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My Peru and Ecuador packing list was a detailed confession of my overpacking addiction. Unfortunately my proposed support group, tentatively titled Yes In Fact I do Need Both Styles of Jeggings Thanks For Asking never came to fruition and along the way I grudgingly admitted that in certain categories I would have been better off packing lighter, or just differently.

Packing ListI’ve got ninety nine problems and overpacking is definitely one

Along the way I sent home or pitched a pair of leggings, a pair of exercise shorts, a tee-shirt, some socks and underwear, my camera case, my sunglasses case, and some other random items. I’ve also done a decent job of avoiding adding weight along the way — so far, the only things in my backpacks that I didn’t have with me when I left home are a new bikini bottom, a free t-shirt from a hostel, and two new pairs of earrings.

After fourteen weeks of travel in Peru and Ecuador, my Eagle Creek Afar Backpack, a new addition to my luggage family that I use as a frontpack and carry-on, has held up beautifully and was a trusty companion along the Inca Trail. My Osprey Aether 85L Backpack, sadly, is not faring so well. It has a major tear along the zipper-line that I’ve been patching up and whispering encouragements to along the way, hoping to sweet talk it into staying together until I get home, when I can put Osprey’s lifetime warranty to the test. Considering the abuse I subject my belongings to (I’ve also ripped the zipper tags off of some of my Eagle Creek packing cubes), that warranty was a big part of why I shelled out such major bucks for a bag in the first place.

Backpacker Packing List

I updated my original post to note the changes I made, so if you’re interested in specifics check there, otherwise read on for what some of my major misfires and victories were in the packing department — and to win some goodies of your own!

What I Did Right

• Packing Cubes. I will never travel without packing cubes again. I had hear other travelers talk about how I NEEDED TO USE CUBES and I was like, yeah, thanks for your concern but my system of total chaos is working just fine! Guys. YOU NEED TO USE CUBES. They kind of work as a portable closet in my backpack, allowing me to stay organized as well as unpack and repack in seconds. Best of all? I no longer have to dynamite my bag looking for a pair of underwear. In total, I have seven cubes — two Pack-It Half Cubes which hold my socks and underwear, a Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set which hold my tops and bottoms and a Pack-It Specter Cube Set which hold my shower stuff, bikinis, and dress clothes. In the future I’ll combine socks and underwear to one cube and use the leftover one for electronic cords and chargers.

Peru Packing List

• Solid Shampoo. I don’t think I’m even exaggerating when I say that solid shampoo changed the way I travel. I will never go back! No more exploded shampoo after a long flight, no more hauling heavy liquids, no more plastic bottles I can’t find a place to recycle. I love this stuff so much I’m hoping to do a major giveaway of it sometime soon.

• Shoes. I brought five pairs of shoes and I don’t regret any of them. My running shoes were perfect for hiking, running, and hitting the gym, but I would have felt like a dork walking around big cities in them. My Keds gave me something comfortable to walk in that I didn’t feel self conscious about. My black flats and dress sandals were perfect for wearing when I wanted to feel a little fancier, especially in the evening (the flats were key for colder temperatures when sandals would have been ridiculous) and no one travels without flip flops, right? And I’m so glad I didn’t pack hiking boots!

• Lululemon Jacket. I loathe spending money on clothes and don’t put much stock in having brand-name items. I will think pretty long and hard (and look for a coupon) before buying a $30 dress from Target. Yet my mom surprised me with this Lululemon jacket as a bon voyage gift and it has been far and away the most worn and loved thing in my backpack. It’s lightweight and compact and feels as appropriate on a hiking trail as it does out to dinner.

Scottevest. This is one of the heavier and bulkier clothing items in my bag, and another one I didn’t buy for myself (I received it at TBEX) but I’d pack it all over again. For all the hiking I did in Peru and Ecuador, this was key. No stopping to take off your backpack and dig through it, just reach into one of the bazillion pockets to grab the essentials. Not to mention, it gives off a certain air of hardcore badass hiker coming through please cede the trail to me immediately, don’t you think?

Lululemon Jacket for Travelloving my Lulu and my Scottevest

• Jeans. My decision to pack jeans was met with a lot of negative comments which caused me to momentarily reconsider. Um, I don’t know how I would have made it through Peru and Ecuador without them. Perhaps other travelers are confident enough to wear hiking pants into a nightclub or to a nice dinner — and bless their vanity-free hearts — but I just cannot. Locals wear jeans, and so can you! I did however pack an incredibly super thin $10 pair from Forever 21, which were barely bigger than a pair of leggings.

• Travel pillow, eyeshade, and earplugs. I really can’t imagine having made it through some of those bus rides without committing homicide had I not had these items. The travel pillow is a bit bulky, but worth the space.

• SteriPEN. While I’m embarassed to say I didn’t use it 100% of the time, I did put my SteriPEN and refillable water bottle to good use. It saved me money, and it saved the earth from being overrun with more plastic bottles. Win-win!

Eagle Creek Packable. In the past, when I wanted to go on a daytrip or hike or whatever that required a backpack, I’d have to completely empty my carry-on which is stuffed with all my electronics and other valuables and repack those items elsewhere. Now, I just pull out my palm-sized Packable and fill ‘er up. It’s also great to take along if I think I might be hitting a market or a grocery store throughout the day.

Eagle Creek Packablethe Packable came with me everywhere

• My medicine bag. Another controversial one — why not just buy what you need at local pharmacies? But I’ve been so grateful I had the little things I’ve needed (ibuprofen, band aids, neosporin, vitamins) along the way on hand, and so have my fellow travelers.

• My zoom lens. I debated whether or not to bring my Canon 70-300mm lens, and yes, I still sometimes resent its weight in my bag and how rarely I use it. But my two trips to the Amazon would not have been the same without it. Um, hello, how else would I prove I saw a jaguar?!

