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A Minimal Packing List for Women

Whether you're planning a trip for 10 days or over a year, this packing list has you covered.

Stephanie Bragdon
Stephanie Bragdon
9 min read
A picture of a woman on Lake Atitlán with a backpack (travel essentials for women)
Her Packing List: Travel Essentials for Women

Before creating my own packing list, I scoured the internet for tips and tricks, searching things like “best women’s travel clothing,” “travel essentials for women,” and “best women’s travel clothing for a backpack.” I never really found anything particularly helpful. Words like “capsule wardrobe” and “Tencel” flashed across my screen. While this was closer to what I was looking for, what I actually wanted was a checklist that I could follow.

Eventually, after many trips and packing combinations, I’ve settled into something that works well for almost every trip I take. At the very minimum, it’s nice to have a proven list that I can lean on when I start packing. I use this list as a starting point for every trip I go on, but I might adjust depending on the trip type. Colder? Ditch the shorts and add a sweater. Tropical? Ditch the sweaters and add some shorts.

But if I need a packing list that’ll work in every scenario, this is it. Whether that’s ten days in the Cotswolds, ten days in Mexico, or 58 weeks on the road.

The Travel Backpack

When I travel, I’m traveling in a backpack. At this point, I’ve tried out a couple of different types. Typically, I take the Minaal 2.0 bag on my trips - I love this bag. It’s surprising how much can fit in that bag, even at just 35 liters.

When I went on the 58-week trip, I brought a 45-liter Tortuga bag (now discontinued). The Tortuga is a structured backpack with many internal pockets to help with organization. I definitely tested its limits, and it never exploded on me (though there has been some wear and tear).

But if there was one piece of travel gear that I cannot recommend enough - it’s the humble packing cube. Often overlooked and talked down to by some influencers (rude) but essential, in my opinion. Why?

  1. I can fit more items into my backpack by using these cubes
  2. They squish down sweaters
  3. They keep things organized (I have summer clothes primarily in one packing cube and winter clothes in another).
  4. They save a ton of space. The backpack you buy will most likely have packing cubes made specifically for it (like the Minaal or Tortuga).


The one rule to follow here is that layers are your friend. Most, if not all, of my clothes can be layered if necessary for extra warmth - especially helpful when temperatures can vary throughout the day.

Pants (2): Typically, I travel with one pair of jeans and some other kind of pants. DUER makes some good travel-friendly pants that I like. I’m kind of clumsy, so I like to have a backup in case I spill (which definitely happened).

Underwear (10): Of course, this depends on how long I’m traveling for, but I usually like to have plenty of extras (you never know when you’re just randomly going to start pooping yourself, right?) unless I know I’m doing laundry (which you will do when traveling for long enough). I got some underwear from Toad & Co. and really love them! They dry fast, which is perfect for hand washing.

Socks (5-10 pairs): The number of socks needed is a big range because it depends on your comfort level. I hate re-wearing socks, so I prefer to have extras. I typically travel with small trainers and boots, so I need socks that work with both shoes.

Leggings (2): One pair for the plane and one to lounge (or exercise) in. Never underestimate the comfort of a nice pair of leggings.

Tights (1): I like to bring one pair of tights to go under my dress/skirt.

Bra (2): Two bras usually work pretty well for me.

Bralettes (2): You have to keep the ladies comfy on those flights!

Swimsuits (2): I bring two bikinis - of course, if you aren’t swimming, don’t bring any (unless there’s a chance of a hot tub).

Wrap (1): Some kind of cardigan or wrap is nice to have to put over dresses/tanks/tees for chillier climates. I got mine from prAna, and it packs down pretty small, which is great.

Dress (1): it’s nice to have at least one dress. I try to pick something simple and neutral that can be dressed up or down depending on where we’re going. It’s helpful to make sure the wrap matches it. If you’re going somewhere warm, maybe add another dress.

Shorts (1-3): This depends on where you’re traveling, but I typically have at least one pair of shorts to wear to sleep/work out in, no matter the climate. The number increases if there’s a chance it’ll be warm. My shorts are typically linen or Tencel because jean shorts are too bulky. This also means they will dry fast! Right now, my favorites are from prAna (do you see a trend?!).

Skirt (1): While I’d like to bring more, I typically stick to one skirt. And it’s a neutral color, so I can pair it with most (if not all) of the shirts I’ve brought.

T-shirts (2-3): I like ones made out of Tencel or Merino wool - they dry fast when hand washing and don’t smell.

Tank-tops (3-4): Again, this probably depends on what you’re doing, but I like to have some tank tops on hand for working out/sleeping/lounging around in.

Long sleeve Shirts/Sweaters (2-3): Again, this depends on where you’re going and if it will be cold. I bring a couple of long sleeves so I can layer them under my rain jacket to help keep me warm in colder climates. I love Merino wool, and two out of my three long sleeves are Merino. When I want to look cute, I add a long-sleeve bodysuit.

Use the code “GROG10” for 10% off any purchase from Unbound Merino.


Insulated Jacket (1): I have an Arc’teryx Atom puffer that I love. Great for layering - it fits over my sweaters but under my rain jacket, offering the perfect level of warmth.

Rain Jacket (1): The type of rain jacket varies depending on where I’m going. I have an REI shell that I use for warmer climates that threaten rain. If I know I’ll be in colder climates for the majority of the trip, I’ll bring a more heavy-duty jacket from Edie Bower that is also great against the wind.

Hoody (1): This one is definitely my personal preference, but I like having a hoody to lounge in and to fly in (I specifically want the hood). Mine is some generic one from Old Navy, but it works well enough.


Makeup: Bring whatever you feel comfortable with. Mine varies depending on how much makeup I’m using when I’m actually packing. It’s easy to overpack these, and they add bulk pretty quickly, so be realistic about how much you’ll actually wear.

