RTW Backpacking Packing List: Female Edition

Kylee Hayes Travel Planning, Travel Tips 4 Comments

This is not your fancy, high-end, private jet flying packing list. This is a round-the-world packing list for women who go beyond the limits of themselves to curb that heroin-like craving we call travel, that runs deep within our veins. This women’s packing list is made for jumping all over the world, from hot beach mornings to frigid mountain evenings. You never know what the weather will do, or where you might end up, so let’s get you prepared.

Also, I hate being cold, so if you are like me, this list is definitely for you.

When I pack for around the world trips, I always think layers. You never know when that early morning bus will end up having no windows; Or you end up on a night train that cranks the air-con and all you packed for was beach weather. Now you are looking down at your frost bitten nipples that are about to fall off thinking, “I should have listened to Kylee…”

Anyway… back to the packing list.

An important thing to consider is the fabric you are packing. Do not buy anything that wrinkles easily, it will sit in the bottom of your bag because you are too embarrassed to wear it. I have this one shirt, it’s there at the bottom of my bag, haunting me as I type this. It’s rayon. Even my mother told me not to buy rayon, but it seemed light and airy and a perfect tank to bring travelling. It’s nice, and I’d love to wear it more often, but it’s always wrinkled.
 
Stick to cotton and wool. They are light, dry quickly and are perfect for hot or cold weather.

Also, I would suggest not packing white clothes to wear on the road. Now, if you are staying in hotels the whole time and have laundry service (‘why are you taking advice from a backpacker?’), then go nuts. If not, white is tough to keep white, so my advice is: don’t pack it.

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Long-Term Packing List for Women

Clothing

Tank tops

One light, one dark but keep it colourful. Bright colours are great for photos. Whatever brand or type you love to wear that’s comfortable. Like I said, I am all about the layering. These are great on their own in hot weather as well as underneath sweaters, especially cardigans.

Cardigan

‘Cause you always need a cardigan! I typically stick to a casual black colored one because it goes with everything and you can wear it over top of your colourful tanks. Remember: Layers!

Hoodie/Bunny Hug/Hooded Sweater

Whatever you may call it: a Zip-up hooded sweater. I have this Icebreaker Merino Wool hoodie and love it! I got a discount by getting the pink one at the end of season. However, I’d suggest getting a darker shade because you will probably wear than more than you think. And over time, it gets pretty dirty around the cuffs. The Merino Wool fabric is quite warm in cool climates (or air-con buses), comfortable, and dries quick after washing.

Shirts

This is really up to you and what you want to wear. I like to bring a regular, easy breathe t-shirt for long bus rides and travel days. It’s nice having the t-shirt rather than a tank for these days for that little extra padding on the shoulders to protect your shoulders from backpack straps. I like Sure Design t-shirts for this, easy wash/dry and comfortable. The other shirt can be cute, to wear wherever. Sometimes, due to cultural reasons, showing too much skin, like the shoulder, is inappropriate, this is another reason to have options.

Hiking Pant

Hiking Pants that roll up and clasp. These have been a lifesaver for hikes, cold days, long bus rides and so much more. The absolute best pants for this are the Prana Halle Convertible Pants. They have a button up top, but also a string in-case you are like me and gain/lose weight the whole time you travel. As well, the ankles roll up and clip which is awesome for walking through rivers and puddles, or when you get to warm and need a cool breeze up your knickers.

Chill Pant

I have a black pair of very light loose fitting pants for when I’m lounging — or hungover. I didn’t think they would be worn so much, but I wear them quite a bit. I bought my pair on a sale rack from MEC (a Canadian co-operative), but any light pant will do. Think of something like hospital scrubs, they are super light and dry quickly.

Leggings

I have one pair of light organic cotton leggings to wear under skirts or shorts. As well as a thicker pair with back pockets for travel days on air planes; since I find them easy to sit in and they don’t wrinkle. The thick ones I find are more like pants so I don’t need a long shirt or tunic to cover my mula bandha.

To Jeans or Not to Jeans….

