Packing Tips for Adventure Travel

Awhile back, I read a reader comment that asked me if I had any advice for packing for adventure travel trips. I mulled it over in my brain and realized I have dialed a system in over the years and it is very different from how I’ll pack for a quick weekend trip.

You see, packing for adventure travel usually requires two sets of gear: your “normal” travel gear and your outdoor gear to be used for hiking and adventuring. Of course, all of this needs to be pared down into a manageable load since you’re likely going to be carting it all over the place, and no one wants their luggage to make them miserable!

Here are my packing tips that I’ve picked up along the way; what would you add to my list?

Packing Tips for Adventure Travel

packing tips

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Bring Less “Normal” Clothes Than You Think

This single tip is my downfall on every.single.trip! When we head out for longer adventure trips {like our month in New Zealand, for example} I always get it into my head that I’ll need at least three or four outfits for everyday stuff like dinners. But then we get to traveling, I remember how much time we spend in the backcountry or adventuring through the mountains, and those pretty-yet-useless outfits get crammed into the back of my duffel.

Happens without fail!

These days, I narrow my non-adventure apparel down to two outfits: one pair of pants and two different tops or a sundress {weather dependent.} This gives me options if we end up at a nicer dinner that has a dress code, but doesn’t take up too much space in my luggage. I’ll try to pack outfits that work with nice sandals so that I don’t have to bring along any fancy shoes. Then, I wear those sandals on the plane so that they don’t take up any space in my luggage but I don’t feel guilty about bringing them along.

Rolling Duffels Are Your New Best Friend

packing tips

PC: Will Rochfort

When we travel for quick trips, I almost always bring a carry-on suitcase so I don’t have to check anything. And if I’m going anywhere for up to a week, I can usually make that size of suitcase work. {I’ll be traveling for 9 days soon and I plan on using my carry-on.}

But when we pack for adventure travel, there is a lot more necessary gear, especially if we are going on assignment. This means our photography and video gear needs to come along, in addition to all of the personal items. When you are shooting images for a brand, you really need to think about the apparel you bring since certain colors look better than others. All of this adds up to more, more, MORE!

When this happens, I lose the carry-on suitcase and turn to my trust duffel. Back in the day, I had one or two regular duffels and thought they would work just fine. Luggage is just luggage, right?

Turns out, that was a lie I told myself to avoid purchasing new gear! Will owned an oversized, wheeled Marmot duffel when we first started dating and I quick realized I needed one too. This came to a breaking point during our New Zealand trip after we landed in Christchurch. Our flight got in around 9 pm and we managed to catch the local bus to drive us to our nearby hotel. {We didn’t want to rent a car since we were picking up our campervan in the morning.}

Truth be told, we weren’t entirely sure where our hotel was but we knew it was off the main route. The very gracious driver dropped us as close as he possibly could without ruining his shift, and we opted to walk from there. Turns out, it was about a 25 minute walk which would have been a great way to check out the local scene in Christchurch….if I had a wheeled duffel!

packing tips

Instead, I had packed a regular oversized duffel that easily weighed 50 pounds. I insisted on carrying it myself until Will essentially ripped it from my hands. Finally, we each grabbed a handle and carried it between us while Will easily dragged his rolling duffel behind him.

When we got back, we immediately purchased a second wheeled duffel like this one and never looked back! Plus, I swear you can pack more inside of a duffel than a suitcase!

Packing Cubes and Stuff Sacks

Ok, ok– it took me awhile to catch onto this one too. But again, after watching Will arrive on location and easily pull out everything he needed within minutes while I rummaged around for 15 minutes, digging through my luggage in search of that *one* particularly shirt, I saw the error in my ways.

Both of use a series of packing cubes and stuff sacks to help keep our duffels organized. Personally, I prefer packing cubes like these ones or these ones to organize my everyday clothing. Will has a couple of packing folders that he regularly uses for his shirts for business and adventure travel. I don’t know how he manages it, but his shirts always stay wrinkle-free when he folds them inside of these folders!

