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The Only Female Backpacking Packing List You'll Ever Need

Updated: Mar 19

Okay, so as a disclaimer, this backpacking packing list is best for long-term, warm-weather travel. If you're climbing mountains or going to the Arctic, you will need more gear.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may get a commission if you make a purchase through this website, at no cost to you. I only link to products I use and love.


This backpacking packing list is female-centric, as we all know, the male and female travel experience is completely different.

The way I pack has evolved a lot in my 10 years of backpacking, and this list is everything I pack nowadays for my extended world travel - and I do not ever feel like I am missing something.

I Dream of Mangoes backpacking the Kalahari


Things I Have Learned About Packing

  • Travel Light – I know everyone says this, but it is with good reason. I have been there, added that pair of high heels 'just in case', and sorely regretted lugging them around the world to have them stay in my backpack the entire time.

  • Pack Clothes you are prepared to ruin – Wearing the same outfits over and over means that after an extended backpacking trip, the clothes will probably end up being completely worn out by the end of your travels.

  • Make sure you have enough of that essential cosmetic you can't live without, and can't replace on the road – For me, this is eyebrow dye! I always pack enough to see me through my entire trip.

I Dream of Mangoes backpacking in France


The Bag Itself

If you buy the right bag, it will serve you well for many, many years. I invested in the Osprey Fairview 70L and I never looked back. This back is designed for the female shape and even when it is fully loaded it fits you like a big hug.

It is also a side-opener which means you do not have to get everything out just to reach one item, if you've travelled with a top-loader before you'll know full well that after a while this gets super annoying.

The Osprey 70L is too big for hand luggage-only backpackers so it will need to be checked in, and the fee for this these days is extortion. I use my Osprey for longer trips, and I try to keep its weight (when packed) under 15kg.

For shorter backpacking trips I use my Quecha 40L - which when packed carefully, stays beneath the 7kg weight limit for hand luggage. Whilst it is far inferior to the Osprey, it is still comfy enough and ideal for trips where I want to pack ultra-light (I used this all across Africa).

Both of these bags come with built-in rain covers so you do not need to worry about your stuff getting wet.

I Dream of Mangoes backpacking in Singapore


The Other Bags

Most backpackers I know do not keep all their eggs in one basket, and neither do I. Two other bags are essential for a female backpacking packing list.

Front Pack/Day Pack

I use the Rains Mini - which isn't the most practical bag, but I like it for 3 reasons.

The first is that it is completely waterproof - so when you're on the back of a moped in the pouring rain, or on a boat (both likely scenarios) none of your valuables will get wet.

It is also quite pick-pocket proof - as it is a roll-top that is hard to shove your hand into when closed. And lastly, it is cute and smart looking, so it can pass as a handbag if you're not going for that 'hiking look' all of the time.

My front pack is where I would keep photocopies of my passport, visas, travel insurance, and things like my laptop and camera.

Neck Pouch

It is up to you whether you prefer to keep your valuables in a neck pouch or a bum bag. I prefer to use a neck pouch as it is more discrete, and this one by PacSafe is great for females as it is designed to look like a bra strap.

In my neck pouch, I keep my passport, cash and credit cards (and sometimes my phone) – and I wear it underneath a loose-fitting top on travel days, or if I am going out and I don't trust the security of my hotel room.

I Dream of Mangoes backpacking in Malawi


A Complete Female Backpacking Packing List


  • Passport

  • Photocopies of Passports

  • Chopped-up Passport Photos

  • Visas (where needed)

  • Immunisation Book e.g. Yellow Fever booklet (where needed)

  • Travel Insurance Policy - I am not affiliated with any. I tend to go for a cheap policy with a high defaqto rating.

  • Proof of first hotel booking (where needed)

  • Proof of onward travel (where needed)

  • International Driving License (where needed)


Things I NEVER travel without

  • US Dollars – Having American Dollars in cash is a non-negotiable in my backpacking packing list. These notes are recognised everywhere, and not only can you normally get a great exchange rate, but you can also have some stashed away for emergencies.

  • Head Torch – A reliable brand that is rechargeable, this is not just for hiking. You will use a head torch more than you ever would expect – power cuts, outdoor loos, poorly lit streets - I use mine all the time.

  • Empowered by Ashley – This is a very loud personal alarm that thankfully I have never had to use, but keeping it with me makes me feel safer.

  • Lifestraw water bottle – This is a powerful filter that enables you to drink rainwater, water from streams, and oftentimes tap water! It saves a lot of money buying bottled water and reduces your use of plastic.

  • Saalt Menstrual Cup & Menstrual Cup Cleaner – The first time I tried using a menstrual cup it was a bit messy and stressful, but I persevered, and now I can't imagine going back to other period products.

  • Sunglasses – I use Polaroid which are quite sturdy, they have polarised lenses but are cheap enough that if I lose them I will not be too heartbroken.

I Dream of Mangoes backpacking in India


Other items I use ALL THE TIME whilst travelling

  • Retractable clothesline – I love this item! It is 8m long and comes with clothes pegs, and it is super handy and can attach to almost anything! When backpacking I always wash my own underwear, and more often than not I need to hand wash other clothing items too.

  • Fells Naptha Laundry Soap – This is pricey for a laundry soap but it is awesome, it gets out all stains and as long as you soak your clothes first, it requires very minimal effort.

  • Jade Yoga Travel Mat - OK, so as someone who practices every day, this is an essential item for me and I wouldn't buy any other brand - the grip is the best! The travel mat is a bit thinner and the height is 24 inches, so it ‘just’ fits in the 40L Quecha Bag when rolled up lengthwise.

