagged during transfer and you end up with a mangled up torn up mess when you land. Try to avoid that even if you don't decide to get a protective cover and at least clip and tie together as much of your backpack's dangly appendages as possible.

travel money belt for storing money, your passport and credit cards. You might think it's a bit extreme but it's really handy and really safe. If you're extra careful (or, as some may say, paranoid), you can shove it in a pillow case and sleep on it on trains or in hostels.

The latest edition of a guidebook. Just make sure it isn't over 3 years old (data on hostels, hotels, restaurants, entrance fees, timetables, etc. can become outdated). Don't feel bad spending money on it — in the end it's a pretty cool souvenir you can keep forever.

A pen and a piece of paper. You never know when you need to write something down and your phone's battery is dead.

While we're on the subject, a portable power bank or battery charger isn't the stupidest thing to have on hand.

One of those tiny sewing kits. For some reason, on every trip so far those turned out to come in handy: I've sown buttons, bra straps, backpack straps, took out thorns with needles, pierced blisters, you name it.

A ton of patience, positivity and calmness. I mean it, a ton. TON. Any problem, if you're not stupid enough to do something illegal in a foreign country, can be solved — if you calmly go about it with patience and a positive outlook.

And one more thing: HAPPY AND SAVE TRAVELS!

     Thanks for stopping by and looking and reading (obviously) my mishmash jumble of pot-pourri-like craziness, it means the world to me. Therefore, you're welcome to pop by again next week to see what's new on the blog — I post once a week every week, most likely somewhere between Wednesdays and Sundays. But beware, I'm not signing and sealing that in blood so your best bet is to follow FPS via email (or Bloglovin, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Google+) to never miss an update. Or simply come by again sometimes!