backpacking

How to Pack a Natural Medicine and Toiletry Kit for Family Travel: This is what we bring in our natural medicine & toiletry kit when we travel as a family. While backpacking with kids, we've found the key is to combine packing light while still preparing for the unexpected.

How to Pack a Natural Medicine and Toiletry Kit for Family Travel

At long last, we come to the final details of our packing — what’s in our toiletry and medicine bags.

I’ve already shown you what we pack for babies & toddlers and for children. But even though our kids carry all their own clothing, shoes, toys, school books, etc. Ryan and I are the ones who carry all the other miscellaneous items for the rest of the family

Of course, we’ve already got to carry all our own clothing, shoes and personal items, plus a few extra items for baby. Which means our toiletry and medicine bags need to stay as light as possible, while still taking into account they’re for seven people.

In this post I’ll show you what’s in the following four bags:

  • Our medicine kit
  • Our toiletry bag
  • My personal makeup bag
  • My purse (which goes on all outings, planes, etc. with us)

I’ve laid out every single item in each of these bags, with numbers that correspond to a list of what it is and what we use it for.

One little caveat before I show you what’s inside:

I’m definitely on the crunchy side and have very strong preferences about the personal care products we use, as well as how we treat sickness and injuries. As a result, I probably carry more than I might otherwise, because it’s harder for me to get the particular items I want, especially for our medicine kit.

I’m a “just in case” person who always wants to be prepared for every scenario (this makes it HARD to become a light packer, but it goes to show if I can do it, anyone can). We’ve also got very young children with us, and so I pack with more of a better-safe-than-sorry mentality when it comes to them.

To get around this, I basically re-package everything and try to make it as compact as possible. I store different kinds of pills and capsules together (I write a key for myself on the bottle or lid in black sharpie), I put powders and capsules in ziploc baggies, and use teeny tiny essential oil vials. I find every possible way to save space. This lets me get away with a really varied medicine kit in a relatively small bag.

What we pack in our travel medicine kit:

How to Pack a Natural Medicine and Toiletry Kit for Family Travel: This is what we bring in our natural medicine & toiletry kit when we travel as a family. While backpacking with kids, we've found the key is to combine packing light while still preparing for the unexpected.

  1. Herbal tinctures – We use this set of three herbal tinctures for malaria prevention, and if needed, to begin treatment until we can get medical help. There is one for prevention, initial treatment, and then follow-up treatment. We used these on our first big trip when we were in Africa and still have enough left for this trip. We’ve already begun taking one bottle of the prevention formula before we leave, since we’ll be heading almost immediately to the jungle.
  2. Activated charcoal – for stomach upsets, diarrhea, food poisoning, spider or other bug bites, etc.
  3. AfterSun Balm (Badger)
  4. Essential Oils – Plant Therapy KidSafe Tummy All Better, Terra Shield (bug repellent blend), and small travel size vials of frankincense, peppermint, a homemade citrus blend, eucalyptus, headache blend, On Guard, melaleauca (tea tree), and geranium bourbon (for ticks and other bugs).
  5. Powdered vitamin C – immune boost, or to do a parasite flush (as directed by my naturopath)
  6. Bentonite clay – cuts and scrapes, bug bites, stomach troubles, diarrhea, skin rashes or irritations, and a facial masque for mommy if she’s lucky.
  7. Zinc lozenges – for colds or sore throats
  8. Betaine HCL capsules – part of a protocol I’ve been doing with my naturopath to heal some gut issues – I take them before eating something that may be hard for me to digest
  9. Various bandaids
  10. One large non-stick gauze pad
  11. Emergen-C electrolyte drink packages – one of the main things I wished I’d had on our big trip was these electrolyte packages. I could make my own rehydration drink with ingredients from the store (salt, lemon, honey, mixed with water) but this is much more convenient, especially when someone gets sick on a travel day.
  12. Silver gel – we use this instead of antibiotic ointment (like polysporin). It works amazingly well, as silver is a natural antibiotic.
  13. After-Bug Balm Itch Relief stick (Badger)
  14. Thermometer and tweezers
  15. Temperature-stable probiotics (Bio Kult) – to help feel normal again and repopulate good gut bacteria after tummy upsets
  16. Children’s Advil – we’re of the mind that it’s better to let fevers run their course naturally, but we’ve also been in situations (while traveling) where a child had a really high fever and was getting dehydrated and I wished I’d had something like this as an emergency fallback. So now it makes the cut.