  • SHEWEE - The day I got my Shewee was the day my world changed forever. Finally, I can pee without sitting on disgusting toilet seats - and in the middle of a bus journey, I can just stand up and pee on the side of the road with discretion, rather than squatting and mooning the other passengers. Practising with the Shewee in the shower before your trip is very necessary.

  • Portable Urinal - This is also a very exciting product! If you’re camping out bush, and don’t want to leave your tent during the night to pee, for various reasons but mostly so you don’t get killed by a wild animal - you can use your shewee to pee into the portable urinal and Voila! Seal it up, and empty it in the morning. Genius.

  • Kindle/Books – I normally take two paperbacks and leave them in hotels I stay in before picking up another one, simply because I do not like holding a Kindle with my wrist injury. However, for travelling light, a Kindle IS the best item for your female backpacking packing list. There are MANY long journeys with no signal where this will be a lifesaver.

  • Electrolytes – These really help me with hot travel days, as I am a water guzzler by nature; a habit I have had to curb for long journeys with minimal pee breaks. Having an electrolyte sachet with my first water of the day means I can drink less water when travelling without getting a headache - and these ones are sugar-free.

  • Quick-drying Towel – This one is big enough to use at the beach but still packs up small, it is super absorbent and dries so quickly. What more could you want?

  • Shawl/Sarong – A shawl or sarong is a great multi-purpose item for females when backpacking, you can use it as a blanket, as a wrap-skirt for modesty, as a head scarf for the same reason, or you can even wrap it around your face when on a motorbike in a polluted city!

I Dream of Mangoes wearing a Maasai Shuka


Toiletries + First Aid

Many toiletries you can just get when you're there, like shampoo, conditioner, razors etc. so this backpacking packing list only features the toiletries I pack from my home country.

This is also all I take in the way of a First Aid Kit - I used to lug one around on every trip and never used it, so I do not bother any more - but that is ultimately your call.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss

  • Tangle Teezer + ties & grips

  • Tweezers

  • Hand cream 50ml

  • Face Cleanser 50ml & Pads

  • Suncream 100ml + Sunblock (Both Reef Safe) - This sunblock is expensive, but it is SO worth it. It lasts ages (I have been using mine for a year and it is still half full) - It is Zinc, and it is the ONLY sun cream that doesn't make me sweat buckets as it lets the skin breathe. Not only that but it comes in solid form - so you can pack it in hand luggage. For long-term travelling sunblock for my face and chest is an absolute must as these areas are exposed to the sun for years on end (I avoid winter like the plague and always try to follow the summer around the world!) THIS IS A GREAT PRODUCT!

  • Headache tablets

  • Anti-nausea pills (for travel sickness)

  • A little bit of make-up

  • Eyebrow dye

  • Baby wipes

  • Plasters

  • A bar of soap and an exfoliating glove

  • Anti-bacterial gel

  • Odomos – The BEST mosquito cream

This all fits into one small toiletries bag, which I keep at the top of my backpack for easy access.

I Dream of Mangoes backpacking in South Africa


Other bits that always come in handy

Combination Lock - If you're planning to stay in dorm-style accommodation, hostels often provide lockers but you are expected to bring your own padlock.

Bottle Opener/Swiss Army Knife - Not applicable if you're 'hand-luggage only' – but otherwise very useful.

Ear plugs - Essential for light sleepers and great for travelling around big cities where the car horns may just about drive you mad.

Earphones - (Equally, also a laptop and camera if you use them) – In many other cultures, things like playing music on your phone on a bus are not seen as rude (cough, India) – earphones will help drown this out!

Power Bank – I use this a lot, it is the cheapest one I could find that has good reviews and it charges my phone 8 times over! This one has a solar charging capability too, and it's 25kmAh which is under the 27kmAh limit for airplanes.

Tent and Tent Stuff – Destination dependent.

I wouldn't travel to Africa without a tent but I have never used one in Asia. We love the Robens Boulder 3 – it is so easy to put up and it is super high quality and light to carry.

Inside the tent:

  • Inflatable Pillows

  • Self-Inflating Sleeping Pads

  • Sleeping Bag Liners

  • Clip-on battery-powered 'ceiling' light

  • Rubber Mallet

Total weight of tent plus tent stuff – 7kg.

I got all of this stuff on the cheap from Decathalon. This is for camping in warm places, you may need to tag on sleeping bags depending on the climate!

I Dream of Mangoes camping in Malawi


Female Backpacking Packing List: Clothing FOR HER

  • SWEATRAGS - I use little handkerchiefs as sweat rags and I use them every damn day, I am a sweaty person and these get WELL USED.

  • Rain Jacket

  • Hiking Trainers - The Hoka Goatspeed 5 are AMAZING.

  • Flip Flops or Sandals (Havainas or Birkenstocks)

  • Water Shoes – These are super light and fold up really small. Ideal for rocky beaches, outdoor showers, and not-so-clean water wading e.g. Lake Malawi

  • Sports Bra

  • 2 x other Bras

  • 3 x Socks

  • 7 x Underwear

  • Swimsuit

  • 2 x T-shirts

  • 2 x Long Sleeved Tops

  • 2 x Vests

  • 1 x Abaya (only for some Muslim countries)

  • 1 x Summer Dress (You can always buy more of these if you're spending a long time somewhere beachy)

  • 2 x Shorts

  • 1 x Skirt

  • 2 x Cargo Pants (Great for mosquito-ridden places)

  • 2 x Leggings (For yoga - I am a sucker for LuluLemon)


Thank you for reading my post: The Only Female Backpacking Packing List You'll Ever Need. I hope you have found this list useful!

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Happy Travels




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