How to Pack a Backpack for a Weekend Trip 

 May 15, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Making plans for a trip and actually going on it can be a pretty exciting experience, even if the trip is short, say, for a weekend. And packing for it can either be a time-consuming or stressful exercise for some; but for others, it can be fun. But truth be told, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to pack.

We all have friends who always have a “go-to” backpack ready which they just pick up and go at a moment’s notice. Yet there are other folks who are struggling with packing until the last minute and will still forget stuff and complain about it throughout their trip.

Some books and articles have romanticized weekend getaways (when they trivialize the topic of how to pack a backpack for a weekend trip), but just landing at your destination with a pair of jeans, two t-shirts, and a toothbrush is not the greatest idea. This is because wherever you are going, the things you will carry with you will depend on your personal style statement, and of course, the weather.

Naturally, it is very easy to get carried away while packing, especially if it is for a short time, such a weekend. Your mind is bursting with excitement and you tend to make plans, such as exploring the city, or lounging at the resort you are vacationing or, simply dining out. And a lot of people go overboard while packing clothes, just because of this reason. But it can be a lot neater and more efficient if you can follow a few simple rules, which will make packing a lot easier, and fun.

So let’s get down to our article about how to pack your backpack for a weekend trip.

You may have come across this or maybe a frequent traveler has suggested that to you. And maybe you laughed it off, chuckling “it is too childish!” But the truth is, making a list will not only plan your weekend better but also give you a clear idea of what to carry. You can start by listing down the obvious things; your destination, the duration of your stay and the list of your planned activities. You will find that by doing so, you can actually add to or eliminate parts of your daily activities.

The second and most important thing for you would be to make a list of all the things you are planning to take on the trip. These would include identification papers, money, clothes, your electronics (besides the phones, it could be a laptop, chargers, or a camera. 

Chances are, while writing down the list you will realize a couple of things that are missing, and are likely to add them. At the same time, you may also discard a few items that you were originally planning to take along. For instance, do you really need 3 pairs of sunglasses?

Choosing the Right Luggage

If your trip is just limited to a weekend, you should be good to go with an ordinary-sized backpack which is spacious enough for your clothes (which we will come to in the next section of this article).

Another important factor to consider here is to bring in a backpack that is small enough so that you don’t have to check in at the airport (if you are flying). Traveling with carry-on baggage is highly recommended by frequent travelers. Not only it saves on baggage fees, but it also saves on time, because you don’t have to waste time at the baggage carousel.

If a suitcase is what you are carrying as your main luggage, you may want to consider a day pack with you for your city tour, where you can keep essentials and carry accessories and still have room for any shopping that you may do (which may include gifts for friends and family and souvenirs for colleagues).

Alternatively, if it is a road trip you are on, you can always distribute the bulk of your stuff in the car and not overburden your backpack.

Packing the Electronics

You can skip this section altogether if you are going on a “detox” trip, which means you do not want to be distracted by the usual gang of electronics such as phones, laptops or tablets.

But if you are a regular traveler who intends to indulge in electronic nirvana even while sitting at a beach or a mountaintop, you will need to prioritize your electronics.

In doing so, you will have to ask yourself some logical questions; if this is not a work trip, would you actually need/want to carry your laptop? Do you need to carry the bulky DSLR, or is your phone better equipped for quick, rapid snaps on the go? Same goes for the music; Would you need to actually carry a separate Bluetooth speaker with you, or your phone would be enough?

Now that you have sorted the list of electronics, you will, of course, want to carry the different types of chargers that they come with. You may also want to carry a battery backup with you (in case your phone cannot hold a charge for longer periods), but also remember that you cannot check those in these days and will have to be in your carry baggage, so pack accordingly.

Pack Your Identification

Needless to say, you will bring your passport with you if you are traveling abroad. With that, you should also keep information with you pertaining to your hotel, your itinerary, and your emergency contact numbers. It is also always a good idea not to rely on your mobile data, and to have a physical copy (read printouts) with you, safely tucked away in an inner pocket of your backpack.

You can also take photographs of the essential travel documents with you and keep them stored locally on your phone.

Packing the Clothes

People these days are obsessed with the “airport look”, but most frequent backpackers and weekend travelers scoff at the idea. The consensus is that you should keep one common outfit for your entire flight schedule, because logically speaking, it will save you space on one outfit. If you are carrying heavy clothing (such as blazers or jackets), consider wearing them at the airport, because not packing them in your backpack would also save you considerable space.

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As we said, you will also want to consider the climate of your destination. If it is humid climes you are on to, it is a good idea to keep some light, spare clothing. Also, unlike on a longer trip where you normally carry 2 or even three changes of clothes for a day, think about how many clothes you would actually need, rather than how many of them you want to carry with you.