The blue bag is an Eagle Creek Pack-it-Sac in medium.

I’ll also note that you can buy many of the ingredients you need for natural remedies almost anywhere — onions, garlic, raw honey, ginger, lemons, etc, not to mention far more than this if you luck out and come across a health food or vitamin store.

What’s in my purse:

This is the everyday purse I carry to go shopping, when we go sight seeing, etc. It’s a travel safe bag, meant to be protective against theft.

 

How to Pack a Natural Medicine and Toiletry Kit for Family Travel: This is what we bring in our natural medicine & toiletry kit when we travel as a family. While backpacking with kids, we've found the key is to combine packing light while still preparing for the unexpected.

  1. Sunglasses
  2. Spray sanitizer (for hands, surfaces, etc.) – I bought this one at Whole Foods but it’s sort of like this
  3. Lip balm
  4. Visine dry eye drops (traveling on planes really dries out my contact lenses)
  5. Emergency snacks for a grumpy baby. 🙂
  6. Travel hair brush (this opens up and the brush part flips out – I’ve never used one before but I love it!)
  7. Ginger capsules for motion sickness, but this also contains some pain relievers and activated charcoal – I put them all in the same small container to save space.
  8. My mini first aid kit – herbal salve, mini essential oil rollers (one has a headache remedy, the other is a pain reliever), mini vial of lavender oil, motion sickness essential oil blend (put a drop behind each ear – it doesn’t take it away but it does help prevent/take the edge off), Emergen-C packets, cough drops, bandaids.

What’s in our family toiletry kit:

How to Pack a Natural Medicine and Toiletry Kit for Family Travel: This is what we bring in our natural medicine & toiletry kit when we travel as a family. While backpacking with kids, we've found the key is to combine packing light while still preparing for the unexpected.

  1. Clear Care contact solution – I’ve been using this brand for years and it’s what my very sensitive eyes prefer, so I lug full-size bottles of it when we travel.
  2. Deodorant (mine)
  3. Deodorant (Ryan)
  4. Face lotion (mine)
  5. Toothbrushes (all but mine)
  6. Razors and extra blades
  7. Comb
  8. Badger Anti-Bug Sunscreen (Badger makes my favorite all-natural sunscreen – this is our first time trying the anti-bug version)
  9. Shampoo
  10. Conditioner
  11. Liquid castile soap – we use this instead of bringing a bar of soap. It’s also lathers up well to use as shaving cream, and can be used as dish soap or do house cleaning in a pinch.
  12. Facial cleanser (mine)
  13. Contact case (mine)
  14. Nail clippers and Q-tips
  15. Toothpaste
  16. Bug spray (Badger)

The black bag we use is no longer available, but it’s a pretty standard toiletry bag with a hook for hanging it up in small bathroom spaces.

Though we may one day when the kids are bigger, we don’t currently travel carry-on only. We usually check at least Ryan’s big bag (it’s over the size limit, for sure) and sometimes mine, and then bring our day packs on the plane.

Since we check his bag, we can travel with larger amounts of liquids, so long as he’s the one who keeps our toiletry bag. I keep the medicine bag instead, since it has much less liquid and could pass through security if needed.

What’s in my makeup bag:

 

How to Pack a Natural Medicine and Toiletry Kit for Family Travel: This is what we bring in our natural medicine & toiletry kit when we travel as a family. While backpacking with kids, we've found the key is to combine packing light while still preparing for the unexpected.