I am a big fan of jeans, they are a great way to feel not like a traveller and more like a local in many places all over the world. I pack a pair of jeans at the bottom of my backpack, not a travel pair either. A regular pair of jeans. I am searching still for a travel pair that is great to bring and wash travelling, so if you find a pair, please let me know. If you are not a jeans person, skip this one.

Dresses

I have one tunic dress for hot days, and can wear leggings under it, and a cardigan over it for any days. I also really like to carry one dress for a nice night out. I love the Icebreaker Merino Wool Yani Dress because it is odor resistant, never wrinkles and looks super cute!

I also have a third dress, the Prana Luiza Tunic Hoodie which I bought for a bikini cover up, but have used it for many hikes as well as sand boarding in Morocco. It is great for wearing to walk to and from the beach and dries quite quickly. It has holes throughout the fabric, which makes it breathable, and I wear a tank under it to cover up.

Kylee looking over a cliff in the mountains wearing a black mesh hoodie

Rocking the Prana Luiza Tunic in Romania

Long Skirt

I really like wearing this for lazy days that I want to look good. However, it is mostly used for visiting temples and churches, because most require that you have covered past the knees. It is a nice alternative to pants.

Short skirt

For fun days out walking in the city, or paired with leggings when going into the evening. I am a nerd and actually have this Skort from Columbia. It might seem a little silly, but I love its versatility and practicality. I am also a sucker for skirts with pockets.

Shorts

The Dynama Shorts from Mountain Hardwear are the best shorts I have ever owned. They make my butt look good, they are super comfy, dry quickly and are the perfect hiking short. Get them and thank me later.

Bikini with 2 different tops

Bring a easy to match pair of bottoms so that you can switch up your tops if doing a mega-beach vacation. It’s always nice to be able to wear a bikini top under a dress on beach days as well. And if one is wet, you have the second one dry and ready to go.

Swimsuit (optional)

These days I really love to play in the waves and do more sporty activities so I bring a full bathing suit. This started after I lost my bottoms in a wave in Nicaragua, struggling to stay in the water, laying in the sand getting pummelled by waves trying not to flash the families on the shore, while frantically grasping at my bottoms… Not cool man.

Cotton Underwear – 10 pairs

Buy cotton! It is breathable for you and dries quickly. I like 10 because it gives you more than a week, and also extra if you wear a pair on a sweaty bus ride and arrive at a place and want to shower and change to feel fresh. Honestly, I don’t think you can have enough pairs of underwear.

Also, for long term travel, it is nice to pack a couple pairs you don’t wear. When you have hand-washed your regular rotation so many times your thong is so stretched so badly it looks like a loose thread hanging out of your butt, you can throw them away and have a brand new pair.

I know underwear is easy to find all over the world, but I like my brands from home. Nothing fits quite like them, so I stick to them, and recommend you do the same.

Socks

Shortie Socks – 2 pairs: For long walking days in your flats, don’t want the flats to start smelling from your bare feet.. I like the Icebreaker Merino Wool shortie socks because of their thick bottoms, they last a long time, Merino Wool doesn’t stink and they just feel good when walking long distances.

High Socks – 2 Pairs: For cooler days and nights. I pack one pair that is thicker to wear at night around the house (like old lady slippers). If the floor is concrete, because most of the world is, at night your feet sometimes get cold (like our time in Mexico where it was almost snowing).

As Canadians we don’t wear shoes in the house, so this just makes sense to us, not everyone. The second pair should be light but good to wear for hiking like.

Wire Bra

Most wire bras are best when washed and dried back to the original fitting. So make sure you get one good bra (go for a fitting in your local bra shop at home, it is amazing!) that you can wear for a couple days in a row. Make sure to switch it out for the sports bra and wash/dry when possible.

Sports Bra

Get a good one! These are important especially for busty women on bumpy bus rides. It can definitely ruin your day if your puppies aren’t tied in properly — Speaking from experience here. Bras are so personal, I will leave the choice up to you.

Base Layers

Merino Wool Thermals. We knew we would be in all types of weather, so we packed for it. We were in Mexico and it dipped below freezing! I wore the long sleeve under t-shirts which was a life saver. It is also great on cooler hikes in the mountains, Merino wool like these wick sweat away and keep you hot or cool. I also, praise this outfit aka Ninja Suit for cold night sleeps in places that have concrete for walls. I went for the 200, it is a light weight fabric, and the bottoms are great for wearing under pants.

