Wonder how to pack a carry-on with enough clothes for all seasons? It’s actually not that hard, even for us women. Here is my packing list.

The ultimate carry-on packing list for female travelers – 2021 Update

Sandra RosenauFirst Published: Last Updated: Take the right gear 4 Comments

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Ever wondered how someone can fit their whole life into a carry-on backpack and travel the world with no end in sight? It’s actually not that difficult, even for women, and once you’ve tried travelling light on a short trip, you won’t want to go back, even when you travel longer.

How do I know? I lugged around a 70-litre backpack on my three-month backpacking trip in 2012, and while this was great to tone my muscles, it wasn’t much fun schlepping this monster around in 30+ degree heat and over 75% humidity. I can tell you, travelling with carry-on is so much more pleasant.

Waiting with backpacks at Brazil Argentina border
In 2012, we still traveled the world with big backpacks
Countries Explored Since I Started
Number of days on the road
Total weight of gear I own
< 0 kg

Initially, I struggled with the strict volume and weight limitations (especially when packing for all seasons). Until I came across the concept of a capsule wardrobe. My packing list is based on the same principle. I don’t only share with you my (current) packing list but also what I’ve learnt over the 5 years I’ve lived full-time on the road.

By the way, my packing list has got you covered for travel in any season and any weather. You may want to adjust it according to the weather/climate at your destination and the time of year you travel.

And lastly, while my article today is for my fellow female travel aficionados, if you’re a guy who’s reading this (or a male loved one could use some advice) you may find the Minimalist Travel Wardrobe and Carry-On Packing List For Men fits what you’re after.

Since 2019, I’ve not only looked for the most suitable gear that meets my needs and stands the test of time, but I’ve also considered how eco-friendly and ethically a product was made. If I don’t replace an item with a more eco-friendly or ethically sourced one, I include the reason. I have also linked to organisations that have reviewed the sourcing practices of the manufacturers of my gear.

Luggage and Organisation

If you don’t have carry-on luggage yet, check out our guide to find the carry-on backpack that’s right for you.


Given its importance, the backpack was the item I researched the most. Paul had bought a Tortuga V2, but that pack was too big for my frame (I’m only 1.64 metres / 5 feet 4.57 inches tall). I compared about a dozen different backpacks, and the Osprey Ozone 46 Travel Pack ended up being the best compromise based on my criteria.

Osprey doesn’t seem to make the Ozone 46 Travel Pack anymore, which is a real shame. I do like Osprey packs though and would likely buy another one if I ever had to (my Osprey backpack is still going strong 5 years on). Not only is it one of the few companies that are still owned by the founding family, but they also sell at a very reasonable price and come with a lifelong guarantee.

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack Black, One Size
  • Meets carry-on size restrictions for most airlines (22H X 14W X 11D inches)
  • Large U-zip luggage-style access to main compartment - 46L total volume
  • Shoulder straps and hipbelt are stowable converting the bag from a backpack carry to duffel-style
  • Protected rear panel lockable zip laptop/tablet sleeve for quick access at security or while traveling (fits up to most 15 inch laptops)
  • Front panel organization pocket for easy access to small travel items
Tortuga and Osprey Ozone 46 backpacks
Tortuga and Osprey Ozone 46 backpacks

Packing Cubes

The Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube Set is a great help to keep everything neat and organised (like having drawers in your backpack). It’s easy to locate an item (for example, if I’m cold in an air-conditioned hall at the airport I just open the large packing cube, grab a cardigan or my shawl and zip it up again). No mess, no fuss.

While the cubes and the backpack don’t match exactly, they do work well together. My set includes one large cube (35cm x 25cm x 8cm) and two medium cubes (25cm x 18cm x 8cm). I’d never used packing cubes before I embarked on this journey but I swear by them now.

Sadly, Eagle Creek’s parent company has decided to close down the brand by the end of 2021. The one positive thing: you might be able to pick up a set of packing cubes, luggage and other travel organization gear at a discounted price as Eagle Creek’s operation is being wound up. My packing cubes are still going strong after 5 years, so their gear is definitely worth checking out.

Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube Set Packing Organizer, Black, Set of 3
  • PACK-IT ORIGINAL CUBE SET XS/S/M - Stay organized while using every square inch of packing space; set includes 3 different sized cubes: Medium - 14 x 10 x 3 in, Small - 10 x 7 x 3 in, X-Small 7.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 in
  • PACK-IT TIPS - We recommend rolling your items in your luggage to maximize storage and to minimize wrinkles
  • ACCOMMODATE - Suitcase designed opening to conveniently accommodates any packing style; Easily fold and stack your clothes inside, or roll them up to maximize packing space
  • SIMPLIFY SUITCASE LIVING - Pack your clothes and essentials in packing cubes to compartmentalize clothing and travel accessories; Bags designed with a mesh top for visibility and breathability
  • NO MATTER WHAT WARRANTY - Eagle Creek's Lifetime Warranty, plus the added insurance of repair or replacement due to product failure during the product lifetime, regardless of the cause

Overtourism is a growing problem globally. Learn how to make your contribution to ensure that travelling the world doesn’t become a burden.


