What I Packed for 3 Weeks in a 38 L Backpack | Women’s Edition

One of the biggest dilemmas I face when traveling is what to pack and how much. It’s hard enough to do when you’re traveling to one country, but to do it for three countries in only a backpack can be challenging. This is what I packed, lessons I learned, and what I would do differently.

Why a Backpack

I am notorious for overpacking and really wanted to embark on our journey the right way, minimalistic. We would be getting on and off buses, trains, subways, taxis, and possibly even running through airports. If I couldn’t carry it on my back, it wasn’t coming with me. It’s much easier to navigate when you don’t have to worry about dragging a wheelie on dirt roads, busy subway stations, and crowded walkways.

We headed over to REI and tried on almost every backpack imaginable. I decided on the Gregory 38 L backpack based on comfort, back support, and the sales representative’s recommendation.

What I Packed


  • 1 Tank Top
  • 4 T-Shirts
  • 4 Pair of Shorts
  • 2 Pair of Joggers


  • 2 Swimsuits
  • 1 Bra
  • 1 Bralette
  • 6 underwear
  • 1 Sports Bra
  • 3 Pair of Socks



  • Clear Quart Plastic Bag with all of my Toiletries (shampoo, body wash, deodorant, etc.)
  • Small Makeup Bag
  • Straightener
  • Curling Wand
  • Microfiber Towel
  • Rain Poncho
  • Laptop
  • Small Bag with all my chargers
  • Book
  • Envelope with Printed Copies of Important Documents (i.e passport)

Lessons Learned

The list doesn’t seem like much, but it does add up in weight. I packed way too much as it was too heavy for me. The backpack weighed 24 lbs. For most people, this would be okay but to give you some perspective, I’m not fit (working on this) and have never “backpacked.” I have up until this trip been a check your multiple bags of luggage, get in your car service direct to the fancy hotel type of traveler. We were traveling on a budget which meant, carry-on only. No car service, public transportation instead. No fancy hotel, we would be staying in hostels where storage for luggage would be questionable.

Walking through LAX’s Tom Bradley terminal from domestic to international was like running a Sparta race. The weight of the backpack cut into my shoulders causing pain up and down my body. I almost gave up 2 minutes in. I threw the biggest temper tantrum that an older millennial can. Not one of my best moments.

Mistake #1:

I thought I looked cute. That’s all that matters, right? WRONG!

I only tried on my backpack once, fully packed at home in front of the mirror. When you are standing still and only have the backpack on for 30 seconds, everything feels fine.

Tip: Try on your backpack fully packed and walk around the block in your neighborhood. See how it feels. If it’s too heavy, pack less. Adjust what you pack and the straps to ensure it’s comfortable.

Mistake #2:

Check to see if your backpack is really carry-on “legal” and what the weight limit is.

Tip: Domestic flights, international flights, and carriers will all have different regulations for carry-on baggage. While our backpack was just fine going from DAL to LAX, we barely made it by when we boarded Singapore Airlines. Our backpacks were too tall, due to the support frame. We had to stow it long ways in the overhead bins. The nice attendants let us by since there was space but technically it should have been checked. On our way back to the States, the check-in representative did make us check our backpack due to weight and size.

Mistake #3:

I packed way too much. Some of the items I packed were never used.

Tip: Whatever you’re packing, cut that in half and then in half again. I packed joggers. PANTS in the HOTTEST and HUMID climates? What was I thinking! Nonetheless, it took up space and I never wore them.

Mistake #4:

Toiletries. Although I kept to the TSA requirements of one clear quart bag, it adds up in weight.

Tip:  You can always purchase toiletries when you arrive at your destination. I recommend only bringing what you need for the flight, i.e. deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, and travel-sized skincare (if you are into that, I am). You can pick up everything else when you arrive. Plus, your hotel, hostel and in some cases Airbnb will have toiletries for you to use, be flexible and use the free stuff.

What I Would Do Differently


My clothing options were all over the place, which meant more items, more weight. What I will be doing going forward is to build a capsule wardrobe. Every item that I pack can and will be used to build different outfit options. Pack basic colors and not prints, white, gray and black. These are the foundations for any great outfit.

Multi-Purpose Items

I would leave my curling wand behind. Technically, my hair straightener can do both, therefore, no need to take up space and weight with a curling wand. If I have to bring toiletries, I would pack Dr. Bronner’s organic soap. You can use this as shampoo, body wash and even brush your teeth with it. It sounds a little odd but not that bad once you get used to it.

Ask, Do I Really Need This

If I had to pack all over again, I would ask myself, Do I Really Need This? More than likely, the answer would be it’s nice to have but not really. I brought a book, didn’t even read it. If I really wanted to, I could have downloaded the book through Audible. My makeup bag was filled to the brim. I didn’t even wear makeup 75% of the time due to how hot and humid the weather was. The “nice to have,” all adds up. When you’re trying to be a minimalistic packer, it’s not really minimalistic if you are bringing the “nice to have.” It basically defeats the purpose.

One Trip Wiser

Every time I travel, I learn something about myself and how to be a better traveler. Backpacking is not hard, it just takes a bit of finesse with what you pack and how you approach the journey. I would love to hear from you and your travel tips.

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