Sarong/Scarf

This is a must for several reasons. For covering your head at certain religious sites or covering your face in the hot sun while on a ferry in Nicaragua Use it as a makeshift blanket for a picnic or an emergency towel. Keep the sand from your eyes in the desert winds, and the rancid open-sewer smell from your nose.

I have used and abused my sarong in every way, and usually have to buy a new one every couple of months after wearing it out.

*Photo tip, if you get a pretty colored one, it looks great in photos! These are usually easy to buy on the road as well.

A woman on a beach with an orange sarong

A Sarong is a must wherever you end up

Shoes

Alright Ladies, time for the shoe conversation. DO NOT BUY SHOES RIGHT BEFORE YOUR TRIP! You will be walking — a lot — and you will need your feet to stay blister free. So make sure to buy your shoes with plenty of time to break them in, or bring a pair that you already love! From over 11 years of travel these are the best shoe choices for long term travel. I bring three pairs:

Sandals

I see many women travelling with fancy sandals. If you are not planning on walking all day in them, then go ahead, bring the pretty ones. But if it is hot and you are walking all day on cobblestone streets, or  hiking out to a hidden cove, make sure they are practical as well. This is my second pair of Merrell Terran Post II sandals and love them!

I know they aren’t the prettiest, but I have actually done some decent hikes in them and been happy that I had them. I was able to go through rivers and streams and keep on going, without wrecking my feet or drenching my hiking shoes (When your hiking shoes are wet, they can take a LONG time to dry).

Flats

This is where I carry something a little cuter, I have a pair of TOMs Crochet Classics which are super light to carry, are great for day-to-day wandering.
TOMs also has a charity where when you buy a pair of TOMs they give one pair to someone in need. There are many styles of flats out there ranging from $20 to over $200. So pick the best that suit you, just make sure they are great for long days.

Hiking Shoes

Now this is a personal one, if you plan on doing minimal hiking, then get a great regular running/walking shoe. I would always recommend my favourite brand Merrell because they have been there since the beginning (2007) and I have only bought three pairs in total — two were because I wanted a change of colour.

Outerwear

Light Rain Coat with Hood

Now I don’t like to be wet. We were in Medellin and it rained a lot, it was nice to have a rain coat. I find them less bulky than carrying around an umbrella and quicker to dry. They are great when you can get seamless ones that are actually waterproof rather than “resistant.” I bought mine again at MEC which is not available worldwide, but would suggest getting one that rolls up into the hood for easy packing.

Puffy Winter Jacket

I bought a puffy that rolls up super small, from one of my favourite companies, [Lole] from Montreal. It is a great travel girl store with all the cute and practical clothing you could need.

The Lole Emeline Jacket has come in handy in so many places. Now I know what you are thinking… Why would I need a puffy jacket ever while backpacking? (That is what I thought too) Well, when hiking in the mountains, it is nice to have warmth. I have worn this jacket in the highlands of southern Mexico and the mountains of Morocco; as well as London, Mallorca, and Colombia. I hadn’t thought I’d wear it as much as I have, but I’m glad I had it. You never know what climate you’ll end up in; might as well be prepared.

Other Clothing

At this point, you should have an idea about what you want to pack and what you don’t. There will be some articles of clothing that you will want to pack, so keep those aside, and wait until you do the trial packing. There is sometimes room for more, and if you cannot decide to bring that one shirt or not, see if it fits. You can get rid of clothing while on the road, and you will want to have some room for buying some new fun stuff while travelling as well.

Another thing I want to point out is that you don’t need to buy new clothes for your trip, maybe a couple things but if you have something similar that you like to wear, bring that, don’t go spending all of your hard earned savings on new travel clothes, save the money for travelling!

Kylee wearing hiking shoes, black pants and a blue shirt while throwing an object at a target

Comfortable pants and shoes on a cool day in Medellín

Now that is the clothing portion of the list. Are you all still with me? Good. Cause here come the rest!

