Whether you’re preparing a backpack for backcountry camping, a duffle bag for a week at Camp Lakamaga, or a carry-on suitcase for an international trip, packing for all of your summer adventures doesn’t have to end with you taking everything but the kitchen sink, yet somehow forgetting your toothbrush. We’re here with pro packing tips to help you and your Girl Scouts prepare to make the most of your summer adventures while keeping your backpacks light.
Use a List and Stick to It
We’ve all used the “Open the closet and start grabbing things” packing method and ended up with twelve t-shirts, no socks, and a very heavy bag. As a group, make a packing list in advance, carefully going through each activity you’ll be doing, weather possibilities, and what not to pack. Then, pull out the list while packing and actually check items off as you go. If you find yourself with extra space in your bag at the end, resist the urge to fill it up with other items. You’ll thank yourself for sticking to the list when zipping your suitcase doesn’t take teamwork and you have room to bring home souvenirs!
Pack as a Group
When traveling as a group, one of the most effective ways to avoid unnecessary gear is to pack together. Once you gather all the group gear together and remove any duplicate items, you can redistribute it amongst the group for easier packing. Keep track of who has what by making “Individual gear” and “Group gear” sections on your packing list.
Organize Your Bag
If you can’t find it, it doesn’t matter what you pack! Pack strategically—stick items you’re likely to need first in the most accessible places. Always keep gear that you might need to find quickly like headlamps, rain gear, and a first aid kit on the top.
Keep the weight of your items in mind. When packing a backpack, heaviest items should go in the center of your bag, closest to your back, while medium-weight gear should be at the bottom and lightweight gear at the front and top (farthest from your back). For a suitcase, you should place heavier items in the center and place soft, sturdy items near the bottom (away from the handle), to prevent top-heaviness.
If your trip is more than a couple days, it can also be helpful to pack by outfits. To do this, stack an outfit—including undergarments and socks together—roll, then rubber band it to keep each outfit separate. Colorful packing cubes are another way to keep your bag organized, and compression bags can be useful for bulkier items like coats and sleeping bags. As a general rule, rolled clothes take up less space (And prevent wrinkling!). Lastly, while you want to maximize space by packing well, make sure you have wiggle room. You’ll likely never re-pack as well as you packed at home.
Less is More
When packing, consider items that have multiple uses and clothes that can be re-worn. Prepare girls to re-wear clothing more than they normally would. You likely don’t need a new shirt and pants for each day of your trip, especially if you choose moisture-wicking, quick-drying clothing. Sticking to one clothing color scheme allows you to better match the weather and occasion while still matching your outfit. For longer trips, find out if you will be able to wash clothes at a laundromat or in a hotel sink. Leave the bulky sweatshirts and jeans at home and focus on layering to create warmth. If you need to bring something bulky, wear it while traveling. Shoes can take up a lot of space and add significant weight, so follow the same rule and wear your bulkiest shoes for travel. Focus on shoes that can serve multiple purposes (such as a good walking sandal that you can also wear out to dinner). Avoid large toiletries like full-sized shampoo bottles—only pack what you’ll need for the duration of your trip.
Pack each item intentionally, ask girls (and yourself) if they really need each item they pack. You might find that you can live without many items you once thought were necessities, but don’t compromise on items like first aid kits, rain gear, and good walking shoes.
Reflect and Revise
After your trip, reflect with your group and take note of what items you didn’t use and what you wished you had packed. When it’s time to replace any travel gear, opt for lightweight, easily packable options.
With all the details you need to keep track of when preparing for a troop trip, the last thing you want to be is stressed out while packing. We hope these tips ease the burden (Literally and figuratively!) of prepping your baggage. And much like progression when traveling, you’ll notice your packing skills get better the more you do it. Soon, you and your girls will have perfected your packing list and strategy—before you know it, you’ll be packing pros!
McKayla Murphy – McKayla is a program resources specialist at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a minor in dance. McKayla is passionate about racial equity, critical media studies, and art education. She enjoys dancing, trying new food, and seeking adventure (including winter camping and travel). Staples in McKayla’s life include dark chocolate, her hammock, and plenty of reading material.