How to pack to travel the world with less than 5kg!

Part 1 – what to wear!!!

Ok, so this is targeted to women!  but guys feel free to check out snarky nomad who has a good equivalent post for blokes

A little black dress

I have two black dresses from Icebreaker and I always pack one of them.  The t-shirt tech lite dress in particular works a treat.  I use it as a cover-up when I am at the beach or the pool, it works as a dress when I unexpectedly have an opera or posh dinner to go to, it is merino wool so you can hike in it,  and it has even been used as a nightie when I am sleeping in mixed dorms.

Icebreaker tech lite dress, also doubles as a nightie
Icebreaker tech lite dress, also doubles as a nightie
A headscarf

I have a cheap one I picked up in Iran.  Works as a sarong, a scarf, a belt and obviously a headscarf.  This has saved me on numerous occasions where I wanted to blend into the crowd, and is mandatory in many mosques and orthodox churches

3 t-shirts and 2 singlets

I swear by Royal Robbins and Icebreaker t-shirts.  These two of my current favourites

Icebreaker SpheriaRoyal Robbins Noe

Icebreaker shirts are terrific, they are merino, they never smell, they are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, they dry quick and they don’t look too bad.  These you can hike in, wear to dinner and they don’t look too bad to wear around town.  For singlets, I love UA…., and take a couple of black singlets, mostly for running in.

3 pairs of trousers/shorts

So, key is to find something that you can wear up the mountain, sleep in on the plane, wear to dinner in Paris or London, and do yoga in.  My best find ever has been the Mountain Hardwear Dynama Trousers in Black.  They wick, they are cool, comfy and warm.  I like them so much, I also have the capris and the shorts.  These three (all in black) are my go- to pants to cover travelling, running, and hiking.     I vary the lengths when I am going to more conservative places, taking more long ones and less short ones

Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pants
A buff

I swear by this, my buff is the most important item in my pack.   It’s primary use is as an eye mask, and it works better than anything else as it is wide, doesn’t leave an elastic mark on my face, and holds the ear plugs in!  It also works as a scarf, hat, balaclava, headband, and in one instance it even worked really well as a Islamic Republic of Iran compliant headscarf for running in.    Invest a bit more and get the merino one!!!

A hoody

I swear by my Icebreaker hoody (I promise they don’t sponsor me)

Allure Hoody from Icebreaker

It is sporty enough to the hiking, but actually looks cool enough to wear around town.  Even if you are going somewhere hot, you really need something warm with you as there is always air conditioning.

3x Underpants

So, much to many peoples disgust, I never pack more than three pairs of underpants (i used to pack two, but have decided to go luxurious).   I use icebreaker merino wool underpants, as while ex-officio and royalrobbins are ok, they are too synthetic.  I won’t go into the pros and cons of merino vs synthetic, but suffice to say merino does not smell, is easy to wash and is super comfortable on the rear end.  Synthetics, not so much!

3x Bras

Always take at least one bra that makes your boobs look amazing.  And then I always take two sports bras (which every woman knows do not make your boobs look amazing) – at least one merino one and then one from either oiselle or north face.  I wear these when I sleep on the plane.  I also run most days when I am travelling so sports bras are pretty compulsory.  If you don’t run every day, you could easily get away with 2 bras (one to wear and one to wash)

2x socks

Ok, so in a rare departure from Icebreaker, I have a unbreakable allegiance to smart wool phd run socks.  I take two pairs only and wash them when they get dirty (confession, i normally wear them for at least two days before they need it).


Runners and flip flops – they are really all I ever need.  For my runners, I always wear altras (to accommodate my wide kiwi feet), and depending on whether it is trails or roads I will be running on, I take the lone peaks or the paradigms (

Being a New Zealander, flip flops pass as formal footwear for me, and so I am comfortable going most places with my flip-flops on, and these ones even have some shiny crystal on them so they really are formal.     On the rare occasion I have taken a pair of ballet flats with me, I hardly ever wore them, so I don’t bother anymore.  But if you are going somewhere where you might have a few hot dinner dates, then take some lightweight ones.  I use the Vivo Barefoot Shoes

Optional items
  • Waterproof jacket – I love the  Salomon Bonatti Jacket and take it with me if i think things will be cold, wet or windy
  • Puffer jacket – again, if it is winter or likely to be cold, I will take one with me.  In the UK or anywhere likely to be wet, I take my Rab Xenon Jacket as it is waterproof (but weighs 330g).  Otherwise I take my beloved mountain hardwear ghost whisperer jacket which weighs 200g
  • Swimsuit – if I am going anywhere with a pool plus goggles so i can swim lengths

I mix the colour palette to be mostly black, grey and occasionally something blue.  Everything mixes and matches.  And depending on whim or mood, i substitute (note the word substitute not add) items in and out of the pack.  Note, that these are ALL the clothes I take, and include what I am wearing when I leave home.   I am sure most of my fellow lightweight packers are taking all of the above, the trick is to take no more than what I have listed (or even less if you fancy, i could take off one pair of underwear, one shorts, one t-shirt if I really wanted to, but I find it easier not to have to do laundry more than 2 times per week).

I pack my clothes in two  Compression Packing Cells – one small, one large, and both of them are compressible

Total weight of clothes in the bag is under 1.2 kg (not including what I am wearing)
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Stay tuned for posts 2-4 on what pack to take, toiletry hacks and everything else you need to put in your pack

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