Toiletries

Lush Shampoo and Conditioner bars

Lush has so many different bars which are great for every type of hair, and last a very long time. The reason I take these bars is because I do not like the bottles of liquid in my bag, they bust open, and ruin stuff.

BodyWash

Whatever works best for you, but make sure to put them into these GoToobs for safe keeping. I travel with 3 of them, they are spill and leak-proof and are easy to fill. Or stick to a body bar like the shampoo and conditioner. Try to buy a soap that is environmentally friendly as well, just in case you find yourself in need of a bath and want to wash in a river or lake. Don’t hurt the fish!

Toothbrush, floss and toothpaste

Bring your favourite, they have more supplies of these all over the world, just make sure to have a toothbrush cover so when you have to leave your accommodation you can pound your cup of coffee, brush your teeth and stuff it in your bag without having to worry about pulling it out later with hair and lint stuck to it.

Hairbrush/Hair Ties

For the brush, whatever works best for your hair. For the ties,
bring extra, these are great to use to tie up cords for your electronics or that unfinished bag of granola on travel day.

Makeup

Bring what you wish of course, but I always make sure to have a waterproof mascara, your face will get hot and sweaty, it will rain, and you will get wet — better to stay cute.

Nail File/Clippers and Deodorant

Self explanatory, bring what suits you best.

Razor/Epilator, or both

I use the Braun Silk-epil 9 It came with a bunch of attachments, but I only brought the shaver, epilator, brush and face attachment. It gets rid of the hair (while making you cry) just like waxing. It gets easier every time and the hair stays away for longer than shaving.

If bringing razors, stick to ones that have the shaving cream strips on them, to save room in the bag on the cream. I only use razors for my underarms, because epilating there hurts like a bitch.

Diva Cup

Maybe not for everyone, but saves soooo much money and room in your pack. I have been using the Diva Cup since our first trip and love it! Make sure you learn how to use it (just like your shoes, break em in) before you go on your trip. I also bring a handful of small tampons when I am unsure where i am going to be that day and can’t rinse out the cup. Along with light pads, but make sure to get the all natural ones, save the environment!

Medications

Make sure to have all prescriptions filled before you go, bring the medical info with you, and leave them in the bottle they came in so you don’t get too many questions when crossing borders. Make sure to pick up enough Birth Control and a couple yeast infection pills as well.

First-Aid Kit [Basic]

Mark and I carry a simple First-Aid Kit which gives us the bare essentials. Polysporin, bandaids, hydration salts, safety pins, pain medication including headache and motion sickness pills. Just make your own to make it easier and cheaper.
 

Tee Tree Oil

Get the good stuff not the diluted variety. This is for any cuts, scrapes, rashes that you will get on the road. Also works great if you don’t have time for a shower and need to de-stinkify yourself before heading out.

Tweezers and Pocket Mirror

Make sure your mirror has a regular mirror and a close up mirror. Also, if you have a good pair of tweezers already stick with them, if not, invest in a good one; it is so worth it! I have this one.

Sunscreen

I always get an expensive brand Sun Screen for my face, because I don’t want oily gross face in all my photos, nor does it feel good. You will break out wearing regular sunscreen and that is never fun.

UV-protective Chap-stick

Don’t burn your lips, get sun protection chap stick.

Drain Plug

We carry one mainly for washing clothes. Not every place has a plug. We have also used this in bathtubs to have a soak, and kitchen sinks to do dishes.

Clothesline

A clothesline that pinches your clothes is the best thing you can buy, it hangs everywhere and has a twisted design so you don’t need clips. It holds your clothes in place in the wind and is a life saver if you need dry clothes quickly. Just buy it!

Packtowel

Most accommodation will give you a towel, but sometimes they don’t. You’ll want something that dries fast and is light to carry. Also, if you are in a beach destination you will want secondary towel for the beach. Our Packtowels have come in handy more often than we thought, with its perfect size and the handy loop it has for hanging, its the best choice for a travel towel.

Toiletries Bag

To hold all of your toiletries in one amazing pack, I use this Eagle Creek Toiletries bag. It hangs on anything, has many different storage compartments and is very durable. It rolls up and zips so if something spills, there is no need to worry!

