10 Secret Items to Pack as a Woman on Your Next Trip

OlgaThis is a guest post by Olga Garcia. If you’d like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read more here.

One of the most exciting parts of any trip is the packing. What do you wear? What shoes do you bring? Did you remember to pack socks? For short-term trips, what to pack is directly related to how many days you will be gone. For longer trips, like backpacking around the world, packing becomes more of an art.

There are dozens of lists like, What to Pack on Travel Independent, that help both men and women determine the essentials for a backpacking trip. All of their suggestions are practical and necessary, but they are missing the hidden essentials for women.

After wearing the same clothes for months, wearing flats so you can carry your backpack around and moving from one hostel to another, you start to feel like you are losing that spark of femininity that you had before you left. Don’t let that air of grace disappear.

The following 10 secret items to pack as a woman on your next trip are tried and true, straight from a female around-the-world backpacker. Learn why they are important to bring and where to get them.

1. Pair of black gaucho style pants

Why? The great thing about gaucho style pants is that they are versatile, comfortable, and can be dressed up or down. Another great benefit to this type of pant is the ability to layer with it. If you are traveling to somewhere cold first and then warm, you can wear the same pair of pants in both places by simply adding or removing a layer.

Where to buy? Try places like Bebe, Victoria’s Secret or Express. They may be a little more expensive, but the quality is better and therefore will last for your whole backpacking trip.

2. 1 pair of shoes that make you feel sexy

Why? When you are backpacking and making friends along the way, the inclination to go out is huge. If you only have practical shoes, than you are selling yourself short of feeling sexy. As women we know what flats, heels, boots, etc. make us feel beautiful. Pack just one of those so that when the opportunity arises, you are prepared to be a backpacking vixen.

Where to buy? In my experience, Nine West, Steve Madden and surprisingly Pay Less, have great shoes at affordable prices that are comfortable. Wedges are a great solution for a little bit of height coupled with cuteness that are pretty easy to walk in (especially if you are in a big city where everyone walks to go out, like Valencia).

3. 1 tank top & 1 tube top that have pizzazz

Why? The best thing about being a female backpacker is that our clothing is small and compact. When choosing your yearlong wardrobe, be sure to pack these two essential pieces. Try to choose tops that are relatively simple and yet have an extra something like subtle stripes, polka dots or lace. The reason for this is layering. You can transform 1 outfit into 3 by simply putting a cute top underneath it. Your wardrobe will feel like it lasts longer and you can spruce up any outfit to feel sexier.

Where to buy? No need to go expensive here. Try places like Forever 21, H&M, Target or Wet Seal to get inexpensive tops that will transform you.

4. Bare essential makeup (lipstick, mascara, powder, blush)

Why? You don’t have to bring the MAC makeup counter with you. Give yourself a treat every once and a while with a little makeup makeover. A little mascara and some lipstick et voilaa new you.

Where to buy? Rememberdon’t splurge on your makeup. Drug store brands like L’Oreal, Covergirl, Revlon, etc. will do the job well and won’t break your wallet. Besides if you loose something or it breaks, your loss is minor.

5. 1 headband & a set of bobby pins

Why? Remember to take care of your hair. Although not a top priority when thinking of what to pack, your hair is your signature when traveling. Both a headband and bobby pins can give you different looks without much effort.

Where to buy? Stick with buying hair accessories from drugstores. And throw in some extra hair ties. You never know when you might need one. A girl can never have enough hair ties!

6. 1 scarf

Why? Scarves are versatile. You can use them as an accessory, to pull your hair back or as a shawl of sorts. Try simple patterns or solid colors for a greater combination potential.

Where to buy? Try places like Forever 21, H&M, Target or Wet Seal.

7. 1 pair of leggings

Why? Two words here: layering & comfort. Leggings can help you create different outfits as well as keep you warm when an unexpected trip to somewhere cold comes along. Plus they are comfortable for hanging out at your hostel.

