There’s some interest in how I packed for this trip, so here’s a post about that. (Hi, Su!)

I knew I needed to develop a packing strategy ahead of the trip so I could be away for about a month. I also had a few other goals:

  • Have a carry-on sized bag so I wouldn’t need to check it and it’d more easily be stowed on trains
  • Ideally a backpack so I’m not lugging a roller down cobblestone streets or something like that. Plus it would be nice to have both hands free
  • Enough organization to keep clean and dirty clothes separated. Plus have my bag not turn into a sloppy nightmare after living out of it for a month. Since for a good portion of the trip I’d be in the same spot for only 2 nights, repacking and staying organized should be easy.

So, in anticipation for this trip, I got a Cotopaxi Allpa 42L travel pack.

What appealed to me about this is that it opens suitcase style and has some organization but not too much. So more pockets than a duffle bag, but not excessively compartmentalized.

It’s also a backpack first and includes a hip belt, which has been great and I’d highly recommend a hip belt for a bag this size.

An open suitcase on a bed with neatly organized clothes and a pair of shoes beside it. The suitcase contains various clothing items including shirts and pants, and utilizes packing cubes for organization.

Here’s how I’m organizing the bag:

  • Main compartment
    • jackets and nicer shirts in the bottom of the main compartment folded simply to not be too thick
    • packing cubes on top of those
      • small packing cube (top): underwear and socks
      • large packing cube (bottom): pants, shorts, t-shirts
  • Top left small compartment
    • packable day bag
    • travel towel
  • Bottom left mid-size compartment
    • Beach stuff (bathing suits, beach shirts)
    • Extra shoes and sandals
  • small compartment on the face of the bag (which is face down on the bed)
    • My dopp kit
    • Some small items like power adapters and battery

Here’s everything stowed.

An open travel backpack with clothing items visible through their mesh tops, lying on a textured gray blanket with a yellow patterned sheet underneath.

And here’s the bag all zipped up.

A blue travel backpack with a silhouette of an alpaca on it, placed on a gray knitted blanket over a patterned sheet.

Packed like this it weighs 24.6 lbs.

While I got this bag in anticipation of this trip, I’ve used it for some shorter trips earlier in the year as a trial run. So far, I’m very happy with this bag. I’ll probably continue to use it when I need something that doesn’t need to be checked.

As far as clothing strategy, I wanted to go for a capsule wardrobe where any top can be worn with any bottom. I also chose merino wool t-shirts since I’ve read they are good for travel, stay relatively clean (even after wearing for multiple days, but so far I haven’t had to test this theory), and dry quickly (in the event you need to wash them in your hotel room).

My goal was to be able to go 7 days without doing laundry, so I have enough socks, underwear, and shirts to accomplish that. Ideally I’d be able use hotel laundry service before I hit 7 days and I could avoid doing laundry in my room. So far, so good on this front. I’ve used a coin-op laundry once and have my hotel doing laundry today.

So one challenge for my trip in particular, aside from the length, is the different climates I’d be traveling through. From moderate, damp climates like London, cold mountain climates of Switzerland, and warm beach climates of Italy.

Here’s a tally of what I packed in more detail:

  • 2x button up long sleeve shirts
  • 1x button up short sleeve shirt
  • 2x cotton t-shirts
  • 5x merino short sleeve t-shirts
  • 1x merino long sleeve shirt
  • 1x exercise/hike shirt
  • 1x lounge shorts
  • 2x synthetic shorts
  • 1x synthetic pants (wore the second pair on the plane)
  • 7x pairs of socks (5x merino, 2x cotton)
  • 7x underware
  • Rain jacket
  • Arcterix packable down jacket
  • 2x hats
  • 2x swim suits
  • 2x beach shirts
  • Sandals
  • Extra sneakers (Lems)
  • packable backpack (Matador)
  • packable travel towel

Reading this list out, I think I fit a lot in the bag without it feeling extremely over packed. (It does require some effort to close, though.)

One thing I didn’t want to put in the Allpa was any electronics or things (like medicine) I’d want with me in the event my backpack was checked.

For this, I opted for this sling bag from Aer. In here I packed:

  • iPad 10" Air
  • Kobo ebook reader
  • Medicine
  • International power adapters
  • Phone/iPad charger and cords
  • Passport
  • Print out of train tickets
  • Glasses and sunglasses

This bag is just big enough to fit all the above!

So, about a week and a half in to the trip and so far I’m pretty satisfied with this setup! I think this has convinced me that carry-on backpack travel is the way to go!

Have you ever packed for a trip like this? How did you pack and how did it go? Let me know in the comments!

Update: I forgot to mention some clothing I purchased during my trip:

  • A lightweight zip up fleece from North Face. I wanted another layer in Zermatt before going up to 12,000 feet and something that was more mid-weight than my down jacket.
  • A crushable Mont Bell hat. I’ve been wanting more hats like this and found it in Zermatt.

These two items easily fit in the backpack!