What to pack for 10 days in your own country?

by Cheries Jordaan
(South Africa)

There are a lot of places that I would love to see overseas but because my budget is so small I decided to go backpacking in South Africa. You see I live in Pretoria and have never even left the province I live in let alone the country. Guess that's one of the reasons that I want to get my ITEC qualification in Massage Therapy next year so I can try and find work on a cruise ship or a resort spa abroad.

I decided to go backpacking in Durban, South Africa for ten days this August and starting looking for backpacking packing tips and I have to tell you that I am very overwhelmed. I don't need most of the stuff that say a backpacker coming for outside the country will need but I just don't know what to leave at home and what to take with me. The thing is that I am an over packer even work my handbag. I am only 5 feet tall but my handbag is so big that it takes covers most of my torso. I always joke with my co-workers that most of the things I carry in my handbag are there just in case I need (which I never really need). I only use four things in my handbag lipgloss, cellphone, wallet and hand lotion.

I really need help trying to decide what I should take with me and what I should leave at home. I have been an over packer since my school days and it hard to let that part of me go.

My Answer: Packing is part art, part science, but it's brutal! Overpacking is one of the major travel sins and at one time or another we've all been guilty of it. I've given your situation some thought and here's what I've come up with.

1. You need a packing buddy.
That's right. Get a good friend or relative, someone who isn't scared of contradicting you, and make a pact that you will take her advice, no matter what.

2. Throw out all the packing lists you've found (including mine).
Too much information can only confuse you at this stage so start from scratch.

3. Make a list of your planned activities and group them.
If you're going to go dancing, to a museum, swimming, hiking, eating out and so on, group these activities: relatively dressy (eating out, dancing), casual (museums, sightseeing), sporty (hiking, swimming). You get the picture.

4. Choose TWO outfits for each and NO MORE.
For going out, a simple dress will do. Go wild and take two. Accessorize. Two scarves, two pieces of costume jewelry, two hair adornments… anything lightweight to change the look. For daytime, a skirt and jeans, or light trousers. Remember - TWO. And two tops (wash one every other day). Leave any real gold and silver at home: this isn't the place for it.

5. Underwear for three days, no more.
You'll find sinks to wash clothes on alternate days.

6. Beauty stuff: downsize.
Favourite creams should be repackaged into travel size bottles. If you're carrying more than two creams, you've overpacked. Toothbrush, toothpaste, all in 1 shampoo-conditioner.

7. Extra things.
I like having a sarong - I use it on the beach, as a shawl, a scarf, a blanket, to sleep in, to wear indoors.

8. What CAN'T you live without for 10 days?
You're not going away for a year so ask yourself what's the worst that could happen if you leave something behind. Need to read? Use a Kindle or take one book. You can trade it for another along the way. Guidebooks and maps? Can't you get that stuff on your phone? Your phone will also double as a camera and computer so no need to stack up there.

9. Watch your step.
Shoes are among the most important travel luxury: you can't see much if you're too busy worrying about sore toes. Travel means walking so you'll need really good footwear to walk around all day. If you're trekking you'll also need some good hiking shoes. As for going out, a small pair of sandals (given Durban's weather) should more than do the trick and this is the only place where my 'two rule' can be broken.

10. Everything else.
What's missing? What can't you live without? If it's larger or heavier than a T-shirt I'm afraid you'll have to leave it behind. This still leaves room for glasses, sunglasses, ID papers, a watch… Wear a money belt for papers and cash, and if you MUST carry a purse then make sure you don't use it for anything you can't stand to lose.

Now pack everything into a small backpack. If it doesn't fit, get your packing buddy to intervene and do what she says. There is NO way you should have to take more than a small pack for ten days.

If the best-laid plans fail and you end up forgetting something at home - so what? No one will die because you've got the wrong dress or face cream. Lets face it, travel is about what's around you, not what's ON you!

Enjoy Durban - you're fortunate to come from a country where there's plenty to see so it could take you a while before you have to explore beyond your borders! And all the best in your massage therapy course because you're looking at an amazing lifestyle if you look for employment on cruise ships or in a resort!

