So girls, you’ve finally decided to get in touch with your inner explorer and travel long-term on your own. You kind of know where you’re going, you’ve paid for your tickets, and you’ve said goodbye to the rat-race. Most of all, you feel childishly excited, brave, and free.
If, like me, you have taken a year off to wander around the world, you have probably thought to yourself, what do I really need to pack for one year? After having been on the road for some time now, I have learnt that one needs to keep baggage weight to an absolute minimum. In my case I have capped mine at 15kg.
Why pack 15kg for a week or a year of travel?
Why 15kg? First of all, it’s the magic weight for most low-cost airlines, which you will definitely be taking if you’re traveling in Europe. Anything over and you will have to pay a ridiculous surcharge.
Also, your back will thank you (unless you have a nifty convertible roller bag like I do). With all this in mind, I have discovered that everything I need, REALLY need, actually does fit into my small backpack, with room to spare.
So I have put together the following list to assist you, the solo female traveler.
A 15kg packing list: All the things a girl needs to pack to travel around the world
I put together this list of my actual luggage to give an example of what 15kg of luggage looks like: clothes, accessories, toiletries and other gear.
Keep in mind you need clothes for all seasons. You don’t need any super-thick clothing, only different types of tops for layering, even in a freezing European winter. So, bring your most comfortable tops, and make sure the fabric is thin so they will dry easily and won’t add bulk and weight. Personally the only clothes I brought along are:
- 4 long-sleeved tops
- 2 short-sleeved t-shirts
- 3 tank tops/singlets to wear underneath
- 1 cotton cardigan
- 1 hooded sweatshirt
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 2 pairs of shorts (one light cotton one, one denim)
One needs to keep baggage weight to an absolute minimum.
- 1 pair of sweatpants
- 5 pairs of socks
- A week’s worth of undies
- 3 good bras
- A small warm jacket (a washable one because it gets really grimy!)
- A light scarf
- Thermal top and bottom
You can buy these from Amazon, if you don’t already have them.
The best thing about these items of clothing is that you can wear them in all seasons, hot or cold. Due to them being made out of thin material, they all fold up very flat and don’t take up a lot of space at all.
Trust me, you really don’t need that pair of heels. You will end up going to pubs, bars, and clubs that don’t really give a damn about what is on your feet. All you really want in your pack is a pair of sneakers, some flat sandals, and a good pair of boots or hiking shoes (which you will probably be wearing so less in your luggage again).
This is going to be a tough one for most girls. Sorry to break it to you, but you will eventually discover that we really can survive on very low maintenance, while still keeping up good hygiene of course! So, this is what I’ve been lugging around with me:
- A bar of soap
- A good razor (refillable ones, not disposable ones)
- Face moisturizer
- Lip balm
- Acne cream (because skin does suffer while traveling)
- Cotton pads
- A small pair of scissors
- Some band-aids
- Condoms (face it, you will need them at some point during your trip)
Everything is quite light and tiny and should fit in an average toiletry bag. Of course you will notice there is not one ounce of make-up in there. Seriously, you’re traveling, not applying to be in a beauty pageant.
This really depends on you, and what you like to do while visiting a place. For example I liked to spend time drawing, so I carried tools for that. I also allowed myself one luxury item, so my miscellaneous items included:
- A hairdryer (my luxury item)
- 2 pencils
- A small sketchbook
- A good point-and-shoot digital camera
- Mobile phone with wi-fi ( I found this extremely useful)
- A really small bag for going out at night (for purse and mobile phone)
- A small daypack
- A Swiss Army knife
- A mini torch
- Various cables for phone, camera, and adaptors.
- A quick-drying towel
- The smallest fold-up umbrella I could find
And believe it or not, all of the above packed perfectly into my excellent Osprey backpack. I forgot to mention souvenirs, but I figure if one is traveling for a year, souvenirs aren’t really on the list of must-haves. If you must buy something, the rule is it must be tiny and light enough to mail home so you don’t have to carry it.
The last time I checked, after months of traveling, all my stuff still fit into the 15kg pack.
Have fun preparing, and last but not least, keep a sharp wit, a cool head, and a thirst for adventure!
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Frequently Asked Questions about a 15kg pack for travel
How many clothes go into a 15kg pack? How many clothes can you fit in a carry-on?