What I Did Wrong

• Too many warm weather clothes. I think I was deluding myself about the temperatures in Peru and Ecuador. I had to buy some cheap and ultimately disposables in Cusco — a fleece jacket (tossed when I got to Panama City), a pair of fleece-lined leggings (tossed after the Inca Trail), and a hat (lost in the Colca Canyon). And my skimpy skirts and dresses were total deadweight until I reached Central America.

La Casona_015bundled up in things I bought along the way

• Too many socks and underwear. You would have thought I was planning on starting a sock puppet theater for how many pairs I packed. I don’t know what I was thinking. Also, I don’t know why I bothered packing a threadbare sports bra that I ended up throwing away a few weeks in and why I needed two different bandeau tops. Packing panic!

Too many pants and shorts. I sent home a pair of shorts and a pair of leggings, and eventually had to throw away the lightweight cotton pants that I wore in the jungle due to staining. That brought me down to a much more reasonable six — one pair jean shorts, one pair khaki shorts, one pair workout shorts, one pair jeans, one pair full length leggings, and one pair capri workout leggings.

• Too much jewelry. This is a problem I always have and will likely continue to repeat. I love the idea of having a few accessories but in reality I wear the same earrings constantly and rarely more.

Solar USB charger. I don’t know if it was our bad weather or what but this just didn’t really work for me. It was too heavy to carry when it wasn’t very effective so I sent it home.

Bum cell phone. In Southeast Asia I always traveled with a simple unlocked Nokia phone with a local SIM card — I wouldn’t have survived without it. I bought a slightly fancier version on eBay for Latin America. I don’t know if it was because it had more features or because it was used but the battery barely lasted a day and made the phone useless. Should have stuck with the simple black-and-white-screen Nokia — or at least tested the new one before packing it.

Electronics Packing Listcould have cut quite a bit from my electronics list

Collapsible tupperware. I still think this is a great idea in theory and I wish I had had it for all my travels in Southeast Asia (and I will take it when I return). But my travels in South America did not involve eating take out, which made this a useless — albeit small and light — packing misfire.

• Canvas bag. This was stupid to bring as anything other than a beach bag. I felt nervous without a zip-closed bag when I was on buses and other transit. I ended up using my Eagle Creek Packable (see above) most of the time instead. I really need a good travel purse.

Pacsafe. I maybe used this five times tops on this trip. I mostly stayed in hostels with safes in both dorms and private rooms, or in hotels where I felt secure leaving things out. Now that I have a tiny, lightweight laptop lock this is basically just for locking up my cameras on the rare occasion I stay in a guesthouse without a safe… and I’m not sure it is worth the extra weight.

Your Turn!

As a partner of Eagle Creek, they have sent me some great products that have made me a happier traveler. I want to share the love so I asked if they could send some goodies to one of you too. One Alex in Wanderland reader will win three of my favorite Eagle Creek products, worth a total of $79 (plus immeasurable improvements to your packing system). The prizes? An Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set worth $38, an Eagle Creek Packable Daypack worth $27.50, and an Eagle Creek Silk Undercover Bra Stash worth $13.50.

Note: This giveaway is open only residents of the USA and Canada. You guys know I do everything I can to open my giveaways to all readers, but occasionally sponsor limitations are out of my control. I promise to make it up to my non-North Americans with the next one! a Rafflecopter giveaway

What have been your biggest packing victories and misfires? Let me know in the comments!

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

I am a partner of Eagle Creek and was provided with complimentary items as part of that partnership. I was also provided with the following items in this post by the manufacturers: the waterproof iPhone case, the Scottevest, the travel pillow, the Island Company luggage tag. Please note that many links in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a small commission from anything you buy. I truly appreciate your support in keeping this site running!

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174 Comments...
  • Kathryn
    February 4 2014

    Al, thanks for the GREAT laughs provided in this post. Second sentence re jeggings and the one re your badass vest.
    You have also convinced me that I cannot live without cubes and plan to use voodoo win them in this giveaway….

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Oh, I can’t wait for you to try them! Your life will be changed.

  • becky hutner
    February 4 2014

    these guys have become one of my favorite travel products & i would love to have some more!! thanks for the packing assessment alex, you’re reminding me that i still need to do one for my last trip.

    i will always travel with jeans!! they make me feel like myself plus, even if i blatantly don’t belong somewhere, i want to at least make an effort to blend in. you really can’t do that in pants that zip into shorts & a big mesh visor. (too harsh?)
    becky hutner recently posted..Fashion ‘Round the World: What people wore in Jan ’14

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Not too harsh at all — I totally agree. I like to check out some of the trendy restaurants and bars and things when I’m in a big city and zip off pants ain’t gonna cut it. It’s always nice to have something to blend in, in.

  • Kelli Nicole
    February 4 2014

    I don’t know how I didn’t follow you on instagram yet! If I don’t win I’ll probably buy that backpack anyway. It looks amazing! Btw, when I have friends that travel I always send them to your blog. I’ve been wanting to go to Peru for a while, so when I finally make it I’m totally using your blog to plan! I have fond memories of our days in Thailand together!
    Kelli Nicole recently posted..Elizabeth

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Kelli! It’s nice to see your face round here 🙂 Definitely spring for the packable, it’s an amazing little product. And I hope you get to Peru soon… I’d love to see your photos!

  • Shaz
    February 4 2014

    Phew, I definitely made a lot of mistakes packing when I left on my first trip. I threw away so much extra clothing along the way I could have clothed a whole family.

    Totally agree about Lululemon, I have a similar jacket and a pair of their pants that came around the world with me and now I’m planning on taking them with me again! They’re pricey but last a looong time, and so worth it.

    I also splurged and bought one Eagle Creek cube and it was seriously revolutionary, I’m going to pick up a couple more for my next trip. I also had a packable daypack like yours but it broke after a few months on the road and never got replaced 🙁 but was so useful to have while it lasted!
    Shaz recently posted..15 Signs That You’re a Roamaholic

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      I am starting to come around to the idea of buying high quality items for the important stuff. I hope this jacket lasts a long time, because I am definitely madly in love with it! I’ll have to stay away from Lulu stores from now forward lest I go wild….

