Women’s 5kg Packing List for All Seasons

This is my fully packed and only bag for a 31/2 month trip with temperatures from -1 degree celsius to 34 degrees, in countries with a modest dress code, with room to spare for food, water, magazines and cigarettes. It requires daily hand washing of undies, socks and shirt in the shower. This is my personal list, not necessarily right for you.


One cold day; 

merino undies

merino leggings (worn with long blouse in Western countries)

loose merino trousers


merino t shirt

wool cardigan (for insulation)

hooded puffy jacket (for insulation)

knee high hose (sweat liner, acceptable with short skirt, mild insulator)

wool socks

mary jane shoes with grip

One hot, modest day;


merino undies

long sleeved, high necked, opaque, long, loose blouse

maxi elasticised tube skirt (midi if pulled up)

silk long scarf (for warmth, sun shelter and modesty)

light waterproof sandals (for Dead Sea salt shards only, but also useful in sweltering heat and in fungal bathrooms)


swimming togs (also emergency underwear on washing day)

plastic poncho ($1)

spare wool socks (for cold climate washing days)

So, that’s;

2 x  undies, tops, bottoms, insulation, socks, shoes

1 x swimming togs, rain poncho, liner socks, scarf, leggings


Iphone 4s ( phone, internet, compass, Kindle, alarm clock, camera, torch, Word)

earbuds (with mike for Skype)

phone charging cord

electrical plug (for other countries)

car charger


soap (also for laundry and hair)


pawpaw ointment (barrier cream)

sunblock (also moisturiser)


floss (also washing line)


tissues (also toilet paper)

hankie (towel)



nail clippers


individual needs (me; antacid, flight ear plugs, nicotine)


anti diarrhorea

anti nausea

anti malarial

pain killer (aspirin for DVT avoidance)

antiseptic swabs

insect repellent



eye mask


safety pins

bulldog clips

envelope (for hostel safe)



black pen

spirex notepad

disposable spork





yellow fever certificate

driver’s licence (for secondary id, and my partner has an international driver’s licence for car hire)

paper (bookings, tickets, itinerary, contacts, copies of documents)

passport photos (for visas)

bank cards

bank security token


35 litre backpack Explore Planet Earth Pluto 35 (light, unobtrusive, but with 25 litre dimensions, and without YKK zips. Still my trusty friend)

day bag (zipped, light shoulder bag which fits into backpack)sts_auslingb-sling-bag-blue

coin purse

security money pouch

ziplock bags (clean clothes, dirty clothes, wet clothes, documents, rubbish)

bra bank (net bag with safety pin)

zipped laundry net (with keyring. to dry towel and laundry from backpack zip)

chapstick tin (ashtray)

puffy jacket compressing sack



How Many Layers of Merino?

I own, and love merino clothing. Merino’s undeniably environmentally friendly, easy care, stink reducing, fast drying, moisture wicking, temperature regulating even in hot and wet conditions, and warm for its weight, just like human hair (but I digress). Innumerable forum posts repeat that multilayered merino insulates better than one thick layer, and is superior to most other fabrics in cold conditions.

I lay around in varying temperatures, adding and removing layers of 150 to 200 weight pure merino garments, as thermal comfort dictated. Contextualising the results, I must disclose that I live in subtropical Australia, so I am not acclimatised to freezing weather. These are my observations of the layers required.

26C/79F leggings, t shirt

24C/75F  leggings, long sleeve loose t shirt (1 layer)

23C/73F briefs, leggings, t shirt, long sleeve loose t shirt (2 layers)

22C/72F briefs, leggings, knee length skirt, cami, t shirt, long sleeve loose t shirt (3 layers)

21C/71F briefs, leggings, shorts, knee length skirt, cami, t shirt, long sleeve t shirt and long sleeve loose t shirt (4 layers)

I then removed, and measured the volume of the shorts, skirt, cami, long sleeve t shirt and long sleeve loose t shirt in a cloth bag, and found it to be equal to the bulk of my 300+ merino jacket, which I substituted at 21C/71F, creating an outfit of briefs, leggings, t shirt and jacket. It was just as warm as the layers. The ability to peel off only one of many layers as the day heats up, is obviously preferable, however.

Sigh… My experiment resulted in disappointment, as a lightweight travel packer. Merino might be second only to down as the best insulator, but it is not magically warm. I infer from those results that even with merino, I’ll still have to pack a giant slab of insulation in winter, as does the sheep pictured above.

