travel blog part 5: packing the backpack

25 Jan
This travel blog series is written by friend and I as a means of sharing our advice and experience from our trip to Europe this summer. Blogs discussing research and planningtravelling with friendsbooking flights, and booking hotels/hostels have been posted already and future blogs will discuss packing lists, what to do before you leave, daypacks, London, Paris, Nice (and surrounding area), and more! We hope you find this series interesting and useful. Comments are welcome and appreciated!

Note, this is really long and poorly formatted in some sections because it didn’t transfer over nicely from Google Docs. Apologies cause I can’t figure out how to fix it!

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Packing is one of my favourite things to do before a trip. We’re those type of people who pack days before leaving to ensure we’ve got everything so Ada and I made sure to share and collaborate on our packing lists to make sure everything was covered and we didn’t bring duplicates of stuff we didn’t need to bring.We were indecisive about what type of luggage we wanted to bring with us on our trip. Both of us are traditional rolling bag travellers and we weren’t sure if this was a good idea since everyone seems to backpack Europe!Before choosing the type of luggage to bring and deciding what to pack, we had to consider:

1) Baggage allowance on our flights to/from/within Europe

  • Carry-on Baggage
  • Checked Baggage
    • Air Canada (from Europe)
      • 1 bag free
      • Max weight – 23 kg (50 lb)
      • Pick up checked luggage during transfer when returning to Canada and re-check
    • EasyJet (within Europe)
      • Up to 20 kg (44 lb)

2) Our accommodations

  • Hostel
    • Will be sharing rooms?
      • Security of our luggage while we are out and about
    • Are there lockers for valuables?
      • Should we bring an iPad, SLR camera? What about passports, money?
  • Hotel
    • Less worrying about security of our things

After considering these options, both of us ended up taking a backpack around 35 L each and did not have to check luggage in while going to Europe and on other flights as well.

Ada purchased a North Face backpack and we don’t have the info on it unfortunately. But it was bigger than mine.

The bag I brought was the MEC Shuttle II Travelpack. I was really happy with this bag. It holds an amazingly large amount of stuff in the front pocket. It was a good size and could go on the plane as a carry-on. I liked that it was convertible but when it started bulging and getting to heavy it was awkward to carry by the shoulder straps. I used the backpack straps a couple of times but the straps aren’t meant for heavy duty and lengthy use so the comfort level wasn’t that great. I would use it again for other trips and not jam as much stuff into it.

To get an idea of what to pack, we’ve included our combined packing lists with comments post-trip. It seems like a lot of stuff but a lot of it is small. There are some things we wished we hadn’t brought and we’ve noted those below. Overall, I think we did a pretty good job and there wasn’t really a time when we said to ourselves “I wish I had brought this ______.”

Toiletries

  • sunscreen – SPF 70!
  • hair accessories
  • tiger balm – You never know when muscle cramps will happen! But I didn’t use it.
  • drixoral – So useful. Drixoral is a nasal decongestant spray. I had a hard time breathing at night and when I got sick as well and this helped a lot. I don’t know if you can buy these things in France cause I didn’t see any and I don’t know how you would describe it in French anyways, lol.
  • deodorant – important! Nice and Paris were hot…haha
  • ear plugs – Brought them but I didn’t use them. We only stayed in a hostel once though so I would bring them again anyways because they’re small.
  • conditioner/shampoo bar – only bring if you are going to hostels. I just used the hotel stuff for the rest of the trip.
  • gravol, Tylenol, pepto bismol, vitamins – Didn’t take my vitamins but I did use the Gravol, Tylenol and Pepto Bismol
  • soap bar – available in hotels so don’t bring if you’re staying in hotels
  • visine for contacts – ideal for dry eyes on the airplane
  • extra contacts
  • saline solution
  • toothbrush/ toothpaste
  • facial cleanser/makeup remover
  • razor
  • glasses/microfiber cloth
  • oil blotting sheets – Like I said..hot and sweaty…need to look good for photos!
  • baby wipes – Brought them in case we needed to freshen up mid-day. I think I used them a couple of times to freshen up my feet after wearing sandals
  • feminine products
  • essential makeup (mineral powder foundation, blush, brushes, eyeliner, curler), Qtips,
  • nail clippers
  • tweezers
  • towels – We both brought small microfiber towels which we used in the hostels because they dry very quickly and also used them at the beach. Probably not good for the towels but they did the job. Mine was from REI in the States but you can find similar ones at MEC.