Toothbrush: Please make sure to bring this.

Hair Straightener: Mine can also curl my hair, so that’s nice.

Small brush: Buy a cheap, small brush from your local drugstore, and you’ll be fine.

Toothpaste: Some people opt for toothpaste tablets, but I don’t really like those, to be honest. I usually use Sensodyne toothpaste and have been able to find it in virtually every country I’ve been to.

Contact solution/contacts: I bring two extra pairs of contacts (for a ten-day trip); you never know when you’ll accidentally wash one down the drain. I also bring a travel-size contact solution with me.

Face Care: For me, this includes a face wash, face cream, eye cream, and moisturizer. I’m thirty-one, so I have to take care of my skin! Whatever you bring, just make sure it’s TSA-approved. I have some toiletry bottles from Matador that I love. They are SUPER slim, which is great, but one warning: if you aren’t careful and don’t fully close the lid, the product might dry in the small crevices, which means the lid won’t fully latch, and it could cause a small explosion.


Forever one of the biggest struggles. I typically want to bring as many shoes as possible to match all my outfits, but in reality, shoes are heavy, and at the end of the day, it’s better to have a lighter backpack.

Boots: I have a pair of Blundstones that is my everything boot! They’re simple, black, and waterproof. They can be used for hikes, or to explore cities, and can even be dressed up for a nice evening out. I’ve also worn them up multiple volcanoes.

Trainers: I have a pair of AllBirds Tree Skippers that I love. They look nice, they’re super comfortable, and I can explore any city with them. I’ve even used them to work out, which isn’t ideal, but they do the job. I hate the look of running shoes, especially when exploring a city. I think they scream tourist (which I am, but I like to pretend I’m not). So AllBirds it is!

Waterproof sandals: I have this pair from Xero, which are…fine. Waterproof sandals are important if you’re sharing bathrooms in hostels or doing watersports outdoors.


If you want a more in-depth tech list, go here. I don’t think about this too much; just make sure to bring the charging cords you need. Here are some things I think you HAVE to have, though:

Portable Charger: I used to steal Skylar’s, but then he got me to get my own from Anker, which is amazing.

Journal/notebook: Okay, this isn’t something you HAVE to have, but if you like to write, it’s fun!

Kindle: Don’t bring a book. Just don’t. It’s awkward, it’s heavy. Get a Kindle (or some other e-reader). Your back will thank you.

Turkish towel: I love my Turkish towel. Some people use microfiber towels, and I hate them; they always end up smelling. My Turkish towel dries quickly and always smells lovely. It’s great to use as an actual towel when needed, but I’ve used it as a blanket and a scarf. It’s super versatile and packs down pretty small.

Beanie: It’s just good to have a beanie to stay warm.


One thing people do ask is what kind of souvenirs we bring if all we have is a backpack. Well, that’s actually a good question. Skylar and I have a tradition of collecting art from the places we visit. Nothing big - a painting or sketch from an artist, maybe some textiles, or even some tile work - something slim that we can fit next to the computers in the backpack. We also collect corks from the wine we drink, and we write where the bottle is from. We have a lot of corks…

Why a Backpack?

I get this question a lot, especially from my mother (hi mom!); after all, you can put everything in a roller bag and check it, or use a roller carry-on, which seems less drastic than a backpack.

My answer to the first part - checking a bag - is I hate checking bags. I hate waiting for bags; I hate the possibility of losing my bag, and I hate paying to check them. It’s more of a hassle, and the cost will add up. The logistics are just too annoying to deal with. A backpack keeps you nimble; you can easily move around, which is especially helpful when trying to make your way from Heathrow to catch a train to Paris in a short time frame.

I’ve also never had trouble fitting my bag into the overhead bin. When the airline people come on the intercom and say those dreaded words, “we need people to give up their roller bags; we’re running out of space,” I know they aren’t talking to me. For one, no airline attendant has ever questioned my backpack. It’s not a gigantic hiking backpack that sticks out above my head, so they don’t see it. And since it’s squishy, I can usually stuff it into an overhead bin - the rigidity of a roller bag and the need for internal structures like wheels make it way less flexible.

Another pro for the backpack - you can usually buy the cheapest airline ticket and sneak on with the backpack. You know the tickets that say only one carry-on per person, and you don’t get to use the overhead bins? Yeah, that doesn’t apply to me. Airline attendants don’t ask about my backpack. They assume I’m going to follow the rules and stuff it under my seat. HA. I mean, I could… maybe… but why bother? It’s just another way to save money.

And one last advantage for the backpack? You will never struggle with cobblestones, and in other countries, there are a lot of cobblestones. I always feel a sense of superiority when someone is struggling to roll their bag over cobblestones. Or struggling with stairs. It’s the little things.

Final Thoughts

Alright! If you’ve made it this far, congrats, and thank you. I wanted to share a little bit about my packing process (I figured I’d put the list first since that’s probably what you wanted anyway). The basics for packing in a backpack are pretty simple:

  1. Build a capsule wardrobe - make sure everything matches everything else.
  2. Use packing cubes (apparently, this is a hot take?), I love them and am just waiting for some TikToker to come across my feed telling me they discovered them.
  3. Be honest about what you need vs. what you want
  4. When I started packing, I dreamed of two extra T-shirts, a sweater, and an additional pair of shoes - those all got cut. Some for weight reasons (the backpack gets heavy!) and some because the items didn’t match other things. I needed to pick more versatile items.
  5. Practice packing - this may sound dumb, but for this trip, I started using a new bag, so I needed to figure out the best way to pack it. In a way, each bag has a philosophy of how it wants you to pack and carry it.


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