#I’ll Ride With You

After a domestically violent unhinged individual with “form” held Lindt Cafe patrons hostage in Sydney today claiming the IS brand, Australians inspirationally offered to ride to work on public transport with Australians who  wear Muslim attire, and fear a xenophobic backlash. Well done for standing up for our fellow humans against bullying!

10 Steps to Writing a Light Travel Packing List for Clothes

Pack Light
If you want to skip the wait at the luggage carousel, and carry your own bag comfortably, pack little! While you need a spare set of clothes or two to wear while the other dries, there’s no joy in lugging a week’s worth of dirty laundry around the world on your back.

Here’s How
1. Warmth
Check the weather at your destinations, remembering at the minimum temperature, you’ll be under blankets in a shelter. Check my post on insulation values at different temperatures. Use garments you already own if possible, to save money and the environment. Start your list with the warmest full outfit you will need.
2. Cooling
Make sure components of this outfit can be used as your coolest gear at your warmest destination. Add to the list only if absolutely necessary.
3. Stink
Now that you have one outfit on your list, add one more of any garment which will be in direct contact with your skin, such as undies, bra, shirt and socks. Vary the thickness, colour, formality and style of your spare set where possible.
4. Laundry
Check you have a second skirt or pair of trousers to respectably wear when washing your primary outfit. Wash clothes when in the shower, which adds literally two minutes to your daily hygiene routine, to avoid wasted weekly hours in a laundromat. Add a third set of skin hugging garments if you will be in humidity or frozen conditions in which clothes will not dry overnight. Add extra garments to cover any days when you will be in a place like a homestay in the Gobi desert, where water is scarce, and showers are not possible.
5. Acceptability
Research social expectations of respectable clothing in your destinations. For example, flipflops are only worn in the toilet in Japan. See my post on modest clothing. Substitute garments to meet these expectations, adding to the list only if unavoidable.
6. Odd Bits and Bobs
Research special needs of your activities, such as gardening gloves for jungle trekking, waterproof boots for Himalayan trekking, ice grips for Siberia, water shoes for snorkeling on coral reefs, or a wedding suit. Consider that you can buy or hire situation-appropriate gear at most destinations. Also, you can make do in most situations with your general clothing. For example, a tankini is also an underwear set. Add only the essentials to your list.
7. Versatility
Replace any garment which can only be worn under other clothes, such as sheer thermal shirts, or which cannot be worn in combination with all of your other clothes.
8. Shoes
Allow yourself a maximum of two pairs of versatile footwear. See my post on shoes.
9. A Caveat
If your trip is only a week long, lug enough to cover your holiday, but remember that only your skin hugging clothes will get smelly.
10. Packing Insurance
Consider that anywhere that people wear clothes, they can be bought or made if you did not pack enough.

On most journeys, you will now have this wardrobe:
one full cold weather outfit
one spare shirt, pants/skirt, undies and bra/ swimmers, shoes and socks
a sunhat


Clo Values: Pack Clothes for the Temperature

Choose Fabrics Carefully

Wool is temperature regulating in hot, cold and damp conditions, and comes in fine merino. Goose down is highly compressible, light and very warm, but performs poorly when wet, so necessitates a waterproof shell over the top. Synthetics dry quickly, are light and require little care, but become smelly quickly. Beware of cotton, which is heavy and slow to dry. Fleece is not as warm when wet, or as wind resistant as wool.  


Layering thin garments is warmer than wearing one heavy sweater. Layering also allows you to carry a wardrobe that is versatile in different climates. The basic principle of layering is to firstly have a close fitting garment, such as a shirt, leggings or socks, which draws moisture away from your body. Wool or synthetics are the best fabrics for this purpose. Next, put on thicker, insulating layers, for which wool and puffy jackets are excellent. On top, add a windproof layer, such as a raincoat or polyester jacket. This layer keeps the warm air in, and the cold out.  

Know the Beast

Check the weather at your destination on a site such as Accuweather. Remember that the minimum temperature is usually in the middle of the night when you’ll be tucked up in shelter, in a sleeping bag or blankets, so you probably do not need to plan for that level of chill.  