Depending on where you are, you may want to consider carrying clothing that you can mix and match.

  • Jeans/ Joggers: This is the most versatile piece of clothing that you will carry because it can go with virtually any shirt/t-shirt. You can also wear jeans for more than a day, without being worried about it being crushed or spoiled. Same goes for the joggers if they are of a darker shade.
  • Forget Bulky Jackets: As long as the weather of your destination is not sub-zero, do not even consider packing in bulky sweaters or jackets. If you experience a slight chill in the weather, you can always layer the shirts you are carrying with you to stay warm.

You may also want to carry a rain jacket/ coat with you in case the weather turns suddenly and you have to do a course correction and alter your plans accordingly.

Don’t Fold, Roll

Carry a backpack means you have limited place and you need to make the most of it. This technique has been used for decades by military men and travelers alike and saves incredible space as you pack. This also helps your clothes remain somewhat wrinkle-free. The simplest way to do this is to fold your T-shirts and trousers/ jeans and then roll them tightly going from top to bottom.

You can then stack them inside the backpack at the bottom, but remember to put the clothes that are prone to wrinkle on top. The rest of the stuff can go on top — this could be your gadgets such as camera/ other accessories, this way, not only will your clothes remain in one place, but it will also maintain the center of gravity, giving you a more balanced gait when you walk around with it on your back.

If you are carrying a smaller backpack that meets the baggage policies of your airline, this is a great and neat way to carry your belongings.

Packing the Shoes

This is one of those things even seasoned travelers are confused with sometimes. To take, or not to take? The simplest way around this is to refer to your list and go through the activities you will be indulging in. If you can help it, do not carry more than two pairs. Choose the shoes you are going to be wearing often, carefully, so you can use them in most activities such as cycling, hiking or trekking.

It would be even better if one of them could be sandals or flip-flops, for versatility. The sandals can be paired with any number of clothing, be it beachwear, chinos, shorts, summer dresses and so on.

They are also very useful if you are in a place where you are required to take your shoes on and off several times. The extra pair should either be kept in a shoe bag or a plastic bag, so they do not rub off on your clothes.

If you are a backpacking tourist, don’t worry about packing in your fancy shoes. Most fancy restaurants do not look down upon travelers who come knocking in well-worn shoes these days.

Consider Using Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are not a new concept because frequent backpackers have been using them in an improved format for a long time now. These days, they are commercially produced and are designed to keep all the items in your bag categorized and in one place. Not only do they keep your ironed clothes from going askew and ruining the crease, but they are also a great way to organize (and save you from untangling) computer and charging cables.

Source: containerstore.com

A lot of people also use them to pack in other equipment such as cameras, hard drives, USB drivers and so on. The best part about them is that they are also available in multiple colors, so you can easily categorize and club your items separately, or all in a bunch.

Another advantage of using packing cubes is that if you are using a thin backpack, they will create a somewhat organized shape for your bag, and keep things from poking into your back. They will also keep all the loose items such as coins, cigarette lighters and your toiletries from jingling, especially when you are on the move, which can be annoying for most folk.

And because of this organization, these packing cubes can be removed and repacked in a jiffy, saving you a lot of time on thinking and organizing your backpack. Just arrange the cubes to your liking in the bag and you will be good to go!

If you can’t find packing cubes at the last minute, you can stuff items such as your toiletries, socks and even underwear into your shoes!

Packing the Toiletries

Most hotels these days, big or small provide you with a lot of items that would take care of your daily needs. These include (not necessarily all) disposable toothbrushes (some hotels go one step ahead and provide a new one every day), toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and shower caps. Some hotels even provide disposable shaving kits. The amount in these travel-sized containers is just about enough to last you a weekend, saving you the trouble of carrying full-sized bottles and then taping them shut.

A sensible idea would be either contact the hotel directly or check online on what all they provide with their rooms. This way, you can completely forego the items that are already available. This particular tip is only for those who are not very particular about using toiletries, which they know nothing about.

If you must carry your toiletries with you (some items could be prescribed by a doctor such as medicated soaps or lotions), put them all in a Ziploc bag. If you are carrying large bottles of shampoo/ shower gel, you should consider first removing all the air in them, and then twisting them shut tightly. Putting tape (that you can peel off easily) around the cap will make sure that the contents do not leak out.


We have tried to cover as much as we can in this article on how to pack a backpack for a weekend trip. While packing your backpack for the weekend, remember to keep it light because you may be carrying it around with you at most times. Try to not pack multiples of everything, such as hiking shoes or bath towels. Also, if it is a quick trip you seek, try a digital detox, and leave behind your laptop or tablet and such gadgets.

Remember, weekend getaways are all about having fun, enjoying the little time you have and leaving the stress behind!

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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