  1. Makeup – 4 eye shadow, 2 lip balm (one shiny), colored lip gloss, liquid foundation, 1 eye shadow brush
  2. Earrings – Just a few pairs that go with most outfits, but I’ll pick up more as souvenirs. They’re one of my favorite things to buy when we travel because they’re memorable and cheap, but so compact.
  3. Various hair elastics, clips, bobby pins
  4. Extra contact lenses (3 month supply)
  5. Non-toxic nail polish – I always keep my nails painted in sandal-wearing weather and it can be tricky to find non-toxic polish in other places.
  6. Another fold-up hair brush (this way I’ve got one in my makeup bag for mornings, but also one in my daypack for transit days)
  7. Diva Cup – I’m a recent adopter (mostly in preparation for this trip) but man oh man, why did I not try sooner? I’m a total convert. Having previously experienced the joys of getting my cycle on the road (and in developing countries no less), I cannot even tell you what a game changer this is. I also picked up some small alcohol wipe packets and stashed them in my purse and daypack (they’re super cheap at any pharmacy), so I have a way to disinfect the cup if I’m stuck in an area where I can’t access clean running water.
  8. My toothbrush (I like to keep it away from the minions, er, children – Ryan does the same) and tweezers
  9. My personal supplements – Deep Immune (a mix of herbs, mostly adaptogens, that my naturopath recommended to boost my immune function which has been low due to gut issues and stress), plus grass-fed organ complex capsules (basically a superfood complex – read more here).

Phew! You have now seen ALL the ins and outs of what we’re bringing to Central America for three months this spring.

And this is essentially what we’d pack for nearly any length of trip, because it’s just about right for what we can comfortably carry without feeling overloaded with stuff.

The good news is that even those with strong preferences can still usually find what you need on the road. I found it to be true over and over again on our year-long trip that I could get anything I really needed, so long as I stayed flexible, maintained a sense of humor and used a little ingenuity.

That’s what we bring in our natural medicine and toiletry kit for family travel! Any questions or comments? Just let me know!

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A "Travel Light" Backpacking Checklist for Children: Traveling light with kids makes life so much easier but what to bring? Here's a backpacking checklist for children with lists and photos of what we pack.

A “Travel Light” Backpacking Checklist for Children

This is a continuation of my “travel light” backpacking checklist post from last week (babies & toddlers), only this time I’m focusing on what I bring for my bigger kids.

Specifically, I’m going to show you the backpacks and travel wardrobes for my 7 year old daughter, Johanna, and my 9 year old son, Caden.

As I said last time, we follow a one bag rule — each member of the family gets one bag. That’s it. And as our kids know well by now, the bottom line is that “if you can carry it [insert: happily], you can bring it”.

A "Travel Light" Backpacking Checklist for Children: Traveling light with kids makes life so much easier but what to bring? Here's a backpacking checklist for children with lists and photos of what we pack.

*Caden, 9, looking rather pleased with his couch-pillow perch during morning reading time.

How I choose what to pack for big kids

Of course, I’m still the person who selects their wardrobes, shoes, bags, etc. Since it’s important that they have the right mix of clothing to suit our travels, I oversee the entire process carefully rather than leaving it up to them.

This is how we choose what goes into their backpacks:

  1. I create a generic list of what I think they need (2 pants, 3 shorts, 1 bathing suit, 1 pair sandals, etc.)
  2. I sort through their current clothes and anything we have in storage (like hand-me-downs or clothing from an older sibling) especially if we’re in the opposite season. For example, right now they’ve got winter clothes in their rooms, but we’ll be traveling in hot climates, so I ransacked the house for any summer clothing I could find before making a list of items to be purchased.
  3. Once I’ve got a stack of climate-appropriate clothing for each kid, I sit down with them for about an hour and get them to try everything on. We also check for major stains or rips (I like to at least begin each trip with decent-looking clothes, even if they won’t stay that way). If there are any clothes either of us dislike, we don’t even bother with them. When you’ve got such a small wardrobe, it’s only worth bringing stuff you want to wear.
  4. Then I take the clothes that fit and are in good condition, and get them to show me their favorites and we start matching up various bottoms and tops to see what matches.
  5. And finally, I purchase new clothing to fill in any gaps we discover along the way.