Paul and I currently use the Matador Freerain24. Our daypack gets used a lot, as you can imagine. Our current daypack is actually our third one in 5 years of travel: We started with a Tortuga daypack. When that broke, we moved to a 16-litre Matador daypack. The biggest weak point on the Tortuga was its seams. The biggest weak point on the 16-litre Matador daypack was the main compartment zipper.

The Matador Freerain24 doesn’t have the main compartment zipper, and therefore doesn’t have the same issues the smaller version. We’ve now had it for over 2 years, and it’s still holding up very well.

Matador FreeRain24
The Matador FreeRain24 is our second daypack from Matador

The Matador daypacks are the lightest packable waterproof backpacks there are. The 24-litre version only weighs 187 grams and packs into its own pouch – about the size of Paul’s fist.

Our requirements for a daypack were:

  • Ultra-light yet super strong
  • Waterproof or at least water repellent
  • As close to 20-litre capacity as possible (the Tortuga daypack had 21-litres which worked well, the 16-litre Matador was a bit on the small side).
  • Main compartment large enough to fit two laptop sleeves
  • Deep side pocket/s to fit our 800ml water bottle
  • Comfortable, adjustable shoulder straps and top grab handle
  • Ability to pack it up into its own pouch.
Dimensions50cm x 28cm x 24cm / 19.5in x 11in x 9.5in
Weight187g / 6.6oz
Purchase DateJune 2019
Sustainable or Ethical Policy StatementSustainability Statement
Matador FreeRain24 daypack in action
Carrying our Matador FreeRain24 daypack


Like our daypack, my handbag gets used a lot. So, no wonder I’m onto my second handbag in 5 years.

I had a Pacsafe Cruise Anti-Theft All Day Crossbody handbag before we started our location-independent life. But I always found that it hurt my back after a while, as I ended up carrying the water bottle, iPad and all sorts of stuff in it. It was also far too clunky to take on a night out. So, in 2016, I bought a Pacsafe SlingSafe 100 GII. It still fitted a lot in it, surprisingly. But it was better for my back, looked nicer (especially with a dress) and lasted 4 years.

I had bought Pacsafe handbags for their security features: embedded eXomesh® wiring that protects against thefts, an extra locking mechanism for the zipper and an in-built RFID pouch for my wallet. So, when it came to replacing my second handbag (its zipper and the locking mechanism that connects the strap to the bag had started playing up), I first looked at Pacsafe models. The Stylesafe Anti-Theft Crossbody Bag looked like a contender.

In the end though, I went with a totally different brand that offered similar safety features at a very competitive price. My current handbag is the Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Essential Messenger Bag. Travelon‘s safety features are less obvious than those on the Pacsafe handbags (which I prefer), and so far, it’s working really well for me.

Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Essential Messenger Bag, Black, One Size
  • Cross-body bag in slash-proof construction featuring adjustable cut-proof strap and logo plaque at front
  • Locking compartments. Strap Length- 25 - 45. Strap Drop Length- 14 - 25.25
  • RFID-blocking card and passport slots
  • Removable LED light

You’d love to travel but it seems unaffordable? Make your travel dreams come true (without getting into debt) in 4 easy to follow steps.

Stuff Sack

I use a stuff sack/compression sack for a number of reasons:

  • The first is that it holds my dirty washing. I prefer to keep my smelly and dirty clothes separate from my clean clothes.
  • Secondly, I use it to store wet clothes when I head to the beach or pool for a swim.
  • And thirdly, I use it to store my Microsoft Surface Pro when I need to carry it in the daypack in the pouring rain. A waterproof bag inside a waterproof bag – just to be on the safe side.

My current sack is a large Exped Folding Drybag. It’s a swiss design but made in China from PU-coated nylon.

Exped Fold Drybag XS-L BS 4 Pack
  • organization and overview made simple: keeps gear dry and clean
  • the sealed roll-top closure can also be used as grab handle or as a hook loop (i.e to hook onto a branch or similar)
  • waterproof also means reliable protection against sand, dust, dirt or bugs
  • Large Fold-Drybags can also be used to wash your laundy (fill with water and detergent - then shake!)
  • Ideal waterproof protection and organization in bicycle panniers
Dimensions42cm x 22cm / 16.5in x 8.6in
Weight55g / 1.9oz
Purchase DateMarch 2019
Sustainable or Ethical Policy StatementSustainability

Toiletry Bag

I have a large Sea To Summit Travelling Light Hanging Toiletry Bag which fits everything I need. I bought mine in 2012, and it’s still going strong, thanks to its 30D Cordura® ripstop nylon fabric (which is the same fabric that our waterproof daypack has). The fabric is thin (and thus very lightweight) but super durable.

Paul also uses the same toiletry bag but in the small size. I wouldn’t be able to fit my toiletries into the small version, but for the few things a man needs, the small one works well.

