Efficient Packing 101

Backpacking Essentials!

Packing is essential to ensuring an enjoyable and smooth trip – especially a backpacking trip. If you forget a necessary item, you’ll probably be left looking for a store that may have the item, but find a very poor and cheap substitute of it. Even worse, you could be left the entire trip without your ever-coveted item.

This could mean the difference between a happy backpacker on a great trip versus a grumpy one having a terrible time. Imagine forgetting the essential toilet paper before a 3-day backpacking journey.

If you’re taking a trip overseas instead of into the wild, Transportation Security Administration’s strict rules, not to mention each airlines’ myriad of weight limits and baggage fees, can make packing incredibly stressful.

Here are a few packing strategies to maximize your packing on any trip and minimize your stress:

1. Do Your Research. You are already looking up local lodgings, attractions, and restaurants—spend a little extra time and review the climate and cultural customs. Take into consideration the types of activities you wish to do. Will you be relaxing poolside on an island with no need to change into anything other than a cover-up for dinner?

Will you be climbing and hiking in the forest one day and swimming the next? Will you be visiting art galleries and posh restaurants? Will there be mosquitos and other biting insects? What season are you traveling during? Take these points into consideration and make notes before you begin packing.

2. Make A List. Use the notes you made from your research and create a detailed list of all the things you need and want to pack. Start with the essentials: medications, hard-to-find toiletries, passports, documentation, etc. Don’t forget the toil

A list will ensure that you don't forget something essential.
A list will ensure that you don’t forget something essential.

et paper.

Write up this list well before your travel date; by doing this, you will see what you may still need to buy, get cleaned or fixed up. Also by starting early, you can always add to the list as another important item comes to mind.

3. Test Out Your Gear. If you’re going on a long backpacking trip, or a journey that uses specific pieces of equipment, get everything out you need a few days before and set it up. Check everything for holes, wear and tear, battery life (if it is an electronic), and general performance. You rely on your gear when you’re out in the wild, so make sure it’s going to help you it’s in perfect working order BEFORE you are 100 miles away from local civilization.

4. Roll It,  Don’t fold it. Well, that’s a relief. Nobody likes folding clothes anyway. Seriously though, rolled clothing takes up less space than folded clothes and will help keep them from getting wrinkled

5. Plastic Bags or Aids. Put everything in separate clear plastic bags. If spills happen inside one bag, it will not contaminate the rest of your items. This is especially important if you have food items out in nature. Not only do you not want to be attracting extra bugs or animals to your pack, but you want to ensure your food will still be edible when you need to eat it!

If your luggage is exposed to water, the plastic bags ensure that everything inside stays dry. If you have compression sacs, you could use them to vacuum-pack your clothing and other soft items into a tiny parcel that takes up a lot less space than regular plastic bags.

6. Two-in-One. Maximize your suitcase space with items that perform more than one function. Dual-purpose items like a jacket that turns into a travel pillow or a dress that can be worn in more than one way will help you save a lot of space.

Do a little research online to find more two-in-one camping essentials, like a whistle with a compass on it that opens up to a set of flints to start fires.

Beyond that, usually when you’re camping, two pairs of shoes are essentials: hiking boots and lighter weight sandals so your feet can breathe when you’re hanging around your campground space. This isn’t a two-in-one, but beats bringing several pairs of shoes.

6. Packing Your Carry On. Most airlines permit one “personal item” and one “carry-on.” These items are where you should keep your most important items like identification, reservations, passports, jewelry, electronics, prescription medication and currency. Additionally, pack at least a day’s worth of clothing; this way if the worst happens and the airline loses your luggage, you at least have one change of clothing.

If you’re camping, avoid bringing more than just the backpack you will carry on your back. Remember, the lighter you are, the easier the trek.

If you’re taking a plane, be sure you have your prescriptions written out by your doctor on you in case you are asked to show TSA. Keep the medication in their original containers and check to see if your name is clearly labeled on the outside of each container. If it is not, be sure to write your name on each container.

Special plastic containers are made to put in your pack so animals and bugs won’t smell medications and to ensure they stay otherwise safe and dry.

The face of a well-packed hiker.
The face of a well-packed hiker.


Keep these points in mind the next time you pack for a trip and the packing process will be that much easier and faster. Missing essential items on a backpacking trip could make for a very ghastly trip. Not to mention the stress you may experience if not properly prepared for a vacation across the world!