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Jan 04, 2012
Packing
by: Gwen McCauley

Hiya

You've received some excellent packing tip here, especially about having a buddy to help out. One build I'd offer is at the 'activity list making' stage. Make your list using 1 item per Stickie note. It is so much easier to group stuff and rearrange it as necessary if you're working with stickies than with a list.

I also add in a cheap bandana which you can use as a small scarf, head cover, small bag if you're picking up stones, cones, etc., to mop up perspiration, as a cooling cloth if dampened and worn around your neck, and all sorts of other uses.

Have a really fun trip. I'm a keen camper and have gotten to know my own country (Canada) in great detail through many camping trips.

Gwen

Jan 04, 2012
the 3 day repeat
by: Vanessa

Tip for light packing:
- pack for 3 days, throw out one third of it. This is where you need your ruthless packing buddy.
- pack the rest into your back-pack except for id, credit cards etc which go in your money belt worn UNDER your shirt and your lip moisturizer, kleenex, phone or camera in a pocket. Yes, you need a lightweight jacket with pockets. Cargo pants work for some people but I find them clumsy.
- take a very small micro-fibre towel.
- anything that doesn't fit in stays out.
- do not take a handbag. It takes space and looks ridiculous with a back-pack. You might consider an updated version of my granny's reticule, a tiny bag with a shoulder strap or wrist cord. It can weigh less than an ounce.

You say "But I am going for 10 days!" No problem. Wash every night, if anything is still damp in the morning wrap it in the micro-fibre towel. And 10 days is only 3.3 x 3 days. As you will be moving along, no-one will know if you are wearing the same clothes you wore a few days earlier.

Happy travels.

Vanessa in BC, Canada

Jan 05, 2012
Thanks for the packing advice!
by: Cheries Jordaan

Thank you so much ladies this has been the best advice I have gotten so far. I can't wait to start my trip. Leyla you're right South Africa is a really great country and it was very hard deciding on Durban so I decided that I when ever I can I will take mini backpacking trips in different parts of the country.

Jan 05, 2012
Heres what I do...
by: Anonymous

The number of days you are going: I use this formula: Add up the number of days you will be going and divide by the number of times you are comfortable repeating an outfit. For example: 10 day trip, divided by 2 ( you will wear each outfit 2 times) so...pack 5 outfits.

Keeping in mind of course, the type of things you would be doing...One outfit is jeans/shirt. Another outfit is skirt/top. etc.
IF you REALLY want to go light--you can reduce the 5 outfits if you wear the same top with a different bottom....

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What clothes should I take to Europe in summer?

by Glenniffer
(Allgomera, Australia)

I'm not backpacking but travelling with 6 family members (heaven help me...my 80yr old mother is one).

Answer: You don't give me much to go on - like what time of year you're headed to Europe, so I'll assume it is in the next few weeks - making it August/September time.

Right now it's unseasonally cold and rainy in Europe, yet usually it is warm and balmy - even hot this time of year. So I'm afraid you'll have to plan for both. Light summer clothes, good walking shoes (to see all those Paris monuments) would be best (especially for your Mum!). Nothing skimpy - Europe is conservative, especially in the cities. Shorts are fine in touristy areas, but I'd make sure they're relatively long bermudas. Short shorts are out unless you're by the beach.

Given the present weather I would also plan for cold. Bring a warm top - a light fleece or sweater seems essential right now, as does rain gear. A light foldaway poncho is convenient - just slip it in your bag, or if you prefer, an umbrella. In case it's a bit chilly but not cold, I'd bring along some pashminas to throw over your short sleeves.

That said, the weather seems to change almost daily so bring along the summer gear too - light tops, sunglasses, and some sunscreen for your face. We've had swings of 25-30 degrees recently in middle Europe so here's hoping this crazy weather is on the way out. Come back, summer, we love you!

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Jul 30, 2011
Europe in July
by: The commuter

I was in Europe in July of 2009. Depending on which part of Europe you're in, you'd get a combination of hot and cold weather. In Germany and Austria for example, the weather was rainy and cool. My friends and I would often wear jackets and have our umbrellas handy. Within the same month, we flew to Spain and it was a completely different story. The weather was very hot and sunny. We walked around in T-shirts and shorts or capri. So I would agree to bring a combination of both clothes for hot and cold weather.