  • SUPER handy post! I am one of those nothing-but-a-carry-on packers, or rather, WAS, but I have decided since to upgrade to your club. So maybe you had a few too many things but honestly, getting caught out with not enough is also tough! Hard to go to a fancy dinner with just tracksuit pants and runners! HA! Live and learn.
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..When You Travel During a Malaysian Holiday

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      I’m so happy to her a light packer confess that it’s not always the best! 😉 Come over to the dark side, Michelle!

  • Megan
    February 4 2014

    Thanks for sharing what you packed and why… I’ve done that ‘packing dance’ before where you try to guess what you might need and what you can leave…

    My strategy to packing (at least the last couple years) has been to throw everything I think I might want into a pile, and then go through it at one time. That way I don’t overpack, and being a visual person, I can totally see that although I may like all those shirts (or whatever item it is), I probably only need a couple of them, not 10. It’s helped me a whole lot the last few trips.

    Also, I subscribe to your newsletter, but I think when I did the entry on here, I hit the ‘I did it’ button when I put in my email address, instead of the verify the subscription button first… Oops!

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      I do the same, Megan! For major pack jobs like this one, I actually use the guest room next to mine to pack, which gives me a separate space to totally spread out and organize, and pack over the course of a few days. It’s very helpful mentally!

  • Karen @ Coolfamilylife
    February 4 2014

    No matter what, I’m going to start cubing, if that’s a word!? I go through all my stuff to find where I rolled up something like jewelry or shoes inside my clothes. Chaos, like you said! Last trip I over packed on sundresses – I brought about six for a 4 day trip. Maybe I thought I’d wear two different ones some days??? lol

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      LOVE the word cubing! Quick, patent it 🙂 And yes, I’ve totally been guilty of packing more outfits than I have days in my trip!

  • Sara @ Restless Feet
    February 4 2014

    My next investment is definitely going to be the cubes. I’m a classic overpacker and tend to over estimate pretty much everything I’m going to need!

    Great post, as always Alex! 🙂

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Sara! Hopefully documents my missteps this time will help me with the next trip!

  • Sofie
    February 4 2014

    I loooove Eagle Creek!
    Can’t win this as I’m in Europe. Just wanted to comment:D
    Sofie recently posted..Cruising the San Diego Bay with Hornblower

  • Laura in Wonderland
    February 4 2014

    Great post! And I totally agree on the packing cubes! I used to think they’re only for weird over-organized people, which I’m not AT ALL, quite the opposite (I’m way too chaotic and messy). But then I tried them and it makes packing so much easier and faster. And if you’re looking for a T-Shirt you KNOW where to find it. I would never travel without them!
    Laura in Wonderland recently posted..How to teach English in Thailand

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      I’m the same — not exactly known for being organized (understatement of the year, say my parents somewhere!) But I like to think these cubes are starting to change all that.

  • Kayla Kiteley
    February 4 2014

    Great Post! I love when people share their packing lists because I am an over packer. packing cubes will definitely come in handy when I go on my first backpacking trip this summer!
    Kayla Kiteley recently posted..Monthly Blog Favourites

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Happy travels Kayla and enjoy your first big trip! I think you’ll love them!

  • Rey
    February 4 2014

    Love the packable day-pack!! I adore things that pack into their own little pocket to toss in a bag!

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Me too! I’m thinking of nabbing one of the totes as well to keep at home for grocery shopping.

  • Daisy Wong
    February 4 2014

    I just returned from a month long trip to Thailand and Hong Kong. I think the cubes would have come in handy.

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      I’m sure they would have! Any kind of multi stop trip that demands a lot of packing and unpacking calls for them.

  • Natalie
    February 4 2014

    I loved reading about your time on board the Aria about all of the wildlife! I spent 6 months in studying wildlife in Kenya and only saw one leopard and the photos you got are so amazing- thanks for sharing!

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Natalie! Yup, those photos made hauling that darn lens worth the trouble 🙂

  • Becky Lunde
    February 4 2014

    I love your packing posts, but this one was particularly full of helpful tips – thank you! You just sold me on “cubing”, which I think will be especially handy now that I’m a mommy.

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Thanks Becky! Now that I see how much people enjoy the packing post I will try to do them more often. They are a lot of work but worth it, it seems!

  • Rekha Devarapalli
    February 4 2014

    Hey Alex,

    Interesting post on travel essentials. Thanks for sharing!

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      You’re very welcome! Best of luck in the giveaway!

  • Jessica
    February 4 2014

    Traveling to Thailand in May and planning to only take a carry-on and 1 personal bag so these cubes would be very helpful!!

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      Good luck, Jessica! I admire your light packing prowess!

  • Brianne
    February 4 2014

    This is a really helpful post- I definitely need to invest in some packing cubes. Everyone seems to love them!

    • Alex
      February 4 2014

      They are definitely unanimously loved by the travelers and bloggers I’ve met who use them!

  • Lauren Dakai
    February 4 2014

    Woah. I always re-evaluate my packing abilities after reading one of these, you always fit so much! These cubes are a a great idea.

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Hey Lauren! I don’t know if fitting so much is a good thing or a bad thing, considering my current bag tear. Ha!

  • Ayngelina
    February 4 2014

    I am a big fan of packing cubes too, people asked if they could use ziploc bags – not the same thing!
    Ayngelina recently posted..The Most Memorable Food Trip

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Totally not. I actually used a ziplock bag for my electronic cords on this trip (last minute packing stupidity) and it broke within like, three hours.

  • Abby
    February 4 2014

    You always look so cute in all of your travel photos — you were generous to give away your secrets!
    Abby recently posted..Seattle day trip: gorgeous Bainbridge Island

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      You are too sweet! I think I look like a bum 90% of the time!

  • allison
    February 4 2014

    Would love to pack w some eagle creek cubes!