All the Other Stuff

PacSafe

For all your valuable electronics. Tie it up to a stable metal pole (closet) or bed frame in the room. It won’t prevent theft entirely, but will deter opportunist thieves. It’s worth the price for the peace of mind and fits snug in the back of your pack. This PacSafe safe is the one we travel with.

Water bottle

Nomader roll up travelling water bottle is the best brand we found to travel with. They are BPA free, don’t leak and come in fun colours.

Steri Pen

Save the earth, stop buying plastic water bottles.  The Steri Pen Ultra will sterilize one liter of water in a minute and a half. It is USB chargable, and saves you money in the long run. We have drank water out of the tap after it has been sterilized in Central America, Mexico, Colombia, and all over Eastern Europe. It’s saved us from wasting thousands of plastic bottles.

Multitool

It is always nice to have a knife, scissors, and a wine bottle opener handy. It is great to have because you will use it and be glad you have it. I carry the Victorinox Swiss Army Mountaineer and have used it for so many different things around the world. (mostly opening wine bottles…)

Wine Bladder

When you buy a bottle of wine, or liquor and need to hop on a bus, you don’t want to carry a heavy, breakable bottle. Pour the leftovers in the Platypus Wine Bladder which is light, durable, and puncture-resistant pouch.

Head Lamp

Great for when you are camping, or staying in a place with shared bathrooms and need to get up in the middle of the night. Also, we have used them numerous times on hikes, and in caves. We love Petzl brand they are affordable and last a long time (as long as you don’t store them with the batteries inside, keep them separate)

Sunglasses

You probably have a pair or two already but when you are travelling make sure to wear a pair of sunglasses that are polarized and have an SPF rating. Protect them beautiful eyes of yours ladies!

Passport Holder and Organizer

I always keep my important documents and money/credit cards in the same place when on the move. Life is easier when you have it organized.

Purse

You don’t want to spend your travels being worried someone is going to pickpocket you, or cut your purse string off and steal your bag (which happens) or scan your Credit Cards while they walk past you (this also happens). I have the Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag, I know they aren’t super trendy but safety is beautiful!

TSA Locks

TSA friendly locks are to keep your bag locked at all times when on the move. It is a deterrent of course, but better then nothing. The TSA lock makes it easy for security to open your bag and check whats inside without having to pull you aside in the airport. The lock will show you if TSA had opened it as well, which is nice to know.

Last but not least… What to pack it all into?

First, roll all of your clothing as tight as possible. Second, stuff them into these amazing Eagle Creek Packing Cubes. I use 2 Large and 2 Small cubes and keep my underwear, socks and bras in a small one. I also separate the clothing I will wear in each place if I can plan ahead. Then you don’t have to pack every time you leave a place if you only stay for one or two days. It saves space, and time. I wouldn’t travel without these packing cubes.

Our first couple trips I went with a top loading backpack, and it was the most annoying pack to get in and out of. I would not suggest this type of backpack. The pack I have and LOVE is the Osprey Farpoint 55. It has a removable day pack, which makes the main part carry on compatible.

The size is big enough, especially for my small torso. The pack opens right up, has clips on the outside for rolling up and storing things on the outside as well. I went for the blue version, because it is easy to spot when coming down the conveyor belt if I decide to check it.

I also bought a Rain Cover which I would highly suggest for any pack. It saves the backpack from getting ripped, and scuffed, as well is a good deterrent for thieves, oh yea… and it covers your pack from the rain too!

Now get Packing!

Hopefully this helped you make the decisions of what to bring on your amazing ’round the world trip. Let us know where you are headed, and if you have any questions. We love to help anyone that wants to take the step to travel the world!

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Kylee HayesCynthia / Adventuring Womanwendy Recent comment authors
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wendy
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Great list there Kylee. Got to admit that I love the idea of the wine bladder. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that one!

Cynthia / Adventuring Woman
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Awesome tips, thanks! I love that you suggest 3 pairs of shoes. It is so crazy when people suggest one pair, even for a short trip. After a long day of walking, one needs to switch out. I’m checking out a lot of your specific suggestions. I love the idea of 100% merino. Personally I bring as many pair of socks as underwear 😉