Sea to Summit TravellingLight Hanging Toiletry Bag, Travel Organizer for Men and Women, Large, Black
  • Lightweight hanging toiletry bag with multiple compartments for organizing makeup and toiletries for travel and outdoor adventures
  • Features a large main compartment with divider, two interior zippered mesh pockets, and an exterior zippered pocket
  • Made from ultralight, strong, water-resistant Ultra-Sil Cordura nylon, and stretch mesh fabric; zippers have durable grab tags for easy open/close
  • Includes a stowable hanging hook, carrying handle, and detachable shatterproof mirror
  • Large / 6 Liter toiletry bag measures 10 x 9 x 4 inches and weighs just 4 ounces

Passport Protector

One can debate whether RFID blocking bags and protectors have any value. I bought the Pacsafe RFIDsafe 50 Passport Protector back in 2012, and I’m still using it to keep our passports and vaccination booklets safe and dry in the one place. The Pacsafe RFIDsafe 50 Passport Protector also fits neatly into my handbag, which makes it easy to access at border crossings.

Pacsafe Rfidsafe 50 RFID Passport Protector, Black, One Size
  • Smart rfid-blocking material protects personal data on passports and credit cards
  • Ultra lightweight and compact to fit in most passport pockets

Other Organisers

The other organisers I carry with me are:

  • Colorado trifold leather wallet
  • Tiny no-name coin purse
  • Ultra-strong silk bag (used to carry groceries, take the washing to/from the laundromat or as a personal item in case I need to reduce weight in the backpacks to stay within airline restrictions).

No one can guarantee your safety while travelling. But following these essential tips may reduce your risk and help you stay out of harm’s way on your travels.

Clothing and Shoes

When you travel with carry-on only in all four seasons you need to layer your clothes. It’s a simple but very effective trick to travelling light. On a hot day, I just wear one layer (not counting my bra): a singlet or a t-shirt. On a cold winter’s day, I can wear up to 6 layers (not counting my bra): a merino singlet, a merino t-shirt, a merino long-sleeve, a merino hoodie, my down vest and my jacket. This is toasty, guaranteed. Most of the time, 5 layers are enough (minus the t-shirt or the long-sleeve).


For the first 4 years, I just used a lightly padded underwire bra I already had (brand unknown). When that required replacement, I looked for another bra like it but made of Lyocell/TENCEL™ or merino.

Unfortunately, that search wasn’t very successful. Bras made from natural materials tend to be without underwire or padding. That very bare type of bra just isn’t my thing (you know why when you get caught with one wearing only a t-shirt in a cold wind or rain shower).

Anyhow, I ended up buying a Body Bliss 2nd Generation Contour Bra from BrasNthings. It may not have been the most sustainable or ethical choice. To my defense though, I needed sizing advice, hence my choice of shop. And if the time my prior bra lasted is anything to go by, this one will also last a long time.

Body Bliss 2nd Generation Contour Bra from BrasNthings
I only own one bra - this Body Bliss 2nd Generation Contour Bra from BrasNthings


I’m onto my third set of undies in five years of full-time travel.

For the first two years, I travelled with 7x Uniqlo Seamless Bikini Briefs. I loved their shape and the fact they really were seamless. But they became larger and larger over time, and Uniqlo is not a role model when it comes to ethical and environmentally friendly manufacturing. So, when they started to slip off my butt far too easily, I looked for a better alternative.

My second set were 7x Macpac Merino Bikini Briefs. They were great for a while (even though they were not seamless). But tiny holes started to appear after a few months in the fabric that sits on the hips, and I had to replace them after only a year. I left a review on the Macpac website recommending product improvements, but my review was never published. Beware of those 5-star reviews, they aren’t all there is!

After a bit more research, I came across a material I hadn’t heard of before: Lyocell (or TENCEL™), an eco-friendly cellulose fibre made from eucalyptus trees. It is soft, lightweight, absorbent and doesn’t wrinkle. So rather than trying another set of merino briefs I decided to test TENCEL™-based St Eva undies by Saint Basics. I’ve now had 7 of them since December 2019, and they are still going strong.

Saint Basics St Eva Bikini Brief
My comfy Saint Basics St Eva Bikini Briefs are made of Eucalyptus fiber

Base Layers

I started out with two Uniqlo Heattech Singlets and an Icebreaker Merino Aero Tank Top. I’ve had the latter now for almost 4 years, and it’s still holding up very well.

The Uniqlo singlets also did very well. But they didn’t keep me as warm on cold days (or dry on hot days) as my merino tank top. So, eventually, I replaced them – with a Macpac 150 Merino Camisole and a Mons Royale No Ordinary Cami. Unfortunately, both changed shape after the first wash: the camisole shrank, the singlet became huge. After wearing it a few times, I just found the camisole too short and too tight. I shortened the straps of the singlet and was able to wear it for about a year. But in the end, it had the same issue as my undies: the fabric just wore thin and started to develop holes.

When it came to finding a new base layer (I now only travel with two), I looked for good merino and TENCEL™ products and ended up buying an Icebreaker Sphere Tank Top. I’ve now had this tank top since March 2020, and it’s still going strong. Learning: Not all merino products are created equal.

Icebreaker Sphere Tank Top
This Icebreaker Sphere Tank Top is one of two merino tank tops I own


Short-Sleeve T-Shirts

I had a better experience with merino t-shirts: I’ve owned three Icebreaker Spheria SS Scoop shirts over the years, and each lasted about 3 years. I bought my current one in February 2019, so it hopefully still has a few more months of life left.

