5 Essentials to Pack for Your Next Adventure Travel Trip

There’s travel. And then there’s adventure travel.

Adventure travel means different things to different people.

It can mean a long backpacking trip through the Peruvian Andes. It can mean spending a month riding the longest rail line in the world. It can mean scrambling up a mountain side.

Whether you’re bagging peaks, tackling every zip line a country has to offer, or hut-to-hut hiking in the Swiss Alps, one thing is certain…

Packing space is at a premium, and if you’re carrying your belongings on your back, so is weight.

Packing Light – Tips from a Career Digital Nomad

Nora Dunn (aka The Professional Hobo), has traveled full-time for 12 years, two of which she traveled just with carry-on luggage. Which is to say, Nora knows a thing or two about packing light… and about how to pack for maximum comfort in a minimal amount of space.

When it comes to what goes with you on an adventure travel trip, Nora’s favorite word is packable. Think about the bulky items you would typically take on a trip. Is there a packable alternative?

Some things are essential no matter where you’re going and what you plan to do when you get there. If you can find a space-saving, lightweight version of those essentials that are tough, durable, and versatile, you’ve got a winner for your next adventure outing.

Nora’s Five Essentials for More Rewarding Adventure Travel Experiences

When asked about the things she couldn’t do without on an adventure trip, Nora had five must-haves that she recommends for any traveler, but especially for adventure travelers.

1. A Pair of Packable Shoes

Shoes are one of the bulkiest, heaviest items you pack for any typical trip. A traditional pair of shoes is going to be rigid and take up a lot of space in your luggage. They’re also going to add a lot of weight.

A packable pair of shoes is a game-changer.

What makes a pair of shoes packable? They have thin, flexible soles and a soft upper. They fold in half easily or roll up to take up almost no space. And they weigh next to nothing.

When Nora discovered barefoot-inspired footwear, it forever altered how she approaches choosing shoes for a trip.

Her go-to for adventure travel is a pair of barefoot trail runners like the Mesa Trail II. She says, “I love trail runners… they completely revolutionized how I hike but then also how I travel.

“For fifteen years I’ve been using trail runners and I love them for their versatility. They can do everything. They can take you on those outdoor adventures. But they can also be light and rolled up so they pack easily. You can wear them around town. They can double as a casual shoe.”

Nora also mentions Xero Shoes Prio as one of her favorite shoes: “The Prio is an amazing shoe. You probably shouldn’t take it up a mountain, but I literally have worn them going up a mountain.”

The Prio is versatile in terms of looks. It’s right at home in the great outdoors paired with shorts and a lightweight jacket. But it can transition to walking around museums, visiting local markets, or touring remote villages.

The other part of choosing a packable shoe is all about the comfort.

On an adventure trip, it’s a safe bet you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. And sore feet at the end of the day can steal your enjoyment. Even worse, if that soreness carries over into the next morning — few things are more disheartening than starting out your day with achy feet.

When Nora first switched to barefoot shoes, she worried about the impact on her legs and feet. As a dancer, she has a long history of shin splints, and she wondered if less cushioning in her shoes would lead to more problems. She says, “I thought I might suffer from a lot of foot fatigue walking around in a barefoot shoe all day, especially around town, but quite the opposite has been true for me.”

If you’ve ever been on a vacation or adventure where sore feet were a problem, you know that all-day comfort can completely change your experience… for the better. And barefoot shoes could do that for you. One caveat: if you’re new to the barefoot experience, take some time to transition to wearing barefoot shoes before your trip.

2. A Packable Backpack

Next on Nora’s list of essentials is a packable backpack.

A packable backpack is a lightweight, but sturdy backpack that squashes down into something smaller than a loaf of bread… some versions can pack down to be smaller than your fist!

These are perfect for day trips and side excursions. Instead of carrying your full backpack or hauling around your luggage, you can toss a water bottle, sunglasses, sunscreen, a jacket, and a few snacks into your packable backpack and have everything you need at hand with very little fuss.

Or you can pack it down, tuck it into your coat pocket and whip it out at the grocery store to avoid using disposable bags.

3. A Packable Water Bottle

Like traditional shoes, a typical water bottle has a rigid shape that takes up a lot of space in your pack. And while they may get lighter as you drink your water during the day, they don’t get any smaller. By the end of the day, they’re just taking up room.

A packable water bottle is a different story.

They’re usually made from food-grade, BPA-free silicone or thermoplastic polyurethane. These materials are tough, completely waterproof (obviously), lightweight, and flexible. The key feature? You can roll them up when they’re empty. As you drink water throughout the day, your water bottle takes up less and less space in your pack.

And the water bottle itself weights next to nothing. Many versions are also built to stand up easily when full, so they function like a normal water bottle… just better.

4. A Packable Down Jacket

Staying warm is part of staying comfortable. A down jacket made of lightweight materials can pack down to the size of a grapefruit (or smaller). But on cool days and chilly nights, you can just give it a shake to fluff it out, and then pull it on for a reliable layer of warmth.

5. A Packable Raincoat

Like the down jacket a packable raincoat packs down small and weighs very little. But if it’s windy or rainy out, it can help keep you warm and dry. Better yet, for those really cold days, you can layer your rain jacket over your down jacket to stay extra toasty and dry.

All told, these five items together won’t take up much more space in your pack or suitcase than a pair of rolled up jeans. And they’ll provide loads of comfort without adding bulk or weight to your luggage.

Bonus Tips for Your Next Adventure Trip

Beyond these five essentials, Nora provided three bonus tips to help you plan and pack for a big trip.

Tip #1 – Pack for Multipurpose

For each item you pack, try to think of at least two ways you’ll use it on your trip. If you need it for only one thing, make sure that thing is really important to you. Otherwise, consider finding a different option that will give you more versatility.

For example, Nora’s Prios work for her on trails but also look at home in restaurants and museums.

And her two jackets together work to create a system for staying warm and dry in a variety of circumstances.

Tip #2 – “Just in Case Has No Place”

Anything on your pack list that you’re taking just in case you need it is something you can leave behind. On most trips if a situation comes up where you need something you don’t have, you’ll be able to buy it. And if not, there’s a good chance you’ll discover you can do without it anyway.

Adventure travel is far more enjoyable when you don’t have a lot of stuff to keep track of or haul around, so take a minimalist approach to your packing list (just like you do with your shoes!)

Tip #3 – Pack Lighter

On adventure trips, and even on more traditional trips, traveling lighter frees you to have more fun, to feel better, and to enjoy the experience more.

Review your packing list with a very critical eye and look for ways to reduce your weight that won’t compromise your comfort. Because, ultimately, traveling lighter will mean a more comfortable trip… and a more comfortable trip is a more enjoyable one.

About Nora Dunn:

Nora Dunn* (aka The Professional Hobo), is one of the OG digital nomads, and has been a career traveler since 2006. She traveled full-time for 12 years, 2 of which she traveled with carry-on luggage only. For the last five years she has had a home base in Canada and she continues to travel most of each year, for up to seven months at a stretch (almost always with carry on only)

*Nora Dunn is an affiliate of Xero Shoes.