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Good luck, Allison! They are amazing.

  • Shey
    February 4 2014

    It’ll be a while before i go on my international trip, but these would be nice to have in the mean time!

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      I probably won’t fully pack with them for shorter domestic trips, but I will still definitely have a few onhand to separate out certain items like socks, underwear, and shower stuff!

  • Lindsey
    February 4 2014

    Hi Alex! I discovered your blog a little bit ago and have poured through the archives in the past few weeks. Love this update and your wonderful blog!

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Thank you so much Lindsey! I really love hearing that! You are too sweet 🙂

  • Kristina
    February 4 2014

    I’m totally with you on the jeans! I did a 6-month round-the-world trip, where I packed in a carry-on size backpack. I had to include some pretty warm clothes and hiking boots, and yet I still made room for a pair of jeans. Yes, they’re cotton. No, they don’t dry quickly. But they made me feel like a normal person instead of a backpacker. I would take them again in a heart bat.

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Okay, I’m just stuck on the fact that you traveled for SIX MONTHS with a carry on! I can’t even go to Vegas with a carry on!

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    February 4 2014

    I could not agree more about the packing cubes. They make travel about five thousand times easier- repacking is no longer the bane of my life!
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..My Top Eats in Singapore

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      When you’re on the move so much, you just must cube. It’s my new life philosophy 🙂

  • Danielle Haynes
    February 4 2014

    Ohhhhh how I’m in the same boat… I got 99 problems and over packing is definitely one of the MANY of them. Thank you for sharing your tricks and tips! I really enjoyed following your journey’s through Peru; I was traveling around in Peru during the same time as you 🙂 Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
    Danielle Haynes recently posted..Picking Up The Pieces…

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Oh, that’s fun! Too bad we didn’t cross paths 🙂

  • Susan H.
    February 4 2014

    I always use packing cubes when I travel and I am not a backpacker by any stretch of the imagination! They just make it much easier to organize your items and when you unpack (either in a hotel or on a cruise ship as I have done) you can just put the whole cube in a drawer and it’s so much neater.

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      I am always terrified of unpacking things into drawers in hotels… I think I’m traumatized by the time I left my favorite hoodie in one!

      • Susan H.
        February 6 2014

        My friend left all her sweaters behind last year in a dresser drawer in the condo she stayed in. Not that a cube would have helped in this case, as she completely forgot to even open that drawer when she packed to go home!

  • Michele P
    February 4 2014

    I found your post very helpful-I usually go to Guatemala each summer and never know exactly what to pack. It’s been a couple years since I’ve gone so this is definitely a refresher course. Plus, I got some smiles from your post as well. Looks like you had a wonderful time, I will be heading to Antigua, Guatemala City, and of course the black sand beaches, hubby’s hometown in the highlands, and eventually visiting friends living at the base of Volcan de Agua. (who knows, maybe a trip UP the volcano to one of the villages higher up might be on the list?) And I am definitely trying cubes, they look super easy to pack with.

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      I am dying to go to Guatemala! It’s a place that is very, very high on my list!

  • Bridget @ A Traveling B
    February 4 2014

    How have I never heard of packing cubes?! They seem amazing and would absolutely solve space issue when I pack. I will be buying an Eagle Packable Daypack before I head to Iceland this summer. It looks like the perfect bag to take on hikes!
    Bridget @ A Traveling B recently posted..Skiing in Sugarbush

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Oh wow, yes it is, and more importantly you are going to love Iceland! It was one of my favorite trips ever. What a special place.

  • Colleen Brynn
    February 4 2014

    I could totally use that cube set.
    Thanks for sharing both sides of the packing story – particularly sharing the oops moments. We all have them, and I’m always curious about the kind everyone else experiences!
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..Lend Me Your Ears

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Me too! Reading the packing lists of perfect packers makes me sad. Everyone must make some mistakes!

  • Jenna
    February 5 2014

    Despite all my travels and packing experience, I have never used packing cubes! Would love to finally try them, of course.
    Jenna recently posted..An Outdoorsy Winter Vacation (with Kids)

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Once you do you’ll be a convert too! I’m sure of it!

  • Krista
    February 5 2014

    I want packing cubes so badly! I doubt they sell them here in Thailand. I always do go through that insanity of trying to find underwear all the way at the bottom of my bag and end up with a mess of everything!
    Krista recently posted..Inked Abroad: Getting A Sak Yant Tattoo from a Monk

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      You never know! If you’re in Bangkok I would try the malls in Siam. They have some great brand name stuff!

  • Laura
    February 5 2014

    I just got packing cubes and am trying them on the business trip I’m currently on. So far I really like them! Thanks for the very detailed post!
    Laura recently posted..Frozen Pittsburgh

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      You’re so welcome Laura! Glad you are liking the system!

  • Christine
    February 5 2014

    those cubes look so cool I would love to try them out!

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Good luck Christine! Thanks for entering!

  • Christina
    February 5 2014

    I definitely understand the packing panic.:) I have a little “medicine cabinet bag” I bring along. Not that I can’t buy basic stuff on the road, I’d just rather not waste time trying to find it in stores.

    Ten years later I am still using my Eagle Creek travel purse when I am traveling internationally. Great size and super durable!
    Christina recently posted..Artsmart Roundtable – Pablo Picasso: Creative Chameleon

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      I will have to check out their travel purses! That’s amazing to know it lasted so long!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    February 5 2014

    Very interesting to read your thoughts on solid shampoo. Tony & I tried out a bar before we left on our trip because we had read so many rave reviews and we didn’t like it very much at all. Moreover, the bar we purchased only lasted about 2 weeks, which obviously wasn’t very useful. Maybe it was the brand that we chose, but it didn’t work for us.

