Trans Siberian Railway: Packing Strategy

Alright readers, I’m back! Two months of non-stop traveling = no time to blog.

Now that I’ve finished my adventure on the Trans Siberian railway, I can say that I could’ve brought way less with me. Packing advice for everyone: you can always bring less! Another piece of advice that I can’t reiterate enough in my blog posts: traveling is not an excuse to look like you’re going on safari. Seriously though, unless you’re actually going on safari, you don’t need to visit your local outdoor outfitters store to stock up on clothes that were meant for the rugged outdoors. If you’re traveling through cities, there is no need for ankle-high hiking boots, convertible zip-pants, and entirely too much khaki. Even if you’re on the move, you can still look nice. I have yet to see people who live in cities dress like they’re camping. Only “travelers” do this for some reason. Now I grew up spending time outdoors, camping, and snowboarding and love outdoor gear as much as the next person. Even so, I only own like a handful of “outdoor” gear and I spend a lot of time outdoors. I could go on a whole rant on consumerism, but I think you get the point. It’s just not necessary. There were way too many times during my travels where I ran into the “khaki safari people” and they just looked ridiculous. Unless you want to stick out even more like a sore thumb in a foreign country, then this is the look you should go for, otherwise, just dress how you would normally dress. With local dress customs in mind, of course.

I feel like the older I get, the harder it is for me to pack light. I guess my standards/comfort level/pickiness has only increased with age. I think when I packed my bag for this trip, too, I was a little out of practice. It’d been almost 4 years since I had last gone on an extended travel trip where I’d be on the move constantly. I have to remind myself in the future that there are different strategies and approaches to packing for 1. a trip where you’re on the move almost daily 2. a trip you’ll be staying in one place for longer 3. a move to a different country. (And for your reference, here are my packing posts on moving to Vietnam and my must-haves for any travel journey.) One of my anxieties of packing is the fear that I’m going to forget something that I’ll want later, so I’ll go back and forth on a lot of items. More often than not, for me at least, if I’m at all unsure of whether or not something is going to get used, it’s probably better to leave it. In most places I’ve traveled to anyways, if I forget something, I can usually find a replacement pretty easily.

While I definitely overpacked, I used almost everything that I brought with me, but definitely could’ve downsized. One of my big fears of traveling, is not having clean laundry so I always bring way more clothes than necessary. This was not an exception. When I traveled through Asia from 2011-2012, I brought more things with me than this trip, but at the same time, I didn’t do as much moving. Sure I went to 8 different countries in 9 months, but on most occasions, was able to stay in one place for a couple of weeks. Or had a home base so I could leave most of my things and just pack for shorter length trips. This trip however, we were constantly moving every few days. Sometimes everyday, which makes the burden of a heavy pack that much greater.

Here’s what I packed (please note, I took a picture of everything a couple weeks after my trip, so I may have forgotten a few items):

And here’s a list of everything I packed. (My bag was probably around 13 kg when I started my journey):

1 60+10 liter backpacking pack
1 purse. My purse can be carried on the shoulder or as a cross-body bag which I recommend what you should look for as a bag for your day-to-day while traveling.
1 laptop
1 pair of over the ear headphones
1 pair of earbuds
1 e-reader (I have an older Kindle)
1 headlamp
1 iPod (not pictured)
1 smartphone (not pictured)
1 water bottle (I brought a 1/2 liter Nalgene with me since I wanted a water bottle I could easily carry around. A full liter water bottle, although great for hydration, is a bit of a pain to carry around)
1 day pack
1 laundry bag
1 game of Bananagrams
1 portable external charger
1 pocket knife
1 deck of playing cards
1 external hard drive
1 little box of jewelry. I mostly just brought earrings with me.
1 camera
1 bag of makeup. Including: eyelash curler, mini travel brush set, BB cream, eye primer, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, mirror compact.
1 toiletries bag (not pictured). Including: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, deodorant, razor, floss, face moisturizer, facial soap (not pictured), travel size shampoo and conditioner (not pictured)
1 makeup cleanser
1 bottle of bug repellant
1 bottle of sunblock
3 small vials of essential oils: lavender, peppermint, and tea tree oil
1 pack of razor refills
1 blazer
1 sleeping bag liner
2 belts
1 pair of jeans
1 fleece-lined sweats
1 quick dry towel,
1 baseball hat
1 skirt
1 dress
1 pair of shorts
1 pair of khaki pants,
1 lightweight cardigan
1 bathing suit (not pictured)
5 shirts
1 button up chambray (not pictured)
3 tank tops
2 pairs of workout pants
1 pair of running shorts
2 workout/sleeping shirts
1 pair of running shoes
1 pair of flats
1 pair of flip-flops
1 pair of everyday shoes
2 ziplock bags fall of underwear, bras, and socks. Including a pair of wool socks.
1 scarf
1 heavy weight sweater
1 medium weight sweater
2 books (not pictured)
1 nail care kit (not pictured)
1 neck pillow (not pictured)

I also picked up a couple items while in Beijing, including 1 t-shirt and 1 lightweight linen sweater which got a ton of wear.

