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Part 11 – Anatomy of a Solo Female Backpacking Adventure: Packing for Central Asia

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I should have started far earlier.

Yet here I am, the day before departure, my bed strewn with odds and ends that I think I’ll need for a month in Central Asia.

It’s not that I don’t have a packing list – I certainly do, and it’s elaborate.

But I’m traveling solo, I’ll be working (so I need some electronic items) and I’ll be facing temperature changes, from 39ºC (102ºF) to -10ºC (14ºF) in a single week. Oh and yes – I’d like to weigh in at under 15kg. (This is so not going to happen!)

As a result I’ve been hesitating, exchanging a heavy sweater for a lighter one, a poncho for an umbrella and a book for a Kindle app.

Packing for Central Asia wasn’t a simple thing and here’s what my gear looked like a few hours ago:


And yes, I’m taking most of it with me.

I’ve left a pashmina behind, cut back four T-shirts to two, and sacrificed one spare charger.

Here’s the list. I’ve numbered the items in the photograph and where possible I’ve provided links to Amazon or other retailers who sell each item. At other times I’ve linked to my own pages that explain the items or answer questions about them.

Packing for Central Asia for a month

1. Long underwear (sadly not wool) for the mountains
2. 2 travel bras
3. Hiking socks
4. 2 Rohan travel underwear
5. Clothing Arts pickpocket-proof travel pants and a pair of linen pants
6. 2 T-shirts
7. Columbia travel blouse
8. Pacsafe CitySafe LS200 Anti-Theft Handbag (mine is an older, beige model)
9. Money belt
10. Silly sun hat
11. Hiking shoes
12. Hiking sandals
13. Sarong (I never leave home without one)
14. Bandanna
15. Reading glasses
16. Business cards
17. Sunglasses
18. Flashlight
19. Head lamp
20. Whistle
21. Small knife
22. Sea to Summit silk sleeping bag liner
23. Hand sanitizer
24. Nail brush
25. Sunscreen
26. Umbrella
27. Medications and prescriptions
28. Packmate compression bags
29. Deodorant
30. Panty liners
31. Face wipes
32. Insect bite gel
33. Bandaids, disinfectant
34. Tweezers and nail clippers
35. Small-sized toiletries
36. Toothpaste, toothbrush and floss
37. Water spray (a total luxury and has no business being here but…)
38. Tissues
39. Plastic carry-all
40. Sink plug
41. Bradt Guides to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan
42. Plug adapter
43. Deck of cards
44. Computer charger
45. Computer sleeve
46. Macbook Air
47. Huawei Mifi
48. Thumb drive (for backups and important papers)
49. Delorme InReach (personal locator beacon)
50. iPhone 6S and charger
51. EasyAcc iPhone Charger
52. iRig Lavalier microphone
53. Earbuds
54. Shoulder Pod rig (iPhone grip)
55. Selfie stick (yes, I admit this publicly)
56. SteriPen
57. Marco Polo journal
58. Small Moleskine notebook
59. Spare pens
60. Important papers
61. Point It universal phrasebook
62. Microfiber towel
63. Light fleece (for 1-2 nights at high altitude)
64. Watch
65. Permethrin spray (ugh – but ticks)

should also have packed a rubber doorstop but… I seem to have lost it.


Miraculously, it all fits

And now, I’m ready to go.

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  1. Peubez Monique on August 29, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Bon voyage!
    Just one thing : if your bag remains with you on board you won’t be allowed your pocket knife for example Buy one there and give it when you leave

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on September 1, 2016 at 6:20 am

      No, it went into the belly of the plane, and despite a short layover in Istanbul, it made the connection and met me in Bishkek! We are reunited… I admit I stopped breathing while the carrousel was going around…

  2. Laura C. on August 30, 2016 at 1:27 am

    It looks like you’re planning on carry-on only. Do they let you onboard planes with tweezers, nail clippers and small knife?? I always like to take small, collapsible scissors, but then I can’t do carry-on only.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on September 1, 2016 at 6:18 am

      Sadly this wasn’t carry-on. It was nearly 3kg overweight, and too fat. That said, because it has wheels, I can zip across airports easily, and carry it on my back when I have to. For a month I couldn’t have managed without a few non-permitted items, nail clippers for sure but also a small knife (for seat belts or cheese!)

    • Rita S on September 8, 2016 at 11:56 am

      Tweezers & nail clippers are allowed in carryon, but not the knife as Leyla says.

    • Rita S on September 8, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      What type of bag is that? I must have missed that.

      • Federica on September 25, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        Hi Leyla, what is that wheeled convertible suitcase?

        • Leyla Giray Alyanak on September 26, 2016 at 4:34 pm

          It’s a basic backpack with wheels – the make has long since worn off. In truth I never use it as a backpack but if I had to, I would…

  3. Leah on August 30, 2016 at 9:04 am

    I bow to you! That’s an incredible packing job.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on September 1, 2016 at 6:16 am

      Hah – thanks Leah! But then, I’ll be wearing hiking shoes and camo pants all day, hardly a fashion statement.

  4. Liz on September 6, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Leyla – what did you wear to travel in? I’m assuming that the packing was ‘spares’. Are you ever tempted to add a couple of layers?

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on September 7, 2016 at 11:34 am

      I wore a pair of linen trousers, comfortable, elastic waistband. I do have layers, four to be exact – long johns, a long T-shirt, a light fleece, and for the Kyrgyz part of the journey, a men’s jacket I bought in Bishkek.

  5. Jocelyne Marchand on September 6, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I see not outer wear – what happens when you get to -10c
    No jacket, no vest, no fleecy?

    I have silk pyjamas that are great for an extra layers when it is cold

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on September 7, 2016 at 11:32 am

      I found a second-hand shop in Bishkek and bought a warm men’s jacket – for $5. I’ll leave it behind when I go. I literally need it for a single night and it didn’t make sense to pack something for one day out of 30. I did bring long underwear because in September even though it’s hot in daytime it could get chilly at night.

  6. Ellen Weiss on September 7, 2016 at 3:03 am

    I really learned a lot from your packing list. Thanks. Have an exciting adventure.

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