In the first year of our travels, I also tested sports t-shirts made of polyester. But I very quickly realized: these girls smell. Natural fibres are definitely the way to go if you travel with carry-on only in all four seasons.

Apart from my Icebreaker merino t-shirt, I also own a Global Culture merino t-shirt, and 2x St. Isabel t-shirts by Saint Basics. Like my undies, the latter are made from TENCEL™. One of them is my pyjama top; the other one, I wear like a normal t-shirt. While they are better than those polyester t-shirts, these t-shirts are not as odour-resistant as merino shirts. So, for t-shirts, I’ll stick with merino from here on.

Saint Basics St Isabel T-Shirt
I have two of these Saint Basics St Isabel T-Shirts plus two Merino T-Shirts

Long-Sleeve T-Shirts

I also travel with a long-sleeve shirt: a Kathmandu Core Spun Long Sleeved V top. I’ve had this one now since June 2020, and I’m reasonably happy with it. It’s lost a bit of shape and is a bit short for my liking, but I’ll keep it for now.

Until June 2020, I travelled with two long-sleeve shirts: an Icebreaker Willow 3/4 Sleeve Shirt and a Uniqlo Heattech Long-Sleeve Shirt. Both lasted more than 3 1/2 years.

Kathmandu Core Spun Long Sleeved V top
This Kathmandu Core Spun Long Sleeved V top is my only long-sleeve T-Shirt

Isn’t wool too hot in summer?

In the first year on the road, I used technical quick-dry t-shirts made by Nike and Under Armour. These t-shirts started to smell after a while though despite regular washing.

These days, most of my base layers are made from merino wool which is naturally odour resistant and great for all four seasons. Merino wool comes in different weights, and a 150g/sqm t-shirt (which is fairly standard) is not too hot in summer.

Pants and Shorts

I’ve owned 7 pairs of pants in 5 years of full-time travel.

Initially, I travelled with black Outdoor Research Ferrosi pants and black Esprit Cargo pants – both did a great job. After our first year, I replaced those with khaki-colored KÜHL Splash Roll-up Pants and black Macpac Trekker V2 Pants – which lasted about 2 years. I now wear dark-grey KÜHL Splash Roll-up Pants and black Outdoor Research Women’s Voodoo Pants.

Outdoor Research Women's Voodoo Pant, Black, 8
  • 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex
  • Imported
  • Machine Wash
  • Fabric Performance: Water-Resistant, Wind-Resistant, Abrasion-Resistant, Breathable, Quick-Drying, Lightweight, Movement-Mirroring Stretch
  • OUTDOOR RESEARCH: We built a company from a feeling: the urge to get out. It's what drives us. Our tribe is devoted to exploring our outdoor passions and challenging ourselves in the mountains, water, and deserts of the planet we love so much.

I also wear Willit Women’s Studio Joggers when I’m at home (after wearing Lorna Jane Studio Active Pants for over 5 years).

Willit Women's Studio Joggers Hiking Travel Dance Pants Striped Workout Lounge Drawstring Pants with Pockets Black XS
  • LIGHTWEIGHT JOGGERS: Woven vertical pinstripes fabric offers moisture management, breathable and durable. Versatile tapered pants are made of soft lightweight fabric, to be quick-drying and sweat-wicking
  • ELASTIC WAIST: Mid-rise pants with drawstring for comfortable, adjustable fit
  • SIDE POCKETS: Two front pockets are big enough to hold your essentials like a key, card or cash
  • NO-CHAFE COMFORT: Flatlock stitching reduces chafing, provide next-to-skin softness and chafe-free comfort
  • OCCASION: Women's Hiking Pants combine style and comfort which could be worn for running, jogging, lounge, travel or other casual activities. (Note: Size 8 = Size Medium; Size 10 = Size Large)

On warmer days, I wear khaki-colored PrAna Bliss Shorts. They sit perfectly and are stain-resistant. I’ve had them now for almost 5 years, and they’re still going strong.

prAna Living Women's Bliss Shorts, Cargo Green, Large
  • Active outdoor short
  • Front patch pockets
  • Stretch performance woven


My little black JJ Authentic Short-Sleeve Dress is probably the oldest clothing item I own. I bought it at Century21 (which sadly went out of business in 2020) when I visited New York during our three-month backpacking trip in 2012. I just love the empire style shape, and even after almost 10 years, it’s still going strong. It’s perfect for a date night, and I even wore it at a friend’s wedding. It’s super versatile.

If you have a similar dress that you just love, there is no reason not to add it to your carry-on wardrobe. Just make sure it isn’t one that wrinkles easily.


I always travel with a swimsuit. I even had two at some stage: a black one and my current one. But one fine day, I hung my black bikini on the back ladder of our campervan in New Zealand to dry, and I forgot to take it when I drove off. Oh, well… I hope it didn’t cause a traffic accident.

Thankfully, I still had that second one: I bought the Women’s Secret Bikini when we visited Curaçao in March 2017, as black bikinis are not much fun in the Caribbean sun (especially not if you have pale skin like me). So, that too is now over 4 years old and still going strong.


