Is that it?!: A RTW ultralight packing list for women

So, one of my posts has caused a bit of confusion.

When I first introduced my new Raja bag from Ethnotek (I like to think of it as my batik buddy), I got more than a few replies – online and in person – wondering if it really holds everything I have. For someone currently backpacking the world and carrying their entire life on their back, is that tiny thing really it?!

The answer, basically, is yes.

While I do carry a purse which contains my DSLR, my iPod, a book or two, my wallet and passports and other purse-y things, the Ethnotek bag manages to fit all my other possessions inside.

Now, I’ll show you how I go about with ultralight packing for my RTW trip.

The above picture shows everything in my Ethnotek bag.

Yes, that’s really it.

Two things were done for this packing style: one, is packing ultralight; and two, is laundry bags.

As for the first, I normally do very minimalist packing, because when it comes to clothes (which tend to take the bulk of your luggage) I usually pack just a few pieces of clothing which I like and are interchangeable in a number of outfits. This way, I have a few outfits and styles that don’t take a lot of different pieces of clothing. Dresses are nice but take too much room and can’t be combined with other pieces, so I stick mostly to skirts and tops. Boleros can also dress up almost any top you have, plus they’re a lifesaver if you want to wear a tank top but cover up at the same time (think hot and muggy small-town SE Asia, or Turkey in summer)

I also try and condense all electronic chargers if I can, and using those tiny travel size versions of cosmetics and toiletries are a given.

As for the second, laundry bags are an ultralight backpacking lifesaver. I have three: one for tops, one for bathing suits and accessories, and one for underwear and socks. Having everything organised into these bags means that anything I need is crazy easy to find, and packing and repacking my bag takes less than a minute.

I will never, ever travel without those bags again!

And this is how everything looks unfurled from the bags. See how much space they create?!

For those interested in the nitty gritty, here’s the breakdown of how I pack light:

– 3 long-sleeve shirts
– 1 blouse
– 2 short sleeve shirts
– 2 boleros
– 5 tank tops
– 2 skirts
– 2 dresses
– 1 pair skinny jeans
– 2 pairs shorts
– 1 pair yoga pants
– 3 bathing suits (a mild indulgence)
– 2 bras
– 5 pairs of underwear
– 1 travel towel
– 1 belt
– 1 pair tights
– 1 scarf
– 1 pair sandals
– 1 pair flats
– 1 pair fugly trainers (tied to the outside of the pack during travel days – I keep it classy)
– 1 pair boots (not pictured, worn during travel days)
– 1 jacket (not pictured, worn during travel days)

Toiletries & Accessories
– 1 toiletry bag
– 2 small bottles sunscreen
– 1 bottle aloe
– 1 makeup bag
– 1 jewelry bag
– 1 sleep mask (I’m a delicate lady)
– band aids
– 1 sewing kit

Electronics & Misc.
– 1 external hard drive
– 1 50mm lens
– 1 laptop with case
– 1 folder of important documents
– 1 copy of diploma (for on-the-road job searches)
– 1 Pacsafe portable safe (so handy for hostel life!)

And there you have it. It looks like so much more once written out, but that’s everything I have to my name. There are clothes for most occasions, an on-the-road office, and all my important files and documents. I have my whole life on my back, and yes, it all fits into that Ethnotek bag.

And as for how my new Ethnotek batik buddy has held up after a month on the road? Still going strong, even when stuffed to the gills. It’s been thrown on busses, in trains, and airport cargo holds, and yet it’s not showing any sign of wear or tear. The only failing, again, is the lack of a waist-strap – without it, the bag can be troublesome to carry for long periods of time on end, especially stuffed with an entire life (no matter how minimalist). However, I still wouldn’t trade it for anything – between the quality, the design, all the secret pockets and the portability, it’s perfect for me and my trip.

And for my entire life, stuffed inside!

Do you pack light as well? Or are you one of those prepared-for-anything travellers with a mountain on their back? There’s always suitcases too, I guess…

(This post is written in partnership with Ethnotek, one of my new favourite organisations. All opinions, however, remain always and forever my own!)


34 Responses to Is that it?!: A RTW ultralight packing list for women

  1. Kirstin 3 October, 2012 at 01:35 #

    I’m in awe of your packing skills (as I stare at my pile of five suitcases stacked in the corner… ugh).

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:06 #

      Five suitcases?! Are you bringing your house?! ;)

    • Monika 6 December, 2012 at 00:31 #

      five suitcases? seriously? how do you manage to carry everything with you all the time?

  2. Alli Campbell 3 October, 2012 at 02:13 #

    I’ve got to admit, I saw that bag and thought “but, how?!” By the look of your list though, it’s got some Mary Poppins magic behind it. And I’m with you on the laundry bags – life savers!

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:06 #

      Yeah, it looks like so much more once all laid out!

  3. Kate 3 October, 2012 at 03:51 #

    I think you actually have more than I did on my trip (with the exception of underwear, which I would do again in a heartbeat), except you packed it much more efficiently!

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:08 #

      Laundry bags, man. Packing MAGIC!

  4. Ellie 3 October, 2012 at 10:39 #

    Wow, impressed! you always look fabulous, i can’t believe everything you have is on your back! I realized on my last trip I am not a backpacker.. i’m a throw it all in a suitcase kinda girl. but maybe I need to pack smarter next time, minimalist looks nice :)

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:10 #

      There are certainly times I wish I had a suitcase to roll behind me instead of having all that weight on my back…but then there are times when I ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY wouldn’t want a suitcase – and I find myself in much more of those than the former!!