Where to buy? Brands like Poof and Free People have fabulous leggings that are super comfortable.

8. Jewelry (3 necklaces & 3 pairs of earrings)

Why? Don’t forget these! A pair of earrings will always rescue an outfit from blahdom. Jewelry can get heavy so make sure to choose your pieces wisely. Remember to only bring jewelry that you wouldn’t mind losing, just in case.

9. Emergency items: Sewing kit, Cramp medicine, Pimple cream

Why? These are your female staples. Trust me, you will thank yourself for bringing them along.

10. ” Homesick” Calling Card

Why? Using Skype and internet cafes are great, but what happens when you need to talk to one of your girlfriends right after you meet the man of your dreams and computers are no where to be found? There are plenty of places that still have pay phones and having a “˜homesick’ calling card for those kinds of gossipy emergencies will help you feel connected to home.

Do you have a secret item not listed?  Share it with us in the Comments!


About the Author: Olga Garcia is a seasoned round-the-world backpacker and expat. Currently she is the Social Media Community Manager for Going Global, a leading provider of country-specific career and employment resources for individuals interested in working outside of their home country. She runs a blog called Goinglobal where she helps young people achieve their international dreams.


  1. Sarah says

    I absolutely loved this!!!! My favorites are the sexy shoes, just a little bit of make up and the jewelery :)

  2. says

    Great tips, Olga! Here are some more ideas:

    1. Make-up can take up a lot of space. Instead of a dedicated make-up bag, take along single-use sample packets. If you have a favorite store, tell them about your travel plans and they'll probably be happy to give you a handful of samples. Samples also allows you some diversity in your choices!

    2. Tiny lavender bags or cedar blocks tucked into your clothing can ensure that you always smell fresh when it matters most. There's nothing worse than pulling out that sexy tank-top after 7 months in a bag and realizing it pongs like the hiking socks it was nestled up against.

    3. On the same note, a vacuum seal bag especially for your girly clothes will keep them fresh and make them easy to find.

    4. Toothpaste will get rid of pimples overnight. (Despite what you might have seen in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Windex will NOT!)

    5. Tweezers. Even if you have no make-up, no jewelry and your hair looks like a Dr Seuss character, plucking your eyebrows before an evening out will make you feel human.

  3. olgaLG says

    Thanks Sara. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. As a former shoe manager, I know how confident shoes can make you feel. Even if for a night, you can be a Cinderella. :)

  4. Brittanyoster says

    What a useful article – and it makes so much sense too! Every woman has the tendancy to overpack these days so thanks Olga.

  5. astrout says

    Olga – obviously the things that would go into my “back pack” might be a little different but I like your thinking here. It's funny because as someone that does a lot of business travel, I've thought of writing a similar post about “the road warriors travel bag.” Now you've given me a good blueprint for how to structure. ;)

  6. Simon says

    3 necklaces while backpacking? You are rubbish. This is horrible. You insult women everywhere with this list. All you need is flip-flops and togs. Everything else is tangential.

    • LAbackpackerChick says

      Hi Simon while I may not agree with all of Olga’a suggestions, I do agree that every once in a while it is nice to feel like a “girl” again after backpacking for so long. A nice pair of earrings, some lip gloss, or even a nice pair of sandals every once in a while make some girls feel refreshed after months of being road warriors.

    • Ron Wild says

      Thanks Simon, you have saved me some typing. This meant to be a backpackers list. I think the author knows too many vacuous women.
      It is a derogating to not just to feminism, but women in general.

  7. says

    Hey Simon, what's the big deal about backpackers taking a few accessories? Even most guys I hang out with on the road are wearing a necklace or bracelets they picked up along the way. I don't know about you, but I appreciate it when a woman, especially one traveling out of a backpack, puts forth a little effort to look nice.

    • Brianne says

      Dave, I think that is a horrible statement to make. You should appreciate a woman’s natural beauty, not expect them to “look nice” for you. Especially when living out of a backpack! If you want a superficial woman, a backpacking one is not for you. Go check LA. Disgraceful and offensive.

