Packing light: My 50th birthday present to myself

PacSafe 40L Weekender Backpack with grey merino wool All Birds Sneakers

My carry on backpack, with sneakers so you can get a sense of the size! In addition to a purse, this is all I am traveling with for 2.5 weeks!

I’ve always been an over-packer when traveling, due to being concerned that I might need something at my fingertips when across the globe, usually in rural Turkey (where I’ve travelled 12 times with way too much luggage!).

However, as I approached my 50th birthday, realizing that the bucket list must be implemented post-haste, I decided to be kind to my body and my mind via packing light.

In order to test out this new modus operandi, Murat and I decided to journey around mostly northern Scotland with good friends. This trip’s geography necessitates packing for early springtime with lots of rain and at its worst 40°F weather on the Shetland Islands to the potential for 80°F days in the city of Glasgow. A perfect challenge!

Being a researcher, I began this process by looking into how women pack light. There are a plethora of blog posts and even blog sites on this topic, but my favorite is: Her Packing List. Through this site, I found my holy grail of a bag, the PacSafe Vibe 40L Weekender Backpack – which allows for way more than a weekend’s worth of stuff! It also boasts a steel mesh eco-skeleton under the “skin” of the pack and in the straps to stop anyone keen to slash or cut it.  It is comfortable to wear for me at 5 feet, 9 inches, although I hear the straps are too long for women who are on the shorter side.  I also bought a matching hobo bag as a purse.  Don’t judge, I like matching things.

So, after finding the bag, I commenced planning what to put in the bag. I started by reading a post on what to pack for Edinburgh’s fringe festival and added warm weather gear on to that. Here’s what I ended up with:



Contents of hobo purse from PacSafe:

Glasses case



Wet wipes

Light laptop & charger (Apple)


iPhone & charger




Pill containers (special for travel)

4 rolled up skirts, leggings & pants

My 4 bottoms for 2 weeks – a black knit mini-skirt, black leggings, cotton leggings and jeans.

Backpack contents:

4 Bottoms:

Light jeans (Jag)

Cotton leggings (Garnet Hill)

Jeggings (J. Jill denim)

Black knit miniskirt (J. Jill wearever travel knit)




6 Tops: 

Black tunic (J. Jill wearever travel knit)

Teal tunic (Same as above)

Black t-shirt (Same as above)

Patterned silk tunic (“Edna” from Boden)

Patterned dress/tunic (“Mollie” from Boden)

Vintage grey t-shirt

3 shoes for summer in Scotland

I’m traveling with comfy sandals, comfy black flats and comfy quick-drying sneakers on this trip.

3 pairs of shoes:

Merino wool All birds runners (fast dryers)

Gladiator sandals (Gentle Souls from Nordstrom, amazing for walking yet still cute)

Black flats (Rothys, so comfy and very light and will dry quickly after the rain)


Intimates & accessories;

Light cotton pajama top & bottom that can be used as clothing too (Garnet Hill)

4 quick-dry underwear (New Balance)

3 bras (one sporty, two regular underwire boob torturers)

2 pairs quick-dry socks (Fazitrip)

2 light silk/cotton scarves

Silver stud earrings

Silver everyday necklace

Silver bracelet

Small leather purse

Foul weather gear for packing light

In order to be prepared for foul weather, I’m going with a squish able raincoat, a fleece vest and a lightweight parka.

Cold-weather gear:

Light parka (Cosima by Ex Officio at Travelsmith)

Fleece vest (Columbia)

1 pashmina scarf

L.L. Bean “around town” raincoat (squishable)





Ziplock bag of travel-sized toiletries

These are all the toiletries I am taking with me for 2 weeks. I decanted my hair product into a travel-sized container, and other than my deodorant/anti-perspirant, all items are travel-sized. The ziplock bag is sitting on a quick-dry travel washcloth from Lunatec.


Lunatec quick drying washcloth (I don’t buy the idea that it is self-cleaning though)

Shampoo & conditioner, travel sized

Hair product, travel sized

Q-tips, travel sized


SPF-15 Moisturizer, travel sized

Lip balm


Waterproof mascara

Bar of soap, travel sized

Toothpaste, travel sized

Toothbrush (carried by Murat)

Aquaphor, travel sized


Travel blow-dryer (Company)


I’m so pleased with the outcome

of this experiment – I can’t wait to take it on the road!

What are your favorite ways to pack light? Leave a comment below!