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Where would I be able to find large size women's clothing in Asia?

by Asya N.
(Birmingham, England)

I'm travelling and working for a year in Asia, so I will need to get new clothes and shoes at some point. Are larger sizes easy to find? If not, where are the best places to find larger women's clothing and shoes that don't look like grandmother's?

Answer:

I'm afraid getting larger sizes in Asia - where size 0 is standard in many places - may be possible, but not look like a grandmother? A little more difficult. Also, shoes will probably be harder than clothes...

In large cities like Bangkok, you'll usually find a Marks and Spencer or similar European chain shop, where you'll find some women's clothing in larger sizes. This is especially helpful for shoes. In Bangkok you can also head for MBK or Central, where you'll find larger sizes.

If you're in Hong Kong, you could get your clothes - and shoes - made. Even more cheaply, you could nip over to Shenzhen and have them copy whatever you need. Just bring an original with you. In Japan try Uniqlo. And in India, why not just weal a salwar kameez? They come in all sizes, and you'll look like anything but a grandmother - or at least you'll look like a colorful one.

The other - and probably better - option is to use the Internet. Search for Plus Sizes and get whatever you need delivered right to your door.

Last possibility? Buy more clothes than you need at home and bring them with you. Especially shoes.

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Dec 02, 2009
Try men's clothes
by: Katja

The pants are the hardest (hah and yes the shoes) but sometimes you can get the tops in men's departments. They're not so stylish but at least they fit!!!

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What should I pack for Jonkoping, Sweden during winter?

by Anne
(Australia)

I am going to Sweden from January till July next year to study nursing but I have no idea what to pack! I am finding it difficult working out what I need to wear. I am from Australia and have never
felt the harshness of a Swedish winter before.

Would it be better for me to buy warmer clothes when I get there or try buy everything over here?

Also someone told me if you wear water base make-up and moisturiser it can freeze on your face and give you frost bite?!

Thank you for your help!

Answer: About that frostbite thing: if it's that cold, you should cover up your face completely, eliminating most chances of frostbite. And if you're way up in North in a storm and it's desperately cold, you probably wouldn't be wearing makeup.

On a more serious note, I suggest you buy most of your winter clothes when you get to Sweden, because you'll have far more choice than you would in a warm climate. There is one proviso, though - bring enough warm clothing to last you over the shopping spree. I remember landing in a Moscow snowstorm in short sleeves and arriving in South Africa in shorts at the wrong end of winter - not recommended. So while you should buy the bulk of what you need when you get to Sweden, layer yourself up and add on a coat for your arrival, and if there's snow where you're going, make sure you have the right snow boots. However, take note that Sweden is expensive so if you have access to 'cheap' winter clothing in Australia, then go for it!

As for what to take, your circumstances will dictate your list but here are a few things you can't really be without if you're heading into cold territory in winter:
- a few warm sweaters or jumpers
- gloves or mittens
- a scarf
- some headwear - a cap, hat or earmuffs
- thermal underwear is great, top and bottom
- a warm coat or parka style jacket
- winter boots (not leather) with gripping soles
- plenty of moisturizer (the cold makes your skin go dry)

A last piece of advice: dress in layers. Buildings are often overheated in winter and while a freezing gale is blowing outside, you'll be sweating indoors so you'll need to peel a few things off.

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Nov 05, 2010
Layers are the key
by: gwen@algarveexperiences.com

