What’s In Our Backpacks?

Packing light — what a challenge. We’ve been anticipating and preparing for our round-the-world trip for over two years. After reading many travellers packing list, tips and tricks, and debating many items, here’s what we’ve settled on.

“There is an intense but simple thrill in setting off in the morning on a mountain trail, knowing that everything you need is on your back. It is a confidence in having left the inessentials behind and of entering a world of natural beauty that has not been violated, where money has no value, and possessions are a deadweight. The person with the fewest possessions is the freest.”

~ Paul Theroux, “The Happy Isles of Oceana: Paddling the Pacific”                                         

With this philosophy in mind:

Our Main Backpack and Bags

As many travellers do, we wrangled between a backpack vs. a rolling suitcase. In the end, our experience travelling with packs won. Ideally, we would have like to use a carry-on size only, but we just couldn’t do it.


  • Gregory Cairn 48 L backpack
  • The Northface Aleia 22: for day use and shorter hikes.
  • One small cross-body packable purse
  • Packing cubes: I will be using these, but Gordon is opting not to use them.


  • Gregory 48 L backpack: This pack saw him through our first three-week European trip and our Adirondack 46ers quest.
  • Osprey Talon 22:  A well-used pack, for day use.

Our Travel Wardrobe

Finding the right balance between function and fashion is a real challenge. Nothing chic here folks, we are taking tried and true, functional and compact pieces.

We have a mix of name brands; Smartwool, Icebreaker, ExOfficio, Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia, and various no-name pieces, many that we’ve owned for years.

When choosing our wardrobe, we had to take into consideration the various activities we will be doing.  From lazy days lounging in a hammock at the beach, pounding the pavement venturing from churches, museums to other tourist sites, hanging out at local pubs and restaurants, to long hikes through mountain and forests, our pieces have to be multi-functional.

We’ve kept our wardrobe to light and neutral colours for the versatility of mixing and matching. Light coloured clothing also keeps bugs and other biting insects away.

Trekking and hiking to higher elevations and colder temperatures necessitate easily layered pieces. We know from experience that Smartwool products will keep us warm, even when wet, so many of our pieces are from this brand.

Ginette’s Travel Clothes

I considered taking a few accessories, but the shopping temptation will be great, so I plan to pick up scarves, bangles, earrings on the road as needed. Plus, these will make great souvenirs!


  • Two Pairs of Pants: One light pair, and one of heavier weight, both can be used for adventure activities or sightseeing
  • Light linen pants
  • Jeans
  • One pair of shorts
  • SmartWool long bottom: These long johns can layer under my travel pants for colder climates or used as leggings.
  • Four Tops: Two tank-tops, one t-shirt and a fancier blouse for when I want to dress up.
  • Two light long sleeve shirts: One white button-up shirt that will double as a beach cover-up.
  • Two warm long sleeve shirts: Both merino wool.
  • Zip-up fleece
  • Hooded down jacket: I’m always cold, so for the little amount of space and weight this jacket takes, I’m taking it along.
  • Raincoat
  • One Bikini
  • Sun hat and wool cap: My first travel souvenir will be an Andean style wool hat with ear flaps.
  • Five Smartwool socks
  • Four Bras: two sports bra, two regular.
  • Five Underwear
  • One Pair of fleece gloves
  • One skirt or dress: I will be looking to buy a lightweight ankle-length skirt or a casual summer dress when I need one — or both.

Plus, I’ll be taking a Sea to Summit Premium Silk Travel Liner: A luxurious item weighing just a few ounces which will afford me to sleep in my dirt as I anticipate needing this for hostels and other sketchy sleeping places.

Ginette’s Footwear

Narrowing the footwear to four pairs was no easy feet 😉

  • Flip-flops: I live in my Havanas at home, so one pair is in the bag.
  • Walking sandals: This was the hardest piece of footwear to select. They have to be comfortable for full days of sightseeing. I settled on a pair of Täos. I’ve never liked the look of clunky sports sandals for going out, so these should meet this requirement.
  • Walking shoes: I decided on dressier shoes as opposed to light runners.
  • Hikers: I’ve had my Yellowstone BDry Obōz for many years. Bulky, yes, but I love them, and they are coming along.

Gordon’s Travel Clothes

“You have to wear pants and button-down shirts. If you wear shorts in South America, you’ll look like a tourist!” I offered.

“Ginette, we are tourists!” was Gordon’s reply.

Hum, I guess he’s right!