I think it’s critical for big kids to be part of this process, and also feel like they’ve got some control and options. Just like you, they’ll be living day in and day out with whatever ends up in their backpack and it’s not unreasonable for them to want to like what they bring.

So I’ll select a handful of clothes that will work for a certain purpose, say pants or tee-shirts. I lay out the options I think will work best and then say “Ok, show me your four favorite shirts out of this pile” or “If you could only bring one pair of jeans, which ones would you choose?”.

Sometimes, I still have to call the shots and make a final decision, but I always walk through this process with my kids first so they not only feel respected, but happy and excited about what’s going in their pack. Happy kids makes for a far happier trip.

A “Travel Light” Backpacking List for Children:

A "Travel Light" Backpacking Checklist for Children: Traveling light with kids makes life so much easier but what to bring? Here's a backpacking checklist for children with lists and photos of what we pack.

What’s in my 9 year old son’s backpack:

Backpack: Osprey Jib – 35 liter (which has now been replaced with the Osprey Ace 38L)

1 pair jeans

1 pair zip-off pants (= pants + shorts)

3 pairs shorts (1 doubles as swim trunks)

4 tee shirts

1 long sleeved shirt

1 zip-up hoodie sweatshirt

1 rain jacket

1 pair pajama pants (technically they’re lightweight black layering bottoms that he loves to wear for playing ninja or just being cozy around the house – and if the night is chilly, he can also wear one of his tees to bed)

1 baseball cap

5 underwear

2 socks

Rugged closed-toe sandals

Flip flops – we don’t have these yet but may add them

Note: Normally I’d want him to have one short sleeved shirt with a collar, but he didn’t have any decent looking ones that fit, so I’ll keep my eye out for one before we leave or once we’re on the road and might replace one of his tees with it. It’s not essential, but I like each child to have one non-scrubby looking outfit they can wear for church, a nicer restaurant, etc.

Also note: All of these clothes match. They’re in varying shades of gray, black, navy and blue.

A "Travel Light" Backpacking Checklist for Children: Traveling light with kids makes life so much easier but what to bring? Here's a backpacking checklist for children with lists and photos of what we pack.

What’s in my 7 year old daughter’s backpack:

Backpack: MEC Escapade 32 liter 

1 pair leggings

1 pair zip-off pants (=pants + shorts)

2 skirts

2 shorts (one is board shorts)

1 bathing suit

1 dress (which is from last summer and almost too small but she’s hoping to buy a pretty new sundress on the road and ditch this one)

1 zip-up sweatshirt (it’s actually more like a yoga jacket and is reversible so she has two color options)

1 rain jacket

5 tees + 1 layering tank

1 light nightgown

5 underwear

2 socks

Rugged closed-toe sandals

Flip flops

Sunhat

A "Travel Light" Backpacking Checklist for Children: Traveling light with kids makes life so much easier but what to bring? Here's a backpacking checklist for children with lists and photos of what we pack.

Special note: Not only do these clothes match (they’re all gray/denim/navy mixed with white, purple and pinks) BUT you should know this is my fashionista. I allowed one more tee and one more skirt/shorts than I think is necessary. And that was after convincing her to ditch an extra cardigan as well as her skinny jeans (I gave her the final option between bringing the jeans or the second skirt, and she chose the skirt, which I think was wise since she already has pants and leggings). Thankfully, her clothes are small and light so even if she has a tad more than she needs, her bag won’t be too heavy to carry. And more importantly to her, she’ll look good doing it. #alltheclothes #girlpacking

Other items they’ll bring in their backpacks:

