Zen Backpacking Ultralight International Backpacking Packing List






Ultralight International Backpacking Packing List



For most travelers, the thought of ultralight backpacking is just too extreme, but allows you to move much easier and easily hop on on off taxis, trains, airplanes and even motorcycles.  This is better left to the veteran travelers, adventurous types and those on tight budgets.  Remember that you can always buy what you need (usually for less money in lands outside of the US and Western Europe) along the way and many trekkers get by with less than what is listed here.


Item   Location Notes
Nylon or cotton long-sleeved shirt   Worn Comfortable in warm climates; buttoned or zippered pockets preferred
Cargo pants   Worn Old military commando pants are cheap and have large cargo pockets for gear; thin cotton and nylon dries fast
Synthetic socks   On feet Dry quickly - making laundry a snap
Trail runner shoes   On feet Light, comfortable and durable enough; no protection from wet
Quick release nylon strap belt   Through pant belt loops Secret money compartment; light weight; can be used to secure cargo, as tourniquet, etc; metal used (except tiny zipper slider) so airport security friendly
Waterproof wrist watch with alarm   Left wrist Waterproof is really preferred; alarm used to wake you up in morning or at train stations
Wrist compass   On wristwatch Attached to watch strap; helps with orientation you when exiting taxis and train stations
Daily spending money   Shirt pocket A binder clip is sometimes used to organize bills
Local guidebook   Cargo pocket Notes and info kept in book for protection and as bookmarks; extra pages and sections removed to slim down book
Money Belt   Under pants See Below
Sunglasses   Shirt pocket  
Hotel business card and key/card   Shirt pocket Separate pocket from money
Money Belt - under the pants/shirt type   Always worn Elastic strap sewn to body of belt so that it can't accidentally come off; zipper pulls replaced with cord with ends melted to prevent passing through zipper pull; tan selected to that it doesn't stand out when thin light colored clothing is worn; contents kept in Ziploc bag
Passport     If these don't have to be readily available
Plane Ticket      
ATM card     Best way to get cash overseas
Emergency money     US hundred dollar bills and a local currency
Emergency contact list     List of emails and phone numbers of everyone and every place that is important as well as calling card numbers listed
Backpack   Generally worn Airplane carry-on size, two shoulder straps - Rick Steves' backpack is appropriate
Mini light   Right shoulder strap used to signal in crowds or see in dark
Bottle of water   Side pocket Purchased locally
Small amount of toilet paper   Rear compartment Refill at hotel or public restrooms; store in Ziploc bag
Food/snacks/local purchases   Outer compartment By only what you are going to eat/drink within 24 hours; keep souvenirs to a minimum - you can probably get them at the end of your trip - if you still want them
Titanium spork or spoon   Outer compartment Makes eating grub so much easier
Lightweight pen   Outer compartment Plain disposable plastic one is just fine
Regular sized padlock   Outer compartment Great for securing rooms and lockers
Softshell jacket or pullover   Main compartment Packed when climate/conditions mandate; light, packable and resistant to rain and wind are preferred
Extra shirt   Main compartment Quick drying preferred
Shorts   Main compartment Wear when washing and drying pants
Synthetic socks x 2   Main compartment Quick drying; washed daily
Hygiene Kit   Main compartment See Below
Extra Ziploc bags   Main compartment Used to separate and waterproof any number of things; take a couple of small ones and a couple of larger ones
Camp Towel   Main compartment Fast drying; used to dry body and wring out washed clothing
Papers   Main compartment Kept to minimum and in Ziploc bag
Mini lock or split ring   On zipper used to lock main zipper
Hygiene Kit   Backpack Nylon case with loop at top and side to allow for hanging.
Toothbrush   Main compartment Soft Bristles are easy on the gums
Toothbrush holder   Main compartment protects bristles
Soap dish   Main compartment Dried after each shower to reduce soap loss
Soap Bar   Main compartment Doubles as shampoo and laundry detergent if bathfoam, soap and/or shampoo are not provided by hotel
Small tube of toothpaste   Main compartment 3oz or less to make it through airport; more purchased later
Comb   Main compartment Good $2 comb that doesn't cut the scalp
Disposable razor   Main compartment If male and would like to shave; use soap lather to shave or pack shaving cream
Female hygiene products   Main compartment Needed if female and menstruating; tampons can be used on long bus rides when you have severe diarrhea - TMI from a female traveler; kept in own Ziploc bag
Mini nail clippers   Main compartment  
Laundry cord   Main compartment Can be fancy or section of cord
Prescription meds   Main Compartment Carried if needed - this would also include extra glasses, contacts, birth control pills, etc. for those that need these; all stored in Ziploc bag
Mini GUM dental floss container   Side compartment Used for flossing, sewing and as string (such a for holding up bug nets)
Heavy Duty Stainless steel sewing needles   Side compartment kept in small needle tube
Tealight   Side compartment Used if power goes out
Matches   Side compartment Kept in Ziploc bag; used for tealight and starting fires for heat and cooking; pots and stoves can be made from cans
Selection of meds   Side compartment sample or blister packs of Katadyn chlorine dioxide (water purification), loperamide (Imodium), Tylenol (paracetamol or acetaminophen), ibuprofen (Advil), ciprofloxacin (for bacterial diarrhea) - if in areas of risk: metronidazole (Flagyl of amebic dysentery), Mebendazole (Vermox for worms), a bottle of doxycycline for malaria, and/or other meds; all kept in small Ziploc bag
Small bottle of Betadine   Main Compartment Kept in small Ziploc bag; used to disinfect wounds and water in a pinch; works better when diluted so a little goes a long ways
Medication card   Side compartment laminated; reminds you dosages and when and how to use meds
Common Additions to List
Knife/multitool   Outer compartment So many uses, particularly if it has a can opener, corkscrew and/or scissors; this will require that you check your pack at airports
Extra clothing   Main compartment The above list is pretty minimal requiring daily laundry if you want clean cloth each day; most trekkers will pack up to 3 shirts and pants
Titanium mug   Outer compartment Allows you to drink/make hot beverages and make soup/noodles
Immersion heater   Main pack Allows you to make hot beverages, soup, noodles and even boil eggs.
Camera   Outer compartment or pocket Compact is easier to carry; this also requires a charger (if digital) or use of potentially expensive, low quality and difficult to find batteries
Collapsible thin nylon bag   Outer compartment Light and minimal bulk; allows you to use it for shopping and as a day pack
Mini can opener   Hygiene kit US military type is very small, with less mass than many coins; allows you to eat canned foods
Hat   Outer compartment or outside of pack Protect wearer from sun, cold, bugs and hides messy/dirty hair
Protective charm   Generally around neck Can be a Buddha, crucifix, St Joseph, amulet of protection, or whatever works for you; can't hurt unless is symbol of group or belief not liked in area visiting - such as Star of David in most of the Middle East; flashy ones attract attention
More "luxury" items are listed at bottom of the Lightweight Packing List




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