Packing Essentials

Whether you are heading to the tropical islands, an African safari or the Arctic ocean, there are certain packing essentials that are fundamental for every trip. 

Check out the sections below to get started on preparing the basic packing essentials for your first solo trip!


packing essential: womens backpack osprey kyte 46L

I have been traveling with my 45L Osprey for years, and I love it.   

The one thing I recommend is to buy a panel-load (NOT top-load) backpack, especially if you plan to move around often.   Getting stuff in/out of a top-load backpack is a big pain in the butt, and I wish I had bought a panel-load instead from the beginning.

I highly recommend this Osprey Kyte 46L, as it comes with all the amazing features that you would expect in a top-brand backpack company, AND a full-size side zipper to access your contents from the panel!  

Some of the features you will love about the Osprey Kyte 46L:

•  Back ventilation – so useful if you plan to travel to a tropical climate!
•  Many side pockets to keep contents organized
•  A separate bottom compartment for sleeping liner, first aid kits, towels, shoes, etc.
•  Integrated rain cover
•  Hip pockets for extra storage – a perfect place to keep your snacks and earplugs 😉


packing essential: day pack osprey daylite daypack

I started my travels with a Deuter daypack, which began to come apart in a year.   Since I was already pleased with the quality of my Osprey backpack, I replaced my daypack with another Osprey, and I love it!

This 20L Daylite Plus is PERFECT for an outing, sightseeing around town, or for carry-on essentials during your flights.   A 20L capacity is ideal for all occasions, allowing you to carry a sweater/scarf, snacks, books/kindle and more.

I love the mesh pockets in the front panel that allows me to tuck away little things like keys, chapstick, earphones, hand sanitizer, and pens. 

Note: This daypack has a compartment to store an iPad or a tablet, but not it is not suitable for a laptop.  

The items listed below are all the things I carried, used and found valuable after 6 years of traveling abroad!

You may notice that I don’t list a lot of items recommended by other travelers, such as money belt, passport holder, Pacsafe web protector, etc.   It’s because I personally didn’t use them and didn’t find them necessary. 

√  Packing cubes

eagles creek packing cube

I have been using these since 2013, and I don’t know how I ever traveled without them before.   They are perfect for organizing the contents of your backpack or suitcase. 

I recommend buying 4 (1. tops 2. bottoms 3. underwear 4. shoes)

√  First Aid Kit

waterproof first aid kit

I LOVED this lightweight, waterproof kit I bought at REI, as it had just enough of everything you could need on any trip. 

This first aid kit came to my rescue on more occasions than I can count.   To me, a first aid kit is like health insurance – you never know if you will need it, but you don’t want to be without it when you do!  

If you want to put together your own First Aid Kit, I have a free checklist to help you get started! 

√  Quick-dry towel

quick dry towel

A quick dry towel comes in handy in almost all occasions, including outdoor camping, hiking/trekking, swimming, doing laundry (wrap up your wet clothes and ring dry), or any water activities such as snorkeling or diving. 

I’ve also used it as a pillow when I got stuck at airports or a blanket on a freezing overnight bus in Thailand. 

√  Collapsible Water Bottle

collapsible water bottle

I love the collapsible water containers because 1) they can be rolled up when not in use 2) you avoid using plastic water bottles, and 3) they are so much lighter than hard water bottles!


Optional Essentials

The following items may be essential depending on whether or not you are backpacking, sleeping in hostels, or joining outdoor activities. 

√  Sleep liner

cocoon sleep liner

This item is useful if you are thinking of “roughing it” on the road like Couchsurfing, sleeping outdoors, or participating in nature activities.   

I used my sleep liner several times, when I slept in a tree house in Laos, crashed on a floor of a friend’s hotel room, took an overnight train in Thailand, and slept in some shady hostels.   

A sleep liner may not be necessary if you are planning to travel and sleep comfortably throughout your travels. 

√  Headlamp

Petzl headlamp A headlamp is an essential item if you plan to do anything outdoors such as camping, hiking or trekking.  It is also handy if you plan to stay in hostels and you need to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night or want to stay up reading your book after the lights go out. 

√  Earplugs

ear plugs

Again, an essential item if you plan to sleep in dormitories or shared accommodations. 

√  Combination lock

pacsafe lock

In some hostels, you will be provided with a locker and will need a lock to keep your belongings safe.    You can also use it to lock up your backpack/daypack if you ever need to leave it with your hotel/hostel while exploring the town. 

√  Waterproof bag

     waterproof bags

Since I went on a lot of scuba diving trips and visited countless beaches throughout SE Asia, these waterproof bags were essential to keep my iPhone, cameras, towel, and change of clothes tucked away.   

If you plan to hit the beach scene or join marine excursions, do yourself a favor and grab one of these before you go!

Keep in mind that most of the toiletries can be bought abroad.   

As toiletries can get bulky very quickly, I say ditch the liquids like shampoo, conditioner, and body soap – even hostels provide these basic essential toiletries most of the time. 

Here are some items that I carry with me at all times: 

√  tampons (in some countries, it is either difficult to find tampons or they are very expensive)

√  razor cartridge refills

√  nail file

√  tweezeers

√  floss

√   toothbrush/toothpaste

√  sunscreen – if you plan to do any marine activities, please consider using coral-safe product such as Stream2sea and help save our ocean 🙂

√  insect repellent (this can be found anywhere – but if you have a preference such as “deet free,” I recommend that you carry your own)

√  Burt’s Bees lip balm– I don’t know about you, but I am obsessed with lip balms.  And the ONLY thing that has ever worked on my lips is the Burt’s Bees.   So I always carry a stash.

√  Moisturizer (face & body)

√  Prescription medications

Your wardrobe content will largely vary depending on your destination, personal preferences, and activity choices. 

But here’s a tip:  pack LESS than what you think you will need.    

I am a minimalist.  When I started backpacking, I got rid of all my makeup and didn’t pack any cute dresses or shoes.   I went strictly for comfort.  

My wardrobe consisted of Nike running shorts, sneakers and sports bras.  This style worked for me, as it lightened my pack load and helped me stay comfortable in my destinations (SE Asia).  It was also versatile, whether I was going sightseeing around town or joining outdoor adventures (which I did A LOT). 

Mo's travel style

Use the list below as a guideline, and obliviously adjust according to your trip and personal style. 

√  7 tops (3 tanks, 3 Tshirts, 1 long sleeve)

√  5 bottoms (3 shorts, 2 long pants/leggings)

√  1-2 bathing suits

√  10 underwear (I swear by Exofficcio, they are lightweight, quick-dry and so comfortable!)

√  3 pairs of shoes  (sneakers, flip-flops, and walking shoes/sandals)

√  3 pairs of socks

√  1 scarf or sarong

√  1 hoodie sweatshirt (for freezing flights and bus/train rides)

√  1 windbreaker/rain jacket (compact/lightweight)

This section also varies greatly by personal preference and need.    

Even though I bought a laptop when I started working abroad, I only carried my compact camera, iPhone and iPad during my backpacking trip.    Like I said, I am a minimalist! 

Here is a guideline for basic electronic essentials: 

  unlocked phone – your phone must be unlocked in order to use international SIM cards

√  tablet or laptop

√  earphones/headphones

√  international adaptor

√  charger 

√  camera (+ SD cards, batteries, USB cable)

Download this FREE Printable Packing Essentials List!

Packing Essentials | Packing List | Packing checklist for Minimalist Traveler | If you are looking for a list of basic essentials to get you started on your travels, print this FREE checklist! #packinglist #travelpackinglist #backpackingpackinglist #solotrippackinglist #packinglistforwomen #womenpackinglist