In addition to packing cubes, I’ve come to rely on stuff sacks. I’ll put all of my socks, underwear, and bras in one sack while folding up my base layers into another. Typically, I’ll use the same sacks for longer trips so I’ll start to remember that the red bag is my base tights while the green bag has all of my socks. Not only does this help keep me organized, but I don’t lose anything either.

Finally, I’ll pack an extra, empty stuff sack, too. I use this for dirty laundry so that a mud-covered pair of pants doesn’t end up all over my single sundress.

packing tips

Dial In Your Hiking Pants

Hiking pants take up a lot of space in your bag so it’s not an item that is easy to pack extras. That said, it is a garment that gets filthy, especially if you are hiking in the mountains. Dust, mud, plants, and water tend to scrape at the bottom of your pant leg, leaving them grimy and gross.

I always bring two pairs of pants on longer adventure trips: my Mountain Hardwear Dynama pants {with skinny ankles} and my Fjallraven Abisko Lite trekking trousers. {Both are mentioned in my Must-Have Gear section.} These two pants are all I need for a month-long adventure trip.

The Dynama pants are stretchy and moveable, and also very thin. If we are hiking in warmer weather, they are my go-to option {since I usually only hike in shorts if we’re in the tropics….and even though, I like to protect my legs.} Plus, since they have a skinny leg, I can wear them with boots, shoes, or sandals; I’ve even passed them off as everyday pants before. {Slap a tunic over the top and you’re good!} They also dry quickly which means a quick rinse in a sink isn’t a problem.

packing tips

The Abisko trekking trousers take up way more space but they are my best option when I need durability. I wear these pants if we’re above treeline or trekking through shrubs and bramble that will tear up my pants. Fjallraven offers a waxing solution to waterproof their garments, too. Once that is applied to the pants, they suggest washing them as minimally as possible. Instead, you can just wipe off the soiled area to spot treat it. I’ve worn these pants for {quite literally} weeks at a time, and they never stretch out or become uncomfortable. If I really trash them, I simply wipe ’em down with a rag and call them good. Easy!

Leave the Beauty Items at Home

I receive this question a lot: which toiletries do you bring on your adventure trips? Do you pack makeup? Hairspray?

Truthfully, I’m pretty minimalistic on my beauty regime, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a system. However, I certainly don’t lug it all across the country and I’ve come to love not being tied down to that routine.

In no particular order, here is what I *do* bring on our adventure trips:

  • Shampoo/Conditioner {in the trial-sized bottles}
  • Face Wipes {I leave my cleanser at home since the bottles tend to break or pop open during weeks of travel anyway. Plus, the cleansing wipes are much easier to use in the backcountry.}
  • A razor
  • Deodorant
  • Dry Shampoo {Amazon carries Batiste in a trial bottle, which usually works for me}
  • Tinted Chapstick
  • A bare-bones makeup kit: face powder {Bare Minerals}, mascara, and maybe eyeliner if I know we have big events planned. Otherwise, the rest of the stuff stays at home
  • Tweezers {because they inevitably end up saving us on the trail with a thorn or something}
  • Face moisturizer with SPF {so it can double as extra sunscreen while we are out there}
  • A hairbrush
  • Ponytail elastics

Everything else stays back at home. I almost always wear face powder, even while hiking. I realize this is a contentious point among women in the outdoors, but that’s how I choose to handle it. Bare Minerals is made from minerals so it’s easy on my skin, but it also has SPF in it and honestly keeps me from getting burned {especially when applied over my moisturizer.} Additionally, we are always shooting photos for something, and I prefer to look a bit more put together if I know the photo is going to end up in some type of national media. To each her own!

I never, ever pack a hair dryer and usually just let my hair air dry. If it’s out of control {which happens frequently}, and I need to look presentable, I’ll curl it into a top knot on my head. Otherwise, I figure I’m on the trail or in the backcountry and my husband knows what I look like and Mother Nature sure doesn’t care! {It all goes under a hat anyway!}

packing tips

Battery Pack

Lastly, I alway pack my EnerPlex Power Bank. It’s super small– maybe the size of your hand– and charges a number of things including my phone, camera, etc. I get really overwhelmed and frustrated if I have to pack a gaggle of charging devices, so I prefer to have one condensed item. I received this on a Smartwool press trip last year and it’s been my go-to item every since!


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