Packing for Adventure

Are you an over packer? Or are you an “under-packer”?

A classic question, and the answer is one I struggle with All The Time because I am a notorious over packer. Yes, yes I am.

I hate it, I hate being that girl, but admit it I must. I am the one you see struggling to lug her huge suitcase up a steep flight of Italian stone stairs to the 3rd floor room. The room that has a magnificent view, but a wicked set of stairs that would make even the best under-packer a little leery.

The worst part is:

I flirted with under-packing for a couple of years. Oh yes. At one point in my early 30’s I was embued with the power to pack stylish and light. Even for that trip to Pittsburgh in the middle of winter (my sister is STILL talking in awe of my packing prowess that November trip).

My under-packing days where here… and then they were gone, leaving me bereft and lost and even more saddened and shamed by the “oh my your bag is heavy” comments each and every time someone tries to help.

Sidenote: it’s quite helpful that I married the type of man who could carry me, the dog, and 4 heavy duffle bags without a problem, helpful to my over-packer identity that is.

Even when I started backpacking two years ago my over-packing nature was still in full force. “Backpacking, excellent!”, I thought as I pondered the helpful REI packing list. While I would never be in the ultra-light category (I enjoy some booze and extra undies on these trips thank you very much) I gladly jumped into the challenge to fit everything I would need for 5 days including meals and water, into a pack that I could carry on my back miles each day.

Let’s just say my pack has never managed to weigh in under 42lbs at the start of a trip. Over-packer strikes again.

So when we decided to head to Africa for our honeymoon, and we saw that for our tiny bush plane to carry us to the lodge the limit on luggage was 26lbs each, I realized my hidden under-packer had created a scenario where she just might thrive again.

To help all my fellow over-packers out there here is a packing list that is approximately 21lbs.

A little heavy for backpacking (remember you need to account for food and water too which are the heaviest of the lot) but can be easily modified for backpacking or shorter or longer journeys away.

Good Luck! (I only say this to my fellow over-packers. You under-packers borrow my shorts when you need an extra pair).


Spread it all out on the bed – take a good look!



1 hat/visor

2 scarves/buffs

3 pants – quick dry

3 tops quick dry

1 Nalgene bottle (32 oz is best)

1 comfy pants for camp

1 pj top (or wear the tank you are going to wear the next day)

4-5 tanks (I wore 4)  

4-5 socks (wool or wool blend is a must – they don’t smell after repeated wears and wool is actually very quick drying and wicking)

5-6 pairs undies ( I also had a spare pair in my carry on bag)

3 bra’s ( one for travel, and one spare in carry on bag)

2 thick plastic bags one for shoes and one for dirty/wet clothes

Wipes – 1 for toiletries, 1 for carry on, +1 extra

1 small travel spray bottle Febreeze

1 small 100%deet

1 large 40% deet

1 small 25% deet (day pack)


Kleenex packs, any daily pills in 7 day pack, qTips, 3 hair ties, Bobbi pins, small comb, ear plugs x2, bandaids, Chapstick, eye drops, enzymes, small clippers, tweezers, floss, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, lotion, sunscreen (spray and lotion and a sunscreen stick for day pack), face lotion (eucerin skin calming is great you can use for a lot of things) face wash, aquaphor (perfect for chapped skin and chapped lips), tiny perfume sample. Small quick dry face towel, deodorant, Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair detangler

Extra Kleenex packs

Poopbags (3 or so, you know the kind that you use to pick up after your dog, they are perfect for all sorts of emergencies/trash/keeping items dry)

wet wipes


Keens for canoeing/water sports/around camp

Flip flops

Large quick dry towel


Extra batteries

Small sewing kit

2 extra carabiners

1 clip strap

Watch (preferably one you can set for two time zones and a timer – I actually got so used to wearing a watch that I loved not having to look at my phone! P.s. watches are sexy on men- even if you don’t know how to use all the dials and functions)

2 pens and small notebook

Plug converters (x2 one had USB ports also)


Waterproof pants overs

Jacket – waterproof

Warmer jacket for night ( I use my north face packable down)

Camera and extra batteries

Zoom lens (not included in the 21lbs)

Copies – paper – of all important docs, passport cc’s back and front, license,

Take Photos and keep them in your phone – save to favorites

Small plastic flask filled w fav beverage 🙂  (this is for my backpacking trips – not included in weight)

*I added a Downey dryer sheet in my main bag, helps keep everything fresher.

Small ziploc bag for plane: toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitizer, deodorant, change of undies (if you are checking your luggage)

Your day pack:

(some of these items are duplicates because you will pack your daypack either before the trip and carry it with you, or pack it once you are there with the items from your main pack. I have a fantastic squishable and roll-up-able small daypack that fits a hydration bag that I add into my main luggage even backpacking it’s convenient to have for day trips from camp.)

Small zip pouch for passports visas, some cash, pen, small notebook to write important things down. Make sure to write down your whole itinerary, important phone numbers and locations.


Sunscreen- stick


Bug spray or wipes

Duct tape ( I put a few layers of this around my bug spray bottle)


Tramadol to sleep on plane (if needed)

Water purification

Lip stuff, hair ties, small flashlight, earplugs


Wallet, passport

Gum, mint altioids (helps with upset stomach)

Ear buds

Emergency power for phone/backup battery

Small notebook and pen (see above)

Glasses and case


First aid kit in small waterproof dry bag: (this goes in daypack)*

Antibiotic ointment, Imodium 6 tabs, Dramamine if needed, Hand sanitizer, Bandaids,Moleskin, Advil, Eye drops, Benadryl 2 tabs, Tums, Foot tape/bandage tape

Cortisone creme, NyQuil small sample one dose, Cranberry, enzymes, HCL, pepto – chewable, activated charcoal, cholacol 2, Imodium, Dramamine, eyedrops, DayQuil – night and day, Benadryl stick, neutrogena hand creme, natural calm magnesium (helps sleep and constipation), emergenC, biofreeze sample, antibiotics, earplugs, small scissors, bandages

*because I was packing for 2 I created a larger main first aid kit to keep in the luggage, and just brought a handful of each medicine in the daypack to be used as needed.

That’s it!

Sounds like a lot. Looks like a lot. You won’t need everything here, but you will be grateful you have it if you do. Good luck!

Please let me know:

  1. Your own secret to packing

  2. Your “must-have item” on your packing list

  3. Any other words of wisdom and advice for myself and the over-packers around us.

Thanks for reading!


Bon Voyage! Headed out to the Zim.