• Sharon Kelly

What's in a Backpack?


While it may not be as big as quitting my job or selling my house, the decision about what to pack in my backpack can have as much of a lasting effect. I didn’t need to read any of the myriad of books or other blogs I did read to prepare for this trip to know that less is more... when you have to haul your pack around for 2 years you definitely want it to be as light as possible.

I thought I had been getting better at packing...recently I have been able to pack for a short business trip in 30 mins. And gone are the days when I would take my whole medicine cabinet with me... just in case. But I struggled with this - which I'm sure is natural. I know there will be stores wherever I am so I can buy what I need. But whether I bring it with me or buy it on the road, I still need to carry it in my backpack.

So what made the pack??

Let's start with the pack itself: 48L Gregory Cairns, purchased from MEC a few years ago when I went to South America, designed to fit a woman's body and comfortably carry up to 20 kgs. So that's my goal. Also supposed to be carry on size but I wouldn't want to try my luck.

2 pairs of convertible pants, one black, one grey - not the most stylish but highly practical. Lightweight, water repellent and even offers UV protection

6 shirts, combination of sleeveless, long sleeves and t-shirts - all neutral colours but can be 'dressed up' with some accessories

1 little black dress - I know some people might find this a waste of space and weight, but it is a casual knit material so can be worn with casual shoes, even athletic shoes, when I am just out and about. But with accessories, and a slightly more dressy pair of loafers, could take me out for an evening. I decided to include something like this as this will be my life for the next two years and while living my life, I hope to go out every once in awhile!

1 pair of skorts - same as the dress but a bit more practical for everyday wear

Accessories - scarves, earings, necklaces and belts... nothing fancy

1 pair of PJs

1 pair of woolen mitts and hat - I'm not planning on going to extreme cold climates but I might need a little bit of protection. Combined with my North Face jacket (already packed in its own pouch and another layer, I figured can deal with temperatures as low as -10C (14F). Also taking a Tilley hat - kept my head dry during a rain storm in the Amazon one day

4 pairs of socks - Darned Tough Socks... durable, odour resistance and have a lifetime guarantee

3 pairs of shoes - this may seem excessive, in addition to my hiking boots that I will be wearing on travel days. But I have one pair of sandals, one pair of athletic shoes and one pair of loafers.. no heels 😉 If I have the need for a pair of heels - and I hope I do - I'll buy a reasonably priced pair

Assorted travel goodies - purifying water bottle, travel towel and washcloth, utensils

Toiletries - this was tough. I need a basic amount but obviously will have to scale back. So included in my supplies are: toothpaste/toothbrush (that is a given!), bar of soap (no more luxury body washes), deodorant (another must have!), small body lotion (a small luxury), facial wash and cleanser (also a luxury), small hair gel and spray (note, no hair dryer) and a few makeup products

Medicine and first aid - another tough one... I will be able to buy products wherever I am but hopefully I won't need a lot so buying a whole bottle of tylenol - for example - will be a waste and just add extra to my pack. So I have: allergy pills, bandaids, anti-itch cream, antibiotic cream, nausea and other stomach/digestive issues pills, some medication the travel doctor provided (jet lag pills, altitude pills and ear and eye drops).

I'm going to try and stay healthy - should naturally get plenty of exercise and hopefully I can eat right for the most part. I saw an acupuncturist a few times before I left work (taking advantage of my health plan). Shannon Williams of the Holistic Boutique provided me with a whole booklet with lots of useful tips and recommended Eucalyptus Oil as a traveller's best friend. So I packed a spray bottle with some diluted oil to combat germs. Also thrown into my 'travel well' supplies is lavender to aid in sleep and Arnica cream to aid weary muscles, something I expect to have quite a bit!

Time will tell if I have packed correctly, and I am sure I will make adjustments as I travel. If anyone joins me, I will likely get them to bring me some supplies and, even more likely, will offload supplies.

This is what is in my pack and it weighs... drum roll please... 20 kgs!!


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