Your Ultimate Packing Guide: Hacks + Hot Tips for Your Next Trip!
Committing to a Wild Women trip is the easy part–now, how do you pack for it? While we are encouraged to think outside the box in many situations, this is a time when you truly need to think inside the box…or, suitcase.
I remember taking my dad’s hockey bag to summer camp back in the nineties. It was stuffed like one massive sausage with ALL of my power t-shirts, a case of Pepsi, strawberry Pop Tarts, full bottles of Pantene Pro-V shampoo and conditioner, pencil crayons, cassette tapes (Sinead O’Connor!), Doc Martens, my Sperry topsiders, Tretorns and a pair of Converse. I was 16 and lessons in minimalism were to follow, obviously.
Fast forward: the quickest way to learn to pack efficiently is to walk the Camino de Santiago. If you do the Camino route with WWE, you’re not shouldering all your belongings each day—there is a bag shuttle service that allows you to walk unburdened with just a daypack. Independently, it’s a 920 km walk and the 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) on your back are with you everyday in an intimate way.
For every Wild Women trip, we will provide you with a carefully curated packing list. Like a grocery list, it’s as specifically general as it can be for a group of 12 different women. Similar to a grocery list, they are impossible to make universal. For example–my weekly staples include chocolate soya milk, sweet potatoes, baby spinach, roasted peanuts and rye bread. Those things might not fly in your household!
The Overhead Bin There
Whether you opt to take a soft-sided roller bag (wheels!), duffel (are you going to be happy walking with this over your shoulder for 10 minutes between airport gates) or backpack (30-45L), we’re here to help you unpack the packing list! The type of bag you choose depends on your destination, planes, trains and yes, automobiles! It’s going to get stacked upon, tossed around, dusty and possibly wet. Quick comp: Roller bags are not efficient on stairs or cobblestone. Duffel bags can be lopsided and cumbersome but don’t require sitting on to zip close. Backpacks allow you to be hands-free but inevitably, what you need will be at the very bottom. Also be mindful of clobbering innocent bystanders with your load!
The hard and fast rule is this: only pack as much as you can comfortably manage. Some destinations will have porters and hotel staff at the ready to assist you with your luggage…but you have to get there first! Yes, airports have luggage carts–but you must leave those behind once you check in and pass through customs. Remember, a flight attendant is not your personal assistant.
When packing, it’s important to be respectful of your fellow Wild Women too as some shared accommodations (especially on the sail boats) and shuttles (or safari trucks and motorized canoes) have limited space. If you’re on a hopper flight in Tanzania or Nepal, the permitted weight limit and baggage size will be quite different from the Boeing 737 you arrived in. Some airlines are imposing payment for carry-on bags as well–so, bring your essentials, a few necessary luxuries (preferably the kind that take up little suitcase real estate) and do some extra research. Or, ask our flight specialist partners, Zale and Megan, for the fine print on your destination.
What’s Your Thing?
The WWE packing list should serve as a guide for tried-and-true recommended and optional items. If you have never drawn in your life–it’s probably not necessary to bring a sketchbook. If you haven’t worn a dress since Halloween 2003, it doesn’t make sense to bring one. If you prefer a baseball hat over a brimmed hat, then that’s the best option for you. You have to recognize your needs and those are very individual–from tweezers and Q-tips to stashes of mini Hershey bars.
Books get a bad rap for eating up vital packing space too but, if this is your thing, keep calm and read on. Better yet, if you’ve signed up for a WWE trip, start a book club on your private trip page on Facebook. Swap books mid-trip with your fellow Wild Women to save space!
The Bare Necessities
Your BFFs will be your socks–next to your footwear, investing in merino wool brands will keep your feet warm (or cool) and stink-free. Look for Smartwool or Darn Tough socks–these socks have fool-proof guarantees. If you are not 100% happy with your Smartwool® gear within two years of purchasing, “we’ll get you into some new gear. No problem.” Darn Tough socks are unconditionally guaranteed for life, too.