    But how great are packing cubes & Eagle Creek bags? I have no idea how I could have survived if we didn’t have the cubes (they make me feel so much more organized and they really make packing so much easier) and I’m so glad my parents gave me an Eagle Creek pack as a graduation present. It was really expensive, but I seriously could not ask for a better bag—fits like a dream, is really clever with its features, and has proven itself remarkably durable.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..A Traveler’s Prerogative

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      What brand of solid shampoo did you try, Steph? I’m using the lavender Lush bar and am obsessed. Sadly I tried their conditioner bar this week (found a Lush outlet in Panama City!) and as much as I wanted to love it, I just can’t. Sigh.

      • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
        February 6 2014

        I honestly can’t remember the brand that we used, though I think we purchased it through Amazon and I don’t think it was Lush. I suspect it may have been a situation where we were dubious about whether solid shampoo would work for us and the Lush bar seemed expensive so we cheaped out and wound up shooting ourselves in the foot by purchasing a bad product…
        Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..The Buildings of Kuala Lumpur for the Architecturally Ignorant

        • Alex
          February 6 2014

          Ha, I’ve definitely been down that road before! I am grateful I went into a Lush store “just to look” and the employees were so darn sweet and good at their jobs I walked out with what I had just wanted to look at 🙂 I encourage you to give it another try! And by the way, mine lasted for 2+ months and I have LONG hair so I really do believe I break even in the long run.

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    February 5 2014

    The packable backpack is genius.. I do what you used to- empty out my carry on, re-pack it in my big backpack, so that I can use the carry on as a day bag 🙁 What’s crazy is that I can pack pretty well by now for a 3-6 month trip… but ask me to go away for a 3 day weekend and I’m like still packing for a 3 months trip lol
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Barcelona: tapas, sangria, and life lessons

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      It used to be such an annoying hassle I faced all the time… the packable has made a huge difference! You need one girl!

  • Naomi
    February 5 2014

    Don’t understand why people advise you not to bring jeans to South America, everyone wears them there and whilst I’m blonde as anything and stick out like a sore thumb, I would much rather wear them out and about to try and blend in (ha) rather than hiking trousers.
    Naomi recently posted..Lima, why so grey?

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Totally agree! While I still probably won’t be bringing them to Southeast Asia, I’d never come to Latin America without them!

  • Giselle and Cody
    February 5 2014

    Ha we’ve had the overpacking problem as well! Especially me (Giselle)
    We also got tired of carrying our back packs on our back so when we went home for Christmas, we traded them in for suitcases for this leg of our journey. We have gotten so used to the heat in south east Asia that jeans are no problem for us to wear. We’re glad we brought them as Turkey is supposed to be pretty chilly in March! Those packing cubes look interesting. I am a very organized person, so I would probably love them. I will look into them.

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      When I take shorter trips I think a suitcase is such a luxury! Not sure if I would want to have one in Southeast Asia but I may change my mind eventually.

  • Jimmy Dau
    February 5 2014

    I’ve always thought about packing cubes. At the moment I’m just rolling my clothes up into balls and jamming them into the remaining gaps after I pack my shoes, compression bag with heavier clothes, electronics bag and toiletries bag.

    I don’t care what people say about jeans. I always want to feel great when I’m going out at night and jeans are multipurpose for me. A good pair of shoes are great too because you don’t want to be “that guys” who always wears sneakers with a nice shirt and jeans.
    Jimmy Dau recently posted..The colours of Valparaiso: Photo Essay

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Shoes are one packing area where I think women have it easier. I can pack a tiny little pair of dressy flat sandals and be ready for a nice night out, whereas guys do need something much bulkier!

  • Corinne
    February 5 2014

    Great article. I think I’m a good packer, but I always gripe to Jim if I’ve brought something I didn’t use. I hate that! I’ve also never tried packing cubes…hmmm.
    Corinne recently posted..Winter in Vietnam

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      I am very frugal (some may say cheap, ahem) and so it KILLS me to buy something when I know I have a perfectly good one at home! I definitely feel you there!

  • Gina
    February 5 2014

    I’ve actually never seen the cubes for packing but they look GREAT!! I hope I win them, but even if I don’t I’m definitely going to look into it! Thanks Alex!

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      You’re so welcome Gina! Good luck!

  • Amanda @ Farsickness
    February 5 2014

    I’ve recently decided that overpacking is not necessarily a bad thing and doesn’t make me a “bad traveler”. I like options and I like looking nice. Even on the road!

    Packing cubes are the greatest! My travel parter was uber jealous of mine like 2 days into our trip. Life changing.
    Amanda @ Farsickness recently posted..Hampton Court Palace: A Royal Photoessay

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Glad I’m not the only one who feels that way 🙂

  • Rachael C
    February 5 2014

    This post was the most helpful post for packing I have ever read. Not only the packing list, but your post-packing list and what you would have done differently!
    Your traveling gear recommendations are really appreciated and I truly take your word on what to buy. You are the reason I now own a Canon S100 and the underwater housing! (Which my lovely friends surprised me with as a birthday present, and they didn’t know to use your referral link. Sorry!)
    But the point is, I really trust and take your advice on this stuff. I was just reading your packing post the other day and was led to the Eagle Creek site and LOVE their products, they look awesome. And I could use some cubes for my upcoming SE Asia trip too!
    Thanks so much Alex and Eagle Creek.

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      Thanks Rachael, that is a great compliment! I’m glad you are loving your s100 and that this post was helpful! Happy travels 🙂

  • Rachel Cartucci
    February 5 2014

    Your adventures make me feel blue. I’m am stuck at my house this winter and have hardly had a moment outside my town. I’m jealous….sigh.

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      I’m sorry to hear that, Rachel! I don’t want to make anyone feel blue! I lived through many rough winters in New York and I know how depressing they can be. When I’m at home now I always find it helps the wanderlust a bit to play tourist in my hometown…. try a new restaurant, check out a nearby street fair, whatever! Good luck shaking the blues x

  • Julianna
    February 5 2014

    Such a helpful post! I fell in love with the packing cubes on my last trip and definitely plan on getting more before my 14 month Central and South America trip coming up. I’ve always hated a money belt and refused to wear one- maybe this bra stash is worth a try 🙂 Thanks!

