A Woman’s Guide to Packing for a Year Away

So, you’re packing for a year away. Some far off destination you have been dreaming about for years. Your visa application has been approved and your departure date is approaching quickly. It’s crunch time.

One bag. Trust me. You may think a second or third suitcase is a good idea, but it not. Every traveller you meet will tell you the same thing, two bags is too many. It won’t be easy pulling out item after item to leave behind, but once you’re on the road you will forget all about the material objects you have left behind. Your life is about to change, everything is going to be new, so why drag along more of your old life than you need to?

The first big decision when it comes to packing is which to take, a backpack, or a suitcase?

It is probably the most common question among to-be travellers. The argument is often that suitcases a) Have wheels, and b), Are easier to keep organised. Well, down with suitcases! Backpacks are the way to go. As a traveller you should be motivated and active, backpacking is not a lazy lifestyle, so why would you need wheels? There are no doubt times where I have wished I could be dragging along my back instead of carrying it on my back, like the time I got the hostel address wrong and had to walk 4 miles, up hill, in 34 degree heat, with 35 kilos strapped to my back. Not fun. But, it was a great challenge to kick start a new adventure with. Instead of going out and switching to a suitcase, the most suitable decision was to get rid of more junk.

Backpacks are much easier to travel with than suitcases. Hostel with no elevator? No problem. Cobblestone street? You’re covered. Need to squeeze in something in in an awkward place? Backpacks are much more flexible than suitcases. You can pull, push prod and stuff. Your backpack will soon become your best friend. It will also teach you how to pack light.

There are loads of different styles of backpacks out there, for all different needs. A great option is a bag that has a full front unzip, so you can keep your items organized. It’s much quicker and easier to find something in your bag than having to pull out item after item from the top, searching into the black abyss. Another great feature backpacks sometimes come with is the detachable day-pack. These are SUPER handy for those short little hikes or day trips you want to take.

The Deuter Traveller bag is a great option. This is the bag that I own and love, and have met many other backpackers with the same one.

Deuter Traveller

It has a front zip, great for organizing, a detachable day-pack, a comfy shoulder strap, and a flap to zip up around the back straps when checking in at air ports! Deuter has thought of nearly everything with this one!

If you’re still desperate for wheels though, some companies have started bringing out backpacks with wheels.


Well, Now that we have the main issue out of the way, let’s move on.

If you’re heading off to another country you never know what will be in store. You may think you do, but travellers will often tell you how quickly everything can change. You will end up places you never would have imagined and be in situations you never knew possible. So here’s my advice for your first pack to head off: Be Prepared for everything.


This is often a big issue with ladies looking to pack. How on earth will all your clothes fit in one little bag? The answer is plain and simple; They won’t. I know it may not be easy parting with that designer dress, or your mountain of tops that are all your favourite, but if you leave them behind in storage they will still be there when you get back. If you take them with you there is a much higher chance of them getting ruined or having to give them away once you realize you packed to much.

Five Large Ziplocs. That’s the rule. Whatever clothes you can fit into those five ziploc bags are your clothes for your trip. My five Ziplocs all fit into the bottom compartment of the bag you see above.

Ziploc One- Singlets (tanktops). Singlets are great no matter where you are going, wear them alone, as a pj top, under a jacket or jumper, etc. Singlets are lightweight and tiny, so you’ll be able to fit a few into one bag! fold them in half length wise, then roll up and stuff into the bag!

Ziploc Two- Tops. Pick out a couple of your favourite tops to roll up and pack into bag number two. These should be tops that are suitable for casual wear, or able to be dressed up for a night out or a job interview. If you have room, and you really can’t resist, throw in a dress too.

Ziploc Three- Shorts/Skirts. Pack in a few pairs of short that can be worn with any number of tops and singlets you have packed. Bring one pair that are handy for running or hiking or comfy to sleep in. A formal skirt is always nice to have as well in case you have an important job interview and need to look professional.

Ziploc Four- Jeans. Pack up your favourite pair of jeans. These are great in case of a cool drop in weather. If you’re heading somewhere cool you may even want to swap out a couple pair of shorts for another pair of pants! Again, pick a pair that you can wear for any occasion!

Ziploc Five- Socks and undies! Fill this bag as full as you possibly can. you can never have too many pairs of underwear. There is always an occasion where it may take a while before you can find a free hostel washer to do your laundry, so take extra!

*Ziploc Six- A jumper or sweater can be handy as well! These can take up a fair bit of space though, so choose wisely!



Pair one- Thongs/flip-flops/Jandals

Pair two- Sneakers. Choose a pair that are comfortable to wear for the walks you may have to do with your bags, any hikes you may decide to venture on, or just a casual and comfortable stroll through town. If you’re a runner, then pick a pair you will use for your jogging needs.

Pair three- Your choice. You may choose to bring a pair of flats or heels, depending on your style. Something to wear for when you dress up for those nights out or job interviews.



First rule of packing your toiletries: Do NOT bring entire bottles of shampoo with you. Pack hotel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Enough to get you through your first couple nights until you’re more settled at your destination. If you bring big bottles there is a good chance they will leak all over the contents of your bag. By bringing little bottles opposed to big ones there is a lot less damage that can be done. Same goes for toothpaste. Bring a little travel sized toothpaste and buy a big size once you arrive.

Try to keep to one toiletries bag. Pick out your favourite, most used make-up to bring along, leave the rest.

Nail clippers set.

Deodorant- If you are heading to New Zealand and are a strict stick deodorant person, you may want to pack a couple extra. Sticks of deodorant are quite expensive and hard to come by in NZ. You may have to get used to either spray on or roll on.



Other items of interest

First Aid Kit- It doesn’t have to be huge, just a small one with your basic bandages, gauze, compression bandage, etc. I used nearly every item in my first aid kit within one year.

Swiss Army Knife- Always handy.

Journal/Notebook- There is a good possibility that you will lose your phone at some point in your travels. Keep all important information and numbers written down.

A4 Envelope/File folder- You will need a safe place to keep all important documents you have for your trip. A photocopy of travel insurance, a copy of your passport, and drivers license are good too. Once at your location you will want to keep all your tax and bank information in a safe place as well.

Towel- I highly recommend a micro-fibre towel. They pack up really small and are fast drying. Much easier to pack around with you than a big beach towel.

Converters- Make sure you have one or two! You can always pick up another once you arrive at your destination, but it’s a good idea to have a couple on hand.

*Camera- great way to capture your adventure. Make sure to bring a spare battery too!
*Laptop-  Essential for some, but not all. Tablets or small and light netbooks are great to travel with. Something to big and heavy can just be a hassle!


With that list you can pack a bag light enough to carry anywhere, and still have all your essentials. As I said, it won’t always be easy to bring your wardrobe down to a minimum, but it will be so much easier to travel with. Plans can change in a second so come prepared for whatever situation may come your way without being overloaded.

Enjoy your trip!

If there is anything you feel is essential that I may have missed, please let me know! :)


2 thoughts on “A Woman’s Guide to Packing for a Year Away

  • I think its really important to have clothes that mix / match / layer with each other for a variety of outfits, and also to have layers for temperature control. You should be able to have your pack and clothing stay under 10kg without the cooking pots, tents, sleeping bags. With these added in you’ll still stay under 20 kg. The only time I’ve had a 35 kg load was when I was carrying my mountaineering gear and food for 9 days.

    • Yes, my gear got a little out if control after my year in New Zealand! I finally gave in and ditched a lot if the stuff I had been holding onto. My bag is much lighter now! :)

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