Hiya - I agree that layers are the key to winter comfort. I'm a Canadian so have had more than my share of living with long, cold winters. I?d add:
-pure silk garments are amazingly warm. Bring silk underwear, cami's, etc.
-check out how your skin reacts to various wools & knits. I frequently itch a lot with different types of knitted fabrics, even synthetics. I've learned to quickly assess whether my body will tolerate a knit by pressing it up against my upper throat (the area just where the jaw dips back and down & the throat begins. Seems to be especially sensitive skin tissue and if fabric pressed there for a minute is going to irritate, you'll know quickly).
-remember that the human body loses a massive heat from the head so good head gear is important. Several types of hats/caps in different weights will accommodate different degrees of coldness/wind
-one of your layers should always be a wind-break fabric. Sweaters can be really cold if there's a brisk wind oozing through all of its small holes!
-investing in some space-age 'breathable' fabrics like Gore-Tex or Cool-Max. They protect from rain, etc. but allow outer garments to 'breathe'. Cool-Max wicks perspiration away from the skin.
-the Internet is a great friend. You could buy from Mountain Equipment Co-op, Eddie Bauer etc. and have your stuff shipped to your new address in Sweden. Their prices can be really good. Those Yanks sure know how to provide value.
-while not pretty, one way we Canucks protect our skin if we have to go outside in brutally cold weather is to slather on a good layer of good old Vaseline. Nothing will protect you from frost-bite if you stay out too long, but a layer of Vaseline will give you a few more precious minutes.
-you might also want to bring along some goop for dry heels. Many of us find that as winter progresses the back of our heels become really dry and develops cracks & fissures that can bleed. A good specialized cream slathered on before bed-time, then your feet slipped into a pair of old socks can make a huge difference.
-ask the locals about slush. In Canada this tends to be a regional phenomenon. If you live out West, snow is very dry and light and disappears quickly in spring. In the East, our snow is full of water, and we get a lot of freeze/thaw cycles. This means that our roads and sidewalks are often full of semi-melted snow and water so it is imperative that boots not only protect from the cold, from slipping on ice & hard-packed snow, but repel water too. There is nothing more uncomfortable that squelching around in cold, wet footwear! Trust me, I've been there too many times.
-Finally, you'll probably find that you need to re-adjust all your deeply held rules about looking good. In cold, northern climes, always choose being warm & safe over looking chic & sexy!!
Enjoy your first winter. Don't forget to look up on those cold winter nights so that you can catch a display of fantastic Northern Lights!



Nov 26, 2010
Choosing winter boots for Sweden
by: Bob Carter

I've just written a blog article giving an overview of affordable winter boots for the Swedish winter which might be of interest. I was looking for a pair myself this winter and comparing a number of options. See http://naturetravels.wordpress.com

In general I would agree that some of the most suitable equipment will be that available locally in Sweden, but depending on costs in your country of origin and exchange rates you may find it more affordable to buy Swedish brands outside Sweden!

Dec 29, 2010
well thought
by: Roy

As a swede male, I find your advice very sensible. My mother couldnt have told me better!

May 15, 2011
Jonkoping winter
by: Anonymous

Hey, I went on exchange in Jonkoping also from January to July. I am from Canada, I didn't find it that bad. Not too much snow, but cold till about May. My aussie friend loved her thermals. but other than that, I wore normal jeans and shoes with a warm coat, scarf, etc. It wasn't that bad.

Sep 30, 2012
Price
by: Anonymous

Australia is MORE expensive than Sweden - Copenhagen is great for shopping and warm weather gear as well.

Oct 27, 2012
Winter boots and Scandinavia
by: Lise Griffiths

Excellent - thanks so much for this! I will be sure to use vaseline even if it gives me just a few extra minutes frostbite free...!

My article on Scandinavia in winter can be found at http://homeintime4tea.blogspot.co.uk/p/arctic-scandinavia-norway-and-sweden.html

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What Backpack Should I buy?

by Hina
(Iowa City, IA, USA)

I am 5' 2" and 125 lbs. I was wondering what specific backpack you would recommend for me to buy. I want to backpack and not use rollers.

Answer:

Hina, I can't recommend a specific backpack because we all have our favorites. You could start by having a look at the advice I gave Kim, and go on from there.

A good site for backpack reviews is backpackgeartest.com.

This video on How to Fit a Backpack might be helpful as well, and for more advice on how to choose a backpack, try this article on Vagabondish.

Finally, head for the women's backpack threads at both the Thorn Tree and BootsnAll forums. I hope you find what you're looking for!

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Sep 12, 2010
Choosing my backpack...
by: Lena

Hina, I'm 5'4" and I was looking for a pack with female-friendly shoulder straps, i.e. the ones that start close, but are shaped to go around your boobs, as unisex backpacks are usually too wide for me. I also was looking for internal frame, external sleeping pad straps and a few other things.

You can read some of the details of my search here.

