Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sat September 10 2016

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | September 10, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Packing: Essentials and What You Can Leave Behind

    Packing: Essentials and What You Can Leave Behind

    PHOTO: My first time backpacking at 22, I left with a 60L and by the end it weighed more than I did. (All photos by Shannon Wolf)

    Packing too much is as easy as eating a tub of ice cream in one sitting. Sure, it leaves you initially satisfied but soon followed by regret.

    Being a seasoned traveler, I admit, even I have the tendency to overcompensate when packing. I've convinced myself before that I need those extra dresses, makeup for those nights out (because you never know), those 10 pairs of tank tops because they don't take up that much space, dark denim jeans AND light denim capris because they're different colors and of course, my four cameras and two lenses because I'm a photographer. 

    We all know you want to hike to that homestay at the top of that mountain, bike across Vietnam or go trek to that hidden location you heard of by other travelers — but wait. Carrying your bag for more than an hour leaves bruises on your hips, causes huffs and puffs and the dreaded question "why did I pack all this crap!" Making you miss out on a great opportunity because you're weighed down literally and mentally by your pack.

    Before you go through what we all have, below is a list of the most important do's and don'ts for your next trip.

    PHOTO: My second time traveling abroad, I left with a 48L half full and a day bag with my valuables.

    The BIG Don’ts:

    Backpack: Don't bring a pack larger than 50L. Even if you think empty space is good; it's not. Why? You will eventually fill the entire thing up. 

    Sleep sheet: The idea seems great but it will just be a waste of money and go unused.

    Makeup: Trust me, all you need is eyeliner, mascara and a little powder if anything. Nothing more.

    Hair Straightener: Especially in warmer climates, they are unnecessary. I carried a mini-straighter across Asia and I can count on one hand the amount of times I actually used it. 

    Travel shampoo/conditioner: Buying these little travel sizes at home are over-priced and it's much cheaper to buy abroad. Wait until you land to buy regular-sized products.

    Jeans/Heavy fabrics: Heavy fabrics weigh you down, take a long time to dry and are more of a headache to travel with. Always go for more lightweight fabrics.

    Hiking boots: A traveler’s biggest regret/annoyance. If you are doing a trek anywhere in Asia you can buy new or used at the location you're headed too. It will still be cheaper and less to carry.

    Sleeping Bag: They're bulky and unnecessary. Buy in the country you travel too only when/if you need it.

    Medicine: It's far cheaper to buy medicine abroad than in the Western world, however you should load up on Imodium, Gas-X and Ibuprofen just as a backup.

    READ MORE: How to Travel Anywhere With Just a Carry-On

    PHOTO: You never know where you may end up — If you pack lighter, you’ll go further.

    Do bring:

    Travel Space bags: These wonderful bags are great for compressing your things in order for them to fit into a smaller backpack or items that are heavier such as a sweater).

    Sunscreen & Bug Spray: The prices abroad for sunscreen and bug spray are exorbitant — load up at home.

    Large Ziploc Bags: These are always useful, from organizing your toiletries to making a salad in a bag. Ziploc bags are good for nearly everything.

    5L & 10L Dry Bag: These bags are lifesavers and worth picking up before you hit the road! Sometimes rain covers only work so well, but dry bags are perfect. I have one for my laptop and one for my smaller electronics.

    1 waterproof jacket: If you are planning to hike, bike or be outdoors for longer durations, you'll thank yourself for picking one of these up.

    Lightweight Running Shoes: carrying around a pair of Nike Airs or anything lightweight is necessary and also practical for the times you want to venture around and need a little more grip than flip-flops.

    Inflatable Travel Pillow: Forget the big fluffy ones you attach to the outside of your bag. You're sleeping on grime. Go for a soft shell inflatable pillow you can travel everywhere with.


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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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