I’ve done the whole 60L backpack thing before. It wasn’t fun. I don’t doubt that there are many fabulous people who actually pack appropriately and use everything that they bring… I’m just not one of them. And I know many challenged packers like myself. I was always incredibly jealous of those who managed long-term travel packing carry on only! The dream…
So, when planning for our 3-month excursion to Southeast Asia and the UK, I was adamant that I at least was only going to be packing carry on. The hubby agreed and we ended up buying two 30L Osprey bags and we already had two small backpacks in our possession. We maybe have 40-45 L each and do you know what? They’re LIGHT!
No back pain for this girl (bar the lengthy airplane rides and trains… I’m ignoring that all in my mind).
Now, what does one pack for three months? Here is how my bag broke down.
- 1 pair of lightweight trousers (Lululemon)
- 1 pair of leggings (Lululemon)
- 1 skirt
- 1 pair of shorts (MEC)
- 1 set of pyjamas (shorts that can double as beach shorts if needed and a t-shirt)
- 5 tops (combo of tank tops and t-shirts)
- 1 light sweater (Lululemon)
- 1 rain jacket (MEC)
- 4 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of walking shoes (MEC)
- 1 pair of each flip flops (which I had to replace twice on the road) and water shoes
- 1 swim suit
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 2 bras
Tip: to keep to the carry-on limit, it helps if you’re staying in the same climate.
The key was to invest in good quality clothing. I splashed out on some LuluLemon Athletica clothing before I went (see links below) and am so glad that I did. A year later after continual use (not to mention wearing them DAILY in Southeast Asia) and they still look pretty new. They were washed in all kinds of conditions, survived hard travel and I can continue to wear them. INVEST in your clothes, but make sure you’ll want to wear them when you get back!
- Macbook Air
- Kobo, LOADED with books. Eek! Can’t wait.
- Small digital camera (the hubby is carrying the behemoth Canon Rebel)
- GoPro Hero
- iPod 8GB
- all appropriate chargers
- The mother of all First Aid kits including water purifier
- Journal, pens, tiny notebook
- Resistance band (for hip pain!)
- Playing cards
- Toiletries – behold the solid shampoo and conditioner bars from LUSH!!!! Also, for the ladies, I brought enough tampons for the entire trip. I wasn’t sure how easy the kind I like would be to find, so gave up space in my bag for that comfort.
Get the Gear
Osprey 30L pack
This one is slightly different to the ones we had, but only marginally. It still has all the right pockets, the same straps, etc. I still use this backpack regularly to get my laptop to and from work. Never strained my back once!
If you’re looking for action-oriented cameras, this one is a lot of fun to play with!
These leggings were to die for. I could dress them up or down and they wicked away sweat! I still live in them.
The unlined “dance pants” were my every day trousers. They were lightweight, kept me cool and covered my ankles for temples and walking through tall grass or hiking.
I still wear this sweater religiously, in a darker grey. With another thin layer underneath it can be ridiculously warm, or with just a bra it is a simple long sleeve layer. LOVE. Oh, and fun fact, it grows with me! I’ve worn it throughout my pregnancy, even at 9 months. It hasn’t gotten over-stretched, but just grows with my bump.
Solid Shampoo / Conditioner
You want to get through security without all those liquids? The Lush solid shampoo and conditioner bars were a lifesaver. They last about 30 uses, so we brought two of each BETWEEN us for 2.5 months. In the UK for two weeks we did splurge on liquid stuff while staying with family. Note – the conditioner isn’t as good as liquid conditioner, but it does the trick on the road.
That Was It!
Seriously, that’s all we packed. David had different electronics gear (his Macbook Pro, the Canon Rebel T3i, etc.). When I look at this list, once upon a time it terrified me, but now I know that we can and we DID travel with only carry on. On our way back from the UK we checked luggage, but that’s just because we decided to splurge a) on new suitcases in Bangkok and b) on some warmer clothes in the UK.
Have you ever tried to travel long-term with only carry-on? How did it go? What did you pack that you wish you left at home?
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