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      I’ve never done the money belt thing either. It just SOUNDS bulky and annoying!

  • Anders
    February 5 2014

    Such a fail to be danish…

    • Alex
      February 5 2014

      All giveaways are officially closed to Denmark residents 🙂

  • Katie
    February 5 2014

    Love your blog!! and I could really use the the packing gear for our trip to Indonesia in April!! We will be visiting the Gili Islands, so I have been looking through all your posts 🙂

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Oh, I’m so happy to hear that Katie! You are going to love it 🙂

  • Valerie
    February 5 2014

    I love eagle creek! They make such great quality products!

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      I’ve been writing for them for a while and was very excited to partner with them. What a great brand!

  • Natalie C
    February 5 2014

    Great article, very helpful for thoughts of longer term travel especially since South America is on my list

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Thanks Natalie! I’m so happy to hear that. Let me know if you need any help!

  • Alexandra
    February 5 2014

    I adore cubes! They are the best investment I made (aside from my backpack) when it comes to luggage. I use them in my suitcase/duffel bag as well (for weekend trips) 🙂

    I’ve not heard of the collapsible daypack and definitely want to add that to my list.

    I enjoyed reading about what worked and what didn’t for your trip. Thanks for updating us!! (and for the giveaway!)

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      They are pricey but definitely an investment! An an update was a must. A packing list is nice to read, but if the author hates everything they brought halfway through it isn’t very helpful 🙂

  • David
    February 5 2014

    This has been a great post for me. As a travel planner/adviser, am tasked by clients to recommend to them items they may need to carry for their holiday trips. Your post has enlightened me more.. I could also recommend to them this particular post which I have found so important. Thanks Alex

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Thanks David, that’s a huge compliment! I hope some of these suggestions have been helpful!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    February 5 2014

    I really like the look of that packable backpack. I have the same problem as you in that I use my daypack to store my electronics, so I have to unpack and repack it all the time.

    Oh and I would definitely recommend taking Jeans to South America too. I wear mine all the time. a) because I wear jeans all the time at home too, so why shouldn’t I wear them on travels; b) you blend in more; c) trekking trousers are for trekking, not dancing; and d) you can have them washed and dried in a laundrette within a few hours for a few cents only if you are worried about getting them dry.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Making little friends on the Uros Islands, lake Titicaca

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      I never understood the drying argument, but maybe that’s because I always send my clothes to the laundry rather than wash them myself 🙂

  • Camels & Chocolate
    February 5 2014

    Some things:

    1) I am also a “cheaper workout clothes” kind of girl–i.e. Champion from Target or $20 Gap Fit Tees–but I’m back on a personal training regimen and promised myself if I can hit certain goals, each milestone entitles me to a Lulu reward. Honestly, I’m all for paying a premium on certain pieces if they make that much more difference in comfort and longevity.

    2) The OCD freak in me–seriously, ask SVV; he HATES my OCD side–loves how neat and orderly your packing post images always are.

    3) The only thing I collect on my travels (other than photos) is jewelry because you can add earrings, necklaces, etc. to a heavy pack without adding weight.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Photo Friday: Big Pine Key, Florida

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Jewelry is an awesome collectable! I scored an amazing pair of earrings here made from snake bones (the indigenous tribes kill the meaty ones for food and the poisonous ones for obvious reasons.)

  • Sasha (OneHundredRoads)
    February 5 2014

    Great article! The list of pack misfires is spot on. I always have a pack fail of too many t-shirts or shorts based on over estimation of good weather. I hope I win the Eagle Creek goods. I really need a pack makeover!
    Sasha (OneHundredRoads) recently posted..What is the best Caribbean island to visit?

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      I ALWAYS pack too many shirts. It’s like an addiction. But they are small so it doesn’t end up offending me too much 🙂

  • Emily
    February 5 2014

    We started in Mexico but will be doing Machu Picchu and so brought an army load of winter gear which was ridiculous…we dropped a bunch once we realized it would be extra weight for the month+ in Mexico!
    Emily recently posted..Guadalajara’s Charm

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      I’m really happy I read ahead of time how cheap and easy it was to buy winter gear in Cusco. My “Northface” fleece, leggings and hat were about $40 in total. I only wish I hadn’t lost the hat after… would have been a nice souvenir!

  • jessie
    February 5 2014

    Thanks for the update Alex, this made me laugh as I can relate all too easily.. haha. I leave tomorrow and am literally going through right now deciding what is a delusional must-have and what I really should take. The jewellery thing always kills me.. gah. But I’m still going to take the Tupperware! 🙂 Peace and love! Those cubes look amazingly beneficial!
    jessie recently posted..A Checklist for Wandering Earthlings

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Definitely take the Tupperware! It’s small and light and if it saves the world from one styrofoam container, it’s a win!

  • Kendell
    February 6 2014

    While doing research for my up coming Thailand trip I came upon your Blog and fell in love! Thank you for all your tips, insight, and wonderful photography. Your life looks like a blast! Get it Girl!!

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Thanks Kendell! Welcome to Wanderland 🙂 Hope to see you more around these parts!

  • Alouise
    February 6 2014

    I love reading packing lists like this, because it lets me know I’m not the only person who overpacks and brings something totally unnecessary. I like to think that I’m getting better at packing, but last year I brought along a box of 40 different types of tea because I was worried the hostels/hotels I would be staying at would only have orange pekoe (the only kind of tea I hate). Did I use any of the tea I brought with me? No, and I didn’t have to subject myself to the horrors of drinking orange pekoe either.
    Alouise recently posted..The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Ha, I actually was traveling with tea for a while there! I bought it to send home for Christmas but it didn’t fit in the box, so I had my own personal tea for a awhile there 🙂 I’m pretty picky and really only like mint, so it was actually nice for me to have along!

