16 days, 7 flights, 3 countries…1 carry-on!

I’ve always been a fairly light packer, so as my SouthEast Asia trip started coming together, I knew I wanted to get by with carryon luggage only.  My first flight involved a 20 hour, overnight layover and a hotel stay – what would happen to my checked baggage?  Not to mention, with 7 flights over 2 weeks, I didn’t want to waste time at baggage claim each time or worse, risk losing my belongings!  I knew I would have to do laundry at some point in the trip, but that’s pretty typical on my longer trips.  I had a few pool days planned where sending my laundry out wouldn’t be an inconvenience. With that in mind, here is my Asia Packing List.

This was not an easy trip to pack for.  Heat and humidity, combined with modesty guidelines for visiting temples meant no tank tops and shorts for the most part.

The carry-on I took for this trip is the TravelPro MaxLite 3 International Carry-On Spinner.  It looks and feels tiny, but you can cram a whole lot into this bag!  My “personal item” was my trusty Timbuk2 messenger bag.  I love this bag – I’m wary of backpacks when traveling as I feel like someone could easily get into the back without me knowing and they just scream “tourist!”  Plus, this bag has crazy loud velcro (not so great on a flight!) and buckles so I feel like it would be hard for a thief to sneak into.

Here’s the packing list of what I took along:

  • Clothing:
    • 1 pair white linen pants (Athleta)
    • 1 pair black linen capri pants (J.Jill)
    • 1 black skort (LLBean)
    • 1 pair gray shorts (Prana)
    • Pajamas – old workout clothes I planned to leave behind
    • 1 swim-suit (Boden)
    • 1 maxi dress (JCrew)
    • 1 t-shirt dress (Garnet Hill)
    • 2 lightweight sweaters (Eileen Fisher and Athleta)
    • 7 Tops – 3 t-shirts, 1 nicer top, 3 tanks
    • Yoga Capri pants and denim tunic I wore on the plane
  • Shoes:
  • Accessories
    • 1 Panama Hat
    • 1 Sarong
    • Pashmina wrap for the plane
    • Extra tote bag for shopping/return carry-on
    • Compression Socks (for the flight)
    • Sunglasses, prescription sunglasses and prescription glasses (ah, life at 40!)
  • Electronics
    • DSLR – Nikon D3000
    • 3 lenses, battery pack, charger, etc
    • iPhone 4S w/ waterproof case
    • iPhone 5S for photos, podcasts and Instagram updates
    • Kindle
  • Miscellaneous
    • Kind Bars and Lara Bars.  For just in case!
    • G2 Powder
    • Lifestraw Water Bottle
    • Laundry bag & Laundry Soap Leaves – for sink laundry
    • Wet wipes, bleach wipes, bum wipes
    • Toiletries – the usual toothpaste, deodorant, face wash…no makeup!
    • First-Aid – small bag with aspirin, band-aids, pepto, immodium

I got off to a bad start when they weighed my luggage at the O’Hare Cathay Pacific ticketing desk.  I hadn’t anticipated this, and of course, my roller-bag was overweight.  So I was that person at the desk, shuffling items from one bag to the other (not sure why, as they were both being carried on!) and was eventually given the green light despite the fact that I was carrying several loose items that I stuffed right back in the roller-bag as soon as I was out of sight of the ticketing agent.  And while I’m confessing my sins, I’ll also admit to bringing 2 1-liter bags full of 3 oz toiletries!  I had strategically packed one of necessities and a 2nd I could live without if I got busted, which thankfully, I did not!

I feel like I brought a lot of items that were more suited to a backpackers trip. I mostly took planes and stayed in nice hotels, so I didn’t need as many wipes or cleaning items as I thought.  I barely used the Lifestraw Water bottle as every hotel provided bottled water on a daily basis, although looking back, I should have used my bottle to reduce waste as recycling wasn’t widespread.

On final reflection, I could have actually gotten by with much less – maybe 1 more swimsuit, more underwear and fewer shoes and sweaters.  In total, I spent about $40 to send out my laundry twice, both times using the hotel service.  (Granted, I could have taken it down the street for $3, but better safe than sorry!)

I never felt like I was missing anything by not bringing a larger suitcase, and it was so nice to bypass the baggage claim area every time I landed.  I did eventually check the roller-bag towards the end of my trip after buying some souvenirs and expanding into a 2nd tote bag, but for the most part was quite happy with my packing strategy!  I’ll never be one of those people who always tries to go smaller and smaller, as there are some trips where I want lots of shoes and clothing options, but this time carry-on only worked perfectly for me!