Initially, I wanted to pack long pyjama pants as I would spend several months in the Northern Hemisphere Winter (initially in Canada and the USA, and later in Europe). I’m glad I didn’t…

A pair of Mitch Dowd boxer shorts together with a t-shirt (and the occasional woolen socks) have proven to be sufficient. It does help though to have an athlete husband (who produces enough heat for both of us) to cuddle up to on cold nights.

Mitch Dowd boxer shorts
This is my sleepwear: a pair of Mitch Dowd boxer shorts and a t-shirt


Apart from Scholl Flight compression socks (which I only wear on long-haul flights), I own

  • 2x Macpac Merino Rouleur Crew Socks, and
  • 2x Mons Royale Women’s Vert Ankle Socks.

I only bought the Macpac socks in May 2021 after wearing Mons Royale Tech 2.0 Bike Socks for almost 3 years. I loved those socks and literally wore them until they had holes in them. I would have liked to replace them with the same model, but couldn’t find them anywhere at the time. And the Macpac socks (at least on paper) looked very similar. Let’s see how they perform in comparison.

Rain Jacket

Our jackets were probably the second most researched items (after the backpacks and before the shoes). Given this was to be my only jacket, it had to be waterproof (of course), ultra-lightweight, durable, long enough to cover (most of) my butt and not look like a potato sack.

After more than 3 years of use, I replaced my Marmot Nano AS Jacket in December 2019. I had maintained its water-repellent qualities by treating it with waterproofing spray. But at some point, the zipper broke and I finally had to say goodbye.

I did stick with Marmot though, as I found an excellent replacement: the Marmot Women’s Eclipse Jacket. Rather than being treated with nasty chemicals to create a water-repellent layer (that needs to be reapplied regularly), this jacket is part of Marmot’s EvoDry range. EvoDry is a new technology that creates water-repellent qualities that don’t wash or wear out, as the fiber itself is water-proof. It is also made 100% from recycled nylon, further reducing the environmental impact of its manufacturing process.

Marmot Women’s Minimalist Jacket | Lightweight, Waterproof, Windproof, Large
  • Your Go-To Layer In Changing Conditions - No matter the forecast, stay dry with this lightweight and packable jacket, which can be worn as an everyday rain jacket or as a sports layer for extra warmth.
  • Keep the Warmth In And The Weather Out - Outerwear in our Minimalist collection is constructed with GORE-TEX Paclite fabric, which blocks wind with a hydrophobic membrane and minimizes weight. The fabric is treated with a DWR (Durable Water-Repellent) finish and 100% seam-taped, which repels moisture from the surface to keep you warm and dry.
  • Adjustable Features For Varying Environments - For a customized fit and increased protection in inclement weather, the Minimalist Jacket features adjustable VELCRO cuffs, an adjustable drawcord hem, and an attached hood with a peripheral cord adjustment. When there’s less rain and more shine, PitZips improve airflow and release excess heat to keep you comfortable as the temperatures rise.
  • Innovating to Improve the Human Experience - Marmot strives to deliver best-in-class warmth, protection and ease of use on every product. The Minimalist Jacket’s exceptional craftsmanship is seen even in the details — its center front zipper’s bonded flap provides further protection from the elements, and zippered hand pockets ensure secure storage of personal items. Articulated elbows increase mobility, whether you’re at camp or on the trail.
  • We Have You Covered - With Marmot, we warrant every product we make to be free of manufacturer defects. The best part is you do not need to register your product. Our lifetime warranty covers you from the moment you purchase our apparel or equipment.
Marmot Eclipse Jacket
This Marmot Eclipse Jacket is my only jacket

Outer Layers

I travel with two long sleeve zip jackets, both made from merino – a black Icebreaker Women’s Victory and a grey Icebreaker Dia.

On cold winter days, I also wear a Macpac Uber-Light Hooded Down Vest (after using a Uniqlo vest for almost 5 years). I had bought the Uniqlo vest back in the day (when I was less focused on sustainability) because it was very cheap in comparison with other brands. I have since learned that the price comes at a cost: Uniqlo’s owner Fast Retailing is only ranked low-average when it comes to sustainability practices.

Macpac Uberlight Down Vest
Wearing this Macpac Uberlight Down Vest under my rain jacket gives me a full winter jacket

Do you know if what you wear is sustainably and ethically made? Not sure? Learn how to find out more about your stuff. It’s eye-opening.

Head, Neck and Hand Protection

While my prescription glasses have transition lenses and go completely black in bright sunlight, my skin is quite pale, and I find that I need additional protection to feel comfortable in the sun.

So, when it’s sunny, you’ll usually see me with my LUCKY baseball cap by the Australian brand Blank Clothing. I used to wear a Nike Dri-FIT Tech Golf Cap until 2021 but have since changed to this one – which is made of 50% Bamboo and Recycled PET (and has our own logo on it).

I also wear the cap when it rains, as the rim prevents rain from splashing at my glasses. And unless it’s freezing cold, the cap also gives my head extra protection on those colder days. On those rare occasions when it does get below zero I swap the cap for my trusty Icebreaker Pocket hat.

Blank Clothing LUCKY baseball cap with Minimalist Journeys logo
With my pale skin, I prefer wearing a baseball cap on sunny days

Around my neck, I alternate between my black Buff Original and my red and black JJ Sisters Shawl. The shawl is one of the more multi-functional pieces I own: I wear it as a shawl draped around my shoulders on a cooler day/evening (perfect with my dress), as a scarf to give me some extra warmth on a freezing cold day, and I’ve also worn it as a headscarf in places of worship and as a skirt on laundry days.

