Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Wed August 26 2015

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | August 26, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    How to Pack Like a Pro

    How to Pack Like a Pro

    PHOTO: The longer I travel, the less I have and the happier I become. If you pack lighter, you go further. (photos courtesy of Shannon Wolf)

    Want to learn how to pack like a pro? It took a bit of research to get the right information from inevitably outdated Internet sources, and the often-frustrating venture required too much coffee (plus some of the harder stuff), but it’s done.

    Below is a compilation of everything you need to know — From travel essentials to tips and tricks (that I actually use while on the road) to valuable information that is necessary for smooth sailing … or flying.

    Luggage Weight

    As a rule of thumb, if you want to bring your backpack onto airlines as carry-on, don’t pack more than 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and the dimensions should be no larger than 55 x 40 x 20 centimeters (21.7 x 15.8 x 7.9 inches)

    The best backpack I have ever purchased was the Osprey Porter 46L which is comfortable, NOT TOPLOADING, has plenty of pockets, can be locked up, has foldaway straps and is the exact dimensions of a carry-on bag.

    Quick Tip: Before you hit the road, as a safety precaution, put electronics in Ziploc bags.

    Load Up Before Hitting the Road:

    In second and third world countries, what we consider to be basic essentials are “luxury items” which means prices are exorbitant, so stock up on these before you leave home:

    • Deodorant

    • Razors

    • Tampons

    • Sunscreen

    • Bug Repellant


    PHOTO: The Osprey Porter 46L: The best bag I’ve ever owned and a key item to packing like a pro.

    Don't Leave Home Without These:

    • Pocket Phrase book — way more necessary than you think

    • Rain Cover

    • International adaptor

    • Day-bag with zipper: for day-trips/traveling and keeping all your important things with you

    • Flashlight/headlamp

    • Pack Towel

    • Scarf/Sarong

    • Duct tape

    • Small Scissors

    • Lighter

    • Notepad and Pens (bring more than one — for filling out customs forms/writing directions/etc.)

    • Rope/String: for hanging clothes, tying up a tent so it won’t blow away, etc.

    • Needle and thread

    • 2 luggage locks: small and medium (because not all zippers will fit your lock)

    • Imodium/Gas-X/Gastrolyte/Flu Pills

    Things You Really Don't Need:

    • Sheet liner

    • Money belt

    • Fake engagement ring

    • Hiking boots (unless you are an avid hiker, stick to runners)

    • Travel size shampoo/conditioner/etc.

    BEST Tips & Tricks: 

    • Forget the money belt — Use a hollowed out book, Chapstick tube or inflatable neck pillow with zipper to hide money in.

    • Anything of importance, keep on you for long-haul journeys rather than everything in one bag so you can keep a better eye on it.

    PHOTO: After getting scammed, our bags were thrown off a chicken bus and we quickly jumped off. Then we realized one of us had left one in the back. Moral of the story: pack light and keep it all in eyesight.

    • Long Journeys: ALWAYS bring a scarf/sarong, earplugs and a sweater. Air conditioning is always blasted and there is typically always a screaming baby or snorer onboard.

    • Shower Cap to cover dirty shoes.

    • Plastic wrap over liquid bottles.

    • Ziploc bags/plastic bags/garbage bags with strings in all sizes. From packing, to concealing smelly clothes to protecting your electronics — you can use them for everything.

    • Buy your bottle of shampoo/conditioner when you arrive at your destination. Travel sizes are useless and cost more.

    • Dryer Sheets in your bag keeps everything smelling fresh.

    • Wrap delicate clothes in tissue paper — keeps from getting wrinkled/crushed.

    • You can find a lot of Wi-Fi passwords on the Foursquare app.

    • Roll all of your clothes.

    • Pack clothes that are neutral toned for easy mix and matching.

    • NEVER bring white clothes.

    • Bringing a few pieces of jewelry along. They can spruce up an outfit or give it a totally different look. It may be a “luxury item” but totally worth it.

    • For better organization, put clothes you wear the least amount in the back of your bag such as sweaters and pants, then shorts, then T-shirts and tank tops for easy access and avoid constant re-packing. 


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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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