Adventure How To: Packing for Adventure Travel

Working for the largest women's only adventure travel company, Wild Women Expeditions, means I get to travel quite a bit for work but I also get asked a BAZILLION questions about packing. With this post I will attempt to outline my strategy and highlight my top tips and tricks for packing for adventure travel. 

Getting Started

  1. Where am I going? Wherever you go, learn about the weather and customs in the destination and listen to the locals. 
  2. What am I doing on this adventure trip? It's an adventure trip, so you will be out in nature (hopefully a lot!) and need to have some basic items to handle the weather and the type of activity you will be doing. 
  3. Required VS. optional? I start with everything I think I "need" in a pile and do a quick sort between required items and optional items. Once the required items are accounted for and IF there is room, optional items can be considered.


What kind of bag should I travel with?

This is the most important step of packing for adventure travel.

My answer: One that you can handle yourself! Way too often I see those large suitcases (100L or more with heavy wheels and weight 50+ pounds!) and people cannot load them on and off buses, trailers or get up and down stairs. When you're doing an adventure travel trip, you have to be able to manage you're own bag, no matter what!

I always aim to travel with 2 bags so depending on the trip, I'll use one of the following arrangements:

Option 1 - Backpacking/ Self Supported Adventure

  • Bag 1: a 50-65 litre Backpack - the best travel bag for me is a backpack because it is hands free. I like this one for backpacking style adventures!
  • Bag 2: a 13-30 litre daypack - a lightweight backpack (like the Osprey Daylite 13) with supportive shoulder straps and a waist-strap. Should be large enough for your water bottle, packed lunch or snacks, raincoat/pants and warm layers, camera and personal items. Make this your carry on and plan to use it everyday. Bonus points if it attaches to your main bag or packs inside!

Option 2 - Group Travel Adventure

  • Bag 1: Duffel Bag - rolling duffels are the next best thing to a pack. You can get them in lots of sizes but my preference is 75 litres, like this one. I do also have a North Face 50 litre duffel that can be carried like a backpack, and this is great for trips with minimal gear.
  • Bag 2: a 13-30 litre daypack - same as above!


Staying organized is hard enough day to day for most of us and it gets even trickier when you travel. The best advice I ever received was LESS IS MORE. Less stuff tagging along means more flexibility, more relaxation, and more fun!

Here's how I stay organized on the road:

  1. Everything has a home - each item lives in a pocket or space inside a particular bag. This strategy allows me to quickly find things and do quick checks to ensure I have all my stuff.
  2. Using packing cubes, stuff sacs, and/or compression sacs when packing for adventure travel helps organize your things as well as reduce their size. 
    1. I use these packing cubes from MEC for clothing. I have a medium sized one for underwear, bras, swimsuit and socks then use 2 large ones for tops and bottoms. I limit myself to what fits inside the cubes. If I decide later I want a particular shirt, I have to trade it into the cube - one in=one out!
    2. I love stuff sacs for reducing the size of things as well as keeping things organized. These ones are lightweight and waterproof. 
    3. Compression bags are another option. I use this Outdoor Research Ultralight Compression Sac to minimize the size of my sleeping bag on every trip!
  3. I try to always travel with the same things! This helps me keep it simple, I know what I have and how it fits with what I will be doing. 


Even I struggle with this one! Usually I travel with 2-4 pairs of shoes depending on the trip and activities but I am getting better at being more multi-purpose with my shoes. 

Example: I am in Iceland from July 15-Sept 5, 2017 and took 3 pairs of shoes. Over the course of this adventure trip I would trek the Laugavegur trail (54 kms in the Icelandic highlands which includes river crossings), sea kayak for 2 days, ride horses for 14 days, as well as hang out in down town Reykjavik and drive the Ring Road. Iceland's summer temps are 5-20°C and it is often windy and rain is a regular occurrence. 

And the winners were:

  1. KEEN Liberty Ridge Waterproof Hiking Boots: for the Laugavegur Trek as well as other hiking during the Ring Road drive. 
  2. Blundstone Pull Ons: for horseback riding, wearing downtown Reykjavik and general sightseeing. 
  3. Teva Universal Slide Sandals: for river crossings, sea kayaking, evenings at mountain huts, showers, and general sightseeing if it's warm enough!



