I’ve never written a packing list post before because – even after all these years of travelling – I always seem to forget items I later realise would have been really useful, or I pack items I later realise are not really fit for purpose.
However on my recent three-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake in Myanmar, I started to feel that I may have actually figured out what works for me – in terms of clothing, footwear, and hiking equipment.
So I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my findings with you; to introduce you to the products that I love and that I think the perfect three-day hiking packing list should consist of.
Before I bought these I used to trek in a pair of North Face quick-drying convertible trousers/pants (convertible because you can unzip the legs to transform them into a pair of knee-length shorts). However, whilst they are lightweight and they are quick-drying, they’re not really the height of fashion.
They’re also not great if you’re only 5’1: the short length are still too long and as a result the hems get muddy and dusty from dragging along the surface of the ground over which I’m trekking.
Then there’s the fact that they only come in black or that god awful beige colour that reminds me of my granddad’s ‘slacks’ (a type of polyester trouser with a permenant crease ironed down the front).
The North Face Capri tights are made from a super-soft, lightweight, stretchy fabric that comes in a variety of colourful designs. They are also a perfect length for petite women, coming to just below my knee, about a third of the way down my calf.
Each pair packs up a lot smaller than the trousers I previously wore, and – the best bit – it’s so much easier to hike in them. They offer freedom of movement and ability to stretch . They’ve even got a tiny pocket built into the waistband for storing small change or keys.
Me wearing my North Face Pulse Capri tights (in Black/TNF Black Tonal Gem Party Print) and my Salomon Agile Tank (colour reference 392537)
When I’m hiking in hot climates I like to wear a top that’s breathable and not too fitted. I also favour vest-style tops over t-shirts, because I hate to risk ending up with horrible sweat marks under my arms. The Salomon agile tank is super lightweight, non-creasing, and rolls up really small in your backpack. It’s actually listed as a running top on their website, but you’ll be working up as much of a sweat just walking around in the Myanmar heat.
Salomon also make a t-shirt version, which is useful if you burn your shoulders (which I always seem to manage to do, regardless of how much sunscreen I apply) but still want to stay cool.
This is one of North Face’s most lightweight fleeces, but it still manages to add enough warmth to your outfit to keep you warm once the sun sets. It’s got thumb holes (which I love), zipped side pockets, and a full zipped front, so it’s easy to get in and out of.
I’ve got the version with the hood (because I love stuff with hoods as much as I love stuff with thumb holes), which North Face don’t seem to make anymore. However I didn’t actually use the hood on this particular trek, because it wasn’t cold or windy enough to warrant it.
I’ve no idea why North Face have discontinued this tee, it’s one of the best North Face tops I’ve ever owned. It’s made of quality fabric that washes well and doesn’t need ironing, it’s got a dropped shoulder design and different material on the sleeves to the main body. Yes, the Raglan Tee is actually stylish as well as practical and comfortable!
I’ve got the teal green version but it’s also available in cream. There are only a few places online where the Raglan Tee is still available to buy. Snap it up while you still can!
I wore my Raglan Tee as a mid-layer underneath my 100 Glacier Full Zip Fleece during the evenings on the trek.
Lightweight Yoga / Harem Pants
Yep, I’m one of those people who doesn’t just wear these kind of trousers in Thailand to blend in with the rest of the backpackers; I actually wear them everywhere I travel, including at home too. I find them so comfortable and they’re perfect if you’re somewhere hot where it’s not really acceptable to walk around in shorts, but at the same time you don’t want to overheat and get all sticky.
On a trek you’ll most likely spend a lot of your time sitting around on the floor cross-legged in the evenings (particularly if you’re camping), so a pair of lightweight yoga / harem pants also allow freedom of movement so that you can comfortably do this.
Wearing my harem pants in Kanchanaburi, Thailand
If you want a lightweight, durable, and comfortable shoe for trekking that provides great grip and support then you really can’t go wrong with the Merrell Siren Sport Q2. It’s designed specifically for women and also has the benefit of M Select™ FRESH antimicrobial agents, which helps to reduce shoe odour. Your trekking companions will thank you when you take your shoes off at the end of a full day of hiking in 30+ degree heat.
I have also recently acquired a pair of Keen Terradora shoes (well actually my mum won them at the Shrewsbury Banff Mountain Film Festival, but she gifted them to me. Thanks mum!), which are also super comfy.
Although I’ve not tested them on any treks yet, I have a pair of Keen Bryce boots that I wore during my 6-month adventure around Peru and Bolivia, and I can honestly say that they’re the best pair of hiking boots I’ve ever owned.