Electronics

  • iphone/iPad/charger
  • camera battery charger
  • camera – I brought a Canon Rebel XS (more on photos later).
  • sd card
  • Camera stand – See my earlier post about the Gorilla pod we brought.
  • camera connection kit for iPad (purchased in England)
Clothes
All of the clothing we brought could be worn with other things and still look good. Most of our clothing was neutral with a few colourful items that went well with either a skirt, shorts, or jeans.
  • 2 casual t-shirts
  • Pajamas (tshirt and shorts)
  • 2 casual tank tops
  • 1 dressy tank top
  • 1 strapless tank top
  • 1 grey short sleeve cardigan
  • 1 sarong – didn’t use, so I wouldn’t bring it. I never wear sarongs but figured I might need it one day…
  • 4 socks (2 socks and 2 tights) – I wore ballet flats/sandals for most of the trip so didn’t need a lot of socks.
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 skirt – A Gap knee length skirt, very functional. Not too long but not short enough so I couldn’t get into Le Sacre Coeur in Paris.
  • 10 underwear
  • 1 nude bra and 1 strapless bra
  • 1 white scarf
  • 1 AA Le Sac dress  -Seriously, this dress is amazing. So simple but useful. I was able to wear this multiple times in different ways. I probably wore this 5 times.
  • 1 long sleeve black cardigan
  • 1 black long sleeve top –  I don’t think I wore this one.
  • 1 belt  – Don’t forget the belt! Gives shape to skirts and dresses at the waist
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 rain jacket – Brought it but never used it so I would choose an umbrella over the jacket if travelling during the summer.

Other items

  • money belt
  • mini locks for backpack – Brought these to lock our bags if needed, but didn’t use them. Who would steal our clothes? We kept valuables in the locker.
  • platypus water bottle – This was a really great space saver. I could fill it up and when I was done, I just rolled it up and it took up very little space compared to a Sigg bottle.
  • mec turtle light – Would highly recommend this light or another small flashlight if staying in a hostel. There were some times when we came back and other people were sleeping so I used the light to dig through my stuff.
  • travel pillow – I purchased an inflatable one form MEC so it didn’t take up too much room. I only used it on the plane to and from Europe so I guess it was worth it.
  • eye cover for sleeping – did not use but it’s small enough so I would bring one anyways
  • rubber bands, 2 small ziploc bags, extra plastic bags for dirty laundry or shoes
  • small first aid kit (aka bandaids and moleskin)
  • sewing kit – did not use. You could probably get this from the hotel lobby if needed anyways
  • tide to go
  • selection of earrings and necklaces
  • lara bars – I brought a bunch of snack bars with me cause they are cheaper here than there. It was nice to have them and obviously by the end of the trip they were all gone
  • shower cap
  • umbrella – I think I used it once so check the weather channel before your trip. There was one time when it poured and we forgot to bring it with us so we just had to deal with it and were too cheap (and not willing to sacrifice pride) to buy a plastic tourist poncho
  • watch
  • reusable shopping bag – be eco-friendly!
  • smaller black purse – I don’t think I ever used this because we didn’t plan to go out at night. The time we did, it was unplanned so I had my larger one with me. I wouldn’t bring it with me next time. Maybe a clutch instead.
  • Bug repellent – We used this when we were on the Seine Boat Cruises in Paris and sitting by the Eiffel Tower at night.
Shoes
This was really hard for me to plan because I wanted to look “fashionable” but still be comfortable while walking. I wear orthotics so it was important to find a shoe that I could slip it in.  I ended up buying a pair of Clarks shoes ($65) with a removable insole so I could put my orthotic inside.
  • 1 pair converse-type shoes (wore on the plane and back so didn’t take up room in the bag)
  • 1 pair flip flops – I found the best flip flops ever at Sports Chek/Atmosphere. I used to wear Havaianas but I will never go back. The brand is called Sanuk and they were kinda pricey ($30) for flip flops but were worth it. Take it from someone whose feet hurt from not wearing orthotics for 3 hours. I could wear these all day and for several days in a row with no pain whatsoever thanks to the “yoga mat” material used to make the sandals. These are the exact pair I purchased.
  • 1 pair ballet flats (Clarks) – Make sure to wear them in. I didn’t do it enough before I left and had really sore feet from friction.
  • Dr. Scholl’s moleskin! Just in case.
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5 Responses to “travel blog part 5: packing the backpack”

  1. Canadianpetite January 27, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    Very helpful (detailed) post – thank you!

    • shannon January 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Longest post ever…are you going away somewhere too?

      • Canadianpetite January 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

        Saving Europe for a later time…will keep your post in mind. In April, am going to Hawaii.

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