  • Chelsea
    February 6 2014

    I have just been using zip locks to divide up my clothes but they break so easily and aren’t quite big enough to fit all of my pants in one sack. If you don’t mind my asking why didn’t you choose something like a compression bag rather than packing cubes?

    • Alex
      February 6 2014

      Hey Chelsea! I actually have a mix… two cubes, three sacks, and three compression sacks. For the purpose of this post I kind of referred to them all as cubes. The compression ones aren’t much different, but they do help save space and can kind of change sizes whether the compression zipper is open or closed. I hope that answered your question!

  • Louise
    February 6 2014

    Hi Alex,

    So happy to have discovered your blog and found a fellow traveller. South America and Central America will be my next trip so it really helped reading about your packing ideas.

    Can’t wait to read more 🙂

    • Alex
      February 7 2014

      Hey Louise, welcome! I’m glad you found me! Let me know if you need any help with your upcoming trip 🙂

  • Tara
    February 7 2014

    Yay for finally getting a blog FB page! Peru is already in the docket for next summer!

    • Alex
      February 7 2014

      Thanks Tara! It was definitely a very long time coming. And congrats on Peru! I hope you love it like I did!

  • va
    February 8 2014

    I like the photos of how you organized the items in a row . looks like you had fun there . I love traveling too but seldom go .

    • Alex
      February 8 2014

      Thanks Va! It helped me organize myself to take those photos when I first left home 🙂 Happy travels!

  • Katarina
    February 8 2014

    I’m headed to Indonesia in March and your blog was so helpful with the planning! I’m definitely taking packing cubes!

    • Alex
      February 10 2014

      Oh wow, Katarina… you are going to love it! What a fantastic place Indonesia is 🙂 Enjoy your trip… and the packing cubes!

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam
    February 9 2014

    I’ve started carrying a Belkin charger/surge protector that has two USB ports and three outlets — been a lifesaver!
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..This is Not a Hotel Review: @Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

    • Alex
      February 10 2014

      I used to carry something similar (the 10 cent Thailand-bought version!) around Southeast Asia. It was a lifesaver!

  • SnarkyNomad
    February 9 2014

    The thing with jeans is that the travel industry is too darn stupid to make a pair of jeans out of quick-drying fabric. We’re all arguing with each other over whether jeans are useful or not, when really we should be arguing with how dumb people are for not making jeans that are half the size and weight, and dry overnight (though I’ve seen a few, but they’re horrifically rare).
    SnarkyNomad recently posted..The one problem no Lifestraw review ever mentions

    • Alex
      February 10 2014

      I think my cheapo Forever 21 pair comes pretty close! I think the key is to look super cheap… synthetic, lightweight and cheap material is perfect for travel in this case!

  • Jasmine
    February 10 2014

    I over pack. Always. Especially when it comes to hair and beauty products. I always bring all of my makeup, when I usually don’t wear it at home. lol. I’m going to make a resolution to only bring one eyeshadow palette, and call it a day. Thanks for the awesome tips, and packing honesty. Haha.

    • Alex
      February 10 2014

      Eyeshadow is way above my skill level (I seriously never wear it unless another person applies it for me!) but I do love my other beauty products! Always happy to share 🙂

  • Caty
    February 10 2014

    Great tip about the packing cubes,thank you. The Eagle creek ones were even available in Germany. =) Just orded three for my trip to Australia.

    • Alex
      February 10 2014

      So glad you were able to find some, Caty! Great news!

  • Amy
    February 11 2014

    I love your Scottevest – it looks pretty lightweight and easy to squash in your bag too. I have to admit I tried solid shampoo and didn’t get on with it very well, I never seemed to have time to dry it out properly and it always got mushy and didn’t last long at all. I find packing cubes and compression sacks a must though to keep everything organised.
    Amy recently posted..The Fussy Eater Guide to Travel

    • Alex
      February 11 2014

      With the solid shampoo, I started out with the Lush Lavender bar and never had any problems with the mushiness. Now I’ve tried a new “flavor” and I can’t remember which one it is but it’s green… and it gets so mushy! So I think it isn’t just the brand but the “flavor” too. Mine did last for almost two months though and I have a lot of hair! I’d suggest trying out the lavender Lush bar!

  • Josh
    February 11 2014

    Great article ! I have never had a packing plan when I travel which means I always OVER pack or end up w/o things. I’ve modified suitcases into back packs and had three sets of shoe laces for no reason!

    I think quality items for important things is the way to go! Flip flops and sunglasses can be bought anywhere, but a nice light hiking shell?

    It’s great to go through your write up because I am going to pack more intentionally in the future.

    Thanks for the tips !

    • Alex
      February 12 2014

      You are so welcome, Josh! Writing this post really helped ME too, so I plan to do packing posts before all my major trips from here forward 🙂

  • Paula
    February 15 2014

    Thanks for the insight. I always wonder what I need to travel with. For Africa it was pretty basic to the areas I was going, so I left the jeans but I get what you mean by that.

    For hiking trips, do you also have a camelpak (sp) with the water. I thought I saw it in a post somewhere (but could have been in another one). If you have one, with your other packs, how do you story it? or did you send that back home?

    • Alex
      February 16 2014

      Yup, in the link to my full packing post you will see that I brought a Camelback! I still have it with me, rolled up in the top of my backpack, but honestly I haven’t used it much other than the Inca Trail (totally worth carrying it just for that though!)

  • Chris
    February 20 2014

    I can’t believe Jeans would be questioned!

    Sarah & I usually leave the country in ours, even if that proves to be the only time they are worn (on a flight).

    Still, with so many locations at altitude, I can see ours getting a workout in South America as well 🙂
    Chris recently posted..A Dili-ghtful farewell

    • Alex
      February 21 2014

      I tend to be a leggings on the flight kind of girl, myself. All the better to curl up and nap in!

  • Chris
    February 22 2014

    Hey Alex, just thought I’d follow up on your endorsement of ‘solid shampoo’

    Sarah & I have had issues with leaking (thankfully no exploding) shampoo after the pressure of a flight, so have been investigating the idea of traveling with a solid alternative.

