Disclaimer: This post is TL;DR, so if you CBF then watch this instead:
We are currently on a 8 month backpacking trip through China, Mongolia, Central Asia, and Europe. Here is a list of what we packed and why. Maybe it will help you pack too.
50L backpack – we both bought the Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley as it allows us to roll or carry on our backs as we please. It is not a traditional backpack, so it’s not as ergonomical as we would like. However there are more expensive / comfortable hybrid backpack options out there, or you could go for the traditional backpack. Main thing is to get one that zips all the way around to the bottom, so that you don’t have to empty out your whole bag out just to get that one item at the bottom. Also, one that enables locking is also important. You don’t want your stuff stolen. The smaller the pack the better.
Small backpack – I (Dishana) bought a Lululemon men’s running pack, and Alvin has a Burton one. You should pick one that is comfortable for you and small and light enough to carry just enough things (don’t overpack). We both carry around our laptops quite often so we had to pick one that fit our laptops, camera gear etc. External side drink bottle pocket is desirable and one with bits you can hook things to also helps.
Small cross body bag – for days where we can pack extra light.
Money belt – not a bag per se, but great for keeping spare money and passport in a secure place. Update July 2016 – we’ve only used it countries we didn’t feel as secure, also good for Alvin as an extra pocket when pants / shorts don’t have any
Hanging toiletries bag – one of our most highly recommended items. It keeps all your toiletries neatly organised in one spot and you can hang it anywhere (as opposed to placing your things on dirty / wet sink areas etc.). It also makes for easy carrying to and from your dorm room, and hanging in the shower area too.
Packing cells – these changed our lives! We bought four each – one for jackets, one for tops, one for bottoms and one for socks / underwear / bathers. They are so convenient for packing away / finding things / keeping things in the right spot. You don’t have to unpack / unroll everything just to find that one thing you need. We bought ours from Muji, but you can find them at most outdoor / adventure stores (Kathmandu / North face etc.) or Daiso (a fraction of the price and just as good).
Shoe bags – We both have one large shoe bag for hiking boots, and one small one for our other shoes. My small Sea to Summit shoe bag fits one pair of flats, trainers and my thongs.
Lots of other cases / cells / bags– to put all other things in. We like to pack our bags neatly so that there are no many ‘loose’ items in our backpack. It makes it easy to put way things / find things / not lose things. I have separate cases for the following not listed above:
– Cables, chargers, universal adapter
– Spare toiletries / girlthings
– Shaver and epilator, spare toiletries
– Medication etc.
Velcro cable organisers – another highly recommended item! All your cords and cables can stay neatly organised and it also helps keep track of which chargers and cables are missing when you see a loose cable tie (I’ve lost many a phone chargers on my travels!) I got mine from Daiso, but I’ve also seen some magnetic ones online.
We happen to be travelling in weather ranging from 0-35 degrees so unfortunately have to pack for hot and cold weather. We also plan to buy more layers if we need to.
I packed the following:
– 1 x general purpose jacket
– 1 x windproof, water resistant jacket
– 1 x hoodie for casual wear / home wear / transit wear
– 5 x t shirts
– 1 x long sleeve
– 1 x long sleeve thermal top
– 1 x maxi dress
– 1 x singlet
– 1 x pyjama top
– 1 x lululemon black leggings,
– 1 x 2xu leggings (for hikes and outdoor activities),
– 3 x shorts
– 1 x loose black pants
– 1 x pyjama shorts
Socks / Underwear / bathers
– 8 x pairs of socks (you could do with less if you wash more often)
– 10 x underwear (you could do with less if you wash more often)
– 3 x bra
– 1 x sports bra
– 1 x bathers
– 1 x everyday walking shoes (I’m wearing my adidas trainers)
– 1 x hiking boots (only bring these if you actually need them)
– 1 x thongs (theses are a must. Hostel bathrooms can be pretty derro)
– 1 x casual flats (you can probably do without these if you are OK with wearing trainers every day)
– 1 x cap
– 1 x sunnies
Alvin’s pack is pretty much the same just without the girly things.
Main thing to note is that you really don’t need that many clothes (I probably overpacked), and to bring quick drying things. The more often you do laundry, the less stuff you need to bring, but keep in mind drying times – which might be extended if you are going somewhere cold with no sun.
I am a girl so I like to bring everything. If you are minimalistic, you can probably get away with just a toothbrush, floss and toothpaste. But this is what I brought:
Toothbrush, floss and toothpaste – It’s not easy to find floss in China, so I bought lots and lots of floss. And anyone who knows me well, knows I have an obsession with flossing.