      • Ron says

        Well, said Brianne. When I read comments like that, I feel sorry for all the ‘not as beautiful as magazines say you should be’ women. I’m happily married now, but as a younger man and prodigious backpacker in my time.I found many female backpackers, that made great companions, neither they nor I looking for a mate, just a conversation. I’m still friends with many of them, all across the globe and thirty years later.

      • says


        Are you serious? Your response to my comment is WAY out of proportion here. I don’t expect *anything* from female travelers I meet on the road. I’ve made tons of girl friends from dozens of countries over the years.

        All I’m saying is that I realize it’s a bigger challenge for women to travel by backpack than men, and that it requires some extra planning and preparation. That’s why I invited Olga to share some of her tips in this post.


        And I too have met and traveled with many female backpackers over the years. I’m not looking for a girlfriend when I travel, I’m looking for cool people to share experiences and my time with.

        Physical attraction is a part of what initially draws men to women and vice versa. Let’s not pretend it isn’t!

  8. Jessica Green says

    I am unsubscribing from your blog after this inane article and the comments that followed. As a woman traveler that has been backpacking for the past 6 months I am utterly insulted and disappointed that I should be expected to “look sexy” while lugging a 30 kilo backpack filled with what I consider, as a 26 year old girl, essentials- flip flops, walking shoes, quick dry underwear, medicine, 1 pair of pants, 3 tanks, 3 socks, 1 sweater, a diva cup, 2 long sleeve shirts, bathing suit, quick dry towel, books, head lamp, sleep sack. . .definitely not “sexy shoes”, make-up, or “sexy tanks”. PS I am happily married to a man!

    • Megan says

      I have to agree with Jessica here. This post would not resonate with many female travelers. I can appreciate that everyone has different needs on the road – I suppose it also depends on what you’re in to doing while traveling (if going clubbing in ibiza is your thing.. then maybe the heels are a good option!?). But when it comes to essential packing while on an extended trip… I like to think of it as choosing a bike for the tour de France… you want components that are light, have endurance, and are well fitted. No need for non essentials… they’ll just weigh you down (and you’ll curse them until you throw them away).

      I think we should also be mindful and respectful of both our safety as women and what is culturally appropriate and respectful in whatever country we travel through (no matter what our personal cultural norms dictate). And ‘sexy’ may not be the route to go…. again, unless you don’t leave ibiza.

      • Ron Wild says

        Jessica and Megan (and any posters of similar comments on pages I will not see as this page is irritating enough) I am so glad to read your comments. As a long time backpacker, I cannot think of a time a woman ever pulled a pair of heels out of her bag to go to the post grape picking café trip, or to pass the evening at a beach/lagoon. The author would appear to have all the depth of a bottle top. You have restored my faith in real women.

  9. May says

    Before even reading Simon or Jessica's comments I was about to add mine that this list majorly misses the mark. Not all women have “gossipy emergencies”, need or want make up (sorry, but foundation, powder, mascara and blush are not the 'essentials'….) or think that jewelry or sexy shoes would be a good thing to bring in a BACKPACK. Have you actually tried to live out of a backpack for more than a few hours at a time? Next time you do, toss in a pair of “sexy shoes” for yourself, and see how silly that suggestion was. For that matter a sewing kit is not a “female staple”. Unless you're living in the 1950s, men and women alike should both know how to sew on a button or hem a pair of pants….

    I wont go as far as to say this list is insulting to women, but it clearly misses the mark to actually be useful and not totally outdated. Your comment about appreciating when women go a bit further to look nice – again… missing the point. Travel is about so many other things than landing a man, or trying to live up to someone else's idea of what is attractive. Would YOU travel with your full grooming kit if a woman said “I like it when a man dresses up for dinner, even if he's traveling out of a backpack”?