  • Kindles for reading
  • Math curriculum – ripped out pages for Johanna (she uses Math-U-See), and Caden will have CDs and a CD-ROM drive (he uses Teaching Textbooks).
  • A doll or stuffed friend (if they want one)
  • A few small toys – Caden will probably bring Bionicles and/or Lego in a ziploc bag. Johanna may bring Lego, extra doll clothes, or extra art supplies (she hasn’t decided yet).
  • A notebook for writing/school assignments
  • A notebook for art
  • A small pencil case with school and art supplies (pencils, pencil crayons, erasers, small scissors, etc.)
  • A small mesh bag to put their dirty laundry in
  • Canadian stickers, pencils, pins, etc. I’m looking for something small and inexpensive that they can give as gifts to children they meet.

Other related posts:

A “Travel Light” Backpacking Checklist for Babies & Toddlers 

A “Travel Light” Backpacking Checklist for Moms & Dads – coming soon! 

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

Central America Trip Planning Update #3 (buying gear for a family trip)

Buying gear for a family trip can be both fun and maddening.

Fun because it’s exciting to think how real your trip is becoming and how you’ll use these items in exotic places, and frankly because shopping and choosing shiny new items has a pleasant, anticipatory feeling.

Maddening because have you looked at the price of high quality outdoor and travel gear lately? Or the number of options there are to choose from? When you’re shopping for a family, your must-buy list can run long, the options are mind-boggling, and the cost adds up quickly.

But purchasing gear including luggage, clothing, footwear, and other travel necessities is a big part of the preparations and needs to happen sooner than later.

Because we’ve already traveled significantly, we’re fortunate to own a lot of our gear already. Here’s what we had going into this trip:

  • Backpacks for five (possibly six – more on this below) of our seven family members
  • Packing cubes (for organizing within our bags)
  • Laundry bags (ours are a little smaller than these ones)
  • A family toiletry bag
  • Both a large and smaller bag that I use for my medicine kit depending on where we’re going and how much we need to bring (our large one is no longer available to purchase, but it’s similar to this and this)
  • Rugged sandals, pretty sandals, and sturdy flip flops for myself
  • Rain jackets for four family members
  • Travel size toiletry squeeze bottles
  • Travel size water purifier
  • as well as plenty of summer clothing for various children in various sizes

Here’s the gear I still needed to buy as I started shopping:

  • Rugged sandals for all five children and everyday shoes for Ryan
  • Lightweight rain jackets for myself and two kids
  • Bathing suits and shorts for several kids
  • Convertible zip-off pants for four kids
  • Portable baby bed (this is still up for discussion)
  • Travel quick-dry towel
  • A few summer clothing items for Ryan and I
  • Travel underwear for us adults
  • Medicine kit refills (herbs, essential oils, salve, charcoal, etc.)
  • Backpack for myself and Johanna

Personally, I love to hear the details of WHAT other travelers purchase and WHY they purchase it.

So I thought I’d share more specifically what I’ve been buying, where I’m getting it from, and why I made these decisions:

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

Rugged sandals for all five children

This item was frustrating because the top quality ones like Keens, StrideRite, Merrells, etc. all cost at least $40 or up, unless you can find them on a great sale or in good used condition in the size/color you want. Particularly for us in Canada, they cost even more than this (more like $65 CAD) and snagging a deal is very rare.

The other reason it was frustrating is that we own a whole bunch of Keens that we’ve purchased new in the past or that I’ve scored at used stores, but when I brought them all out to try on the kids? Not a single pair fit any of the right children. Womp womp. I had practically every size other than the ones I actually needed.

I managed to find a pair of used Keens for Kepler, plus a pair of decent other-brand closed toe sandals for Oliver. But for the three big kids (one of whom actually wears ladies sizes now), this is where I ultimately bought their sandals.

