Back-Packing for Italy

I had never travelled carry-on only before our Italy adventure. It was part of what drew me to overseas travel to begin with; the option of packing only what I could carry on my back was so intriguing that I just had to do it. We have always used rolling carry-on bags or actual checked luggage before so even the thought of taking a two week trip with only about a 1/4 of the usual stuff made me queasy. I am so glad though that we made the jump and did it. Having less stuff gave us so much more freedom than I ever would have thought, and now, I’m pretty sure we’re hooked. So what did I take to Italy? Here’s the list of what went along, but keep reading to find out what I should have left home, and what  I wish would have made it into my bag…

Clothes2014-08-23 20.41.05

  • Underwear 5 pairs
  • socks- 3 normal and 4 micro for TOMS shoes
  • fuzzy socks (for the plane)
  • 2 pairs skinny jeans
  • 2 cardigans
  • 5 tops- 2 tanks, 3 short sleeve
  • TOMS shoes- black
  • Flip flops- for showering
  • Tennis shoes
  • yoga pants and t-shirt- sleeping
  • light water resistant jacket- black
  • 2 scarves
  • sunglasses


  • Toothbrush/paste/floss
  • comb
  • shampoo/conditioner (2 travel size bottles)
  • Bar soap and carrying case
  • deodorant
  • microfiber towel/ washcloth
  • razor
  • makeup/ face lotion
  • Kleenex
  • First aid kit


  • Small flashlight
  • small baby blanket
  • inflatable pillow
  • eye mask
  • ear plugs
  • guide book
  • locks (2 large, 2 small)
  • laundry soap (Dr Bronner’s)
  • Ear buds
  • laundry line
  • extra ziplock bags for dirty clothes
  • water bottle (bladder)
  • hard copies of passports, train tickets, hostel reservations, bank info
  • snacks

This seems like quite a long list of things to pack into a 35L backpack, but I assure you, we had extra room. There were definitely things I wish I would have left behind. First, my tennis shoes. I love TOMS and would have been fine with only those. The water bottle, inflatable pillow and laundry line(which broke on its first use) could have stayed home. We also would leave home the Dr Bronner’s soap and purchase a small bottle of laundry soap at your destination, then leave behind what you don’t use. We each brought enough clothing to be able to wear and then wash once every few days, however, we learned to pick better fabrics. Light cottons stretch out without being dried so poly knits would have been much better for that.

What was I glad we had packed? Number one would have to be the baby blanket. Planes are always cold and even more so when you sit by the window like I always do. The eye mask and ear plugs were helpful in the more noisy hostels as well, but we could have left them home because Delta gave us some on our flight that were actually better. City travel guides by Rick Steves were awesome and we could have left home our big Italy Lonely Planet book.

Packing for a trip is important to think about carefully. On one hand, a lot of what we brought could be purchased in Italy, but depending on where you are going, you may have a hard time finding what you need easily, like small bottles of laundry soap, for us.

We also brought along a Timbuk2 day bag that Marcus carried which had our books, papers, and important stuff for each day as well as water, snacks and sometimes a sweater or umbrella. We bought an umbrella, I picked up another sweater, a scarf and we left with another small purse and larger shoulder bag. I bought the larger bag for extra space for souvenirs on the way home. Its great to buy things at your destination that you can bring home and actually use, too. Every time I wear my Desigual scarf it reminds me of our shopping trip to Coin, and that makes it extra special.

One last note about packing extra light: we found that it gave us an enormous amount of freedom. Getting on and off the planes, the trains and through the airport were enough to make us very happy about our choice. When we watched other people struggle with luggage, we smiled to each other and effortlessly made our way with only our packs. We were told security and customs coming home would take a few hours, but when you skip baggage claim where everyone else is huddled, you can make it through customs AND security in under 15 minutes. Amazing how much more time not having stuff gave us, and how much more comfortable our trip was.

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