Backpacking 101 (for amateurs)

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As a lover of clothes and shoes (and feeling the need for options when traveling) the idea of fitting 10 days worth of clothes, shoes, and toiletries into one backpack for a trip around Europe was daunting to say the least. Despite my reservations, the idea of backpacking and all that it implied (freedom, adventure, experiences) has always been something that appealed to me. Turning 31 this year (shhhh don’t tell anyone), I realized I’m not getting any younger and what better time to chase your dreams than the present. Luckily my husband of 10 years has the same sense of wanderlust as I, and my bff/partner in crime Mia does as well; they both jumped right on board, no hesitations to make my dream trip a reality.

Once the flights were booked and the lodgings arranged, we began the arduous task of finding “the backpack” for the trip, and the even more arduous task of packing. 

RELATED: what to pack when you travel with kids

Hubby and I opted for the Cabin Max Metz Backpack that we found on Amazon. The reason this backpack appealed to us was it’s ability to be packed like traditional luggage. The zipper went all the way around the pack which made it much easier when looking through the pack versus rifling through the top of a traditional backpack and digging to the bottom for desired items. The straps and back offered some extra padding and cushioning which was greatly appreciated when we got lost walking around Paris looking for our hotel (that’s a tale for another day…). The front flap also had little storage zippers inside for small items like socks, undies, and toiletries.  

Mia and her hubby went with the OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack 50L with Waterproof Backpack Cover. A more traditional backpack style, this bag offered extra support as it straps around the waist and chest.  The side pockets offered a perfect place for a travel umbrella, and other small items, and the front (open) pocket provides a great place for a light jacket or any other item that you might need to get easily…but beware of pickpockets since this front pocket is a very easy target (just don’t put anything valuable there).  It is 50 liters so you can pack a lot of stuff in this backpack, but this specific one is a top loader, so it can get tricky to pack it up. The solution? Packing cubes. This amazing little invention is a life saver. The idea is to organize your stuff in separate piles. Use one cube for underwear/socks, one for tops, one for bottoms, one for miscellaneous items or to store your dirty clothes after you wear them. This way, you won’t have to take everything out, and spread your stuff around while searching for a specific item. You just take your cubes out and everything will stay organized and in place.


Ok, so backpacks have purchased now what to pack?

Knowing that space was very limited here is how I packed:

  •  One pair of thin (Dollar store brand) flip flops for the communal shower at the first lodging in Paris. 
  •  2 pair pants
  •  One Maxi dress
  • a mini-travel size dual voltage hair straightener. They are not very good but It comes in handy!
  • A world traveler Adapter– if you are going to Europe.  Believe me, you’ll need one.
  •  Combination 8 tank/ short sleeve shirts.
  •  10 pair undies/socks ( In hindsight really could have packed half that and washed my undies in the shower with me everyday- leaving out to dry while we gallivanted around during the day).
  • 2 bras (black and white) I opted for sports bras just because they are super comfy.
  •  Lightweight fleece jacket (Paris got a tad chilly at night!)
  •  Rain jacket (I really liked my Columbia jacket purchased at Dicks Sporting Goods)
  •  Travel sized umbrella (this saved the day quite a few times in Paris- the weather was super fickle when we traveled)
  •  Travel towel- I purchased ours from Amazon and was very thankful when we saw the towels provided by the first lodging (more like hand towels than bath towels!)These things folded up super thin and didn’t take up much room at all, really great investment for only $12.99
  •  Quart sized plastic bag of toiletries (remember nothing over 3 ounces- TSA rules!) I packed shampoo, conditioner, face wash, sea salt spray, argon oil, bar soap, extra contacts).
  •  Small makeup bag (I actually used an ipsy one) with one eyeshadow, one mascara, and one eyeliner. 
  •  Glasses- in case of a contact fiasco I wanted my glasses for backup
  •  Large cross body purse: Inside I packed my camera/case, small wallet with my ID and one credit card, small hand sanitizer, chapstick, extra hair ties, neutral colored scarf, & passport. 

**I didn’t think to pack a small pack of hand wipes but I suggest throwing them in your purse too, they really were a life saver (thank you Stephanie) on two occasions when I had a pigeon poop crisis in Paris (I don’t want to talk about- I’m working through it in therapy). 


Have you all gone backpacking before? What were some of your must haves while on the road? Anything tips or tricks you can share about backpacking?  Please comment below and let us know!

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Real-life bookworm with a taste for adventure. Coco enjoys reading as much as she enjoys good coffee. Coco is an experienced book reader, and expert book reviewer. If you need a book reviewed, you are in good hands.

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