Backpack In Style – Without Over-Stuffing Your Bag

Extras, Italy, Packing & Wardrobe, Shopping & Style — By on September 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

by Karmen Fox

Special to The Lost Girls

Backpacking trips are notorious for jam-packing as many sites in a short timeframe and cramming as few clothes into a confined bag as possible. And though the fast-paced travel itineraries excite me, repeating the same outfit tires me, especially with the same ol’ dingy style staples (ahem, hoodies).

A recent backpacking trip through Italy inspired me to dispel those sloppy style clichés. The challenge was simple: 10 outfits and 10 hairstyles in 10 days. To switch up my look without lugging around my whole wardrobe, I brought only nine versatile pieces of clothing, seven accessories, and just one hair styling product.

The best part? My packing was so efficient that my suitcase had fewer items and weighed less than my boyfriend’s. Take that, gender stereotypes. On top of that, no hairstyle took over five minutes to do—in fact most of them took only a minute with dry hair. That means less time in the hotel or hostel and more time sightseeing.

The Clothes Combo

Before rummaging through my closet, I researched the weather—both the 10-day forecast and the seasonal averages. I opted for lightweight clothes that could easily be layered for warmth.

Then I turned to my itinerary. Sightseeing in the cities called for comfortable yet chic ensembles, so absolutely no hoodies or worn-down tees; whereas hiking in Cinque Terre needed a terrain-friendly outfit. Usually, I’d pack gym gear for rugged hikes, but jeans and a thin sweater sufficed for that trail.

Picking the right pieces is like a word problem. Well, a fun word problem. I packed four tops, three bottoms (I bought a red skirt in Milan that I couldn’t wait to wear), two scarves, two purses, and one goes-with-everything jacket. Only tops that went with all three bottoms made the cut. Accessories, like scarves, purses, and shoes, had to match at least three outfits. See, wasn’t too tricky.

The shoe selection was also simple. My go-to pair was my nude flats for sightseeing, and running shoes for hiking. Unless your shoes are worn-in, have arch support, and fit well, don’t bother packing them if you don’t want achy, blister-covered feet. Always pick comfort first when traveling.

The only items I didn’t repeat was a blouse, which wasn’t warm enough to wear as the temperature dropped, and the recently purchased pencil skirt, which proved too restrictive for walking uphill. Lesson learned: spend at least a day at home wearing an item before putting it in your suitcase (or committing to a full day of wearing it on your trip).

The Hairstyles

I admit that I love drooling over hair tutorials on Pinterest, but I didn’t bother with anything intricate or complicated on this trip for time constraints. Any style not self-explanatory has a quick step-by-step or link to the tutorial that I found on Pinterest.

Remember: Test any hairstyle before you even leave for the airport. Travel time is precious. Don’t scan a tutorial and figure, “Oh, that’s easy,” and miss the last tour of the Vatican or something equally impressive because you were fussing with your hair. No hairdo is ever worth that.

Day 1: Milan

Ballerina bun. First day in Italy’s fashion capital deserved a chic bun with glitzy earrings.

Day 2: Milan

Chignon. It’s a softer ballerina bun repositioned snugly behind your ear. Only complaint: it needs a lot of bobby pins to be held in place.

Day 3: Lake Como

High ponytail. A sleek pony matched the retro-revival get-up without looking like a Mad Men extra. But really, what doesn’t this classic ‘do go with?

Day 4: Cinque Terre

Braided crown. Too dainty for a hike? Hardly. This snug and secure braid kept my hair out of my face and needed no readjustments. I would have worn this each day, but that would have defeated the purpose of the style challenge.  Try it here.

Day 5: Pisa

Loose waves. Letting your hair down feels like it’s cheating, but it’s so not. I simply added defrizzing product after showering and air-dried. Here’s how to get overnight waves if your strands are sleek and straight.

Day 6: Siena

Twists with a low bun. This seems tricky, but just twist the front of your hair and secure with bobby pins. It can be worn down, in a ponytail, or in a bun.

Day 7: The Vatican

Braided headband. My braid was thin, but it can certainly look thicker by adding more hair or doubling up the braids. Test it out with this tutorial.

Day 8: Rome

Side swept curls. Like the loose curls, but make a deep part and secure with bobby pins. Weave into a side braid if it keeps getting caught under your bag’s straps.

Day 9: Rome

Scarf as a headband. Accessories really do make all the difference.

Day 10: Venice

Messy bun. I wanted something more romantic and stylish for my last day in Italy. But no sleep on the overnight train means no energy for anything complicated. An understated messy bun—a staple on locals and tourists alike—worked just fine for my Italian send-off.

For more photos, visit my tumblr

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  • Ellie says:

    Love the style! Totally agree with being able to look and feel good with just using the few items you have in your backpack! Thats exactly how I am when i travel 🙂 If you want check out @DianeKroe designs. She specializes in travel clothing for women!!!

  • Very clever little tips there and all the combinations really work…hats off to you :).

  • Ally says:

    I was just about to post an article on different hair styles for travelling but you’ve pretty much covered it here. Great tips

  • Dagmara says:

    Ally, I find packing to be the hardest part of traveling! Great tips on assuring that each top matches all bottoms. I will definitely use that the next time I pack. Luckily, as of late I have spent most of my time in the mountains, requiring only athletic gear. Happy travels 🙂

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