Old suitcases

How to travel with carry-on: a packing list for females

As mentioned in Paul’s article (a male packing list) a few months ago, we travel with carry-on luggage only. We lugged around 70-litre packs on our three-month backpacking trip five years ago, and while this was great to tone my muscles, it wasn’t much fun schlepping so much luggage around in 30+ degree heat and over 75% humidity. So here is my female packing list for minimalist permanent travel.

Having strict volume and weight limitations meant that we had to be very selective in what we would bring on this trip. Being a girl, I found this especially challenging, and I can’t say I have mastered it (especially given that we had to pack for all seasons). While I found the concept of a capsule wardrobe super helpful (and continue to adhere to it with my packing list), I still adjust and fine tune my wardrobe on the road. Therefore, I’m going to share with you my original packing list together with commentary as to what I have learnt over the last six months and what has changed since.

Before we headed off on our Minimalist Journey, I did quite a bit of research into backpacks, packing lists and clothing options but at the time, most articles and products were focused on men. I hope especially my fellow travelling gals out there will find this post useful.

Luggage / Bags

My Toiletry Bag
Our Multi Purpose Bag
Osprey Ozone 46

Given its importance, the backpack was the item I researched the most. Paul had bought a Tortuga V2, but that pack was too big for my frame (I’m only 1.64m tall). I will do a separate article in a little while just on the backpack (as I have not found one that fits all my criteria), but the best compromise I could find at the time was the Osprey Ozone 46 L Travel Pack.

Eagle Creek packing cubes

I bought the packing cubes specifically for this trip, and I am so happy I have them. They are great little organisers (like having drawers in your backpack). It’s easy to locate an item (for example, if I’m cold in an air-conditioned hall at the airport I just open the medium packing cube, grab a fleece shirt or shawl and zip it up again). No mess, no fuss.

Pacsafe SlingSafe 100 GII

I had a larger Pacsafe handbag for a long time but always found that it hurt my back after a while as I ended up carrying a water bottle, iPad and all sorts of stuff in it. It was also far too clunky to take on a night out. This smaller handbag still fits a lot in it, surprisingly, but is more friendly to my back and looks nicer, especially with a dress.

My Osprey Ozone 46 backpack
My Eagle Creek Cubes
My Pacsafe handbag


  • Marmot Nano AS Jacket
  • Uniqlo Ultralight down vest
  • Icebreaker GT Fleece Hoodie
  • Macpac Fleece Hoodie
  • Uniqlo Heattech Long-Sleeve Shirt
  • Icebreaker 3/4 Shirt
  • Uniqlo Heattech Short-Sleeve T-Shirts x 4
  • Uniqlo Heattech Singlets x 3
  • Outdoor Research Women’s Ferrosi Long Pants
  • Esprit EDC Cargo Pants
  • Kathmandu 3/4 Pants
  • Outdoor Research Women’s Ferrosi Summit 7″ Shorts
  • JJ Authentic Short-Sleeve Dress
  • JJ Sisters shawl
  • Buff Original scarf
  • NikeFIT Basecap
  • Icebreaker unisex beanie
  • Leather and fleece gloves (brand unknown)
  • O’Neill bikini
  • Mitch Dowd boxer shorts (see below)
  • Uniqlo Bikini Briefs x 7
  • Uniqlo bra
  • Underwire bra (brand unknown)
  • 5 pairs of socks (2 medium / 2 short Icebreaker socks, 1 short Falke socks)
  • Woollen socks (made by my grandma)
  • Scholl Flight compression socks
  • Salomon X Ultra LTR GTX hiking shoes
  • Crocs flip flops

Initially, I wanted to pack proper pyjamas (with long pants as we headed into the US / Canada in November / December). I’m glad I didn’t in the end… A pair of boxer shorts (that were a bit too small for Paul) together with one of my t-shirts (and my grandma’s woollen socks in cold climates) have proven to be sufficient.

Salomon X Ultra LTR GTX Hiking Shoes
My Shawl
What has been removed?

After we left the US / Canada, we sent the items marked in red back to New Zealand. Had we continued travelling in colder climates, we would have kept them but it just didn’t make sense to carry for example gloves and beanie around the Caribbean. Though in hindsight, I would have kept my grandma’s woollen socks as the nights in the Andes are very chilly (especially without heating).

