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The Ultimate Ultralight Backpacking List for Women

Packing light for a trip abroad can be challenging and is somewhat of a science: you want to keep your luggage light enough to comfortably carry, yet still fit all of your essential items! This ultralight packing list is designed to be minimalistic, yet versatile.

Keep in mind that you can use this list as a guide and simply customize it depending on your destination and prospective activities. Also remember that I travel with a lot of electronics in my carry-on in order to maintain this blog, so you can forgo these items if you don’t require a laptop or aren’t interested in photography.

If you aren’t interested in using a backpack to travel (i.e. you have wheeled luggage), you can still benefit from the packing list below to organize what to pack in your carry-on versus your checked luggage.

Alternatively, if you want to try to travel carry-on only, feel free check out my secrets to minimalist packing post, where I share how I managed to previously travel internationally with only my small 27L backpack.

Ultralight backpacking: General Packing Tips

First things first, let’s talk about backpacks. If you are reading this ultralight backpacking list, I will assume you are already using a backpack to travel (versus wheeled or duffle-bag style luggage).

You may already own your own backpack, but if not, I recommend the Osprey Questa 27L as a solid daypack choice for women. Reasons why? Osprey has a LIFE-TIME warranty (yes that’s right, lifetime) and their products are high-quality.

I also use a 65L Mountain Warehouse backpack as my main luggage (pictured below). If you are thinking to yourself, “65L is NOT ultralight”, think again. I probably don’t need 65L because I typically don’t fill it and I have a small frame, but I still love this backpack because of its versatility.

Since it is a tall, top-loading style, it can easily fit larger items like my yoga mat or a tent, but it can also be folded down with its adjustable clips when not full. I also love that it has zipped compartments on each side, top and bottom for easy access and a hidden zipped compartment inside.

Since the bag is on the larger side in height dimensions, I usually stow it for long haul travel and use a luggage tag in the case that it gets lost. You can browse through the best luggage tags for international travel here.

I use the packing cubes featured above (they come in a 3-set of small, medium and large in all different colours) and they help me save space and stay organized. I started with dollar store ones which broke after two trips, so I would highly recommend investing in better ones from the get-go. This brand has lasted me over a year so far. Conversely, if you don’t want to buy them right now, you can opt to use large zip lock bags for the same effect.

The ultimate ultralight backpacking list for women:

ultralight backpacking list

My first attempt at ultralight packing back in 2016! 

Day-pack/ Carry-on: 

My packing rule of thumb, is to pack your carry-on with anything you don’t want to get lost or stolen. Essentially you want to keep all of your valuables with you (or on you) during transit. I use my daypack for my plane/train/bus carry-on and always keep it secure in a locker if I stay in a hostel.

I pack a few go-to toiletry items (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lip chap, hand sanitizer) in my carry-on for easy access, especially for long haul flights. Be sure to separate the <100mL liquids into a ziplock bag or use a clear plastic case like this one featured below.

The Basics

Toiletries

Medicine/first aid kit

This may seem like a lot to pack, but you will be SO thankful you have it if you need it. Simply move items from their boxes and stack flat to save space. I use a small linen bag the size of my palm to fit all of these so it’s really not that much to pack in the grand scheme of things). I now travel with a mini first aid kit after getting a motorcycle exhaust pipe burn in a remote part of Uganda and not having any supplies on me.

 

For sleeping on plane/bus/train:

    • Comfy socks
    • Scarf (this linked one has a hidden, zipped pocket)
    • Warm layer
    • Ear plugs
    • Eye mask or BUFF headwear (featured below). If you aren’t familiar with BUFF, it’s a great multi-purpose item for backpacking. I use mine as a hair band, eye mask, head covering and hair protector under helmets.
    • Hair tie or scrunchie

Large backpack:

As I mentioned earlier, I use a set of three packing cubes in small/medium/large sizes for my clothes. I use the small one for under garments, a bathing suit, sleep wear, socks and any miscellaneous items like a scarf or jewelry. I usually use the other two to organize my tops versus bottoms, or while on the road to separate clean versus dirty items. I always roll items inside the packing cubes to save space

Clothing:

Footwear

Occasionally, depending on the purpose of my trip, I will bring dressier sandals or normal sneakers, it’s just up to you based on the activities you want to do. My hiking boots and simple thong flip-flops are staples for me but that is the style of travel I do)

Toiletry Kit

I keep all of these items in a clear, plastic zipped pouch similar to the one I featured above to go through airport security if I ever want to bring it in my carry-on.

Miscellaneous:

Bonus:

  • Items that I’ve previously packed on trips over the years and virtually never used
    • Deck of cards
    • Water purification tablets
    • Lifestraw bottle (after buying it, I realized it still doesn’t filter viruses so I don’t recommend it).
    • A watch
    • Extra pillow case
    • Neck pillow for plane (some people love these, I just find they take up too much space and aren’t all that comfy)

Was this guide helpful?

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thepinkbackpack.com said:
Hi Erin - I love my 65L! Most of the time, it is not heavy because it's not actually full (it's top loading so it folds down smaller) and then there is space to bring stuff home if needed. I also some times travel with a 30L, it depends on the length and purpose of the trip so of course this guide is meant to be a frame of reference that can be adapted, but you do you, everyone travels differently! x
February 5, 2023 at 5:16 pm
Erin said:
This is a great packing list and awesome advice! BUT, I do have to say... a 65 L pack and a 27 L daypack is NOT ultralight lol. Do you mama, everyone travels differently, but if any girlies are reading this blog for advice on how to keep it light, just understand a 65 L pack is large and this is gonna be pretty heavy. I truly don't mean to sounds insulting so I hope I'm not coming across that way... but I have traveled with this size pack and wished the entire 6 weeks that I had brought my smaller 40L pack instead.
January 29, 2023 at 11:22 am
Chocoviv said:
Great suggestion!!
November 13, 2019 at 1:23 am
thepinkbackpack.com said:
Great!! I'm so glad it was helpful :)
August 28, 2019 at 9:36 am
Tash M said:
Cheers for this Article! I'm about do a month long backpacking adventure with a carry on bag and found this super helpful!
August 14, 2019 at 6:22 pm
thepinkbackpack.com said:
Thanks Ellen :) So glad to hear you found it helpful xo
August 1, 2016 at 2:46 am
Ellen said:
Super helpful post! Thanks for a great post Steph :)
July 31, 2016 at 4:23 am