I am planning a 2 month backpacking trip through China.

I would like to

  • Bring the LEAST clothing possible
  • Be comfortable in temperatures ranging from 10 C (50 F) to 30 C (86 F).
  • Be equipped for every kind of weather.

What should I bring?

  • 4
    One Bag is an entire site devoted to travelling light. All answers below are included in that site. – mouviciel Aug 25 '11 at 11:45

It's all about layers and weight. As long as you can lose or add layers as you go, you'll be fine. So thermals/polyprops, then tshirts (lightweight, quickdry are the best), then a light jersey, followed by a jacket - ideally waterproof.

Same for legs - polyprop, then some of those light trousers which tear off into shorts as well and are quick dry.

Then multiply by how many you are comfortable wearing before a washing load ;)

Now I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you halve that load. It sounds odd, but you won't use it all, I almost guarantee it, so why not keep some of that weight at home :)

Also recommend a light beanie or cap for headgear.

For footwear - if you're hiking, some boots, and some jandals/sandals are a necessity - even if only for hanging around the hostels in. Otherwise some regular well-fitting comfortable sneakers.

No more. Please no more, you really really will not use all your clothes, I promise. Maybe one pair of jeans and a shirt/top for town, but remember, jeans are heavy.

Sitting here looking at my pile of clothes (I've just gotten back) and thinking how much lighter it could have been ... sigh ;)

  • 3
    Yeah, the longer you travel, the less you need. Also, write down what you take out of your pack. It makes the perfect base for a pack-list. – Jacco Aug 24 '11 at 18:33
  • First time I hear about polyprop. I will definitly check that out. – Damien Aug 24 '11 at 21:30
  • I like quick-dry as well. Saves time hanging up clothes to dry. Generally when I pack around, everything I carry fits in a school-bag. – Beaker Aug 25 '11 at 0:53
  • 1
    On the snap of pants - personally I rather have trousers and shorts (On a hiking trip I left one of the lower legs at a hut and didn't realise for 7 miles) Polyprops are great, merino thermals are better(they cost 3 times the price well they do in NZ) but they don't pick any BO smells. – Stuart Aug 26 '11 at 11:01
  • To be fair, I was using trousers and shorts on my last trip, but I did find myself wishing I had the combo leggings. – Mark Mayo Aug 26 '11 at 11:06

Fleece tops are great because they're warm, dry fast, and can be squished down a lot in a backpack. If you take a fleece top and a lightweight, waterproof jacket, you'll be fine in terms of outerwear.

I agree with Mark Mayo that quick-drying t-shirts and pants that tear/zipper off into shorts are perfect for cutting down on travel. However, you might want to consider getting travel/trekking pants that look a little nicer than the kind that zipper off. That way, you can wear them out to dinner, dancing, etc. Companies like The North Face and ExOfficio make decent-looking ones. You can find trouser-type pants that are waterproof/sunproof and functional but don't look like "sport" pants.

I also suggest getting a camping towel. I like to bring my own towel with me when I travel (and if you're backpacking, I presume you'd be staying in hostel-type places that don't provide towels), I also recommend getting a super-absorbent camping towel. They're basically giant micro-fiber cloths, but they're great because they dry really fast and don't take up much space.

And as Mark Mayo said, how long you're willing to go without doing laundry/having clean clothes is a big factor, too. ;)

  • 3
    Oh, +1, I totally forgot to mention the towel as it was in the other room. Quick-dry micro-fiber from Kathmandu/Mountain Warehouse/other travel shops are the business! Sooo good! – Mark Mayo Aug 24 '11 at 23:05
  • 1
    Great advice. Note: Nobody needs a "giant" towel. I have a 20cm*20cm one, and it is sufficient, just twist it when it is full of water. With this size, attach it to the top of your backpack and it will get completely dry very quickly. – nic Aug 25 '11 at 2:38
  • I've had to use my previously worn shirts to dry myself off when I've forgotten a towel... they don't work well and you just feel like you are rubbing the stink back in. Towels are required – Beaker Aug 25 '11 at 8:33
  • Camping towels are one of my absolute favorite travel items, maybe just favorite item in general. Take up only a little space, dry quickly, use them to help dry clothes (roll up wet clothes in the towel and wring them out)...and you know where you're towel has been and exactly how dirty it is. :) – Laura Aug 25 '11 at 15:08
  • The only reason why I don't like fleece tops or jackets is that if they get wet, they become too heavy to carry and/or dry out. – Ankur Banerjee Aug 26 '11 at 10:16

I agree with an above comment about writing down what you use and making that your kit. The first time I traveled, I took so much that I didn't need. On each new adventure I was able to pair things down more and more. I recently did a year in South America with a 28 liter bag with room to spare.

Everyone seems to be different so it's difficult to determine what will work for you so all I can offer is generic advice:

When buying clothing, make sure it works in several situations. All black hiking boots don't look too bad if checking out a club in town.

Tan or beige pants that convert into shorts work great for a hike or a night out if dressed up with a polo.

I personally don't like the synthetic stuff. I stick with Smart Wool for all undergarments. I've spent weeks in the jungle with just two pair of socks, shirts, and underwear made with the stuff and never smelled a bit.

Avoid jeans if you can. They are heavy and do poorly when wet. They also often require a belt which adds to your kit.

Try to keep it light as possible unless you're planning to rough it for weeks without civilization. You can always purchase shirts and things if you need. As long as you have a few basics, you'll be OK.

  • 7
    I always bring a belt. I've found they can be a very important tool or medical device (tourniquet or device to put pressure on a bandage). I've used my belt to hang up a space blanket (when I couldn't find lodging in Osaka) or pot (when I had to impromptu camp in the Alps). The trick is to never take it off... you have a perfect belt storage area in your belt loops. If you bring a nice thick solid leather one, you can wear it anywhere and in any condition and have a great tool. – Beaker Aug 25 '11 at 8:32

Most other answers have covered all the ground that there is to cover, and I agree with the comments. What I really must say though is that you should add a good sports training jacket to your packing list. NOT one that's too heavy or one of the cheaper ones that are just thin rain jackets. I don't want to name brands but quite a few sports apparel brands have jackets with a mesh-lined inner back with an outer waterproof layer. It works brilliantly in protecting you from cold or windy conditions in the temperature range you've given, as well as offering you protection when it rains.

And, not specifically about clothing, but this will help you carry enough clothes easily: roll up your clothes when packing. It helps in packing everything compactly and you will be able to stuff in at least a couple of tshirts, shorts/jeans etc in even small backpacks.

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