What I accumulated along the way:

1 wool beanie
2 dresses
1 shirt
1 light jacket
1 small cup for tea during train travel
A bunch of souvenirs and gifts. Probably a few kg worth.

Now I didn’t really bring THAT many things considering how heavy my bag was but when you have to lug your bag around daily, the lighter the better. Especially since you may accumulate things along the way. I think I just brought entirely way too many items. I also ended up going camping while in Mongolia and Russia and was unable to store my stuff so I had to carry everything with me, including food, which is incredibly heavy. Carrying my bags during this time definitely was not pleasant. Not everything fit into my backpacking pack too so I had to carry another bag in the front of my body which made things a bit heavier and awkward to carry.

Here’s what I could’ve left behind:

Blazer. I wore this a bunch at the beginning of my trip but then the weather got hot and it got very little use. Could be useful if you’re taking a lot of flights but since I was traveling mainly by train, this ended up getting smashed and wrinkled at the bottom of my bag.

Bananagrams. This game is kind of heavy. We only played this a handful of times. If you’re traveling with more than 1 other person though, this game might be worth bringing. Other times I’ve traveled with this game with a bigger group, it’s come in handy.

Playing cards. I was only traveling with one other person. There aren’t many good two person card games out there so these did not get used once. We also didn’t meet a ton of people on the trains or throughout our travels that would’ve been interested in playing a game of cards with us. Again. If you’re traveling with more people, this would be a good item to bring.

A few items of clothing. I definitely brought way too many clothes with me. I probably could’ve downsized a few shirts. I also only wore the shorts I brought a couple of times. And the khaki pants only came in handy when the pair of jeans I brought with me ripped in the crotch. I probably only needed one of the yoga pants as well. In any case, definitely could’ve down-sized.

Fleece sweatpants. I only wore these a couple times while in Mongolia when it was cold while we were camping. While I was thankful I brought them, They were a pain to carry the whole trip. I probably could’ve layered with the yoga pants that I had brought for warmth.

Laptop. Now I had to bring my laptop for work, but if you don’t need it, don’t bring a laptop if you have a smartphone or tablet. It’s heavy and it’s just another thing that you have to worry about getting stolen. If I didn’t have my laptop, my load would’ve been significantly lighter.

Makeup cleanser. The makeup cleanser I brought came in a big bottle. I was moving the same time I was packing for this trip so that is also a factor into why I didn’t pack as light as I could’ve for this trip. Still though. If you can fit things into smaller bottles or vials, I would recommend doing that instead of bringing full-sized bottles of things. Besides sunblock, bug repellant, and toothpaste, I didn’t need a full-size version of anything during my travels.

Books. I had my e-reader so I don’t know why I ultimately brought a couple of real books along. I ended up not reading them though since I committed to reading the Count of Monte Cristo during my travels and that book lasted basically my entire trip.

Things I should’ve kept in mind when packing:

Bag weight. We were on the move almost daily so making sure your bag is as light as possible is a must. And like I mentioned before, if you’re like me, you’ll probably accumulate things along the way. And if you’re planning on camping and can’t store your things, like it was the case for me, that’s a lot of stuff to be carrying. Especially if you’re carrying food for camping. In any case, if you’re traveling on the Trans Siberian railway, you’ll want to carry food with you anyways, which will be extra weight and space to your bag.

Cold weather clothes came in handy in Mongolia, Lake Baikal, and France, otherwise the weather was pretty summer-y throughout our entire travels. Definitely keep weather in mind when packing and try to pack versatile clothes. Layering is key.

Be able to fit things in one bag if needed. Bringing a bag that could act as a daypack was great but I ended up having to carry my laptop around so I needed to carry my daypack AND backpacking pack with me at all times. If you can fit everything into one bag, I would recommend it. Carrying too many bags on your body is stressful and tiring. Especially if you’re hopping on and off trains and public transportation.

I traveled for 2 months total which makes you think you’ll need a lot of stuff when you’ll be traveling for that long, but you’d be surprised how many things you’ll need. Access to laundry wasn’t a problem throughout my travels except for the times I was camping. So as long as you can wash your clothes, bringing less is probably better. Just bring things you like, so you won’t go sick of your wardrobe as quickly.

Anyways, if I come up with anything else, I’ll add more as I think of it! More Trans Siberian Railway posts to come so keep a look out!

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