RICH: After I posted my ultralight packing list, I got a few queries about what a similar set-up might look like for female travelers. I was kind of curious myself, so I asked my friend Rebecca Da Silva – a long-term traveler and small businesswoman (seriously, she’s tiny) – to unpack her own bag and share some tips for the ladies. Over to you, Becky!
My first proper introduction to minimalist travel was in Thailand in 2016. A friend had managed to pack down all his belongings down to a tiny backpack, and naturally, I saw this as a challenge I couldn’t refuse.
I gladly traded down my 46 litre backpack to a tiny 22 litre pack, and weirdly enough, I didn’t feel like I had sacrificed anything at all.
Travelling with carry-on only has saved me hundreds of dollars on extra luggage fees, especially travelling around Southeast Asia. Because I travel long-term (I’ve been on the road for over a year now with no plans to return home any time soon), I also make sure that my bag has some “home comfort” items and work gadgets, too.
Here are my tips for minimalist packing as a female long-term traveler!
My main bag is the Macpac Kahu 22 litre. It’s extremely durable, rugged, and has a laptop compartment, too. (RICH: If this looks familiar, it’s because it used to be mine! I traded it to Becky for her Osprey Pixel, and I’m stoked that the Kahu went to a good home.)
For a day bag, I use a Fjallraven Kanken Mini in which I carry my purse, passport, and phone. I also pop a packet of chewing gum, my notepad and pen in my day bag. It can slot into my Macpac if needed, but I prefer to carry two bags with me – one on my back that I don’t take off, and one with all my essentials in it.
I use two packing cubes, one small and one medium sized, where I’ve divided my clothes up into underwear & outerwear. I then slip the smaller cube into the medium one for extra compression. It cannot be over-stressed how important packing cubes are! They play a vital role in compressing all my clothing, and keep the interior of my bag neatly organised.
I like dark and neutral colours, so I stick mostly to black, grey, navy blue, and bottle-green as my colour palette. All my clothes can be mixed-and-matched, layered, and dressed up or down, depending on my needs. All clothes are rolled, rather than folded, to save space and keep wrinkle-free.
- One regular underwired bra
- One heavy duty sports bra
- One floaty crop top bra
- One bikini set
- Seven underwear
- Three pairs of socks
- One pair of boxers I use as pajama bottoms
- One tank top that doubles as pajama top
- One travel towel (quick-drying and folds down very small)
- Two dresses – one is a classic black dress that comes down past my knees and keeps my shoulders covered, so can be worn in more conservative countries. If it’s cold and I’ve settled somewhere for a few weeks, I’ll buy a cheap pair of leggings or tights on location.
- One pair of shorts – they’re athletic and black – great for both exercise and lounging around.
- One pair of black jeans – they’re stretchy, quick-dry, and extremely versatile. They’re a staple to my packing list as they’re thin enough for hot weather but can be layered with tights or leggings if it’s chilly.
- Two t–shirts – I carry a striped crop top, and a loose-fitting casual blue tee.
- Two long sleeve tops (one is a button-down shirt). Both are great for layering, and can be worn with the sleeves rolled up in warmer climates.
- One pull-over jumper
Shoes and outerwear
- One pair of Nike free runs – they’re super light and versatile. They let in plenty of breeze for hot climates, though they are terrible if it rains.
- One pair of Legero gore-tex wool lined booties – If you’re travelling somewhere chilly & wet, waterproof shoes are an excellent addition to your packing list. These shoes are extremely light-weight and can be dressed up or down.
- One pair of flip flops I buy on location if I’m staying at a beach for a while.
- One merino wool fleece.
- One lightweight waterproof jacket.
- One baseball cap – keeps the sun and the rain out of my face (I trade up for a beanie if it’s really chilly).
Each of my possessions are grouped up and sorted into five little toiletry bags. Each bag fits neatly into my Macpac, which helps to keep me organised. All bags are easily accessible and offer me the freedom to unpack and re-pack my bag in a matter of seconds!
- Two toothbrushes – one manual, one electric. Long-term traveling doesn’t mean neglecting oral hygiene.
- Toothpaste & floss. If I’m settled for a week or more, I splurge and buy some mouthwash, too.
- One travel size bottle of saline for my contact lenses, plus two months supply of contacts & multiple cases (just in case!)
- Dr Bronner’s bar soap – I use this as body wash and to cleanse my face. If I run out of laundry powder, I use this in a pinch.
- Shampoo bar from lush – A game changer for reducing your liquid allowance on flights. I’ve had my bar for over a year and it’s about half-way used.
- Crystal deodorant stick – again, this lasts for months on end and is really effective at reducing stank.