Our decision to go with cheaper, non-name brand sandals was really determined by how fast the kids grow out of them (as evidenced by our pile of 8 pairs of unusable sandals sitting in our storage room) and the reality that what these sandals really needed to do was get us through 3 months. That’s it. By this summer, the kids feet could all have grown anyways, so if we get the full length of our trip and they’re still holding up, we’ll feel great about choosing the less expensive option.

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

Convertible zip-off pants for four kids 

I know, not everyone’s a fan. In fact, I’ve read some travel forums or articles where people derisively share what a stupid purchase these pants are. We’re not going to win any fashion awards, but in my opinion, these pants are absolutely worth buying.

We took a pair for every family member on our one-year, round-the-world trip and I was so glad. These are very small and lightweight, dry quickly, and give each person a pair of both pants and shorts. They’re just the right weight for situations when you’re in a hot climate or you’ll be doing something physically strenuous but you want full-leg protection from the brush or from insects. If we were out all day and thought the weather might shift, we could start the kids in shorts and put their zip-on legs into our daypack (or vice versa, by starting them in pants and taking off the legs if they get hot).

Even Ryan and I wore them. I obviously forgo them when I’m in a beautiful European city and will throw on jeans or a skirt instead. But in so many places, they’re incredibly convenient.

I have a somewhat-stylish pair from Prana in gray, and the shorts are a bermuda short. These were perfect since even modest shorts can be culturally inappropriate in many places and these come almost to my knee. I’m bringing them again on this trip and I’m making sure that all our kids have a pair as well (except the 18 mth old – you can’t usually find them in sizes smaller than a 3 or 4).

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

Portable baby bed

I haven’t actually purchased this yet, but I’ve been researching it for weeks. Last time we traveled extensively with a one year old baby, night times were a hassle. We didn’t bring any sort of portable baby bed and at least half the time during our travels couldn’t access one. It’s easy to think, as someone who’s traveled in North America, that you can just get one from the hotel or house rental but in so many places, it simply isn’t so.

Because it made nighttime difficult and also my concern for our particularly curious and kamikaze 19 month old, I’ve feeling torn between purchasing something knowing it will be both expensive and another thing for us to lug around, or trying to spend the next five weeks training him to sleep on a mattress on the floor. To be honest, I’m leaning towards the baby bed.

These are the three I’m looking at. If you have experience with any of these, I’d love to know your thoughts!

  • Phil and Ted’s
  • Baby Bjorn
  • Peapod

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

Travel quick-dry towel

We’ve never used one of these before, but here’s my rationale… particularly when in warmer climates (especially when beaches are involved) there are ample opportunities for swimming, and yet when you’re traveling you don’t always have easy access to beach towels.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter and it’s hot enough that we just swim, dry off in the sun, then throw clothes back on over our suits. But sometimes it gets chilly or a child really wants a towel or we avoid swimming altogether because we have no way to dry off. I found a towel set that comes with one massive beach-sized towel and then a smaller towel (slightly smaller than a child-sized bath towel), and both are quite thin and quick drying.

I’m not sure if I’ll regret it (and end up ditching it somewhere along the way) or be thrilled I brought it. Time will tell!

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

Travel underwear for us adults

While I stick with plain old, inexpensive cotton underwear for the kids, we do splurge on the pricey skivvies for ourselves. Our favorite brand is Ex Officio. It’s what we took on our big world trip. We each had four pairs and that was enough (though this time I’m bringing five).

What I love so much is they’re incredibly comfortable, stay pretty fresh even when you’re stuck wearing them during 36 hour travel marathons, and can be easily hand washed in a sink and dried overnight (but usually faster). This time I’m adding a couple MEC brand pairs to my own stash because I got them on clearance, so we’ll see how I like them.

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

*Taken at 10pm on my iPhone while comparing backpacks. This is the new Osprey Meridian. Yes, it sticks out pretty far. But… wheels. I’m still torn.*

Backpack for myself and Johanna

Both of these backpacks have caused some stress, to be honest. On our last two trips, I traveled with an Osprey Farpoint 70 L. It’s a fantastic bag. I don’t have any issues with it. But my detchable day backpack was starting to show a lot of wear and tear (I use it a TON as sort of a diaper/homeschool/work bag).