  10. says

    @Dave – disqus is not playing well with my Chrome browser…

    Re the subject to hand – I'm a 48 yo girl who has backpacked off and on for 20+ years. I did 6 months in South America with a 30l pack which weighed about 10kg – most of which is books. Now I would take a kindle and it would weigh less. I never wear or travel with makeup – if I got invited to Buck Palace – I'd buy some – and go to a hair dresser! Bobby pins – come on – there is one look when you travel – and non-smelly is good! I basically have 3 pairs of underwear 2 bottoms and 3 tops and alternative. The singularly most useful items I carry as a woman is
    a) tampons – hard to find and embarassing to ask for in most countries
    b) a black tankini which doubles as underwear or evening wear
    c) sarong (buy on the road) -can be used as a skirt, dress, shawl, sheet, beach towel, head covering for churchs/mosques, swimming costume in some countries

    BTW boob tubes are inappropriate wear for women outside of Europe (and the Vatican won't let you into St Peters wearing one either), USA, Ausralia – loose cotton or silk tops are more appropriate and comfortable – how to you wear a money belt with a boob tube LOL

  11. Joya says

    You are right on with these essentials, especially the sexy pair of shoes. I had a pair of black flats that I wore when I went out at night but I wished I had a pair of basic black heels to make me feel more like a woman!

    • Olga Garcia says

      Thanks Joya. The funniest thing is that I only wore my heels once in my whole trip. But the day that I did (which was at the Sydney Opera House), I felt like the most gorgeous woman in the world. Glad to hear you experienced a similar feeling.


  12. says


    We appreciate the comments and perspective. I've actually reviewed a few books for this site, written by female backpackers, who offer similar tips as Olga with regard to packing items that might make a woman feel sexy while traveling, even if out of a backpack. Clearly, there are many approaches to traveling and packing, and Olga and those authors are willing to carry a few extra items in their backpack.

    As for me, the answer is yes, I am changing the way I pack my backpack as I'm getting older (I'm 33). I now carry a bottle of my favorite cologne, Burberry Brit, for when I want to have a fun night out (which happens a lot backpacking long term). After years of skipping jeans because they were heavier than khaki North Face cargo pants, and don't dry quickly, I'm making sure to always pack a pair because they can be worn casually, or out to bars and clubs in the cities.

  13. olgaLG says

    Hi Antonia! Glad that the tips resonated with you. What a great idea to bring lavendar bags. I could have used those after the Tomatina in Spain. Tomatoes don't smell all that nice after an eight hour day. I like the toothpaste idea too!

  14. olgaLG says

    Hi Brittany! Guilty as charged. Before leaving, I packed and unpacked 3 times because I kept overpacking. I learned first hand the lesson how to pack versatile pieces. :)

  15. olgaLG says

    Thanks Simon for sharing your opinion. It depends on what kind of a traveler you are. Accessories never hurt anyone. Guys and girls backpacking use them. It's all about knowing your type of backpacking style.

  16. olgaLG says

    Thanks Jessica for sharing your story. I backpacked for a year with a 50lbs backpack + my small backpack and lived abroad for 4 years. Sexy is in the eye of the beholder. The great thing that I learned throughout my years of travel is that there are backpackers of all styles. It's great that you have found your backpacking style early on in your backpacking career. Congratulations on being married! :)

  17. olgaLG says

    Hi May. Thanks for sharing here. I have lived out of a backpack for a year and have also been an expat for 4 years. I have traveled within the varied spectrum of leisure's available abroad. That being said, I had a pair 'sexy shoes' that were flats that I wore when I wanted to go somewhere nice, like the Sydney Opera House. Sewing kits are great, especially when your backpack tears after you go hiking in the jungle in Thailand. The post was not written to find a man but rather celebrate your womanhood, even when you are lugging a 50lb backpack and driving in a campervan in New Zealand. Attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. However you feel beautiful will sustain with you throughout your travels and your life. These are all suggestions from an experienced backpacker who likes little luxuries every once and a while.