  5. Nomadic Translator @latinAbroad 3 October, 2012 at 23:40 #

    love love love this! And I thought I was good about packing… Apparently not good enough! the only question left unanswered is whether you stuff your DSLR & other electronics inside the Pacsafe portable safe? I would want them to be outside the back overnight, so wondering what to do to protect them

    – Maria Alexandra

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:12 #

      Girl, the Pacsafe is MAGIC. It fits at least my laptop, DSLR with lens, external hard-drive, and passports inside, and it’s fairly inconspicuous if you have it behind your bag or the hostel bed. Have total, total faith in it!

  6. Audrey | That Backpacker 4 October, 2012 at 12:28 #

    Nice packing skills! I’m starting to think about what kind of bag to get for when I hit the road in a few months. I know I’ll definitely be using packing cubes or laundry bags to organize everything. That’ll definitely make unpacking and repacking easier. :D

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:16 #

      Fo serious. I honestly can’t imagine how I got by without this system. All that wasted time, rooting through backpacks filled with loose pieces of clothing and equipment…bah!!

  7. Eunsuk Kim 4 October, 2012 at 16:42 #

    Hey lady! You are going well!! I am so happy for you. I can not believe that everything is on your back! Is it light? lol Miss ya so much!! :D

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:18 #

      Well, I did live for two years in that tiny shoebox apartment, and it did me just fine too, hahah! ;) xx

  8. Jill 5 October, 2012 at 16:01 #

    Nice post! We pack pretty similarly… I love using packing cubes. Makes everything so much more manageable.

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:18 #

      Seriously. Never looking back! ;)

  9. Ekua 15 October, 2012 at 07:20 #

    I still think I suck at packing, but I’m getting better with each trip and seeing the benefits of paring back. I have to admit I was a little smug in Namibia when my sister hauled around a huge suitcase while I was really mobile with my backpack. For me, packing dresses has helped me keep things light. I usually bring 3-4 resilient dresses in a variety of colors and patterns that don’t wrinkle much and hold up well in the wash. It makes getting dressed so quick and I don’t feel like a grungy backpacker and its easy to warm it up with leggings. Also, I get variety from accessories as well. The thing I struggle with is toiletries… I have sensitive skin and I love my natural-ish products too much to leave them at home!

    • na-o-mi 15 October, 2012 at 16:38 #

      True that! I’m stil divided on dresses because I much prefer to mix and match tops and bottoms to create new looks, but there’s no denying that they make it crazy easy to get dressed in the morning ;)

  10. Christine | Grrrl Traveler 24 October, 2012 at 16:34 #

    Great post. I’m envious– Your list looks kinda long, and yet, the way you’ve packed them makes it all look so tiny! I’ve gotten to love packing. It’s always such a fun challenge to see where you can scale back. Well, maybe it’s not initially fun when you see how much shit you’re gonna try to fit in; but then when you get into multipurpose items, that’s where I feel like I’m being resourceful.

    Still need to figure out how I can upgrade my grungy backpacker wardrobe to more girly…without having to add a whole closet.

    • na-o-mi 24 October, 2012 at 20:01 #

      I know – writing everything up really surprised me; it seems like so much less once everything is packed away!

      The stuff I carry is pretty girly, and I like to think I get a few cute outfits from it…I just happen to look the same every day, ah!

  11. Natalie 29 October, 2012 at 21:36 #

    Oh I love this! You’ve packed everything so well and you still have lots of nice stylish stuff. My bag is so cluttered and overflowing – it’s a nightmare. I WISH my bag looked as neat as this! And great tip with the laundry bags for organisation. It’s like you have a portable wardrobe!

    • na-o-mi 29 October, 2012 at 22:20 #

      Laundry bags, girl…laundry bags. They are MAGIC!

  12. Aisa 25 November, 2012 at 17:38 #

    Your details, ultra light packing list/post served as an inspiration for my own. I’m heading to Central America in 9 days. I’m no way a minimalist by any token but having seen your list as a bench mark really helps me pare things down drastically comparing to my normal packing behavior.

    • na-o-mi 27 November, 2012 at 14:06 #

      Cheers Aisa – that’s great to hear! :)

  13. Koralee 26 January, 2013 at 05:25 #

    Thank’s so much for your advice. I’m leaving on Monday to go to Germany to stay with my Uncle, whom I have only met 2 – 3 times in my life. I decided I wanted to pack light because when I go to Turkey, at least half of what’s in my suitcase, I never touch. I did a little Google search to get some ideas on how to just pack enough for my carry on. Took a couple of different type of searches to find yours, and I’m so glad I did.

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 12:36 #

      Woohoo, glad it helped! :)

  14. LadyLightTravel 5 May, 2013 at 05:28 #

    I love your list, but I am going to challenge the statement that dresses “can’t be combined with other pieces”. They most certainly can!

    One reason I like dresses is because they are cool and easy to dress up. On days where I am feeling “off” I really don’t want something touching my tummy or waist. So a garment that hangs from the shoulders is ideal. I consider them to be a power piece – something I can wear a lot of different ways for a lot of different looks.

    • Naomi Alyssa 7 May, 2013 at 14:32 #

      Very interesting – I love that graphic! Definitely gives me food for thought.

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