I can fit almost a dozen tops (including a sweater and jacket) plus jeans, pants and underwear into my 15kg pack, which is small enough for carry-on.
That’s enough for all the clothes you need for 4 seasons (Arctic or Canadian winter not included!) See the full clothes packing list here and pack recommendation below.
How much is 15kg of luggage?
15kg is a tightly packed 45L backpack. This fits all my clothes, accessories, toiletries and toys.
What size suitcase or pack for 15kg?
I used the Osprey Porter 46, which measures 22 x 14 x 9 inches. The updated version of this backpack is 23 x 15 x 13 inches. This meets most carry-on baggage requirements and is perfect for women in an urban travel setting where you’re mainly moving your pack through airports, train stations and busses. If you’re doing more hiking, the Osprey Archeon 45L is a great women’s pack.
How to weigh my full backpack? How to weigh clothes for a washing machine?
Use a digital luggage scale to weigh your bag. Our editor recommends the eTekcity luggage scale. You can attach this to the handle at the top of the bag to get a good gauge on the weight, and this will include the weight of the bag too.
If you’re weighing dirty clothing for a laundry, take everything out of your pack and weigh it alone. Write this number down. Put all your laundry into the bag and weigh it again. The difference in weight is your laundry weight… and everything’s now in your pack and ready to launder.
At some airports you can weigh your baggage for free before checking in. I don’t recommend paying to use a scale. If the bag is too heavy at the counter, you can adjust it then by wearing extra layers, re-balancing things into a separate bag, or — worst case scenario — throwing away old clothes.
Is 15kg of luggage enough for 5 days or a week?
Yes! I travelled around the world for over a year with the packing list at the top of the article. It’s certainly enough.
How many clothes to pack for two months?
Exactly the packing list at the top of the article. Adjust for your seasonal needs, and any special events. But remember, wherever you’re going, they actually sell things there too. Pack less and you’ll enjoy it.
How to pack clothes in a backpack?
I recommend rolling clothes to reduce the amount of creases they develop. Rolling is a time-honoured packing technique which minimises the size of each item.
There’s dead space inside your shoes, which can be safely filled with socks.
Is 15kg luggage OK for Interrail or Eurail?
Yes – it’s perfect. Light and small enough to fit into overhead bins or between seats. You’ll be the envy of people with large wheeled suitcases, trying to make it through the aisles.
Can you take condoms on a plane? In carry-on luggage?
Yes, you certainly can take condoms on a plane in either your carry-on or checked luggage. It’s not an issue anywhere in the world, that I’m aware of.
Some countries have strict laws around sex-related publications. Leave those at home.
What’s on a 15kg packing list?
Ummm. Look up here for a 15kg packing list: All the things a girl needs to pack to travel around the world.
What’s the best backpack for traveling for girls?
I used the Osprey Porter 46 and it’s perfect for women in an urban travel setting. If you are mainly moving your pack through airports, train stations and busses and to-and-from your hostel or other accommodation.
If you’re doing more hiking or back-country travel, the Osprey Archeon 45L is a great women’s pack. It comes with a better belt harness for longer-lasting support.
How much does a backpack weigh?
My backpack (the Osprey above) weighs 1.35kg (48 ounces). This leaves 13.5kg for everything else.
I recommend trying to keep your pack weight as light as possible, as it’s one variable that’s very hard to change on the road. Cutting off labels and removing zips is for ultra-long distance athletes, not women travelers.
Can I put clothes in my personal carry-on bag?
Yes, of course. I travel carry-on only as much as possible, and that obviously includes all my clothes.
When I can’t travel carry-on only, I always pack at least one change of underwear and some clothing in my carry-on. If my bag is lost or delayed, I won’t end up in the clothes I’ve been flying in until the bags arrive or insurance gets sorted.
Note: FAQs have been written by Indie Travel Podcast editors in addition to the author’s original post.
More Travel Packing Advice:
- Packing for travel
- Toiletries for Travel: Ten ways to reduce your toiletries on long trips
- Toiletries on a plane: what to put in your toiletries kit
- What to pack in your under-seat carry-on bag
- Everything a girl needs in a 15kg backpack
- My Cotswold Way packing list — and what I wish I had left behind!
- The pack light podcast: how to travel carry-on size
- Be smart, pack light: what to pack for a sailing trip