After 10 Months, What’s Still in My Backpack?

The current contents of my backpack barely resemble those when I left Chicago on August 30, 2011. They don’t even look that similar to what I was carrying back in January when I revisited my original packing list. I have ditched some things, sent some things home and have acquired quite a bit of new stuff along the way.

Here’s a look:




Only four of my original shirts remain: a long-sleeved black shirt that I’m saving for chilly desert camping, 2 short-sleeved Under Armour shirts for hiking and a black camisole – everything else I either tossed or sent home (or accidentally left hanging to dry in a hotel room). I still have my black cardigan sweater while I sent home both of my fleeces when the weather warmed up. To replace all of the winter tops I ditched, I picked up about 10 solid-colored short-sleeved shirts and a couple tank tops in Istanbul and Yerevan.


I replaced my original 2 pairs of jeans with 2 new pairs when holes wore through the thighs back in December. The replacement pairs have since worn through as well, leaving me with no jeans, which is just as well considering I am now traveling through Central Asia, where temperatures regularly top 100 F. I still have my black yoga pants for sleeping and hiking, but I sent home my black dress pants after I finished volunteering in Armenia and my running capris before I headed to Tajikistan (finally admitting to myself I likely would not be doing any running in the ‘Stans). I tossed my khaki shorts when I realized they were a bit too tight and that skirts would be more comfortable in the heat anyway. I still have the one black skirt that I started with and my parents sent me another black skirt plus a pair of black capris and a pair of khaki capris in the spring. I picked up a third, full-length skirt in a market in Gyumri, Armenia to wear in particularly conservative areas in Central Asia.


Surmising that my opportunities to do laundry may decrease while in Central Asia, I bought 6 more pairs of underwear before I arrived, bringing the total to 13. I sent all my wool socks home that I had purchased over the winter and I picked up 3 pairs of lightweight socks to go with my hiking shoes instead. I accidentally left behind one sports bra in a hotel room in Tbilisi.


My Patagonia hiking shoes started falling apart by the time I got to Odessa, Ukraine at the end of February, so I replaced them with a pair of Ecco hiking shoes. I sent home my ballet flats once the weather warmed up and I bought a pair of durable Ecco sandals to wear instead.


Not much has changed here – I have just replaced items as necessary, with little problem finding Colgate toothpaste, Pantene shampoo and conditioner or razors, cotton swabs, etc. Care packages I received in Armenia included deodorant, facial soap, sunscreen and nail polish to last me a while.


I unfortunately left my Ziploc bag with all of my first aid stuff behind in a hotel room in Turkey, which meant saying goodbye to my hydrocortisone cream, Neosporin and band aids. I have picked up ibuprofen very cheaply everywhere and luckily have not had to use much of my Pepto-Bismol, so I still have a good supply of that.

What have I not used at all?

There are two items in my pack that I have glaringly not used once, yet I am still holding on to them in anticipation that I will eventually need them.

Sleeping bag liner: This takes up a decent amount of space, so every now and then I think of tossing it. But then I think that I will likely need it at some point, especially since I plan to do some camping while in Central Asia.

Steripen This takes up far less space, so I don’t mind continuing to carry it. I just haven’t needed it so far – bottled water has been readily available everywhere. In my more remote homestays in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, I just drank the water the families provided (even when I knew it wasn’t treated), justifying it by telling myself if they had no problem drinking it, I shouldn’t either. So far, so good as I haven’t had any issues.

The Hair Dryer Dilemma

I keep telling myself to toss my hair dryer. Now that I am in the heart of summer in Central Asia, I have given up on trying to blow dry my hair straight as usual. I haven’t used the hair dryer in 3 weeks and I likely won’t use it again while I am in the ‘Stans. But in the back of my mind, I know I will want it for when I stop in Spain and Chicago on my way back to Minneapolis at the end of September. So I just can’t quite yet bring myself to get rid of it…

16 thoughts on “After 10 Months, What’s Still in My Backpack?”

  1. Getting rid of the hairdryer is so freeing! I just braid my hair whenever it turns into a frizzy mess. Although, I now always have half wet hair. Maybe I should rethink that.

    1. Yeah I got used to air drying the whole summer – and my hair usually ended up in a braid or ponytail anyway because I wanted it off my neck!

  2. I never really occurs to me to ship things home when I’m traveling, but it sounds like it made sense for you. Also, I like that your list shows how everyone’s needs are different when traveling long term. If you have room for the hair dryer and you want to hang onto it, go for it!

    1. I actually finally ditched the hair dryer when I realized I hadn’t used it in over a month and was doing just fine. 🙂

  3. I’ve come to terms with the barely used items in my bag. Even if I’ve only used them once or twice, they were very much needed at the time I used them. Plus, having them handy saved me the hassle of trying to find/buy them overseas.

  4. I used to simply buy a cheap hairdryer in countries where I wanted to look nice. Spend about 10US and then ditch it when I knew I wasn’t going to use it for a few weeks. You didn’t have to deal with the plug issues either that way.
    I can’t believe how much you are sending home…I would just ditch the stuff as I went as shipping home was way too expensive for stuff that I didn’t care that much about. Which probably means that you really care about those things I guess!

    1. Yeah I try to combine sending my own stuff home with sending souvenirs/gifts for people. The stuff I sent home from Armenia was a lot of winter clothing that was high quality stuff that would cost more to replace than the cost of sending it home.

  5. This is really interesting, Katie. I wonder how this would be different if you had traveled somewhere else. Also, do you carry a Kindle? I do, but I also love to pick through the libraries that are always found at hostels, so I usually end up with a paperback book too.

    1. I do travel with a Kindle – love it! And yeah, I am sure it would be quite different if I had been going through South America or SE Asia.

  6. I travel with a hairdryer AND straighteners! BUT, I travel with a suitcase instead of a backpack and, to be honest, I’m less of a traveller and more about living and working abroad with some travel in between so I think it’s justified 😉

    Great post Katie!

    1. I will definitely be using a suitcase on all future trips! Not a fan of the backpack…

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