Packing Tips for the Adventure Traveler

by: Selina Nadeau, Costa Rica: Ecotourism Destinations Winter ’16

The tips that will be provided below are not just for backpackers. They are for anyone who’s ever done a homestay, stayed in a hostel, booked a last minute Airbnb, caught a train to a different city with just a backpack, or even crammed a few weeks (or more) worth of clothing and supplies into a backpack that fits into the carry-on bin of a discount airline. My personal adventure travels have included Ireland and Costa Rica. I packed a backpack and jetted off, knowing that most of what I needed was in that pack and what wasn’t there, I’d have to live without. Tips from my travels are below.

  1. Try to start planning a little early. I like to start thinking about what I’m going to pack about a week before I have to leave. Make a list, or, as is my preference, collect everything together and take a picture of it. Both of those will help with repacking your stuff to come home. Especially if you’re moving around a lot, you’ll be amazed by how convenient a picture inventory can be.FullSizeR.jpg
  2. Use all the space. The obvious advice here is to take the most advantage of all the space available in your bag. Put extra socks, wipes (this is mostly for backpackers or hikers, but they are also just sometimes a great thing to have on hand. I sometimes buy baby wipes and then let them dry out, so I just get them wet again and they’re easy to pack), and other small items inside reusable water bottles or shoes. Any clothes that won’t be harmed by being rolled, roll. If possible, put the rolled things into separate rectangular pouches (packing cubes) that will keep them together and make nice shapes for packing.
  3. Unpack and repack. Once you’ve packed everything and made sure it fits in your bag, take it all out again. Unpacking and repacking your bag a few times will help you know where to keep important things and will let you know what’s not going to work when you’re unpacking your bag during your travels. Another tip for when you repack the first time: when you take everything out, get rid of a third of it. Traveling lightly is all about sacrifice in the name of comfort and utility. If you don’t need it, pitch it. You’ll be glad of the space when you’re trying to pack souvenirs and other things you buy on your travels.
  4. Quick Tips.
    • Always pack an extra set of clothes in your carry on bag, including extra underwear and socks.
    • Never pack essentials in a checked bag. Bring medications, your passport and anything else you can’t bear to part with.
    • Don’t be the person who holds up the line. Make sure your liquids are already in a plastic bag. I find it simpler to pack all my toiletries in TSA-approved quart-sized ziplock bags.
    • Check TSA’s website if you’re unsure about being able to bring something in a checked bag. They give very detailed information about what’s allowed and what’s not.

If you’re packing for an adventure, whether it’s an escape to nature or just a trip where you’re “just backpacking it,” you will want to think about small necessities like a compact first aid kit, wipes, a sewing kit. Think about the things you’ll need to be a savvy traveler. You’ll feel a lightness in your step when you can walk off a plane with a backpack slung over your shoulder, and everything you need compactly fit inside it.

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