What has been added?
  • Gym pants: I didn’t pack my gym pants as I thought I could use my shorts or 3/4 pants for workouts, but found that gym pants were useful (both for workouts and to wear under my normal pants in Canadian winter climates), so I ended up buying Under Armour gym pants in Quebec.
  • Ballerina shoes: I had looked for super light ballerinas before we left but couldn’t find any. While in New York, I did find a pair at Payless Shoes. I can wear them with my dress on a night out (looks nicer than flip flops) and can dance in them too.
  • T-Shirts: Most of our clothes are multifunctional and technical (that is, made from ultralight, quick-drying material). When I bought my t-shirts, I couldn’t find any colours that suit pale people like me so I ended up with several blacks. This is fine in colder climates but in the tropical sun, black is a BIG NO NO. I have therefore bought a pink Under Armour t-shirt in Guayaquil and an orange-red Nike dry fit t-shirt in Curacao.
  • Bikini: I couldn’t justify bringing two bikinis but since being in warmer climates I find that it is good to have two (I don’t like slipping into a bikini that hasn’t fully dried). I have therefore bought a second bikini in Curacao (by Women’s Secret). As my O’Neill bikini is black (again) and years old, I’ll throw it out eventually (and am back to one).
My ballerinas
My tshirts
My bikini
Technology and Accessories
  • Apple iPhone 5S and headphones
  • GoPro Hero4 Silver with spare battery, extra 64GB SDXC card, waterproof monopod / pole and chest harness
  • Schick Hydro TrimStyle razor and hair trimmer
  • Hammamas Turkish bath towel
  • Small Packtowl towel
  • Mountain Designs silk sleeping bag liner
  • Pacsafe belt
  • GoTravel clothes line
  • Sewing kit (brand unknown)
  • Samsonite TSA luggage lock
  • Frameless prescription glasses with transition lenses
  • FastTrack sunglasses#
  • Light MyFire Spork#
  • Klean Kanteen 800ml tin water bottle
  • Small (cheapy) umbrella
  • Egon the monkey – my travel mascot (he’s been travelling with me around the world since 1999)

When it came to quick-drying towels, I had the option to buy another larger Packtowl but I decided to go with a Turkish bath towel instead, and I couldn’t be happier with it. Again, it is multi-functional… Besides being a great towel for the shower, we may take it to the beach to sit on (hiring a chair every time would be far too costly), I have used it as a blanket when it was a bit too cold at night and I have even worn it as a dress / skirt on my way home from the beach.

Our travel mascot - Egon
My hammamas
What has been added?

While we have our Marmot Nano AS jackets, our backpacks are not rainproof. We initially used large rubbish bags to protect our gear from rain showers. However, when we hiked in the Cajas National Park one day we got so drenched that even our Goretex jackets eventually let some water get through to the next layer. Hence, we invested in $10 rain ponchos. They fit us and our backpacks (and are super light).

What has been removed?

# Sadly, as often the case with accessories, I lost my sunglasses (they flew off my head and into the water on a boat ride around the Galapagos) and my spork (no idea where and how that happened).
* We never used the GoPro harness – the movement makes any viewer motion sick – and threw it out after a while. Ultimately, we will likely invest in a gimbal device, but at this stage, we can’t justify the investment. The most recent item I threw out was my little umbrella as it started to fall apart and we bought the rain ponchos.

What could I easily live without?

These are funnily those just in case items that tend to stop you from throwing things out at home. We took the sleeping bag liner with us in case we encounter some not so inviting sleeping situations, but so far (knock on wood) we had clean sheets wherever we stayed. While it weighs bugger all and is no larger than my fist, I would not pack it again. Another item we brought just in case was a clothes line. We hadn’t used it to date (as we had enough racks, chairs, hooks and door knobs to hang our clothes to dry) but here in Grenada we did need it.

Paul has a whole section on his running gear that he needs to use, but with my exercising, my needs are a lot less.

My pack full of the above weighs just 8.8kg where as Paul’s full pack weighs 10.1kg.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with being able to travel and cope with what I have. Never again will I go back to a 70 litre backpack.

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  • Minimalist Journeys

    Thanks for the feedback. Great to hear it was helpful. Cheers, Sandra

  • Jennie Ryken

    Great packing list Sandra, It’s really hard to keep the clothes to a limit. I’ve found your female packing list really helpful, thank you!