The Clo

The insulation value of clothing for thermal comfort when people are at rest is measured in clo. The baseline is 1 clo of clothes at 21 degrees Celsius/ 70F when a person is inactive. A man’s business suit, shirt and shoes totals 1 clo. A difference of around .16 clo of garments keeps you warm for each variation of 1 degree, at least above 0 degrees Celsius. There is a cumulative effect of layering, which means that a garment’s clo is worth more when worn under other clothes. Perhaps this is why over about 3 clo, the rate of change in clo value appears to decrease as compared to degrees. A windbreaker won’t actually increase the clo, but will help you to keep warmth in your personal microclimate. Account for the fact that you won’t spend much of your holiday being inactive outdoors, which significantly decreases the amount of clothing required. Several online articles have listed the clo value of various garments and outfits, including a Wikipedia page called Clothing Insulation, which is worth a look. I have summarised and inferred from these here, to create examples of outfits for various temperatures and clo values.

Clos for Temperatures

As everyone perceives heat differently, I’ve added in red what I’ve comfortably worn at various temperatures. 27 degrees Celsius/ 81 F or above (0.04 clo or less), underwear, shorts, t shirt, flipflops =.22 clo

My experience: wear the respectable minimum, but be sunsmart!

25 degrees C/ 77 F (0.4 clo), underwear, shorts, long sleeved shirt, flipflops

My experience: Shorts are not respectable outside western countries.

23 degrees C/ 73 F (0.7 clo), underwear, skirt/trousers, t shirt, a thick fleece or merino jacket, socks, shoes

My experience: a long sleeved merino t shirt can replace the jacket, with no socks or shoes required, and I feel the cold, coming from subtropical Australia! 

21 degrees C/ 70 F (1 clo), underwear, skirt/trousers, t shirt, long sleeved shirt, merino jacket, socks, shoes

My experience: no socks, shoes or t shirt are required with a mid weight jacket. Alternatively,150-200 weight merino in all of this outfit is warm enough; briefs, leggings,  shorts, midi skirt, cami, short sleeve t shirt, long sleeve t & long sleeve loose top)

19 degrees C/ 66F (1.3 clo), underwear, skirt/trousers, t shirt, long sleeved wool undershirt, long sleeved shirt, jacket, thick socks, shoes

My experience: no undershirt is required.

17 degrees C/ 62 F (1.6 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, skirt/trousers, t shirt, long sleeved wool undershirt, long sleeved shirt, jacket, thick socks, thin socks, shoes

My experience: no thin socks are required.

15 degrees C/ 59 F (2 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, skirt/trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, flannelette long sleeved shirt, two jackets, thick socks, boots

My experience: no second jacket is required. Shoes rather than boots suffice.

13 degrees C/ 55 F (2.3 clo), underwear, skirt/trousers, t shirt, goose down jacket (quoted sometimes at .55 clo, although a hat and overcoat together are 2 clo, so a good, modern puffy would surely be as warm; see Backpacking Light for expert discussions of jacket insulation values), socks

My experience: to avoid a Michelin Man outfit at 2.3 clo, I used a goose down jacket here, but one should theoretically only kick in at -1 C/30 F when it won’t get wet, as damp down is useless, and socially, only when the locals might wear one! I was comfortable at this temperature in merino pants, long sleeved shirt, a 300gsm merino jacket, thick socks and boots.

11 degrees C/ 52 F (2.6 clo), underwear, skirt/trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, goose down jacket, thick socks, shoes 9 degrees C/ 48 F (3 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, tshirt, goose down jacket, thick socks, shoes

My experience: a heavy merino jacket instead of a goose down jacket is enough, but with boots instead of shoes.

7 degrees C/ 45 F (3.2 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, long sleeved shirt, goose down jacket, socks, boots

My experience: I was a bit cool at this temperature in merino pants, four merino shirts, thick socks and boots. A pair of gloves would’ve been great.

5 degrees C/ 41 F (3.3 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, tshirt, long sleeved shirt, goose down jacket, thick socks, boots

3 degrees C/ 37 F (3.4 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, tshirt, merino jacket, goose down jacket, thick socks, boots

1 degree C/ 34 F (3.6 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, skirt/trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, long sleeved shirt, merino jacket, goose down jacket, thick socks, boots

-1 degree C/ 30 F (3.7 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, skirt/trousers, long sleeved wool undershirt, tshirt, long sleeved shirt, merino jacket, goose down jacket, thick socks, thin socks, boots

My experience: I agree. However, Wikipedia claims a ski outfit is only 2 clo, maybe because you’re active when wearing it.