- Zero cup. Menstrual cups cut down on plastic waste, only need to be emptied twice a day, and means precious travel time is not spent searching for tampons.
- Epilator and charger – I don’t like to carry a razor because I try to reduce my plastic consumption as much as possible.
- Tweezers and mini scissors – Gotta maintain that eyebrow game!
- Two 100ml moisturisers that I replace as I go along. I suffer from eczema, so I always keep a few tubes of moisturiser with me.
- Two Vaseline pots filled with specialist moisturiser. I use this to soothe eczema flare-ups.
Beauty & Make Up
- Travel-sized conditioner. If I’m away for a short period of time, I’ll skip the conditioner. But travelling long-term really can play havoc on your hair with all the different climates. I tend to leave my conditioner on for 10 minutes as a “mask” and do this about once a week as a treat.
- Face masks – I carry Boots Essentials 3 minute face mask (50ml) with me, and do this weekly (often at the same time as my hair treatment!) I love the self-care aspect of it and it reminds me to slow down, especially if I’ve been jumping from one location to another.
- One comb & hair ties.
- Magnifying mirror. It’s handheld and folds up really small.
- Tinted moisturiser with SPF.
- Lipstick that doubles as blusher.
- Nail polish remover pads and one bottle of nail polish.
- Huawei P9. I deliberately purchased a phone with a high-quality camera, as I have decided not to travel with a camera to reduce the weight of my bag.
- MacBook Air 11″. I use this to run my business, so it’s essential I have a good laptop with me. It has a really long battery life and weighs just under 1kg, so it’s perfect for light-weight travel.
- Two pairs of earphones. I carry one pair of one noise cancelling earphones that work fantastically to reduce background noise. I typically use them on planes, long bus journeys, to drown out the sounds of annoying snorers at hostels… I also keep a cheap pair for daily use, I don’t treat these with as much care (I have a nasty habit of just stuffing them in my bag so they break or I happen to misplace them), so I replace them as I go.
- One mini Bluetooth speaker. I love music – if I’m renting my own room/apartment, having music played aloud is a necessity for me.
- One external battery pack – when my phone dies on the road, it’s handy to have a little extra juice available!
- Passport, international driving permit, my driving license, a mini notepad with all my important details – all separated up so if I lose one, I have the others to hand.
- Paper copies of important documents. I keep a print out of my travel insurance (always get insurance and make sure you read the policy in full to avoid getting caught out!), hard-copy of my passport and visas with me at all times.
- Two purses containing: 2 travel cash cards, one bank card from home, cash from multiple currencies, US dollar in case! (also separated).
- SIM cards from different countries. I always pick up a local SIM so that I can use the internet wherever I am. If the internet is spotty at my hostel, I can tether it to my laptop so that I can keep up to date with work stuff.
First Aid Kit
I keep all my medications together in an easy-access pouch. My first aid kit contains:
Plasters, paracetamol, cold & flu medication, diarrhoea tablets, antihistamines, condoms, Berocca tablets, steroid cream for eczema, mini sewing kit plus safety pin + spare buttons, antiseptic wipes, lozenges for sore throat, blister plasters, one larger waterproof dressing, and cotton buds.
- Sink stopper & laundry powder- I hand-wash as much as possible to save money on laundry costs, and this little “cleaner kit” has been very handy at times. Frugality for the win!
- Two canvas bags – one is handy for grocery shopping and the other is mini-sized which I use to store my dirty laundry.
- Eye mask – coupled with my noise-cancelling earphones, I can create a quiet and dark sleeping environment.
- Number padlock – useful for hostel lockers.
- World-wide plug adapter – charge up all my electronics from one adapter. Getting one with extra USB ports is great for charging my laptop & my phone at once.
- One notebook & two pens – great for jotting down journal entries, thoughts, and doodles.
- Two pairs of glasses and my optical information card – I lost a pair whilst travelling before and relying solely on contact lenses was not idea.
Last but not least, my travel companion – he’s stuffed in my bag as a little souvenir from back home!
RICH: Holy heck! My mind is blown at how much Becky somehow manages to fit in that tiny bag. I suspect she’s using one of those Hermione Granger magic spells or something. Hopefully this list provides some inspiration to show that ultralight travel is totally doable for ladies, and of course, there’s no need to go to this extreme – anything under 45L still counts as carry-on, which is twice the size of Becky’s sack.
Since she’s neglected to include any self-promotional stuff, I’m going to do it for her: Rebecca Da Silva is the creator of the Zero Cup, a female hygiene product which fits perfectly with the frugal ethos of this blog – it saves a ton of money, is way better for the environment, and very handy for traveling. Check out all the details at Zerocup.co.uk, and follow her journey on Instagram here.