A Perfect Packing List

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If you are traveling – whether long or short term – there are some things you can’t do without. Discover what are the items that you need to include in your packing list.

Packing efficiently for a trip – whether a long or short one – is easier said than done. Until a few years ago, I carried around 18 kg of stuff on my back (although to be fair that included two bottles of Malbec wine I had bought in Argentina and one bottle of Mezcal I had bought in Mexico), and something like 10 kg on my front. It was way too much, and I could hardly walk from the bus station to my hotel.

Years on, I understood that traveling is much more about being comfortable than about looking pretty in pictures. Now I pack smartly, bring clothes that I can easily wash and mix and match. And most importantly I refuse to travel with a backpack that weights more than 12 kg. 

So, what items should be never missing from a girls’ backpacking list?

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I went by the nickname of Turtle Tavani

A Perfect Packing List: Everything You Need To Take

A good backpack

This is the most important item you need to consider. I have tried several backpacks in the course of my travels, but the ones I like the most are the Osprey Ariel 65 which fits very comfortably on my shoulders and hips (they have a woman and a man’s version); and the Berghaus Wilderness 65+15 (this is a lot larger, though!). Beware that choosing a travel backpack is no easy task – it has to fit perfectly or else it will be a pain to carry.

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A good backpack is the number one item on any proper backpacking essentials list

Or a nice carry-on

If I am going for only a short time, I’d rather travel carry-on only. My favorite carry-on bag is by Cabin Zero: it fits up to 44 liters of stuff, which means you can carry most of the items on my packing list. The good thing about it is that you don’t have to check it in, which is especially convenient if you have short connections between flights.

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A nice carry on bag is the perfect item on a packing list

A good daypack

The second most important item in any packing list is a good daypack. This is where you will have to keep your important stuff when commuting – stuff like sunglasses; iPhone and headphones; your MacBook if you are traveling for work reasons; your camera and lens; all your cables; a power bank; a book or a kindle; a guidebook; a headlamp; passport, wallet and travel documents; and a few toiletries such as a travel toothbrush.

It may become as heavy as your backpack in the end.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes are the best invention EVER. I didn’t even know what they were until a friend of mine showed me the marvel. They allow you to organize your clothes and to keep them in some decent order. You should also carry dry packs, in order to keep your stuff safe from getting wet.

A hangable toiletry bag for all my toiletries

Don’t be a slob and get a good toiletry bag which is both waterproof and that you can hang on a towel rail or in the room. 

The toiletries that should never missing are: a shampoo and a conditioner bar – they last forever, they leave your hair soft, your scalp never itches, and they are 100% vegan; a good shower gel or, in alternative, a good bar of soap; an electric toothbrush – in case like me you are mildly obsessed with brushing your teeth properly – toothpaste and dental floss.

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Carrying comfortable clothes only is the key to organizing a good backpacking essentials list

You also need a good sunblock; deodorant; a night cream; a bar of massage oil – it is super handy to moisturize your skin and takes up very little room; nail clippers, a file and tweezers; a small brush and a comb; some elastic bands; daily use contact lenses.

You may also want to pack a bar of laundry soap (I normally buy one that is ecologic, and that can also be used on the body and hair just in case I run out of everything else) and a disinfectant hand gel.

Clothing and shoes

The clothes you pick will depend on the place you are visiting and on the season. You can safely walk around in shorts during the summer months in Sardinia, in Spain or in Central America. But no matter how hot it is, you can’t do that in India, where you need to cover your shoulders and wear large pants or long skirts. And if you go to cold places such as Ukraine in the winter, or Tierra del Fuego or Patagonia (whether in the summer or in winter), you need to wear warmer clothes.

Having said, there are a number of items that you will carry pretty much regardless of the season.

A good jacket

My favorite is this waterproof jacket by The North Face.  It is extremely reliable under any weather conditions: you can wear layers under it and feel warm and dry; or just wear it by itself if it’s not cold outside. 

Make sure to also bring a scarf, which you can wear on long flights or bus rides. In some countries, it seems that the hotter it is outside, the colder the air conditioning is. Besides, you can ball up a scarf to use it as a pillow and you can use it to cover your shoulders on religious sites.

If you are traveling to cold places, also include a hat and a good pair of gloves.

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Unmissable backpacking essentials: leggings and a good fleece

You also need a couple of fleece sweaters and jackets– Columbia makes some top quality ones. Take one that is thicker and has pockets and a zip at the front, which is super warm; and another one which is thinner but extremely comfortable and warm and packs really lightly. It will be a life a saver in the extreme chill!

Make sure to also take cotton tank tops and t-shirts. Nothing fancy: it’s stuff you should be able to easily wash in a sink if you have to and which you won’t regret throwing away if they break.


Take a good pair of Hiking Pantsicon. Hiking pants should be waterproof, windproof, and dry super easily. Also take a pair of shorts, a number of leggings, and cotton pants or sweat pants – whatever is comfortable to walk around in, and whatever can be easily washed without fear of it getting ruined.

I don’t recommend taking jeans because they don’t keep you warm if it is cold outside, and they don’t keep you cool when it is hot. Throw in a pretty dress, just in case.

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A proper packing list to warmer climates should include a pair of shorts

Take a few pairs of hiking socks. These are socks that are meant to keep your feet warm and dry, especially if they are paired with good hiking boots. Normal socks may be fine, but there are chances that your feet may move around in the shoe and the rubbing may cause blisters. 


You always need to wear comfortable shoes when traveling. If your trip involves hiking, bring a pair of good hiking boots with you – make sure that they keep your feet dry. Alternatively, you can opt for a pair of hiking shoes. These are a bit more lightweight and good for easier hikes – I would not recommend them for several days hikes, for example, but they are fine for a short, easy walk.

Make sure to bring flip flops too!


Bring a swim suit with you – especially if there is a pool or a beach where you are going. Whether you are traveling to Koh Chang, in Thailand, or to Flores, in Indonesia, where snorkeling is a must; or whether you are going to colder places where there is a gorgeous spa like in Bergamo, a bikini packs so small that you hardly have doubt about including it in your packing list.

Find out more about Bergamo on my post “Why I loved Bergamo.”

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A swim suit should always go in a packing list

Other stuff

Always include a quick dry towel in your packing list. This folds really small, and it dries super fast. Some hostels are so cheap they don’t rent towels (yes, there still are some that don’t!) and you can also use it to go to the beach.


A good packing list is never complete with a proper selection of medicines. The very few times I didn’t carry any were also the times I needed them the most. My friends even made fun of me when we backpacked across Peru, as my pharmacy included a thermometer. But they were happy I had one when one of them was terribly sick. Bring some non-prescription stuff such as Imodium and paracetamol. Take a good mosquito repellent with some Deet if you visit places where cases of dengue, malaria and chikunguya have been recorded.

Further Readings

Make sure to read my other posts

All The Useful Backpacking Essentials For Long Term Travel

The Art Of Packing Light: 21 Useful Tips To Travel Light

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Organize your packing list to travel the world - via @clautavani

2 thoughts on “A Perfect Packing List”

  1. Our first trip we overpacked and ended up sending some stuff home. A costly mistake but one we won’t repeat. I actually just purchased a 32L bag for shorter trips. Can’t wait to use it! Minimalist is key.

  2. Haha that’s exactly what happened to me when I backpacked across Central and South America. I arrived in Bogotà, realized it was actually going to be cold from then on, and sent a bunch of stuff home. The issue is that even with a good packing list, I still tend to overpack. My backpack now, on my 5 weeks trip across Israel and Jordan, weighted 12 kg. And you know what? I haven’t even used half the stuff. I need to carry even less!

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