3-Month Backpacking Trip: What’s in my bag?

Welcome back, my travel enthusiast fellows!

Packing for a backpacking trip overseas can be a gruesome task. In my experience, my biggest problem has always been over-packing. I remember, because when I studied abroad in Singapore, I brought two large suitcases full of things with me. I didn’t use most of them. When I decided to travel in Japan, I had to lug around my two giant suitcases, which became a huge pain.

Nowadays, over-packing would be detrimental in the long run as I carry all my possessions on my back. Over time, I’ve cut down the stuff I take from 2 luggages to 1 backpacking bag and 1 day bag. Like so: IMG_0454Without further ado….

What’s in my bag?

Previously in my post on Ways to Budget Travel, I’ve mentioned my love for my Osprey 48 liter bag + waterproof cover. Here, I just want to emphasize how important proper gear is to traveling.

I specifically chose this size because it easily fits into all airline carry on cabins. Especially with budget flights, I can just pack it up and just bring it in as a carry on without having to pay for a luggage. The state-of-the-art suspension system made all my material possessions in my bag feel weightless, and is a lot easier on my back.

Best price of $130 at Amazon!

I am a minimalist in the things I pack when traveling. I also like to under pack to buy some clothes in the country I’m traveling as souvenir. 😉 Because I carry everything in my bags, I like to keep all my clothes and accessories as lightweight as possible.

  • 1x stuff sack
  • 5x shirts (3 tank tops for comfort/going out, 2 formal)
  • 1x water resistant jacket
  • 1x stuffable dawn jacket (I highly recommend getting these for ultra lightweight and warmth)
  • 2x pants (1 comfort, 1 going out) 
  • 3x shorts
  • 3x dresses
  • 4x socks (sporty and comfortable)
  • 1x scarf/shawl
  • Underwear (lots)
  • 1x shoes
  • 1x flip flops
  • Waterproof bag set (for water activities)
  • Safety pins/needle and thread
  • Multi-tool knife
  • Duct tape
  • Ropes
  • Headlamp
  • Ao dai – since I’m planning on celebrating Vietnamese New Year, Tet, in Vietnam, I’m bringing my custom made ao dai. I don’t typically bring this on my trips! Here’s a picture for reference!


First Aid Kit – whatever brand or name you use, here is the gist of medications you want to take with you.

  • Anti-diarrhea
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Band-aid
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Allergy
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Pain reliever
  • Anti-mosquito/anti-itch cream (tropical countries)

Paperwork – I like to keep all of my paperwork in zip lock bag to protect them from water damage

  • Printout/screenshots of plane tickets 
  • Passport book/card (+2 photocopies to bring on day/night trips)
  • Vaccination records (depending on country)
  • Visas (Vietnam, for example)
  • Copy of TEFL certificate (If I plan to teach while abroad)

Travel cards

  • Capital One Quicksilver – 1.5% cashback on all purchases, no foreign transaction fees, no annual fees
  • Charles Schwab – no ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees worldwide. With this card, you can withdraw from anywhere at any ATM!

Day Bag


  • Camping tent and poles (poles can go on side straps, tent can go on bottom straps); I loved our Marmot tent because of lightweight and the air flow system. We had taken it on our trip to the freezing top of a volcano and survived thanks to it. The high price is worth the durability. 
Best Price at Amazon for $189.90

Final thoughts

Whether you’re traveling short term or long term, I hope that my list has helped you. Thanks so much for reading! I’d also like to know what you have in your bag. Let me know in comments below- Cheers!

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!


8 Ways to Travel the United States Cheaply and Comfortably

As with any long-term traveler, the biggest goal is to make the amount of money we have to last as long as possible. If we must spend money, the goal is to spend it as efficiently as possible. To prepare for our big road trip around the United States, Cuong and I gave away all our possessions, save a few boxes of mementos. We chose the things to bring with us very carefully, with two things in mind: practicality and comfort. Travelling the US is expensive, but it there are ways to lessen the burden. We had to decide on what we needed to take that makes sense in the long run. Through our experience, we have learned a few things.

Took a picture of my partner taking a picture of me on one of our side trips.

car is the most versatile method of transportation;

R1: Interstate buses can only takes you from point A to point B, usually between two big cities like Manhattan and Atlanta. What if you wanted to stop by a nearby state park for a day out? A car can take you anywhere we want to on the map. We frequently took side trips to national parks and Six Flags. Unlike most buses, we could charge our phones in the car!

R2: What we spent on gas, we saved on rent and hotel cost. With the right setup, enough blankets and pillows, my car transformed into a comfortable bed. We usually chose brightly lit gas stations, fast food restaurants, or rest areas to spend the night. We have not had a problem with any of them.

R3: It functioned as our storage; it was a luxury that we don’t have to carry everything on our backs. When we get hungry, we just post up, grab some food from the trunk and go.

One thing I would change: I wish that I had bought a new set of tires. On the mountain back roads of Colorado, my car did a 180 degrees spin that made my heart drop to my stomach. Luckily, there were no cars around and I made it without a single scratch mark.

One thing to know: There will be lots of driving. Yeah, duh. But it is really important to ensure that you don’t get fatigued by driving too long. Cuong and I scheduled our driving time. We made it work  by driving in five hour intervals and taking turns sleeping. Planning and spacing it out made our trip as efficient and relaxing as possible.

2. Our Tiger rice cooker functioned as our portable kitchen. Eating out costs. Our solution for long term food source is using a rice cooker. For newbie cooks and veteran chefs alike, it is so simple to cook up a bag of ramen or a quick vegetable stir fry in a rice cooker. We take advantage of chain fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, with their abundant amount of power outlets to cook up a meal.

3. Pack for Rain and Shine. In just Hawaii, we experienced seven different climate changes; that is just one island. Through our trip, we’ve been through blizzard conditions, tropical rainstorms, as well as humid summer weather. I found these packable dawn jackets to be lifesavers as they’re light and incredibly. The more prepared you are for diverse sets of climates, the less likely you will be spending on new clothes.

4. Couchsurf and Airbnb to save on hotels costs. With every destination, we like to find Couchsurf or Airbnb host in the area who can show us around. It gives us an opportunity to meet people, refresh from sleeping in the car for so long, and take care of our hygiene. To learn more about this awesome community, see my short guide to Couchsurfing.

5. Shop at the right places. In highly populated cities like DC, New York, and Los Angeles, prices for food can be much more expensive. To save on grocery costs, we typically stock up when we find a budget friendly store. On the east coast, we shopped at Dollar Tree and Aldi for all our snacky needs. If you’re a fan of Waffle House, take it all in before you go over to the west side. On the west coast, keep an eye out for 99 Cent stores for your one-stop shop needs.

6. Knowledge of budget airline flight deals. We flew Allegiant Air from Los Angeles to Hawaii at half the going price. Beware, budget airlines typically have very strict carry-on rules, and they will charge you for every extra thing. You get what you pay for.

7. Get the best travel cards.

Charles Schwab is an excellent checking accounts card that has no ATM fees whatsoever. 

Capital One Quicksilver and BankAmericard Travel rewards card gives you 1.5% cashback on every purchase. 

8. Make long Term Investments. We don’t nickel and dime everything. We did spend on a few things that we considered an excellent use of money.

  • Six Flags Season Pass- $70/year; Roller coasters throughout the country!
  • National Parks Pass- $80/year; We hiked at Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Yosemite, and more!
  • Miscellaneous passes such as NYC CitiBike pass, metro cards, etc- biking around NYC can seem scary with all the crazy traffic and people, but it is an experience that made us want to come back.

I would love to hear from you! If  you have any budget travel tips, please share. 🙂