Of course this list will vary slightly depending on the destination and activities, but not my much!

The basic planning when packing for adventure travel should be:

  • 1 outfit for being active (sweaty) + layers
  • 1 outfit for camp/evenings + layers
  • 1 outfit for travel/city/restaurant meals + layers
  • some basic accessories

My Packing List

  • 1 waterproof/ windproof jacket: a waterproof breathable, shell jacket with a hood and pit zips.
  • 1 pair of waterproof/ windproof pants: waterproof breathable pants with side zips. 
  • 1 wool/down jacket: for cold days/nights. 
  • 2 fleece or wool sweaters: plan to wear one during your active times and keep one for evenings. 
  • 3-4 tanks and/or tee’s: wear as a base layer. Go for fabrics like merino wool or wool blends. 
  • 3-4 long-sleeve shirts: plan to wear 1-2 during your active times and keep 1-2 for evenings. 
  • 1-2 pairs hiking pants: quick dry fabric but durable. 
  • 1-2 other bottoms: black leggings and a pair of skinny jeans for me! Shorts if its hot, or add a dress here. 
  • 5-8 pairs underwear: merino wool, polyester or other quick dry fabric so you can hand wash/ air dry them as needed.
  • 2-3 bras: 1 for active use and 1-2 for evenings/travel
  • 2-3 pairs socks: good quality hiking socks. I love Smartwool !
  • 1 pyjamas: leggings from above and one of the tanks works here or sleep naked!
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • 1-2 buff: wear as a headband, hat, scarf or eye mask as needed. 
Packing for Adventure Travel
Packing for Adventure Travel
Packing for Adventure Travel


This is often the area where I see people (especially women) over pack. You're on an adventure, you don't need the whole bathroom! 

I use 2 bags:

  1. The Deuter Wash Bag which is designed to provide lightweight travel storage, this bag boasts multiple storage options, a hanging hook, and a toothbrush-specific external pocket. Again, if it doesn't fit, it can't come! This bag holds the following:
  • Face Wipes {for use in the backcountry}
  • Lush Aromaco Deodorant {in metal tin}
  • Small container of Bag Balm {lip chap+antibacterial treatment for small cuts+moisturizer}
  • Tweezers & nail clippers
  • Artistry face wash, toner & moisturizer {in travel sized silicone bottles}
  • Face pads {for toner}
  • A small comb
  • Ponytail elastics
  • Ibuprofen
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Sunscreen 

2. A mesh bag (like this) breaths and lets all my shower stuff dry quickly. It holds these items:

Don't forget your travel towel! {I like Sea to Summit DryLite Towel}



Again, everything needs a home on the road! I travel for work so I always have my laptop, cell pone and 1-2 cameras. I have a small hard case (like this one) where I keep the following items:

  • DSLR battery charger and spare battery
  • MacBook Air charger
  • Spare SD cards and micro SD card reader
  • Lens cloths
  • Charging cables
  • GoPro + accessories
  • Travel adaptors 
  • Portable charger/ power bank (such as these)

Then my laptop lives in a travel case as does my DSLR and lenses and all electronic stuff lives together in my backpack, on my back, with me all the time. 

Packing for Adventure Travel


Packing for adventure travel doesn't have to be complex, ideally make it as simple as possible so you can enjoy the trip to its maximum. Here are my last words of wisdom:

  • Do a test pack - load it all up and ensure you can handle it easily. Is everything in place where you can intuitively find it? 
  • Less really is more - do you have any duplicates? Try to cutdown to the bare minimum knowing that there will still be items you won't wear! And leave the hair spray and makeup at home!
  • If you plan of checking your larger bag, ensure you packed the bare necessities in your carry on pack. A clean shirt, underwear, deodorant and your toothbrush can go a long when your luggage gets lost - and it will eventually happen!
  • Label your bag - make sure your bag is easily identifiable and has your basic contact info on it somewhere. 


Print out this handy Packing for Adventure Travel checklist!

Click Here to Open


Have something to add? Share your tips and tricks with me in the comments below:)


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