✏️ What to Pack?
Bring a waterproof shell: Frogg Toggs is a good budget choice, otherwise pick out something that fits you well and will last longer/roll up smaller. Start with a baselayer top and the pair of pants you'll likely wear most often for your trip, and then selectively add one or two more tops/pants depending on the length of your trip and how much you're willing to smell. Bring a pair of underwear, and use it to help keep your pants fresh for longer. Depending on the expected temperature, decide whether your spares should be long- or short-sleeved. I like to bring three pairs of socks because they get smelly quickly, but if you don’t have the same problem you could probably get away with alternating two (never wear them to bed unless you will be cold!). If you don’t have access to laundry machines or don’t want to use them too much, do your laundry in a sink.
It is inevitable that you’ll need more clothing for cold conditions. However, be realistic about what temperatures you will have to endure, and what preparations are appropriate. Customize your system to your preferences, body temperature, and style. My strategy is to layer a short-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and puffy jacket, and if I need more warmth or rain protection I’ll add my waterproof shell over everything. A good hat or gloves can help add more warmth without adding much weight. I think this category is the most important to reconsider before every trip.
Bring a 1L water bottle, a fork, a good pen, toothbrush/toothpaste, floss, nail clippers, and if it would make you happy, a reusable straw. I love Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, but usually don't pack it. It’s great for hand washing/showering, sink laundry, and keeping everything else clean. On the other hand, it isn’t ever used on many trips, and potentially messy or a problem at TSA checkpoints. I’ve heard a menstrual cup can be a lighter and more eco-friendly alternative to bulky feminine hygiene products, but you should bring whatever will make you most comfortable. If you carry a notebook, bring it or a smaller one. A bandana can be nice to have, especially if you will cook for yourself or have allergies. Some people love to pack a knife, but I’ve never really needed one. If I’m not going through TSA I sometimes carry a small multi-tool, that has never saved the day but is often convenient. I rarely travel somewhere that don’t have dishes I could use (and I’ve never seen a restaurant allow customers bring their own dishes), but if you’re going to prepare a lot of food on-the-go a lightweight metal camping bowl might come in handy, and doesn’t take up much bag space if you stuff clothes into it.
Don’t bring a laptop unless you will absolutely need it. In fact, try not to bring any digital information you won’t need, especially across international borders. Smartphones can do almost anything you need, especially if you use Android. A smartphone can reduce your need for other items, such as a flashlight, guidebook, or e-reader. If you are headed to a region that uses different power outlets, make sure to pack the appropriate adapter. Many adapters have USB output, which can help you reduce the total number of adapters and cables you need. If your phone supports quickcharging, consider an adapter that is quickcharge compatible. One other thing to consider is paying for a VPN service, to help protect yourself when using the internet on public wifi, a cellular connection, or in certain countries.
Be judicious about what other gadgets you pack. I’d recommend bringing no more than two, and only if you truly have room for them in a small backpack. For me, that might be a nice pair of over-ear headphones or my old Kindle. If you’ll be away from power for more than a day, consider a power bank. Most modern TVs (in hotels, friends’ houses, etc.) have USB ports meant for USB sticks. If you have a digital media collection, you consider loading a USB stick with some movies. You could even sync movies from your phone to the USB stick!
Don’t bring that bulky wallet! Bring whatever payment methods you might need, bound by a rubber band. You might also need a public transportation or library card. A driver’s license might also be useful if you need to...drive! If you don’t need your passport, another form of ID might be a good idea.
I don’t carry a travel pillow, but you should pack what you need to ensure a good night’s sleep. A pair of earplugs can also be valuable, and pack small. If you will ever not have a bed, bring a CCF sleeping pad if its bulkiness won’t bother you, otherwise bring a quality ultralight inflatable pad. If you will be camping or somewhere weirdly cold or you hate sleeping in clothes, you’re going to need a sleeping bag or quilt. I like to keep mine in a stuff sack to make sure it stays dry no matter what, and can be a makeshift pillow if filled with air and packed back into your bag with your clothes.
If you won’t have access to common amenities, there are a few other items you should consider. There are many different ways to purify water, so if that might be a concern for you do your research. If you will be pooping in the backcountry, bring a trowel for digging catholes and toilet paper (kept dry!). If you will be spending much time outside in the dark, you might prefer a headlamp to conserve your phone’s charge or for ergonomics. If you’ll need your own shelter, decide whether a single tarp or full tent would work best for your trip. A sheet of Tyvek can be cut down into a cheap and durable tarp or ground sheet. Tents vary greatly, so make sure to consider your budget, number of occupants, trip weather conditions, etc. Some tents can use a trekking pole instead of separate tent poles. It may be worth buying lighter stakes. You may also want to bring parachute cord or something similar for hanging a tarp, bear bag, or clothes.
First-aid and medical
It’s always good to have some band-aids and OTC painkillers with you at the very least. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is also a good idea for many, as it can function both as an antihistamine and sleep aid. Surgical tape or gauze might also be valuable. Consciously decide what other first-aid supplies you might realistically need based on the context of your trip, any medical background you may have, and your risk tolerance. If you have any medications, epinephrine injectors, or other required personal items, be creative about packing them small.