Feb 08, 2011
Women's Backpacks
by: Ruth

I am a 56-year-old woman and use a backpack for travelling - I bought a woman's specific backpack- tried it on in the store - and talked to the sales person who was very knowledgeable.....and absolutely love it. It is much easier than a wheeled suitcase for steps, etc. etc. My cousin, who is 5 foot and about 110 lbs also loves hers- she would never go back......the key is to buy one that fits you, and don't fill it to the hilt to start with until you are used to it. Mine started off an 11 kg and then by the end of the trip was close to 18 kg- and by then I was going up 2 or 3 flights of stairs with no problems.....

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Offically overwhelmed with all the different backpacks! any recommendations?

by Kim
(Montana)

Oh geeze....... typing in 'backpacking backpacks for women'
10,000 results...... links upon links...so many different reviews... so many different ones! I have no idea?????

I am just looking for a great backpack for a couple weeks to a couple months of journeying... nothing extravagant, but something that is durable and is relatively inexpensive? You know what I mean... one that can hold all the essentials like a sleeping bag and clothes...any recommendations to a particular brand/style? thank you so much.... man o man....

Answer:

Kim, you're facing the same problem most backpackers have faced before you. There is no perfect backpack, and certainly no perfect brand. Many stores have their own brands, which are often their own labels added to world class backpacks.

The only advice I can give you is to go to a fantastic outdoor or travel shop and try everything on! Get about 20-30lb of gear from the store, stuff it in the backpack, and practice putting the pack on and taking it off. Make sure it's a reputable shop and don't be afraid to bombard the sales staff questions. Walk around the shop and see what it feels like - it's all about comfort in the end. The most expensive backpack will be useless if it isn't comfortable, and the only way you'll know is to wear it. Have a look at these pointers on how to choose the best women's backpack - and if you have anything to add, let me know!

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Packing list suggestion - and a trip to Africa

by Tenaya
(Port Costa, CA)

Your site is amazing; I can't believe I didn't find it sooner! I am 24 and have spend a great deal of time since I was sixteen solo traveling and hitching through the US and beyond, but there were some ideas on here that were really helpful that I had never thought of. I suppose most of us punk kids take some pride in being uncomfortable but as I've been schlepping towards adulthood I've realized how silly this is. I do have a suggestion for what I believe is a crucial addition to your packing list if you are going rural or off the grid: a good multi-tool. I have found the Purple leatherman juice is the perfect size and has very useful tool.

I have been very much wanting to go to Africa and everyone I know is terrified for me, especially since I want to go alone, as I'm sure you know travel partners can be great but they can also be a nightmare. I thought I would ask you. I'm planning on Mali, Niger, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and maybe Somaliland depending on what things are looking like there at the time. Hope you are doing well, Tenaya

Answer: First, thanks for the compliment! And second, thanks for your suggestion. I had a multi-tool in the original list but worried about women carrying their packs as cabin luggage, since it would get confiscated at any security checkpoint. Still, I may put it back in, with a warning about making sure it gets stowed away in the hold.

You certainly sound like you've got a good handle on solo travel - especially since you're at least cautious about where to go. I would have no major concerns about solo travel in Africa, although I would suggestion a healthy dollop of caution. I've crossed the continent several times alone and while the risk is higher than say in Scandinavia or Southeast Asia, most of the time you should be perfectly fine.

I would be careful in zones where conflict may erupt or has just ended. That's where normal rules of behavior are often upended and anything can happen. So, stay away from borders, certainly, and keep an ear to the ground. Africa right now is a bit volatile so while I'd never discourage anyone who has traveled a bit from exploring the continent, I'd say keep your eyes open and your brain in gear.

I find Uganda relatively safe, though I'd stay away from the still unstable North. That said, Uganda is full of surprises and things like demonstrations or terrorist attacks can and do occur, so keep your wits about you and stay informed. Tanzania, in the same region, is relatively calm although recent events in the Middle East and Pakistan have fueled a bit of discomfort there. Still, although there are plenty of dire travel warnings, I see little that would make me rethink travel to either of those countries from a security point of view.

As for areas bordering the Sahara, I'd stay clear of the desert right now. These areas have become increasingly insecure, and if you're concerned about kidnappings and the like, this is where it happens. Right now, if it were me, Mali and Niger would not be high on my list of safe places to visit, especially in the northern parts of both countries - where some of the best sights are. If you're really keen on West Africa, both Ghana and Senegal are relatively laid back and great fun.

