How to Pack for Months with a Single Backpack (Yes, It’s Possible)

You don’t have to be a minimalist!

Back at university, I studied in Italy for a semester. Prior to departure, my professor showed my peers and I how to travel with a single, carry-on backpack for months. (Yes, months!) At the time, it seemed impossible, but now it’s my preferred way to travel. (See my previous post to know why.)

For trips less than three months, I take my Osprey Skimmer 28L. This isn’t a product review so I won’t go into detail but it’s a well-organised bag with many awesome features. What’s more important is what I pack in it.

Excluding clothes and basic toiletries, here are my eighteen travel essentials…

Electronics

  1. Two or three travel adapters

Research which adapters you need and opt for a grounded ones.

  1. A power converter

This is not the same as an adapter and might be necessary if you plan to use appliances that aren’t dual voltage. Tripsavvy offers good guidance on this.

  1. Two phone chargers

I keep one phone charger on my person at all times. I leave the other wherever I’m staying.

  1. A power bank

I use my phone camera a lot when I’m traveling and it drains my battery. I don’t always have access to a plug so a power bank is a must. I

Dining Ware

  1. Dry snacks

I bring nuts, dried fruit and oatmeal packs. Travel + Leisure offers a useful guide on carry-on foods.

  1. A bamboo cutlery set

As someone who loves the planet, I try to eliminate waste when I explore it. Plus, it’s super convenient to have cutlery wherever I go.

  1. A travel water mug or tumbler with a strap

United by Blue carries some lovely mugs with carabiners for easy carrying. The tricky thing is getting something large and durable yet lightweight.

  1. One piece of collapsible Tupperware

This comes in handy during road-trips and hikes. I also use it when I dine in at my hostel or Airbnb.

Hygiene

  1. Tissues

I mostly use old-fashioned handkerchiefs which many folks find yucky. I also bring eco-friendly pocket tissues. The Cheeky Panda and No Issues are two recommended brands.

  1. Two or three face masks

Since the start of covid-19, this has been a travel must. When I flew home in April, I brought three masks with me.

  1. Hand sanitizer

Get a small one that can hook to your backpack but pack it in your clear toiletries bag for security.

  1. A microfiber towel

I love this item because it’s small, lightweight and dries very quickly.

  1. A Kula Cloth®

If you’re going on an outdoor adventure, a Kula Cloth® is a more practical and hygienic alternative to “drip-dry” and pee rags. (Also, they have cool designs!)

Clothing

  1. Sunglasses

I use sunglasses at all times of the year, especially during winter hikes when the snow is blinding.

  1. A wind-resistant and waterproof jacket

An umbrella isn’t practical but a light weatherproof jacket is. (Yay!)

  1. One pair of flip-flops

I wear flip-flops wherever I stay, especially in the shower. Even seemingly clean bathroom floors can leave you with plantar warts which put a damper on your travel plans. (No, thanks!)

Miscellaneous

  1. Carabiners

I’m always hooking things to my pack for easy access and to maximise what I can carry.

  1. Two or three reusable plastic bags

I bring one to keep clothing from getting damaged or dirty, one for shopping and one for dirty laundry.

  1. A combination lock

Most hostels have lockers for your stuff. You can buy or rent a lock from them but it’s better to bring your own. I prefer a combination lock so there aren’t any keys to lose.

Some notes…

  • You have to pack selectively. I’m no minimalist but I’ve gotten better at recognising what I need versus want.
  • You won’t be able to bring certain items like large bottles of shampoo if you only have a carry-on. I avoid this by using bar products. I love Rainwater Botanicals and there are many other producers.
  • Don’t forget the feminine products, ladies! I have a special pouch for mine.
  • Winter travel often requires more stuff but I try to wear the heaviest and biggest pieces of clothing like my hiking boots and ski jacket. I wear the latter during flights because it has great interior and exterior pockets and can be the perfect blanket.

While travelling with a single, carry-on backpack isn’t for everyone, this list of packing essentials might be useful for your next adventure. Feel free to put other suggestions in the comments!

Thank you!

A big thank you goes to Kate of Travel for Difference (@travelfordifferenceblog). She’s a wildlife photographer, an intersectional environmentalist, and a conscious traveller among other things. She uses her platform to advocate for better treatment of the environment. I’m no expert for conscious travel but she definitely is! Give her a follow for superb content and tips!

(Featured photo courtesy of Spencer Gurley via Pexels)

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