How to travel light (carry on only) on trips up to 2 years of backpacking

How to travel light (carry on only) on trips up to 2 years of backpacking

Having explored 100 countries, lugging various amounts of luggage (often unnecessarily), I've finally honed my perfect packing list, and I'm excited to pass it on to you. Of course, your packing needs can vary based on your travel style and destination. For my journeys to Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America, my suitcase is filled mostly with shorts and dresses. When heading to Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, I opt for pants and long-sleeved shirts, respecting the local customs. Weather and outdoor activities also play a significant role in what goes into my bag.

For years, my trusty companion has been an Osprey 80-litre backpack, but for my upcoming adventures, I'm downsizing to a 45-litre bag. Shorter trips, up to about 4 weeks, are easily managed with a compact carry-on or backpack. The packing list I'll share is based on using an 80-litre bag with some room left for souvenirs.

Now, if you're thinking, "I'm not a hardcore backpacker, just someone who loves vacations," hear me out. A good backpack is a versatile travel companion for any occasion. They're easy to carry, some even have wheels for added convenience. Modern backpack designs make organisation a breeze. Stick around to see what I mean.

Let's start with the star of the show – the backpack itself. Investing in a high-quality, comfortable, and well-organised backpack is non-negotiable.

Here's what I look for in a top-notch backpacking bag:

  1. Easy Access: Front zip access is a game-changer compared to the traditional top-loading style. No more digging through layers of stuff!
  2. Back Support: Proper back support is crucial. Look for bags that distribute weight to your hips, and consider gender-specific designs for a better fit.
  3. Shoe Compartment: A separate section for shoes keeps things clean and organised.
  4. Hideaway Straps: Zip-away straps are a lifesaver when checking your bag in.
  5. Durability: Opt for quality brands with lifetime guarantees for peace of mind.

Enough about backpacks. Let's dive into the packing list:

Main Backpack:

  • Tops: 3 T-shirts, 2 Tank tops, 2 Long sleeve tops
  • Bottoms: 2 Shorts, 3 Pairs of loose trousers/pants
  • Outerwear: 1 Casual/nice dress, 1 Hoodie/Jumper, 1 Rain jacket
  • Essentials: Comfortable underwear and bras, Scarf, Hat, Swimwear, Hiking boots, Trainers, Walking sandals, Nomadique beach towel with pockets

Daypack Essentials:

  • Entertainment: Book, Headlamp/torch, Headphones
  • Comfort: Neck pillow, Chapstick, Reusable wipes, Antibacterial gel
  • Tech: Glasses/contacts, Charger, Battery pack, Laptop, Phone, Camera
  • Sun Protection: Sunglasses, Sunscreen
  • Hydration: Water bottle


  • Haircare: Brush, Hair bands, Travel shampoo and conditioner (solid bars), Toothbrush, Toothpaste
  • Skincare: Sunscreen, Razor

Camping Gear (Optional):

  • Tent, Sleeping mat, Sleeping bag

Pro tip: Roll your clothes to save space in your bag – a tried-and-true method that never fails.

How does your packing list stack up? Any travel essentials or space-saving hacks you swear by? Share your tips in the comments below!

Reading next

Best Beaches on the Gold Coast
How to travel sustainability

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.