Finally, for really cold days, I also have a pair of leather and fleece gloves (brand unknown) in my luggage.

BUFF Lightweight Merino Wool Multifunctional Headwear and Face Mask, Grey, One Size
  • FABRIC: 100% Merino wool
  • FEATURES: Soft, warm, wind-resistant, and lightweight layer sourced from humanely raised, non-mulesed sheep. Natural moisture wicking and odor control properties
  • WAYS TO WEAR & USE: Wearable in 10+ different ways, it’s versatile multisport headwear delivering four-season performance. A soft, warm, wind-resistant, and lightweight layer perfect for chilly morning hikes or bike rides and warmer days on the slopes.
  • CARE INSTRUCTIONS: Hand wash with mild soap. Lay flat to dry. Do not use fabric softeners or bleach. Do no machine dry or use an iron.
  • FIT: One size fits most adults


(Multi-Purpose) Shoes

I started our location-independent life with Salomon X ULTRA LTR GTX hiking shoes. After a year of travel, they started wearing thin at the back of the ankle, and I had to replace them. Unfortunately, the same model was no longer made in charcoal, so I replaced them with the very similar-looking Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Shoes. That pair lasted almost two years, and I replaced it with the exact same version in September 2019.

Unfortunately, this pair only lasted about a year until holes developed at the top of the foot where two different materials join. I contacted Salomon (and Bike 24 where I bought them) about it, but they put it down to wear and tear. I doubt that given I didn’t have that problem with the exact same pair previously. Learning: Salomon might have a 2-year warranty, but it’s pretty much worthless.

I continued wearing the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 GTX for a few more months, but they were no longer waterproof. And when it came to replacing them, I made sure to shop around. While I liked the fit of the Salomons and knew my size (which made it easy to find a  replacement online), I didn’t appreciate the warranty claim experience. And many of the Salomon shoes available in New Zealand were not (yet) PFC-free.

I now wear Haglöfs Trail Fuse Goretex Shoes. While a bit tight, they are comfortable. And their water-proofing is PFC-free.

Haglofs Trail Fuse Gore-TEX Women's Walking Shoes - SS22-9 - Black
  • Breathable Mesh Upper - Keeping the feet cool and dry.
  • Reinforced Toe, Heel and Side - For increased protection and durability.
  • GORE-TEX - Offering breathable waterproofing.
  • EVA Midsole - Providing ultimate cushioning.
  • GEL Rear Foot Cushioning - For excellent shock absorption.
Haglöfs Trail Fuse Goretex Shoes
After 4 years of Salomons, I now wear Haglöfs Trail Fuse Goretex Shoes


I travelled with Crocs Flip Flops for the first two years. While they worked great most of the time, they were useless in moving water, for example at Semuc Champey, hence the Merrell sports sandals I use now.


My quest for light-weight yet durable ballerinas was a painful one, but one that ended with success. After 4 years without, I bought Xero Shoes Phoenix Knit Ballerinas in August 2020, and I love them. They are reasonably lightweight and super comfortable, and go well with my dress, my shorts and my long pants.

XeroShoes Phoenix Knit Ballerinas
XeroShoes Phoenix Knit Ballerinas are vegan-friendly and super-comfy

You have worked hard for your overseas trip. With our simple money savviness tips, you can save on bank fees and make your travel budget stretch further.

Accessories and Technology


I travel with two towels: a Turkish bath towel and a Packtowl hand towel. I use my Packtowl to dry my face and hands and to wrap my hair after I washed it. For the shower and the beach, I use my Turkish towel (Paul has one too).

The Turkish towel is also one of the most versatile items in my luggage: I have taken it to the beach to sit on and for picnics, I have used it as an extra blanket when it was a bit too cold at night, and I’ve even worn it like a sarong/dress on my way home from the beach.

Organic 100% Cotton Peshtemal Towels | Prewashed Bath Beach Spa Sauna Hammam Yoga Gym Towel Fouta Peshtemal Easy Care Absorbent Pestemal Size 36x70 Inches Blue Depths
  • PREWASHED / 100% Organic Cotton : Our Ultra-soft towels are made bigger BEFORE prewash to consider the normal shrinkage of cotton! The size AFTER the process is 36 X 70 Inches!! Hence these towels hold shape and size well during your washings and maintains fabric integrity for longer time!!!
  • HIGHLY ABSORBENT & FAST DRYING: Our Pestemal towels are thin yet highly absorbent and dries very fast! These machine washable towels consume less energy to washer and drier!! Please follow the wash care instructions in the label!!! Always wash before use.
  • MULTIPURPOSE TOWELS: Our Pestemals are Unisex and Multipurpose towels. They can be used in Bath, Spa, Beach, Gym, Fitness, Yacht and Pool. They can also be used as Sarong, Pareo and scarf. They are light weight and takes up much less space to store and great for travel!! Our Pestemals are one of the most useful and BEST GIFTS for family and friends!!!
  • Always wash before use. Uses less energy while washing and drying. Gets soft after each wash.
  • RETURN POLICY: All our products are shipped from Amazon fulfillment centers and follow AMAZON's Return Policy!! So you can shop our products confidently!!!

