What I packed for three months in North America

The first of three segments of my one year of travels are taking me to the humid Pacific Island climate of Hawaii to the chilly temperatures of Alaska and northern British Columbia. A lot of fun but difficult to pack for if everything needs to fit in a 40L backpack and a 10L day pack.

I used to travel with a 60L backpack. I will never do that again. I have a slight frame and I could barely carry the thing. It was agony when I had to walk more than a few metres and I’m sure it wasn’t good for my back. Downsizing to a 40L was one of the best travel decisions I have ever made.

My bags

I do think there is a time and a place for a suitcase and I use a small carry on for short trips and a larger suitcase if I know we have a car or we aren’t moving around much but for backpacking trips, I always use a backpack.

I’m sure some of you may disagree with me when I say that if you have a 40L backpack or smaller, it doesn’t matter so much if you don’t get the best brand on the market as you aren’t going to be carrying the same weight you would be with a larger backpack. I paid US$50 for my North Gear backpack in 2012 and although a couple of the toggles have broken (these could easily and cheaply be replaced but I am lazy) it held up great when I took it through the Americas for 13 months and on shorter trips since then. It is lightweight, comfortable and works for me just fine. My day pack was US$15 and I have been using it a lot since I first got it for travel as well as hikes around Sydney and it is still in perfect condition.

But anyway, you probably want to know what I packed for my trip now right? Well here is the low down

40L Backpack:

ClothingToiletries

  • 2 pairs Cotton On Leggings 
  • 1 Hooded sweatshirt
  • North Face Gore-tex Jacket (I left the fleece liner at home)
  • Icebreaker thermal long-sleeve top
  • Black cardigan
  • 3 black singlet tops
  • 1 Working-out singlet
  • 2 cotton singlets
  • 3 short dresses
  • 1 maxi dress
  • 1 pair of denim shorts
  • 1 pair of bike shorts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • Microfibre travel towel
  • Sarong
  • 2 bikinis
  • Toiletry Bag – shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face moisterizer, small body moisteriser, small body wash, razor, hand sanitiser, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, deodarant, small Bodyshop perfume, toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Small first aid kit – Dettol antiseptic cream, strapping tape, plasters, medicated wipes, bandage, small scissors
  • Contact lenses – 12 pairs
  • Medication – Valium, sleeping pills, Motion sickness tablets, Imodium, Rennies, Ibuprofen
  • 3 necklaces
  • 1 bracelet
  • 3 cotton carry bags – one for underwear, one for laundry and one spare
  • Pillowcase
  • 8 pairs of underwear
  • Summer Pajama shorts
  • Winter Pajama pants
  • Woollen hat
  • Icebreaker gloves
  • 1 pair of opaque stockings
  • 2 bras
  • 1 sports bra
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair thick hiking socks
  • 1 pair sleeping socks
  • 1 pair ankle socks
  • 1 pair Hiking boots 
  • 1 pair Jandalls (a.k.a. thongs, flip flops, slops)
  • 1 pair Birkenstock sandalls
  • Cotton beach bag
  • Sleeping bag – Vango Venom 300 Down 0c micro compact (this tiny sleeping bag only weighs 1kg!)
  • Orikaso folding plate, bowl and mug (these are super light-weight, easy to use and are flat plastic)
  • Spork
  • Coffee bags (like tea bags but with coffee)
  • Green tea bags
  • Two person Vango Soul 200 Hiking tent (strapped to the side of my bag)
  • 2 light patterned scarves

I found that if I roll my clothes and wear my hiking boots (or attach to the outside of my pack) on travel days then everything fits. My pack is top-loading but I can access the bottom too as there is a zip. I keep all my underwear items in a cotton bag so they are easy to find.

Underwear etc

10L day pack

  • Small makeup bag – powder foundation and brush, concealer, eyeliner, lipstick, tinted lipgloss, eyebrow pencil, pencil sharpener, tweezers, mascara
  • Journal
  • Book (since ditched)
  • Kobo and charger
  • Small padlock
  • Camera and lens – Canon EOS 600D with 18-55mm and 55-250mm lenses with padded camera bag
  • Camera charger
  • Phone charger
  • Mooncup (eco-friendly tampon alternative)
  • 2 cotton headbands
  • Plastic bags
  • Universal adaptor
  • Head torch
  • MacBook Air 11.6 inch laptop and charger with padded sleeve
  • Business cards
  • Small cloth wallet
  • Printed travel confirmations
  • Hairbrush
  • Plastic Drink Bottle
  • Hard drive – 400GB
  • 1 whistle
  • 1 Umbrella
  • 1 sleeping mask
  • 1 set of earplugs

Small backpack contents

It may seem like a lot of stuff but it all fits comfortably in my backpack with a bit of room to spare, especially since I ditched my paperback book that I was carrying around for the first couple of days.

Small leather handbag

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
  • iPod 16GB Mini and charging cable
  • Passport in holder
  • Wallet – Canadian and US dollars, Credit card, Debit card, NZ Debit card
  • Small notebook
  • Sunglasses
  • Pocket day planner (for writing down expenses and reminders)
  • USB stick
  • Glasses cleaning cloth
  • Lipgloss
  • Lucky scarab beetle (a small ceramic charm from Egypt)

I like having a small handbag to carry my everyday stuff in and this small leather one has done me well.

Since leaving Sydney I bought one more singlet and another short dress in Hawaii, and I bought another singlet in Seattle. I still want to buy a thin woollen jumper when I am in Vancouver and maybe some Toms or Converse sneakers for the cooler nights nearer the end of my trip so I won’t have to wear my hiking boots all the time. I should just be able to squeeze the extra stuff in my bag.

A week into my trip, I am really happy with what I packed and that I packed more dresses this time around as they are what I wear most in my every day life. I am also so glad that I bought Birkenstocks as I can walk for hours in them without getting sore feet.

So there is is folks, my life for the next three & a half months packed into two small bags. I have to say it feels great.

What do you think of my packing list? Would there be anything else you would add or anything you don’t think you would need?

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