    To answer your question, if my boyfriend (who was also my backpacking buddy), wanted to dress up, I think it's cool. If not, no worries. Whatever he feels comfortable with. That's the beauty of your style, regardless of geographic location, it's all about what you feel comfortable with and who you are, not who other people want you to be.


  18. Shelbydarton says

    Sorry to ruin the happy chick feeling here but I am a 29 year old female who was backpacking in Asia last year for 5 months. I started the trip with a group of girls and a guy all in the 20 – 22 age bracket. I packed lightweight clothes that suited my petite frame and a nice pair of lightweight flip flops that suited my feet. I always had a little gold studs on my ears. You guys may find this hard to believe but I packed half of a 30 litre backpack whilst my friends had 60 – 75 litre packs which were full with make up and other crap that is just not meant for lightweight backpacking. The strange thing was I never felt unattractive at any point that entire trip AND got approached by guys constantly AND met my boyfriend in a beach bar where my friends had make up, dresses etc

    And no I am not a tomboy I am just a regular London girl who loves her high heels (I have over 100), wax salons and lashes of mascara

    Each to their own anyway

  19. says

    @Lis: Thanks for sharing your tips here. Everyone has their own travel styles and that’s what makes traveling so exciting. I absolutely agree about the tube tops. There are inappropriate places to wear those tops around the world. Personally, it served me quite well when last minute I decided to fly to New Zealand during the early part of winter, only had summer clothes in my bag and was low on cash. It kept me warm while out hiking all day.

  20. says

    Thanks Shelby for sharing your story. Even with all the suggestions above, my pack was pretty light. The thing that I learned was that the simpler my pieces are, the more versatile they can serve me. That in turn makes it easy to pack lightly because I can have 5 outfits in one. Your last line hits the nail on the head “Each to their own”. Brilliant! That is what I celebrated as a traveler. I learned so much from the people who were not like me and now I can implement some of their pieces of ‘backpacker’s wisdom’.

  21. Monzy Haha says

    The threat of obesity is widespread throughout the globe. More and more people are suffering from the condition, as it paves the way for a slew of dieting and exercise methods. Stomach stapling presents an option to quickly do away with excess fat. After the procedure, which reduces one’s craving for food, slimming down shouldn’t take too much effort. Problem is it also carries a handful of risks and potential side effects.

  22. Jackie says

    A little late reply I know but……I took to my first backpacking at the ripe old age of 50 and continued to have a very memorable few years living and travelling with my huge backpack. The essentials became apparent after a few months but and I mean but…there is one item that I could not have keep my sanity without and that is the body condom. Some of the hostals and I do mean only some, especially in out of the way places were crawling, but when you really need to sleep the silk body suit with head covering was heaven. Oh and of course Borocco.

    Hope to do another trip within the next few years before I hit 60 X

  23. says

    You forgot to add ‘wet wipes’ (otherwise known as cleansing wipes, baby wipes etc!)

    Those things are a must-bring. I’ve been in too many countries to forget that!

    • Olga Garcia says

      That’s a great idea (and necessity!) Lindy. I know after a while, my skin started suffering from bad upkeep. Had I had ‘wet wipes’ it would have helped tremendously.

      Thanks for your insight!

  24. jaclyn says

    Great suggestions! I love the idea of being able to feel put together for a night on the town while still packing light! Not all of us want to walk straight from the hiking trails and into the club. Kudos to Dave and Olga for responding so kindly to some of the disrespectful commenters. How a packing list can be “insulting” to anyone is beyond me…

    • Olga says

      Hey Jaclyn,

      You know…I didn’t see your comment till now. Thanks for the support and kudos. Always best to approach with grace and dignity. Happy to share traveling insights always :)

      Happy travels!