Our suggested personal first aid kits are exactly that–personal! If you’re not prone to blisters, packing Second Skin, Compeeds, RockTape and Moleskin might be overkill. However, if you get queasy on long, winding road trips or on a boat, ginger chews can be lifesavers.
Yes, a rain jacket can seem like a space hog but think of the bragging rights if you never have to wear it! If you run cold, thermal layers are another saving grace and these base layers can be dual purpose (for sleeping and hiking).
Our packing lists shy away from items that aren’t quick-dry but if you’re like Anthony Bourdain and I, jeans are necessary. I snowshoe and hike in jeans all the time. I run in cotton t-shirts which is against the rules too but I’m also realistic about my wants and needs.
Fun fact: Julie-Anne Davies, our star photographer, wore Saucony runners to hike to Everest Base Camp this year! The rest of the time she’s like Peppermint Patty–sockless and in Birkenstocks.
Refining Your Recipe
We always recommend borrowing gear from a friend or family member. Whether it’s binoculars or hiking poles, borrowing is a budget-savvy way to test drive gear.
Packing lists are never going to be perfect. Mother Nature blows in and has the final say. You’ll be too hot. Too cold. Too wet. Too dusty. You’ll wish you had cough drops or eye drops or a Buff or possibly a sewing kit. Why should you expect a blizzard in Iceland in September? There will be surprises. When the tiny screw comes out of your Maui Jim sunglasses, you’ll know to pack a small eyeglass repair kit for your next trip.
Whether it’s your first Wild Women trip or your fifth, it’s best to keep refining your packing list as you would a recipe. Scratch that. Add more of this. Spice it up. Fine tune. Try it again!
Do yourself a BIG favour and try out your gear before a trip. Make sure your trail runners or hiking boots are well-loved before you strike off on the Inca Trail.
Extra HOT Tips
- Tell your cat you won’t pet any other cats in your travels.
- If long flights leave your legs fatigued, try a pair of compression socks. They can also be helpful on hikes–but try them out first!
- Carabiners have surprising uses–they’re great for clipping on all sorts of things. Pack some Ziploc bags too–they’re ideal for wet swimsuits and leftover pizza slices–but not together.
- For trips with iffy electricity, recharging camera batteries can be stressful. Though you can recharge batteries in the Land Rover on game drives in Tanzania, the roads are often too bumpy for the chargers to stay in place. Bring extra batteries so you’re always at the ready!
- Don’t forget your luggage tags and make sure that they are secure and ready to go through the wringer (ie. that they won’t be snagged or snapped off going around the luggage carousels). Put one on your daypack too in case you forget about your bag under the fog of jet lag!
- When I volunteered in Uganda for several months my then-girlfriend suggested I pack a sewing kit. A sewing kit? I hadn’t sewn anything since the botched apron I made in grade 6 home-ec class (complete with the neck strap around the waist and vice versa–oh, and the front pocket sewn shut). Another example of: to thine own self be true.
- As you pack keep practicality in mind but also know yourself and what’s realistic. Do you normally carry an umbrella? If yes, then a compact one for Bali or Scotland will probably make you even happier. Sometimes accommodations have umbrellas available for guests but self-sufficiency comes with its own reassurance. If you love a spritz of perfume or a fix of chocolate, pack accordingly!
Expert hack: If you are travelling with a friend and checking bags on a WWE trip, split your clothing. If one of your bags doesn’t arrive, at least you’ll have half your items to see you through until you’re reconnected with your luggage.
Expert-expert hack: Establish a trip tradition! My wife and I always pack with prosecco. It’s the beginning of an awesome celebration and we encourage you to do the same!
Remember, all of us at Wild Women have your back! And backpack! Let us know how we can help you.
Need new footwear for your upcoming trip? Check out Wild Women’s staff picks here!