And, despite what my sister might think, I did not wear the exact same outfit every day for 16 days 😉

Angkor Wat


Siem Reap

Are you a light packer, or do you bring everything but the kitchen sink on your travels?


Asia Packing List

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Backcountry Backpack Gear List

Seems packing lists are all the rage these days, so I better add mine to the mix!  Here is my backpack gear list for backcountry backpacking* trips.

(Not to be confused with travel backpacking of the European/Southeast Asian variety.)

*Backpacking is the outdoor recreation of carrying gear on one’s back, while hiking for more than a day. It is often but not always an extended journey,and may or may not involve camping outdoors. In North America tenting is common. Backpacking as a method of travel is a different activity, which mainly utilizes public transport during a journey which can last months.

I started buying backpacking gear about 9 years ago, and went with mid-weight inexpensive items as I wasn’t yet convinced that my backpack gear wouldn’t end up in the same dusty pile as my ice skates and tennis racquet!  Since then I’ve been slowly upgrading my gear to more expensive, lighter items made specifically for backpacking.  I’ve found that camping and kayaking equipment are easily re-sold on craigslist, which helps fund new gear purchases!  I’ve tried to include weight and cost, where I can, in case that’s helpful.  I almost never pay full price, though – look for frequent 20% off sales from both Backcountry.com and REI!

  • Big Backpack:  MountainSmith Daisy Pack – 65L – I get a lot of comments on how large my pack is, but it’s very comfortable and nicely distributes the load. Someday I may upgrade to a lighter, smaller pack, but this works for me! (REI Outlet/discontinued, $100, 66oz)
  • Smaller Backpack: Osprey Cirrus 36
Kickapoo Backpacking

Photo Credit: R.Schultz

  • Tent: Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 – ($350, 41 oz.) – much lighter than both my solo -tent and previous 2-person tent.  A little delicate though, especially with a dog!


  • Sleeping Bag:  Big Agnes Juniper SL Petite – rated to 26 degrees. ($280 , 34oz)
    • Stored in e-Vent Compression Sack (5.2 oz, $40)
    • I have a lighter summer and winter – a Mt. Hardware 45 degree and recently sold my 0-degree bag after using once in 4 years.
  • Sleeping Pads (yes, 2!) – NeoAir mattress and ThermaRest Z-Lite Foam Pad
  • Kitchen
    • Cookset – GSI Pinnacle Soloist – ($45, 10.9oz)
    • Stove – SnowPeak Giga Stove – fits right inside the cookset ($40, 3.25oz)
    • Bear Vault – BV450 – holds about 4 days worth of food and doubles as a stool (33 oz) – since I get very lazy at bedtime, this saves me from finding trees for a bear  hang.


  • First Aid Kit (10 oz) – includes Band-Aids, NeoSporin, Tylenol, Aleve, Pepto, water treatment, tweezers, Ace bandage, etc. –  mostly single use packages ordered from Minimus.biz.
  • Toilet Bag – TP, trowel, hand sanitizer and wipes.  Handy to keep in a separate stuff sack easily accessible at all times! (11 oz)


  • Clothing – this is some of my favorite clothing. What I actually pack is dependent on weather/trip length:
  • Personal Items or Toiletries (not to be confused with the toilet bag!) ~12oz
    • This contains the basic essentials for me – SPF face lotion, Kleenex, Toothbrush/toothpaste, Contact Solution and Case, eyeglasses, prescription meds and face wipes.  And Tums because Jerky always gives me heartburn!

Toiletry Kit Packing List

Luxury Items!  Depending on the trip, there may be room for additional “luxury” items, such as a Kindle, iPod shuffle, photography equipment, or my Aveda Foot Relief cooling lotion This stuff is magical on sore hiking feet!

Aveda Isle Royale

As for camera equipment, as much as I love photography, I’ve stopped carrying a tripod after two back to back trips where I was unable to stay awake past dark!  I also usually end up just using my camera phone on backcountry trips, due to the weight of my SLR.

All told, my pack usually weighs in somewhere between 30 and 40 pounds, depending on season and length of trip.  For reference, at the end of our Isle Royale trip (no food and water left) my pack weighed 30 pounds.

Every time I go out with a group, I come home with at least one new item on my wish list!  One thing I’m missing is a water treatment system.  So far, I’ve gotten by using Aqua Mira tablets, but likely my next purchase will be a SteriPen, which will also come in handy in Asia.

I would love any comments or thoughts on how to lighten my load!  I feel like most of my stuff is pretty lightweight, but it sure adds up quickly!


Backpack Gear List

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