  25. Jessica Carey says

    I love this post! Although, I have never been backpacking for longer than a week, I am a serial over-packer whenever I travel anywhere! I spent WAY too much time in France trying to wrestle a large rolling suitcase through the metro and bus systems. It is usually shoes that are my downfall beccause I can never decide which ones I’m going to want! I think what’s really helped me is planning what I’d like to wear and packing pieces that can be worn in many different way! Thanks again for the great post!

    • says

      Jessica, even as a guy I admit to packing more than I need because I can’t decide what I might want to wear. Ironically this is more of an issue for long weekend trips to NYC than multi-month trips to other countries. :)

  26. Kernal says

    I can understand the upset reactions. My role in life is not to be attractive, and I get frustrated when I interact with men and they’re more interested in my looks than what I have to say.
    Most packing lists I’ve seen have been authored by men, with a little side bar saying something like “some women do this, maybe” and a general attitude of mystification at all things feminine. The pack light mantra shouldn’t become an “I’m better then you because I can do without ____” contest. If I’m the one hauling my own bag, and I’m willing to spare a few ounces for a pair of pretty shoes…my decision. For my next trip, I’m not going to bring everything here, but at least there’s a dialogue and suggestions from female travelers, something I’ve only found in a couple other places.
    Thanks for this list, and I admire the patience, understanding, and tact in your replies.

  27. Lea S. says

    An eyeliner pencil, mascara, a little lipgloss and some foundation does NOT weigh a backpack down!  Neither does a small necklace or two.  I’m surprised at the number of people who take practicality to such overly severe measures…when I traveled abroad, I wore makeup everyday because it is part of my daily routine at home anyway, and without it I would not feel as fresh and put-together.  At times when you’ve made an effort to look nice it can actually enhance your travel experiences, since it becomes easier to blend in with the locals.  When I was in Paris, for instance, I wore some of my “nicer” looking clothing I brought and my makeup and was actually mistaken for being a local several times!  Not to mention that the French didn’t treat me as “one of those typical American tourists.” ;-)

  28. Lea S. says

    An eyeliner pencil, mascara, a little lipgloss and some foundation does NOT weigh a backpack down!  Neither does a small necklace or two.  I’m surprised at the number of people who take practicality to such overly severe measures…when I traveled abroad, I wore makeup everyday because it is part of my daily routine at home anyway, and without it I would not feel as fresh and put-together.  At times when you’ve made an effort to look nice it can actually enhance your travel experiences, since it becomes easier to blend in with the locals.  When I was in Paris, for instance, I wore some of my “nicer” looking clothing I brought and my makeup and was actually mistaken for being a local several times!  Not to mention that the French didn’t treat me as “one of those typical American tourists.” ;-)

  29. rachel says

    great ideas olga! i don’t know why people are freaking out–you are not telling people how to be, nor insulting “practical” women travelers (of which i am, 110%!)–rather, offering up easy and insightful ways to incorporate things you might overlook when packing (“i’m a practical girl, i don’t need extras..”) but find later on the road you wished you’d thought of. upon returning from a 5-week trip recently where i did not pack a “going out shirt” (“i don’t party, i don’t feel the need to dress up to go to a bar anyhow, all my tops are nice enough for the random occasion that i go out…”) the last week of the trip i went on my hostel’s pub crawl where we ended up dancing the night away and i wished i’d brought just one “snazzy tank top” because it was so darn hot on the dance floor! it was a winter trip and i’d only brought sweaters/long sleeves with me, which looked nice, but were hot as heck. and even just one pair of fun earrings and one fun necklace would have been nice to just get snazzy for a few hours, forget i’m hosteling. and those things literally take up no space–especially if you truly are a practical packer! i feel like people who are insulted by this are completely taking it the wrong way. there is a way for every type of person to travel, you just pick what you pack very wisely.

    other things i can vouch for:

    FUN SHOES: i was firmly a only-packing-practical-shoes girl, but a thin/lightweight/smashable pair of snazzy flats i might actually consider now. sometimes you just wanna dress like it’s a party! and if you’re the kinda girl who really wants heels for a night out–why not let yourself be happy if you’ve been savvy with the rest of your packing?
    MAKEUP: i rarely wear makeup, so i’ve stopped packing it for long hosteling trips. found a postage-stamp-sized eyeshadow sample and threw it in my bag for the heck of it (nye?) which literally made no impact on my packing. for girls who really like their makeup, i think that suggestion to pick up trial/sample sizes is such a great idea–they don’t have to sacrifice what they enjoy but it takes much less space! …and while traveling there’s always makeup stores full of display samples for quick mini-makeovers on the road! haha
    LEGGINGS: leggings are genius. comfy for long plane/train rides, great lounge wear, instantly dresses up an outfit with no effort….just be sure they are thick enough not to be see through(!), and your tops are appropriately proportioned depending on the coverage your leggings give you and your comfort level. if they’re true spandex, you probably want at least one of your shirts to be long enough to cover your butt…if they’re the ones that kinda look like pants, you can get away with more regular length tops without looking like you’re flaunting your assets inappropriately. day=casual it up, night=fashion it up

    • Olga says

      Hi Rachel,

      You know…I truly appreciate your comments. This has been an intense discussion for sure! What’s been cool about the whole discussion here is that a variation of backpackers have shared their insights into what they bring on their travels. And…it’s been remarkably insightful. I really liked your idea about the sample sizes. I never thought of that. Plus they are super small and compact. I rarely wore makeup myself. With that said, the times that I did, it was great to have a little something that reminded me of home. I’m a practical packer myself. I just know that I like a few extras that will keep me stylish…no matter where I am in the world.

      Happy travels!


    • Olga says

      Right on Tanya. I never thought of a jean skirt. Suppose it can double as a pillow as well. :) Thanks for sharing your tips!



  30. Crystal says

    I think this list is geared toward one kind of backpacking, and some of the reactions are obviously made by people who do a different kind. I travel with my husband, one of our good friends, and his brother, so I am one woman in a group of men. We all make it our prerogative to take at least one “cheat” item, and depending on the trip, I may take more than one. Last time we traveled, I took a hair towel and flip flops for camp at night. But we backpack the wilderness; we have yet to try the hostel stop on a trip. If I were traveling through civilization, I suppose I’d make a little extra room for some cheat items for city life, and definitely that would include mascara and a cute top to switch into. When I actually try for an adventure like this, I’ll get back to you on what I end up bringing! :)

    • Olga says

      Hi Crystal,

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. Like you said, we all backpack differently. All we can do is share our experiences and our “cheat” items. I would have never thought to bring a hair towel. And trust me…I wish that I had. It would have saved my hair tremendously…especially while camping. Hope you have fun on all your travels and keep sharing!



  31. Kate says

    Olga, great blog! I personally love your list. Does backpacking mean you have to lose your identity in quick dry clothes and practical shoes? Looking and smelling like a man to prove we are equal as backpackers is an insult. A pair of feminine shoes, mascara, lip gloss, snazzy tank top aka boob tube and a pair of earrings combined weight is a pound at best, what’s the big deal? I can rough it with the best of them but this blog poses the question, why should I always have to? I’m not going to wear a pair of diamond studs to a home stay in Indonesia or daisy dukes to the Vatican but I will be adding a pair of sexy slingbacks, leggings, gauchos (genius) and hairpins to my sack, on the off chance I want to look and feel like a lady verse the tramp…gloss and mascara are already staples in my bag.

    One trick if someone wants to raise the bar slightly without going full flash is to have your eyelashes professionally tinted a shade or two darker. It last months, costs only a few dollars and gives a fresh natural look without the daily application of mascara/makeup.

    Thanks Olga!!

  32. Alisha Payne says

    I guess you can say I’ve been a backpacker my whole life. I grew up a military brat to become a military spouse. You learn very quickly how to function with what you can carry in a single bag for extended periods of time. Having said that…two suggestions for you. One, tinted lip balm-justifiably practical and still enough ‘girly’. Two, tinted moisturizer-same premise! Let me add also my favorite feel good shoes-beaded wrap sandles. They weigh nothing and take up little space!