Gordon’s wardrobe having passed my seal of approval:


  • Jeans
  • Two pairs of pants: One dressier pair and one for hiking.
  • One pair of shorts
  • Four t-shirts
  • Four long sleeve shirts: including one button-down shirt
  • Melanzana fleece sweater: His favourite, purchased two years ago from a local outdoor clothing manufacturer during our stay in Leadville, Colorado where we spend some time before hiking Mount Elbert.
  • Down jacket
  • Rain and wind jacket
  • Swimming trunk
  • Hat and wool cap
  • 5 SmartWool socks
  • 5 Underwear
  • One pair of light gloves

Gordon’s Footwear

  • Light hikers
  • Slip-on walking shoes
  • Sandals

Additionally We Each Carry


We’ve paired it down to the essentials, just enough to get us started, plus:

  • Ear plugs
  • Microfiber face-cloth

Travel must-have

Pieces that will make the trip more pleasant, safe, and environmentally-friendly.

  • Headlamp
  • Zip-lock bags: Assorted sizes to contain loose-ends, food, wet swimsuit, shell collection, etc.
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones
  • Money belt

Shared Gear and Electronics

  • Cameras:
    • Digital SLR Nikon D5200
    • Compact Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50
  • Lenses:
    • Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm
    • Nikon AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm
  • Notebook
  • USB key, flash drive
  • Microfiber travel towel: One medium and one large.
  • Laptop: 13″ MacBook Air. We considered bringing two laptops but settled on one — time will tell how that works out.
  • Plug-adaptor kit
  • Unlocked Smartphone and iPhone 4: Multi-purpose uses, as our alarm clock, taking snapshots, reading, e-mail, Skyping with the family, our music source and can even be used for it’s intended purpose of making calls. Not the latest, but we won’t worry about losing them.
  • Belkin Mini-Surge protector
  • Water Purification: We’ll be using a combination of the following to avoid buying water bottles as much as possible:

These items didn’t make the cut

  • Travellers clothesline
  • Mosquito net: Hopefully, we won’t regret leaving this behind.
  • Sink plug

First-aid kit

Aside from the basics; band-aids, sunscreen, Ibuprofen, antacid, and other over-the-counter meds we have:

  • Malaria pills
  • Altitude sickness medication
  • Bug-spay with 30% Deet

It is a little unnerving to set off with only a small bag of belongings, but from what we’ve read we’ll be able to acquire anything we may have forgotten or need along the way. We live in a modern world, and if not we’ll do without or adapt.

Packed and ready to go.


“On a long journey even a straw weight heavy.”
~ Spanish Proverb

Gordon’s two backpacks total weight came in at 30.4 lbs while mine 30 lbs.

What will get tossed along the way? We’ll update throughout the year!



Disclosure: We are not receiving any compensation for linking to any products and brands mentioned. These are strictly our choices and opinion.

20 thoughts on “What’s In Our Backpacks?

      • Allo Ginette et Gordon,
        Je vous souhaite un voyage formidable , beaucoup de rencontres chaleureuses et d’expériences enrichissantes . Pas trop de bobos et d’insectes bizarres!!
        Bizous, ta cousines Michelle🐿

      • Salut Michelle,
        A date, on s’amuse bien à découvrir les petite villes et montagnes de l’Écquateur. Bobos et insectes bizarres–j’èspere que non:) -Bizous a toi aussi! -Ginette

  1. Nous sommes impressionnés. Ginette tu t’es donné beaucoup de trouble mais le mot trouble ce n’est pas le bon mot. Tu y a mis beaucoup d’efforts. Jacline et moi sommes très contents pour vous deux. Bon voyage amusez-vous la vie est vite passée on a hâte de voir vos photos et commentaires. Vous êtes maintenant sur l’avion envoie nous les numéros de vol.

      • You are right, Ginette. Backpacking requires you to be ready for those things that happen miles for nowhere— unless you happen to be one of the ultra go-light modern backpackers. Who needs a stove, or fuel, or tent, or more than one change of clothes… etc. 🙂 (I do.)

  2. This was a good read. You sound really well organized. We used to carry mosquito nets until we realized that they were provided in every place we went where we needed one.
    Have a fabulous time! Are you in Quito yet?

    • Alison, I thought I was organized until last night before leaving when I decided to unpack, second guess everything, then pack again. Oh no, I threw in the mosquito net at the last minute, probably won’t carry it for long:) – Just arrived in Quito!! -Ginette

  3. This trip sounds amazing. I will be following you on this link. Hope you have the trip of a lifetime. Give me a call when you are back in Canada…..

  4. Wow, quel plaisir de vous voir explorer notre belle planète et mordre dans la vie à pleines dents. Ginette, tu sembles très heureuse et ça rend les autres heureux.
    Je vous souhaite des découvertes surprenantes, des rencontres enrichissantes et d’en avoir plein les yeux.

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