    One issue that seems common (in the research we’ve done) is that the bars dry slowly and therefore are often packed away still a slimy, gooey mess.

    Is this an issue you encountered, how big was it if so, and was it overcome?

    Thanks a bunch in advance 🙂
    Chris recently posted..Ubud: Make up your own mind

    • Alex
      February 24 2014

      I had the same issue with leaking and am so happy never to face it again! With the Lush bars, I have tried the Jumping Juniper (purple) and the Squeaky Green (green, duh!). While both do require a bit of drying — I usually dab them with my towel before putting them back in the tin or let them sit out if possible — the Squeaky Green is significantly mushier and I won’t be buying it again. But I love the Jumping Juniper! I think some experimentation is needed before you settled on something, perhaps 🙂

  • Escape Hunter
    April 26 2014

    Quite a sophisticated presentation.
    Hmm… I’m still over-packing most of the time, I just can’t leave my gadgets home!

    • Alex
      April 27 2014

      My gadgets are how I make a living, so I feel a bit less guilty over those! My hair products, on the other hand…

  • Amanda
    May 16 2014

    Great tips! I’m heading to Ecuador this summer. I’m looking for a good tennis shoe that does double duty for hiking and working out on the road. This is hard then I thought it would be. What brand/shoe did you go with?

    • Alex
      May 19 2014

      Hey Amanda! Someone else just asked me this question, so luckily the answer is fresh in my mind! I hiked in a pair of Mizuno “Wave Inspire 8″ and I bought them at one of those running stores where they analyze you running and then they bring out of a pair of shoes that is suited to you and you buy it and don’t have much choice in the matter. I think they were around $100, and they have made all the difference for me in terms of comfort when running/hiking. I also brought a pair of knock-off Keds for sightseeing.

  • Kimberly
    August 25 2014

    I am SO happy I found your blog! My husband and I are taking our first trip together to Ecuador and Peru this October and with all the different climates and having never been, I was seriously stressing on what to pack. Now I’m just going to replicate your list! THANK YOU. I’ve heard so many different things, it rains here its warm here…what were your experiences weather wise when you were there?

    • Alex
      August 27 2014

      Thanks Kimberly, so glad this was helpful! I was in Peru from early October to late December and then Ecuador through mid January and experienced as wide a range of climates and temperatures as you’d expect from such a geographically diverse region. The deserts and beaches of Peru were hot enough to warrant shorts and tanks, the highlands were cool enough to warrant hats and gloves, and the jungle was humid so humid I constantly felt like I’d stepped out of the shower 🙂 Prepare for it all, but know you can easily pick up cheap and ditchable cold weather gear in Cusco. Hope that helps!

  • Angela
    November 6 2014

    The link to the Lulu jacket doesn’t work for me. Can you name the specific jacket name/style that you like?

    • Alex
      November 7 2014

      Hey Angela! Hm, it looks like that one must no longer be available. They are always coming out with similar styles though… I’d browse through the jacket styles they currently have for sale, I’m sure there’s something like it 🙂 Best of luck!

  • Emil
    December 8 2014

    Hey! LOVE the blog. What size is your vest? I’m ordering one and I don’t know how big they run. Any advice helps!

    • Alex
      December 10 2014

      Hey Emil! I’m actually not sure if I have a XS or S… I’ll be up in Albany where the vest is next week. If you remind me, I’ll check in and let you know!

  • Shea
    January 4 2015

    Did you rent a sleeping bag and possibly foam pad and walking sticks in cusco for the Inca Trail? I am planning the four day trek this summer but dont imagine myself using these items the other weeks I am traveling. I am assuming they would take up significant room even when using an 85L pack?

    • Alex
      January 5 2015

      Hey Shea! I did rent all those things in Cusco. You can find all kinds of information about the logistics of the Inca Trail in this post. Hope that helps!

  • Alexa
    March 9 2015

    Just received the packing cubes in the mail today and I am IN LOVE with them. I can’t wait to use them for my trip to Peru (this May!!)

    Just wondering are there any apps you use to edit your photos?

    • Alex
      March 10 2015

      Hey Alexa — check my Obsessions page. I list all the photography products I use, including post-processing ones!

  • julie
    April 2 2015

    that winter hat!! I think I need one in my life lol

    • Alex
      April 6 2015

      I left that hat at the bottom of the Colca Canyon… can’t tell you how devastated I was! Maybe a return trip to Peru to find another one is in order!

  • Linda S.
    April 21 2015

    Have been planning to get the Specter compression packing cubes. Have used the older double-sided Eagle Creek packing cube and been very pleased with it.

    Am looking for good casual walking shoes; just ordered a pair of Ahnu Karma online, will see how they work out. The first time I went to Italy I bought a pair of Asics Gel Kayano, in a dark color (didn’t want anything resembling American sneakers) but didn’t wear them much. Wore Easy Spirits around more.

    I took a hooded Goretex raincoat and left an umbrella behind.

    • Alex
      April 23 2015

      I’ve only packed an umbrella once in my travels, ever… for a trip to infamously rainy London. Of course it was clear skies all week 🙂

  • Renee
    January 19 2017

    Hi Alex,

    I’m planning a trip to Peru in October and have been reading up on each location on my list. I’m not concerned about our 4 day trek, I think I can handle that and I’m not concerned about my packing….I’ve become the ninja of packing light. I have been reading little bits and pieces about the crime in Peru. Did you ever experience anything? Muggings? Petty theft? I can only assume it’s like any other country I’ve been to, just stay aware of your surroundings and you’ll be fine. But, thought I’d ask since you can give me some tips.
    Thanks for the help!

    • Alex
      January 31 2017

      Hey Renee! I personally experienced no crime in Peru. I was a little more leery in Ecuador based on the number of personal accounts of theft I’d heard, but remained extremely vigilant and didn’t have any issues. Sounds like you have your head on straight and will be just fine! 🙂

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