  33. Laura says

    This is probably a bit of a dumb question, but what are gaucho pants? I think they might be called something different in the UK. Are they anything like cargo pants, or those trousers you can zip the legs off to turn into shorts? Or am I getting totally confused?

    Some really good tips here – as others have said a cute vest top, a pair of smart black flats and a few little make-up and jewellery bits shouldn’t take up too much space and will make all the difference if you fancy going out somewhere (with the jewellery and to a lesser extent the make-up it could even be something you pick up on the road). One thing I was wondering about though is if it’s worth taking a ‘nice’ bag for going out in the evening, as I don’t fancy the idea of carrying my daypack round for those kind of things. I’m guessing something like a small soft clutch bag that wouldn’t take up too much room or could double as a make-up/medicine bag could work?

  34. Melissa says

    Hey Olga
    Love the list. I travelled and worked in New Zealand for two years, and ended up buying many of the items here as I didn’t think of them before hand (shoes, makeup) I don’t generally wear makeup unless its something special.
    That being said, I’m heading to the Uk for a short backpacking experience, plus to attend a fellow backpacker’s (who I met on afore said NZ trip,) wedding. So I’m trying to pack for two very different styles. Trying to make the multi-layering work for a really nice look for the wedding without sacrificing weight or only using the outfit the once. Any tips??

    Thanks again for the tips you gave and that others have added – wet-wipes! Can also get makeup remover wet wipes too.

  35. GringaEstudiante says

    I read the bit about the scarves and thought YES! someone agrees with me! Also useful for covering a low cut top when finding oneself in more conservative company. My most useful lady thing besides eyeliner (the wonder of going cow to WOW with just a pencil) is synthetic underwear. Yes I know this dosent work for everywoman because there is a link to it and lady infections (then again that also has alot to do with personal problems and how clean you keep yourself). I just love it because being a traveler in humid climates, it dries so much quicker than cotton. Victoria’s Secret has really amazing ones that are both sexy and comfortable. I also learned in the jungle that one of the best items I ended up bringing was extra strength deoderant. In the States I don’t really need it but down here in Bolivia I can’t live without it! Oh side question Olga what are your thoughts on leg shaving? I’m a blonde that dosen’t have super noticable hair, try to shave once a week but I’m not so sure about water + razor cleanlieness and am afraid of getting another staff infection on my skin. Should I just keep buying new razors or boil the older one?

  36. says

    Hi Olga,

    good tips! Now I can tell my wife to pack less and need not bring the whole house with her by just following these tips!

    By the way, a small whistle could be useful too for personal safety. Who knows it may act as an accessory too? No?

  37. Jillian says

    This post is great! I need to print this and show it to my boyfriend for the next time we travel! I admit as a lady I have trouble deciding what clothes to bring and if I should even bother with the make up. Thanks!

  38. Brianne says

    Jewellery is a big NO NO. Do yourself a favour and leave it at home! Having earrings and necklaces on is begging to be robbed. I had a cheap necklace I bought in the country I was visiting ripped off my neck on a bus. I also had a friend I met on the road that had her earrings ripped out of her ears. Jewellery is a bad idea.

  39. Justine says

    Some of the comments are quite insulting. I am a female backpacker and have traveled quite a lot and sometimes I really do enjoy putting on a nice tank, some flats and some mascara when out on the town. It’s not like I do it everyday and my bag doesn’t weigh 20kg. I simply manage to make room for the things I like among the things I need. Dressier tank tops and even dresses are lightweight and roll up to almost nothing. I personally wouldn’t bring jewlery though (besides a cheap simple pair of earrings that I wouldn’t take out the entire trip) just as a precaution. Overall these tips are a great guideline to those traveling girls that like to dress up on occasion.

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