First Aid Kit

I also travel with a compact first aid kit the size of my fist. A first aid kit is not essential but handy if you’re out on a day trip and got a blister or cut your finger preparing a meal. The first aid kit is actually in Paul’s backpack but I include it here for completeness.

Luggage Lock

Only the main compartment of my backpack can be locked, and for that reason, I use a Samsonite TSA luggage lock. I don’t mind that the other compartments can’t be locked as I usually have my luggage on me (the benefit of carry-on).

TSA Luggage Locks (2 Pack) - 4 Digit Combination Steel Padlocks - Approved Travel Lock for Suitcases & Baggage - TSA Lock - Black
  • Protect your luggage with top quality 4-digit combination TSA-approved padlocks.
  • 4-digit locks offer 10,000 combinations. Can be used as suitcase lock, travel lock, luggage lock.
  • TSA Approved Locks allows TSA screeners to inspect your luggage without damaging the locks.
  • Numbers are easy to maneuver, reset and set to your own preferred passcode.
  • Package includes: 2 High Quality TSA Locks (no plastics) and comes with a 1 Year Warranty.

Sleeping Bag Liner (only when needed)

Speaking of cold nights: I used to own a Kathmandu Comet Sleeping Bag. But since I hardly ever used it (not even during our Camino Portuguese in 2019), I donated it to a charity store in November 2020.

What I kept though is my silk Mountain Designs sleeping bag liner. That way, I can hire a sleeping bag if and when I need one and still feel clean.

Household Items

Chances are you have a clothesline or drying rack and a sewing kit at home. Well, I carry my home on my back like a tortoise, and household includes practical items like a Design Go-Go Travel Clothes Line and a tiny Sewing Kit. Both have saved us a few times.

Drinking and Eating

The Klean Kanteen 800ml stainless steel water bottle is one of the most important items I travel with. I don’t buy water if I can avoid it. In many places around the world, tap water is perfectly fine to drink. Where (there is a likelihood that) it’s not, I boil water, let it cool down and then fill the stainless steel water bottle.

Why do I like this particular model? Because

  • it has a wide mouth, which means it’s easy to clean,
  • it’s non-insulated, which means it weighs bugger all, and
  • 800ml is just the perfect size.
Klean Kanteen Wide Water Bottle with Stainless Loop Cap (Brushed Stainless Single Wall, 27-Ounce)
  • Durable and High Quality Food Grade 18/8 Stainless Steel Construction
  • Comes with BPA-free Polypropylene #5 cap with Stainless Steel bottom to create an all-stainless interior
  • Large 2.125 inch (54 millimeter) opening fits ice, easy to fill and pour; Compatible with all Klean Kanteen Wide caps
  • Easy to clean electropolished interior doesn't retain or impart flavors
  • Backed by the Klean Kanteen Strong as Steel Guarantee

Like Paul, I also own a Light My Fire Titanium Spork. It hasn’t let me down (the plastic version before though did).

Personal Items

While I’m not blind, I do see better with glasses when I’m out and about. So, not surprisingly, I travel with prescription glasses. As mentioned before, they come with transition lenses, so there is no need for extra sunglasses.

Last but not least, there is Egon, my travel mascot. A little soft toy monkey not much bigger than Paul’s fist, he’s been travelling with me around the world since November 1999. Which makes him the oldest item on my packing list!

Egon - my travel companion since 1999
Egon - my travel companion since 1999


Universal Travel Adapter

Have you ever travelled to a foreign country and realized only upon arrival that they have a different plug pin configuration or current supply? Well, you only do it once.

I prefer an all-in-one option and one that fits nicely into my backpack, so size and weight were also critical. After much research, I purchased the Pac2Go Universal Travel Adapter, which has been great.

Pac2Go Universal Travel Adapter with Quad USB Charger - All-in-One Surge/Spike Protected Electrical Plug with Fast Charging USB Ports, International Power Socket Works in 192 Countries - 4XUSB
  • Simultaneously charge up to five devices quickly with quad 3.5 Amp USB ports and the global electrical socket. Smart IC matches the high tech accessories current. Built-in overcharge protection for USB devices. The ideal rapid travel wall charger for an Apple iPhone, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, LG, Motorola Moto, Android smartphone or Qualcomm based cell phone; Apple iPad, Amazon Fire or Kindle, Galaxy Tab S3 tablet; GoPro Hero and Nikon camera; and Apple iPod or Sony Walkman mp3 players
  • AC voltage from 100 through 250 Volts, 2000 Watts max at 250 Volts with an 8 Amp safety fuse with a spare. Internal spike and surge protection circuitry safeguards your valuable devices. Worry-free charging for your Apple MacBook, Google Chromebook, Microsoft Surface, HP, Dell, Acer or Lenovo laptop. Ideal for dual voltage appliances like a hair dryer less than 1600 watts, curling iron, flat iron or straightener without the need of a converter or transformer. A sensible protector of electronics.
  • Ergonomic black rubberized oil surface and safety shutter prevents external shock and short circuit. Single piece construction in a compact size and convenient carrying case make it a necessity for foreign or domestic travel. The soft amber lighted USB ports provides a night light. Why purchase even a single multi set individual type adaptors combo kit when you can make your travel bag lighter and less cluttered with just one portable Pac2Go Universal Travel Adapter for your overseas trip?

