Packing for the journey

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I’ve been missing-in-action for awhile I realize. It’s been a busy time of movement and transition. I was working a short contract, then moving house, then on a road trip to see friends and enjoy a beautiful Canadian autumn, then prepping for a return to Peru!

In honour of my third trip to Peru, I thought I might re-post an old article from a little practice blog I had going. It was written right before I left for my first trip to Peru. I actually referred to it this time while packing. It was a handy little reference.

Because we’re also spending time in the Andes, I’ve also had to pack for colder weather (ie. sweaters/jumpers, long-sleeved t-shirts, beanie/toque, scarves, gloves, leg warmers).

This time around I’ve managed to cut my original bag size by 25%. However, I still bring 2 bags. The goal is to get lighter and lighter (not so easy …but aiming for 50% next time).


Original article posted here on January 11, 2010

Packing for the journey

In preparation for my first backpacking trip through Europe (10 years ago!), I had absolutely no idea what to bring. I had never been abroad on my own longer than a couple of weeks. I actually brought an upright on wheels and had to lug that thing up and down the numerous (and often steep) stairways and inclines of Europe. Not the wisest decision. But I definitely learned my lesson. I didn’t actually invest in a proper backpack until about 4 years later when I took a holiday traveling through Egypt with my roommate.

My friends at home are often amazed that I’m able to pack up my life in a bag (sometimes usually 2). They say that “courage is the power to let go of the familiar”. The more you purge, as scary as it can be, the freer you are. You realize how much you don’t actually need and you don’t even miss it when it’s gone.

However, that being said, this is still a continuing challenge for me. My partner is MUCH better at minimizing and purging than I am.

My packing process always involves making a list. I am a HUGE proponent of lists. Perhaps a little manically so. I thought I might share my current packing list for a couple of reasons:
a) it’ll be useful for me – I can refer to it again
b) it might be useful for someone else

So here’s the laundry list for this upcoming South American sojourn (the rugged Peruvian Amazon followed by the sophisticated city of Buenos Aires in Argentina). I think the list is pretty adaptable for other tropical warm-weather locales. Always bear in mind the cultural context of where you will be and be respectful of that (ie. in a conservative country like India, I would bring more conservative clothing). PS – Being a woman, what I feel I need to bring to be comfortable is more extensive than what my boyfriend would pack (his bag is half the size of mine).

What I do is start packing a week before I have to leave. I do what I call a “vomit” and just throw everything that I think might be useful into a pile on the floor. Once it’s all on the floor, I weed through the mess, paring down until I have just the bare essentials. I then do a “test pack” and if it doesn’t fit into my pack, I do another purge and continue to do so until it all fits. It’s a bit of a process but I always feel good about what I’ve packed in the end. Oh yeah, always leave room for extra stuff that you’ll end up gathering along the way.


  • 1 dressy outfit (just in case)
  • accessories (belt, jewelery, bandanna, hat …for the sun, wrap …for the cool & the sun, small purse/bag/pouch)
  • bag protector (for when it rains)
  • bath stuff (creams, foot scrub, liners, tampons, diva cup, nail clippers, nippers, file, razor, scissors, soap/body wash, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, tweezers, wipes) …make sure it’s all biodegradable!!
  • bathing suit
  • bed sheet (you never know when this might come in handy)
  • binoculars (not necessary but would be great to have in a natural environment)
  • bottoms (jeans, leggings, shorts, skirt)
  • bras (a variety of styles – ie. strapless bra – no more than 3)
  • chargers and cables
  • citronella (a great natural alternative to chemical repellents)
  • converter/adapter 
  • sundress
  • first aid stuff (bandages, disinfectant cream)
  • flashlight/torch (a head torch is your best bet)
  • footwear (always a tough one for women …sandals, walking/hiking shoes)
  • hair stuff (anti-frizz, comb, elastics, clips, hairband, shampoo, conditioner)
  • insoles
  • light jacket
  • locks and carabiners
  • make up (baby powder, brushes, bronzer, pencils, eyelash curler, sharpener, shadow, lip gloss, lip moisturizer, perfume …just in case)
  • mesh laundry bag (great for the delicates if you’re not handwashing)
  • plastic and zip-lock bags (for all sorts of reasons)
  • camp shower - turns out this never was necessary!
  • rainboots (or as my boyfriend would call them – GUMboots) …It’s rainy season!
  • raincoat (gumcoat?)
  • sarong
  • socks
  • tops (long sleeve, tank)
  • towel and facecloth
  • travel pack (PASSPORT and copies, visa (if necessary), itinerary, hand mirror, lip moisturizer, hand cream, book, journal, pen, camera, ipod, earphones, netbook laptop, sunglasses, tissue, bank card, credit card, insurance info, flight itinerary, ginger tablets for motion sickness)
  • underwear (enough for the week 2 weeks)
  • yoga stuff (clothing, mat) …because that’s my practice

You may have noticed that there are some key items missing from my list, namely a mosquito net and a variety of pills and other medication (ie. malaria pills, immodium) for travel. The mozzie net is actually very useful, however in my case, not necessary as the place I’m going to supplies nets. As for the medication, it’s a personal decision whether to bring these items or not.
Do your research and use your judgment. I always see a travel doctor before I leave for an exotic adventure …but I don’t always take their advice. Experience and education will guide you in your decision.

…Now I’ve got to try to stuff everything into my pack! Wish me luck…

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