Now for the other side of Africa. Ethiopia is relatively peaceful and a superb country to visit - I spent two months backpacking everywhere. But, it's sad to say, you'll have to stay away from most borders, which is a pain if you're going overland. There's trouble along the borders with Kenya, Somalia and Eritrea, so that doesn't leave you many alternatives for ground travel. At least Addis is an easy city to fly to. Finally, Somaliland: this is the one country I can't give you first-hand advice on because I haven't been. That said, it appears to be the safest of all three Somali countries/regions and they're fighting hard for recognition. If it were me, this is one area in which I might try something a bit more organized, at least for the first few days until I got my bearings.

A spanner has been thrown into travel anywhere by Americans with the death of Osama bin Laden, and if I were a US citizen I'd be particularly alert - and discreet - when traveling through countries that might not see his death as something positive. You sound like you have your wits about you though, so just think carefully about how to deal with the various destinations and be prepared, as the Girl Scouts would say.

The area of Africa you haven't mentioned is the southern end of the continent - an amazing place, whether you go to South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe (yes, people are still traveling there), Malawi, Botswana, Namibia… good travel infrastructure for independent travelers, which is why I mention the region. Looking forward to hearing about your trip - please do submit a story along the way!

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Does anyone make a decent/attractive ladies money belt NOT made of elephant hide (bad karma)?

by Karen B.
(Cape Cod, MA, USA)

Do you have a secure bra type pouch, but a leather (not elephant hide) would be most useful. Many thanks for any suggestions you might be able to provide!

Answer:

The most obvious of course are the typical men's leather belts, some of which are wide enough to look suitable for women. I don't like wearing belts, especially when I travel, because unless you're super-slim, they're not really comfortable. If you Search for 'leather money belts' online, you'll have plenty of choice.

Otherwise the best I've been able to find for you is Happy Cow, who manufacture a range of leather travel belts, pouches and bags. You should find what you're looking for here.

Another leather option is the old-fashioned 'money pouch', now coming back into style. I don't particularly find it convenient for travel, since you can't really hide it unless you put it into your backpack.

Here are a few other options:
- the Paraguayan Passport Bag by National Geographic
- the fanny pack by Winn International (this site has plenty of other leather travel goods - just search for 'leather travel')
- you could also use a silk money pouch around your neck, inside pockets in your travel pants, or an expedition-type vest with a lot of pockets

As you've probably found before me, most money belts or pouches are made of synthetic materials of the breathable kind. Since you usually wear them next to your skin, these tend to be more comfortable. They're not as wet, hot or smelly as leather, which is why they're so much easier to find.

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Nov 29, 2011
Bra with pocket or pouch
by: AuspiciousLifeStyle

Ed Note. I received the information below in response to this post. I don't usually allow posts of a commercial nature but since it's in direct answer to a question I've shortened it and will allow it to stand, at least for now.

Yes, I make a travel bra that has a single pouch or a double pouch. One pouch to hold your money and one pouch to hold your cell phone ($50 per pouch). Made of cotton. More information is available from AuspiciousLifeStyle@yahoo.com.

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Pack Size

by Ocean
(Wellington, New Zealand)

I'm off to see the world and I'm wondering what size pack to get. I will be in a range of climates so I'm going to need a fair bit of gear.

I was looking at a 60l with a 10l pack attached to it and I'm wondering if this is suitable. It has plenty of straps so the pack can be pulled in on itself if there is spare room.

I've been hearing advice from everyone with the only consistent information being keep the pack as light as possible.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Answer: My thoughts are probably the same as everyone else's. Pack as much as you need, and then leave half of it at home. 60L sounds pretty huge... I traveled for 3 years with a half-full 35L pack which included winter in Lithuania. These days you have think fibers that don't take up much room and that are lightweight so when it comes to clothes, spend the extra money to lose the extra weight.

Sleeping bags and the like? The same. Spend a lot and save a lot.

My bottom line rule: if you can run easily with your pack on, you're good to go. I found I did a lot of running (unwillingly) to catch buses, trains, distance myself from certain groups... it's a safety question. I never wanted to be hampered by a backpack.

A final word - do check on-site whether you can rent anything you might not need elsewhere on your journey (tent, walking poles?)

My experience is always the same: my eyes are bigger than my actual needs on the ground.

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