How To Pack for an Adventure Trip of Any Length

Use these tips to streamline your adventure travel packing routine—no matter how long you’re away from home.

You’ve secured your PTO, bought your plane tickets, and booked your B ’n’ Bs—which means you’re ready for the worst part of adventure travel: packing. 

If you’re like most people, packing for a trip can trigger all kinds of decision-making fatigue, lost-luggage phobias, and nerves about packing the wrong thing. If you pack too little, you might have to shell out for missing items once you’re on the road. If you pack too much, you could be in for a major hassle—and a major expense. With flight prices soaring and luggage fees not far behind, now is the best time to learn how to pack light. 

Here’s how to pack just the right amount of stuff for an adventure-travel trip of any length.

How To Pack for a Weekend Trip

Weekend trips can be deceptively tough to pack for, especially if you’re flying a small, budget airline and have limited carry-on bag space. Here are a few tips to make it easier.

Pack thoughtfully 

Aim to pack a single backpack or duffel about 30 liters in size. It can be tempting to throw a bunch of stuff into the car for a weekend, but trips always run more smoothly when you don’t have to juggle armfuls of belongings every time you switch locales. Getting organized will take more time on the front end but save you a ton of hassle and stress over the course of your trip. 

Use a hyper-organized backpack 

You likely won’t have time to fully unpack on a weekend trip. As such, organization is a must. Make sure your bag has plenty of pockets, pouches, and zippered compartments. That way, living out of it won’t leave you frazzled. 

Double-check the essentials

It’s easy to justify buying an extra phone cord or a pair of socks during a long trip. But if you find yourself buying new stuff for a short weekend, you’ll be kicking yourself. Don’t let the trip length lull you into a sense of complacency; check and double-check your packing list before you leave.

Essential Gear

For a weekend-length trip, try to stick to the basics. Bring just a few outfits, and make sure they’re tailored to the weather and outings you expect to encounter. Add a rain shell, wind jacket, hat, or gloves as needed to suit the season.

A person packs for a trip in their suitcase

How To Pack for a Week-Long Trip 

The difference between a weekend and a week-long trip is pretty significant. When you’re further from home, you’ll need to bring more items to cover a wider range of weather events and social situations—especially if you’re changing countries or time zones.

Pack a capsule wardrobe

The secret to packing light is being able to concoct several different outfits from the same pieces of apparel. Make sure all your tops and bottoms complement one another so you can mix and match. Aim for solids and neutrals when possible. Choose items made of wool, which is naturally odor-resistant, or other packable, wrinkle-proof materials. 

Ditch the amenities

If you love traveling with a hair dryer, full-size shampoo bottles, or six pairs of shoes, all the power to you. If you’d like to lighten your load, consider what you can whittle down. Will your hair be OK if you use hotel soaps for a week? Does your B ’n’ B come with a hair dryer or robe? Check the amenities list for your accommodations, and leave the extras at home.

Share the load

If you’re going on a camping or climbing trip, touch base with your buddies before you leave. Compare packing lists and make sure no one’s bringing duplicate items. (Shared spreadsheets are a major pro move.) You might not need three water filters or two camp stoves, for example. You may also be able to rent tents or other gear upon arrival (or even have it delivered to your destination). See what you can whittle down, and consider going in together on a single checked bag instead of paying for two.

Additional Gear

If your trip is about a week in length, add these items to the above packing list.

  • Packing cubes (to keep organized)
  • Sleeping bag liner (if planning to stay in hostels)
  • Small tote or waist pack for day-trips
  • Insulating puffer jacket 
  • Rain shell
  • Hat and/or gloves
  • 1 additional pair of bottoms 
  • 2 additional tops 
  • 1 semi-formal outfit
  • 3 additional pairs of socks
  • 3 additional pairs of underwear
  • Swimsuit 
  • Packable camp towel 
  • Baby wipes and/or powdered dry shampoo for freshening up on the go
  • External battery
  • Earplugs and/or eye mask (for international trips)
  • Imodium, Dramamine, melatonin, or other travel medication for international trips (ask your doctor first)
  • Travel adapters (for international trips) 
  • Foreign currency (for international trips)

How To Pack for Two Weeks or More 

Travelers are more likely to overpack for long trips than for short ones. Here’s why the urge exists—plus tips on overcoming it. 

Resist the urge to overpack 

When you’re away from home for more than a week, trips can start to feel more like remote expeditions. That can trigger a scarcity mindset. As a result, you might feel the urge to pack everything you own, up to and including the kitchen sink. Likewise, once you’ve committed to checking a bag, it can be easy to fill it to the seams just because you have the space. 

Instead, take a deep breath. Realize that just because you can pack something doesn’t mean you should. A smaller, lighter bag is always easier to transport, even if it’s the same price to check as a big one. Stick to your packing list, and avoid throwing in extra stuff at the last minute.

Bring a sturdy bag 

For a trip of this length, you’ll likely need a 50- to 60-liter backpack or adventure duffel. Make sure it’s durable enough to survive squashing in the back of a car or being thrown around in the airport. If you’re backpacking abroad, choose a big pack with a comfy hipbelt (and use an airline bag to protect it while flying). If you’re only using transit, opt for a duffel or adventure-travel suitcase that flays open. This will make it easy to pack, unpack, and access gear on the fly.

Stock up on essentials

You shouldn’t need to bring a full-size bottle of shampoo or a month’s supply of snacks for a two-week trip. Instead, understand that most consumable items can be refreshed on the road. Just make sure to stock up on everything you won’t be able to get far from home, like prescription medication. 

Prepare to do laundry

Clothes-wise, a three-week trip shouldn’t look too different from a week-long trip. That’s because, after about a week of travel, you’ll pretty much have to do laundry. You can bring a travel-size amount of powdered detergent or detergent flakes with you, or plan to purchase some on the road. 

When booking hostels or B ’n’ Bs, make sure at least one of them has laundry machine access. If you can, book this stay for the middle of your trip when you’ll need it most. 

Additional Gear

For a trip that’s two weeks or more, add these items to the above packing lists:

  • 1 additional pair of bottoms 
  • 1 additional top
  • 3 additional pairs of socks
  • 3 additional pairs of underwear
  • Travel laundry detergent

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.