Packing is always a nightmare for me. Not because I have a tonne of clothes, but because I want to take everything I own every time because I can't think of anything worse than being away and thinking, 'Oh God, if only I had my flowery pink bralet with me... this entire look won't work now!!!' Last summer I literally took ALL of my summer clothes to Orlando when I went to work at Walt Disney World but I was going away for three months then AND I'd paid for an extra suitcase. This time I was only going away for six weeks and I had only a backpack to put all of my things in.
So I got to work thinking, how many pairs of shorts do I need? How many going-out outfits might I want to choose from? How many T-shirts is too many T-shirts? This is what I settled on...
*This was the state of my bed after I had finally chosen all of my clothes. This is NOT a lot of clothes to me... I began to be concerned...*
So I settled on eight T-shirts (two not shown)...
Three pairs of denim shorts (one not shown) and two pairs of jeans, one blue and one peach...
Four tops for going-out which could be dressed up with skirts and heels or down with jeans and flats...
Four going-out skirts, two midi and two mini...
Three going out dresses, one specifically to be worn with heels, the others can be worn with flats for daytime or heels for night-time...
Two pyjama T-shirts, four comfy shorts (for pyjamas or casual days one not shown), one pair of joggers, one hoodie and a pair of sleep-socks...
This is how I packed all of my things so that they didn't take up too much space.
I rolled everything into tight roles and then packed them into separate plastic bags depending on the category of clothes. So I had one plastic bag for going-out clothes, one for pyjamas and slouchy clothes, and one for my casual t-shirts, jeans and shorts. Then I also packed 14 days worth of knickers and socks and 5 bras into a fourth plastic bag. Packing things into plastic bags makes things much easier in terms of finding stuff inside your backpack and it makes it a lot quicker when its time to pack your things back away.
I also took one pair of gladiator sandals, one pair of running trainers, one pair of flip-flops, one pair of wedges and one pair of wedged trainers.
Here are the lessons I learned about packing for a backpacking-style trip in North America:
1) Pack two pairs of denim shorts (for when one goes loose after you've worn them for a few days) and one pair of jeans (if you're travelling cross country in the States the weather can be unpredictable... Yosemite and San Francisco were cold and New York can be at some times of the year)
2) Pack two different pyjama sets
3) Don't pack more than seven pairs of knickers and socks (every campsite and hostel worth going to has a laundry room and any more will just make a mess in your bag)
4) Take a pair of warm-ish jogging bottoms and a hoodie (if things get cold at night these clothes are comfy enough to sleep in. And they're great to wear on laundry day when all of your nice things need washing.)
5) You only really need one bikini. Choose your favorite and buy another while you're there if you need to. When you're bust is as big as mine, supportive underwired bikinis take up a LOT of space in your pack.
6) You MUST have a pair of flip-flops. They'll act as slippers and are great for wearing in the nasty showers which you find on some campsites or in some hostels. Unless you like standing in other people's hair, ants and veruca germs.
7) Depending on how often you like going out DEFINITELY take a pair of heels or high wedges. I took mine and I ended up wearing them loads. I had friends that didn't take heels and spent the whole time moaning about how much they wish they had. They take up a lot of space and weight, but they're 100% worth it.
8) Again, depending on how much you like to go out, take a few different options of night-out clothes. When you're in a different culture people dress differently for going out and you don't want to feel unexpectedly bizarre in the club. Also, different states require different looks... in San Antonio I wore a checked cowboy style shirt, denim hotpants and heels. In Vegas I wore a purple bodycon dress and heels. In Memphis I wore a mini bodycon skirt, patterned vest blouse and gladiator sandals.
9) Pack a spare T-shirt, knickers, socks and pyjama set into your hand-luggage for just in case your bag gets delayed or lost! This happened to a friend of mine and she had nothing with her. Whooops.
So there you have it! In hindsight I probably could have taken I couple of kilos worth of weight back out of my backpack if I'd known what I know now, and I hope that next time I go travelling like this I remember to read this blog post. It can be really hard for me not to get too over-excited with packing, but considering this was my first time backpacking I don't think I did too badly.
What would you take backpacking? Or more to the point, what wouldn't you leave home without? How many night-out options would you take? I think I could have cut down on these BIG TIME. But it was nice having options!