Want to know which laptop computer I recommend and travel with? Check out the best digital nomad and business travel laptop.


While I have switched from an Apple SE to a Samsung Galaxy S10 mobile phone about a year ago (the new Apple phones were just too expensive for the value they offered), I still use my Apple headphones (until they fall apart).

Head Lamp

I initially travelled without a separate light source, thinking that my smartphone flashlight would be sufficient… until I tried to explore an unlit cave in Guatemala.

Since then, I’ve been travelling with a Black Diamond Spot Head Lamp, and let me tell you: hands-free is so much better (not to speak of the much brighter light that comes with 300 lumens).

Black Diamond Equipment - Cosmo 300 Headlamp - Graphite
  • Emits up to 300 lumens on max setting
  • Red night vision has dimming and strobe modes and activates without cycling through the white mode
  • Compact, low-profile design uses three AAA batteries, included
  • Settings include proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red night-vision and lock mode
  • Multifaceted optical lens design

Packing List Summary

Travel BackpackOsprey Ozone 46 Travel Pack1
Packing CubesEagle Creek Pack-It Cube Set (1x Large, 2x Medium)1 set
DaypackMatador Freerain24 2.01
HandbagTravelon Anti-Theft Classic Essential Messenger Bag1
Multi-Purpose BagUltra-strong silk bag1
WalletColorado trifold leather wallet
Coin purse
1 each
Passport ProtectorPacsafe RFIDsafe 50 Passport Protector1
Toiletry BagSea to Summit Travelling Light Hanging Toiletry Bag1
Stuff SackExped Folding Drybag1
BraBody Bliss 2nd Generation Contour Bra1
UnderwearSaint Basics St. Eva Bikini Briefs7
Base LayerIcebreaker Sphere Tank Top
Icebreaker Merino Aero Tank Top
1 each
T-Shirts (short sleeved)Icebreaker Women’s Spheria scoop shirt
Global Culture merino t-shirt
Saint Basics St. Isabel t-shirt
1 each
T-Shirt (long sleeved)Kathmandu Core Spun Long Sleeved V Top1
Outer LayersIcebreaker Dia LS Zip Jacket
Icebeaker Womens Victory LS Zip Jacket
Macpac Uberlight Hooded Down Vest
1 each
Rain JacketMarmot Women’s Eclipse Jacket1
PantsKÜHL Splash Roll-up Pants
Outdoor Research Women’s Voodoo Pants
Willit Women’s Studio Joggers
1 each
ShortsPrAna Bliss Shorts1
DressJJ Authentic Short-Sleeve Dress1
SwimwearWomen’s Secret Bikini1
SleepwearMitch Dowd boxer shorts and Saint Basics St. Isabel t-shirt1 set
SocksMacpac Merino Rouleur Crew Socks
Mons Royale Women’s Vert Ankle Socks
Scholl Flight compression socks
2 pairs each
(plus flight compression socks)
ShoesHaglöfs Trail Fuse Goretex Shoes
Merrell sports sandals
Xero Shoes Phoenix Knit Ballerinas
1 pair each
Head, Neck and Hand ProtectionBlank Clothing LUCKY Baseball Cap
Icebreaker Pocket Hat
BUFF Original Multi-Functional Headwear
JJ Sisters Shawl
Leather and Fleece Gloves
1 each
TowelHammamas Turkish Bath Towel
Packtowl Hand Towel
1 each
Medical KitFirst Aid Kit1
Combination LockSamsonite Luggage 3 Dial Travel Sentry Combo Locks1
Universal Travel AdapterPac2Go Universal Travel Adapter1
HeadphonesSmartphone compatible1
HeadlampBlack Diamond Spot Headlamp1
ClotheslineDesign Go Go Travel Clothes Line1
Sewing KitCompact Travel Kit1
Water BottleKlean Kanteen Wide Mouth Single Wall Stainless Steel Water Bottle1
Eating UtensilLight My Fire Titanium Spork1

Paul travels with a whole bunch of running gear, but my exercise regime requires a lot less stuff. My pack full of the above (plus my Surface Pro laptop) weighs ~9kg, whereas Paul’s full pack weighs ~11kg. So, together, we are below the 10kg carry-on allowance each of most airlines.

Do you travel with carry-on only? What is in your backpack that I didn’t mention above? Please leave a comment below.

Feature photo by Christian Joudrey on Unsplash

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Wonder how to pack a carry-on with enough clothes for all seasons? It’s actually not that hard, even for us women. Here is my packing list.
Wonder how to pack a carry-on with enough clothes for all seasons? It’s actually not that hard, even for us women. Here is my packing list.
Wonder how to pack a carry-on with enough clothes for all seasons? It’s actually not that hard, even for us women. Here is my packing list.

Comments 4

    1. Post
  1. Great packing list Sandra, It’s really hard to keep the clothes to a limit. I’ve found your female packing list really helpful, thank you!

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