Small bottle of body wash –
you can definitely do without this as hostels (at a minimum) should supply body wash. You can always buy some locally if you don’t have any. Update July 2016, most hostels we’ve stayed in provide nothing. You can always buy some locally if you don’t have any.
Face wash, moisturisers, sunscreen
1 x face towel
microfibre small towel – Important to find one that doesn’t take up much space and is quick drying. Alvin and I bought ours from Lululemon, you can also find these at outdoor / camping / adventure stores. Update July 2016 – the microfibre towels are very good at absorbing smells, we’ve found this with our towels as well as with other travellers. Another tip is that we ended up cutting our towels in half to save even more space. Our tip now would to just buy a standard face towel (or slightly larger if you like), or find a turkish hamam style bath towel instead.
Cotton buds and cotton pads
Pads / tampons / lots and lots of liners
Face mirror – ideally one that can stand on its own. Sometimes hostel bathrooms aren’t the nicest smelling / looking so you may not want to spend all that much time in there doing your makeup
Shaver and epilator – you can bring a razor to save space.
Nailclippers – SO HANDY, to cut nails, and cut labels, and cut anything
Hairties – lots of them because you know you lose one every day
Alvin bought a hair dryer – I haven’t blow dried my hair in years ( but that may change when we get to zero degree weather) Update July 2016 – we sent this back home. Most hostels have hair dryers, and if they dont, then whoop dee doo.
LAUNDRY & CLEANING PRODUCTS
Laundry kit – sink plug, clothes line and laundry soap
Tide stain remover pen
Travel wipes – to clean your face, body, bag, shoes, everything
Laundry bag – to separate your dirty laundry from your clean stuff
Tissues / toilet paper – you know you need this
Laptops – we need these for trip planning / editing / watch stuff. If you are going on a short trip, you (probably) won’t need this.
Cameras – for instagram
Phone – Alvin brought his iPhone, I just brought my iPod. Mainly use this just for note taking, telling the time, internet and social media. At this point in time we don’t anticipate buying sim cards.
Kobo e-reader – Alvin and I are avid readers but books have no place in our backpack. We both bought e-readers this year (we have the Kobo GLO HD, which is fabulous).
Universal adapter – easy and cheap to buy off eBay. Get one with USB plugs too.
Solar charger – only if you are going places without electricity, and where you must charge things. (Good for camping, or living in gers)
Passport holder – ideally the long ones that fit your boarding passes, train tickets etc.
Lock – for your big backpack. We recommend getting a keyless one with a pin code. We both bought locks with keys, and it gets pretty tedious finding / putting away the key everyday.
Carabiners – these are SO HANDY. I clip everything to everything. Especially handy when you are carrying too many things but need to keep things within easy access.
Sleeping bag liner – to sleep in where the hostel bed cleanliness is questionable. We bought a silk one from Kathmandu.
Re-usable cup – so that we can make tea and coffee in our own cups in hostels / trains etc. We bought ours from Frank Green.
Re-usable bottle – bring this if you are travelling somewhere with drinkable tap water. You can also look at bringing the collapsible type to save space.
Exercise bands – to stay ripped
Backpack raincover – my small backpack is not waterproof, so I bring a waterproof cover for hikes.
Headtorch – for hiking, for looking for things in the dark and not waking up your dorm room mates.
Eyemask – so you don’t get woken up when your dorm room mates turn on the light at 3am
Earplugs– so you don’t hear your dorm room mates snore
Gloves – for cold weather and hikes
Medication / first aid kit – we didn’t bring a first aid kit (you probably should), but we bought panadol, cold and flu medicine, gastro meds, bandaids.
Supplements – we just bought greens powder.
Budget book / notebook – we are on a budget of $50 a day, so it helps to note all our expenses somewhere. You can probably keep a log on your phone as well, but I’m old school, and like to write things down (I got my budget book from Kikki K). Having said that, I also love spreadsheets, so I have a larger spreadsheet showing all expenses and future expenses too.
Pens / glue – to fill in forms, sign things, glue your passport photo to forms
Photocopies & electronic scans of things – of your passport photo page, of visas, of entry stamp pages, travel insurance etc. We also took copies of booked flights, hotel bookings, maps, serial codes of all our electronics etc. You can use an app like Evernote to easily keep a photo and / or written log of everything. Evernote is awesome.
Passport photos – carry a few of these for any visa applications you might need.
That was a lot of reading but I hope that helped in some way. Happy travels.