Me wearing my Keen Bryce boots on Bolivia’s Salt Flats
Reef or North Face Flip Flops
I love flip flops and live in them when I’m travelling in hot countries, which means that I wear them until they wear out. My favourite brands are Reef and North Face for a winning combination of durability and comfort.
I’ve recently worn out my North Face Base Camp flip flops (but they lasted for years and travelled several countries with me) but I also have a pair of Reef Rover Catch flip flops that I’ll be taking with me to Girona next week. Keep your eye on my Instagram feed for some live photos from this charming Spanish city!
Flip flops are great to wear in the evening when you’re on an overnight or multi-day trek as they let your feet breathe and your toes wiggle and they’re handy to wear to the ‘bathroom’ (I use inverted commas there because the bathroom is quite often just a whole in the ground and a bucket of water).
A scarf / wrap / shawl / sarong
I take one of these everywhere I go, because it’s a fantastic multi-purpose item. In Asia I always carry one with me for occasions when I need to cover my shoulders (you won’t be allowed inside temples wearing just a vest top). It’s great to use as a bit of extra warmth when the temperatures drop at night, or to protect your exposed limbs from mosquitoes (although it won’t offer complete protection; those little bastards can bite through clothing). It also works as a sarong for beach days or boat trips.
The one I took with me on this trek was one I bought from Fat Face many years ago. But I also have a black and white one from French Connection that I love equally. I’m pictured wearing both of them in the photos below (shot in Pai, Thailand).
Again this is one item that travels everywhere with me, because I stay in hostels a lot on my travels and not all of them provide complimentary towels. I also love hiking, so I’ll often choose to do an overnight or multi-day trek when I travel, staying in tents or at local’s houses with only the most basic of facilities available (hot water is always a bonus!).
On these sorts of occasions it’s important to have a towel that’s lightweight, quick-drying (because by the time you shower it’s dark and you’re off again in the morning before the sun has properly risen), and packs down as small as possible.
I also love that DRYU’s travel towels come in such bold, bright colours. You won’t be confusing yours with the travel towel’s of your fellow trekkers! They also provide a handy little zipped mesh bag for your travel towel to live in.
Osprey Tempest 20 Day Pack
When you’re wearing a pack for 7-8 hours a day it needs to be comfortable. Ok, you don’t need to pack much stuff for a 3-day trek, where – even at night – the temperatures don’t drop to anywhere near freezing, but even a pack that doesn’t weigh much can feel heavy and uncomfortable after long periods of time if it’s poorly fitted and poorly designed.
The Osprey Tempest 20 is the perfect size pack to accommodate everything you need for a 3-day hike. It’s made specifically for the female frame, with the facility to adjust it to the length of your torso. It’s also got an AirScape™ mesh covered accordion foam back panel, which increases airflow while you hike, as well as a waist strap with two side zipped pockets for easy access to your camera, mobile phone, or snacks.
And because you need to stay hydrated while you trek, you can either use the two mesh pockets either side to carry water bottles or there’s a pocket between your back and the internal storage designed specifically for a bladder pack, so that you can drink on the go.
There’s also a sternum strap with emergency whistle, a Stow-on-the-Go™ trekking pole attachment, a LidLock™ bike helmet attachment, and a single ice axe loop. Yep, Osprey seem to have thought of everything!
Petzl Tikkina Head Lamp
This is an absolute must on an overnight or multi-day trek as it’s unlikely there will be any lighting at your campsite, and even if you’re staying with local people (as we were) electricity is often limited to a certain number of hours per day, and to certain areas of the house. There definitely won’t be any in the outside toilet.
I favour head lamps over ordinary torches because they leave you hands free to perform any other tasks with.
The Petal Tikkina head lamp is lightweight, has a fully adjustable and washable headband, and has an ambient mode that reduces brightness to avoid blinding others in hiking or camping groups. It takes 3 x AAA batteries, which are easy to obtain anywhere in the world (I bought a spare set from a little hardware emporium in Kalaw before the start of our trek).
You’ll also want to pack some ear plugs and an eye mask if you want to ensure that you sleep through the night and don’t get woken up by a cockerel (or dogs, cows, and buffalo) at 4am. I’m an incredibly light sleeper so I never travel anywhere without mine.
And it goes without saying that you’ll need some sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 30 (the sun is strong out here and day 2 of the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek offers very little shade) and some mosquito repellent containing deet. We didn’t get bitten a lot but it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry, especially as you’ll be trekking close to malaria zones.
Anything else that you’d add to my packing list? Any tried and tested products or gear that you can’t be without? Let me know in the comments below! I’m always interested in discovering new things 🙂
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