That was only part of the reason, though. I did figure out I could mis-match my bag and use Ryan’s better-condition black day pack zipped onto my still-fine khaki large backpack. Dorky, yes, but perfectly workable. The bigger reason I wanted to upgrade, though, was that during out three month Europe trip, Ryan upgraded to an Opsrey Meridian Wheeled Backpack 75L. Did you catch that? Wheeled. Be still my heart.

He chose it because I was pregnant at the time and he thought on days when my back was sore, he could wear my backpack and pull his and make it easier for us to get around (isn’t he thoughtful?). And it was a fabulous bag. I started coveting the wheeled aspect of his backpack, which can go between functioning like a suitcase and can also be thrown on as a backpack when needed. It also seemed practical since I could throw a child’s backpack over its handle and pull it all together those times when someone was tired and having a hard time.

So I researched it and bought myself a 60L Osprey Meridian. It’s 10 litres smaller than my last pack and the structure for the retractable handle takes a bit of space as well. But, it’s a wider and deeper bag, rather than long and narrower like the Farpoint. This makes it less comfortable to wear as a backpack (it throws off my center of balance more and I lean further forward to compensate) plus it has no hip strap (big minus). However, despite it’s small size, I feel like the shape actually makes it easier to pack and it can accomodate almost as much as my 70 L pack.

The verdict? I’m still deciding, test packing both bags and taking turns wearing them around in the evenings, with the tags still on my new Meridian. At the moment, I’m leaning towards keeping it, because I do love how it packs up, I love how it pulls (wheels!!!), and I think that being forced to pack lighter is good for me. I’ll let you know what I decide!

Central America Trip Planning Update #3: As we prepare for our three month trip to Central America, I share my process of buying gear for a family trip and the rationale behind my purchases.

As for Johanna, she’s our 7 year old daughter and she’s really at an in-between place when it comes to backpacks. For reasons that elude me, the backpack industry seems to have decided that high quality children’s packs should jump from 18 L right up to 30-35 L, with zero options in between.

An 18 L is just too small for her age, and yet when I had her try her older sibling’s 35 L packs, it was clear this could result in a full-on meltdown if she had to carry it any distance on a day when it was too hot, she was hungry or thirsty, she was too tired, or it was the wrong phase of the moon (in other words, almost any time).

After literally weeks of frustrated searching, I did not come up with any highly reviewed bags in the 24-28 L range that I was looking for (I hardly found any at all). I came close to choosing the Deuter Fox 30 (it’s a 30 + 4 L pack), but finally chose the slightly cheaper but very similar MEC Escapade Youth Backpack (32 L). I still think it’s too big, so we’re going to pack it lightly and make sure the straps are very carefully adjusted to be as comfortable for her as possible.

Note to aspiring entrepreneurs: Please design me a 25 L rugged children’s travel backpack and I will forever sing your praises and send people in your direction.

Note to backpack manufacturers: You stink. I blame all emotional melt-downs during this trip solely on you. Please make in-between sized backpacks for in-between sized kids.

Other details we’re working on:

  • Getting our house ready to list on Airbnb (update! Finished this a couple days ago!)
  • Getting the kids ahead on some of their homeschool subjects to take pressure off while we’re traveling
  • Upgrading some gadgets (Ryan was due for a new laptop, and mine needs a new case, plus both my phone and laptop need servicing)
  • Final appointments with our naturopath, dentist, etc.
  • Buying things like contacts (bought!), medicine kit supplies, etc.
  • Laying out everyone’s exact wardrobes and pre-packing backpacks

Phew!! There you have it. An epic look into the process of buying gear for a family trip.

In my next update, I’ll start sharing detailed photos of what we’re actually packing for kids, and then another post about what the adults will bring.