-3 degrees C/ 27 F (3.8 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, sweatpants, two long sleeved wool undershirts, merino jacket, goose down jacket, thick socks, boots -5 degrees C/ 27 F (3.9 clo), underwear, wool longjohns, sweatpants, two long sleeved wool undershirts, merino jacket, goose down jacket, thin socks, two pairs of thick socks, boots. After this, model yours on an Inupiat wardrobe, covering as much skin as possible. It would be difficult to wear more than 4 clo and still be dextrous.

My experience: at -25 degrees C/ -13F, I added ice grips, snow boots, scarf, wool hat, wool gloves, mitts and another shirt.

To enable you to make your own outfit list, here are the clo values I’ve used above.

underpants and bra                               .04 shorts                                          .08
wool longjohns                                        .3 skirt/trousers                              .14
sweatpants                                              .28 long sleeved wool undershirt   .34
tshirt                                                         .08 long sleeved shirt                        .25
flannel long sleeved shirt                      .34 merino jacket                                .36
goose down jacket                                 2 thin socks                                       .03
thick socks                                               .06 flipflops                                           .02
shoes                                                        .02 boots                                                .1

Travel Clothes on the Cheap

It is well documented that because merino wool and goose down are very insulating for their weight, they are ideal for light travel packing. Synthetics are quick drying, and goretex is the waterproofing king.

However, consider how many days of travel expenditure the best gear will cost. Check your wardrobe before buying, because most of the clothes you wear at home will be fine for backpacking. If you still want to invest in some garments, watch for sales, check out low cost department stores, and lose a few desirable garment features. The following comparisons are based on Australian current prices and shops.

Cape Pack-It

Cape Pack-It

Marmot Nano

Marmot Nano

The well reviewed Marmot Nano goretex rain jacket weighs 220g, and costs $400. Anaconda sells the Cape Pack It polyester jacket, which weighs 230g, for $35. I haven’t been damp in it, and it keeps wind out.

The Kathmandu hooded 700 fill goose down jacket is warm in extreme cold, is highly compressible into its own sack, has inside and exterior zip pockets, is water resistant, and weighs 730g. Lighter items are definitely on the market, but I was comfortable with this as my outer layer at -27 celsius. The full price is $600, but it is $200 on sale.

Kathmandu Barrier Jacket

Kathmandu Barrier Jacket

The Kathmandu merino barrier jacket with front zip pockets is of a thick 300+gsm wool, and weighs 590g. This has lasted me for years, but lighter layering pieces would work as well. It costs $330, unless you get the Kathmandu discount card, when it becomes $265.

Icebreaker, the well-respected travel clothing store, sells merino cardigans for $180. Big W usually sells them for $60, but at the end of winter they are $39. Icebreaker has merino hoodies at $150, while Big W’s are $49.

Icebreaker Crush

Icebreaker Crush

Big W Merino

Big W Merino

Merino long sleeve tshirts are $130 from Icebreaker, while their short sleeve tshirts are $100. Meanwhile, Big W sells these from $40 and $29 respectively.

I love my Icebreaker Villa Pants, which are midweight merino, with a secure zipped pocket, because they can be worn as thermal underwear as well as being respectable trousers. They come in at $180, while Isobar’s merino pants cost $100.

Singati Trousers

Kathmandu Singati Trousers

Big W Emerge Tencel Pants

Big W Emerge Tencel Pants

For travel to warmer climes, Kathmandu has quick drying 340g Singati pants, featuring secure concealed pockets, for $160.  A seamstress could inexpensively sew those coveted hidden pockets into the Emerge pants, found at $15 in Big W.

There is no big name maxi skirt, so the choice has to be a local cheapie, an opaque viscose elastane knit, which would be quick drying and require no ironing, at $19 from Target. Wool socks seem to be the same price wherever they are bought.

For cheap merino garments in Australia, check out Ezibuy, Aldi and Woolovers.

If, for example, you chose to buy a merino cardigan and hoodie, long and short sleeve merino ts, merino and synthetic pants and a rain jacket, which would be a sensible light clothing packing list, you would save over $950 with careful shopping. That’s a return airfare to Asia from Australia!

Big Name Stores’ Full Price Cheap Options;Saved Dollars
Down jacket                     600                 400
Heavy merino jacket          330                  65
Merino cardigan                 180                  120
Merino hoodie                    150                  101
Merino long sleeve t            130                   90
Merino short sleeve t           100                   71
Merino pants                       180                   80
Synthetic pants                    160                   145
Light weight rain jacket         400                   365