Expert (back)Packing by a Rookie

I’ve learned that it’s tricky packing for a trip when you don’t know how long you’re going for and where you’re actually going. One of my goals during my upcoming sojourn is to become more comfortable with ambiguity, although it’s not easy when you’re undeniably Type A and love structure and organization more than Sex and the City re-runs (ok, it’s close).


I’m going to be honest with you here. My packing track record isn’t sterling. Sitting on a suitcase to coax the zipper closed is a regular occurance in my life and I’ve become an expert at ensuring every suitcase I check weighs exactly 49.5lbs. Anything less is a waste!

In order to 1) not look like an obnoxious tourist, 2) avoid needing help putting my pack on, and 3) try to skip being an easy target for theft (and all things bad, really), I vow to have packing reform!

Guiding Principles

As with most things in life, having a goal and supporting plan makes stuff run smoother. That’s why we need to iron out our packing guiding principles first.

  1. The only items you can’t leave home without are your passport and credit card. The rest is ‘nice to have’.
  2. North America isn’t the only place with stuff. You can get whatever you need on the road.
  3. Every item must meet an explicit purpose.
  4. It’s all got to fit neatly in a carry-on size pack.
  5. Bonus principle: don’t acquire random crap while you’re on the road. Send it home or don’t buy it.

Step by Step, oh baby!

With these principles in mind, I’ve spent the last while consumed by my new obsession of efficient packing. Here are the steps I took to become an expert packer:

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Every day loads of people set off on backpacking adventures and chart their preparation online. A few great blogs like The Lonely Planet, See the World in my Eyes and Spartan Traveler provided fantastic information on what folks bring backpacking these days.
  2. Make a rough packing list. You can check out my packing list Google doc here.
  3. Inventory what you have and what you need. Then cut your list in half because you really don’t need all that crap. The difference between a 15lb pack and 30lb pack is significant. Try filling your pack and running some stairs and tell me I’m wrong.
  4. Purchase outstanding items. I did the majority of my buying from Amazon, but would also suggest checking out REI and Sierra Trading Post for deals.
  5. Put it all in your pack,  do 50 burpees, and then remove even more crap you snuck in there. You will thank your fatigued, defeated future self, and of course me (make checks payable to Verity Conrad).

Now that you’re up to speed on the guiding principles and the mechanics of packing, I’m going to share my packing breakdown. Two things to keep in mind: 1) I will post another blog when I’m back on how efficient my packing turned out to be, and 2) piss off with your judgment about one or two of my ‘luxury travel’ items. Mascara is good for aerodynamics while mountaineering (ask Beauty in the BackCountry).

The big stuff


Here’s an overview of the big stuff. Everything fits in my Patagonia Ascensionist 35l pack (squared away in packing cubes). Lightweight day pack, runners, hiking boots and a neck pillow (that may or may not be discarded after my 14-hour flight tomorrow).


IMG_2478 (1)

From left to right: two pairs of pants, socks, knickers, bikini, two t-shirts, two tank-tops, light long sleeve, fleece, sports bra, compression sack, flippy-floppies, warm jacket and rain jacket.


IMG_2483 (1)

This category may mildly violate a guiding principle or two, but I stand by my toiletry packing decisions. Nestled in a neat little packing cube there is medication, hygiene items, contacts, and… a few other necessities.



My technology needs were the hardest to pack for. I ended up bringing two cameras (Canon digital SLR with distance lens, and underwater point-and-shoot), a super fun wrappable tripod for shameless selfies, a Chromebook (I’ll never buy a conventional laptop again), universal power adapter and mini-charging type plug-ins.

And it’s a wrap!


Above is the whole kit and caboodle. Worth mentioning, I also am bringing my iphone, kindle, a travel towel, and of course paperwork (vaccine and passport copies, passport photos, photos from home, PADI card and log book).

Do you have any packing tips that you swear by? Bets on my packing success? Leave a comment! It’s time to put my packing expertise to the test. Happy trails, friends!

BRB just doing stuff for a bit k?

x V

You may also like


  1. I think this is one of the most important information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But should remark on some general things, The site style is ideal, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

  2. I just want to tell you that I am just beginner to blogging and honestly savored this blog. Almost certainly I’m likely to bookmark your website . You absolutely come with outstanding posts. Appreciate it for sharing your website page.

  3. I have got been browsing on-line over 3 hours today, yet I in no
    way discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is actually beautiful price enough for me personally.
    Inside my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made excellent content material as you most likely did, the
    net is going to be a lot more useful than previously.

    1. That’s such a kind comment, thanks for the awesome feedback! If there are other topics on travel/adventure/packing that are hard to find online please let me know and I will try my best to cover them!

  4. Thank you for another informative site. Where
    else may just I am getting that kind of info written in such an ideal method?
    I have a venture that I’m just now working on, and I’ve
    been on the look out for such info.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words and for stopping by our site 🙂 We will keep it up and appreciate your support!

  5. Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.

    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
    her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

    1. LOL!!! This is the perfect place to share a story like that! I hope her ear was ok, but it’s the price you have to pay for engaging with nature!

  6. Hey There. I discovered your weblog the usage of msn. This is an extremely smartly written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to learn extra of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I?ll certainly return.

  7. Very efficient, Ver! Maybe a little ambitious with electronics, but I agree with the mascara – must have for purposes of aerodynamicity!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.