The Sole Sisters' Guide to Chic Backpacking

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

SS Guide to Chic Backpacking

Greasy, smelly, bare foot, dirty, ratty clothes. These are the general stereotypes of a backpacker.  What if I tell you that you can break from that stereotype without breaking your wallet and back with the amount of stuff inside your backpack? What if we told you that glampacking exists?

Warning: Girly details coming up after the jump. I dare you to take a peek, boys!

I know, I already gave you a peek of what's inside a glampacker's bag. Allow me, fellow sole sisters, to share more details on how to channel your glampacking self in the face of the hazards of backpacking.

Getting smooched in Chiang Mai, Thailand!
1 Use scarves wisely.

This is a wonder product for all chic backpackers or glampackers out there. It turns a humble t-shirt and shorts combo into a fashion ensemble! I brought my favorite scarf with me, a 3-year old one which I bought from SM Department store (because they got it all for you!). It's long, colorful, comfy and versatile.

Peanut spare ribs, anyone?
Bonus is that it's not only a fashion statement, it also protects you from that long, cold 30-hour bus rides from Vietnam to Laos. It's also handy in covering your bare shoulders when visiting temples around Southeast Asia.

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand
2 Oiliness is still next to ugliness.

Last year, I admitted that I have such oily skin that you can deep-fry a chicken with all the oil my skin generates. *bows head in shame* 

I found my holy grail to banish oil in Summer Teen BB Cream. It's an all-in one product that moisturizes without clogging pores, fights against aging, gives you a no amke-up look and best of all, it plugs up your oil glands. If you missed the Sole Sister's BB Cream giveaway last Christmas, don't worry. You can visit and order it online. They'll deliver it to your doorstep. Even if you're in Cambodia's best kept secret.

3 The power of leggings/tights

Forget about LiLo and her Oops-Ma-I-Forgot-My-Pants look with her super tight tights and short top that shows another camel that's not found in the Thar desert of Jaisalmer.

Tights, when paired with the right top and right accessories, can make a simple outfit into something else entirely. It's light and compact, won't weigh much at all in your backpack. It's our go-to item in the chilly atmosphere of Dalat.

And let's face it, if you can't bring jeans...then, these will be a glampacker's best friend.

The Sole Sisters don tights to combat the cold air of Hanoi, Vietnam
4 A cute dress can save the whole world.

Okay, maybe it won't save the whole of mankind exactly. But a cute, versatile dress can make you feel good after getting off that bus ride from hell from Vietnam to Laos.

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
I found the perfect dress that's perfect for a glampacker's wardrobe - The AA Le Sac multi-way dress. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to buy it before our Southeast Asia jaunt. Oh well, I bought a replacement for it. This LBD just cost me 4 USD at the night market in Siem Reap! Sweet.

You probably know where this is...
Lois wears her fave dress in My Son, Hoi An Vietnam
Let's keep Bali beach clean, shall we?
5 Keep your head happy!

I've had my chic Dora-like hairstyle for several years now and I'm happy with it. However, I always need to get my bangs (or fringe) cut every 2 weeks so that I won't look like my babyboytoy, Bvlgari. 2 months into the trip, I decided to hell with it. It was easier to buy headbands and scarves than get another make-over like what we had in Vietnam.

Playing ultmate Jenga while wearing the scarf Lois bought me from India.
You can wear cute Headware, headbands or hair scarves. Or you can do it a la Lois and get yourself a chic hat!
Which hat looks good?
6 For when a Sole Sister can't bring heels....

Although, we have seen some girls carrying around a pair of heels (really!). I mean, I carry a hairdryer around but heels are another story. Instead of heels, I opted for practicality and brought a pair of flats.

See my flip-flop tan lines?
Ballet flats will be another of your BFFs in this quest for chicness. You have a lot to choose from in the malls today. Just make sure that your flats can survive the wear and tear of being squished in your backpack like the Suelas pair.

7 Accessorize it.


I brought a tiny little black pouch filled with some essential accessories. A pair of gold dangly earrings, a couple of bracelets and a long chain necklace. The rest of the space I filled up with jewelry I bought from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. I loved that everytime I wore a piece, it takes me back to the place I bought it from.


You actually don't need a sackfull of accessories, you can get by with just a few pieces. It can add that oomph to your outfit. I found that even if I wore that same top 3x that week, it was ok because my bling totally amped it up.

8 Mix 'n Match 'em Baby!

Listen well, sole sisters: Pack clothes in basic, solid colors inside your backpack.


Mostly solid colors. I mean, how boring would it be if everything you own is in monochrome eh? Make sure to bring one or two items with a pop of color to spice things up. I brought this fun girly skirt with me and I can pair it with any of my solid-colored tops above.

Biking around Hoi An, Vietnam
Lois turns her dress into a skirt and pairs it with a basic, white tee.
My black tank works with just about anything.
9 What's inside your beauty kit?

I am a beauty junkie. There, another confession extracted from yours truly. If there's a new product in the market, I always had to buy it right away. (Can you see why it was was extra hard for me to save up for my escape fund?) For this trip, I had to condense all my beauty products into just one tiny pouch. Wanna see what's inside?

beauty kit

1 For my early morning bed head
2 See tip #2 above
3 To be used with #10
4 It's not true that diamonds are a girl's best friend. Trust me, its mascaras.
5 A small dose of my scent, Lanvin's Eclat D'Arpage.
6 Nude eye shadow palette, which I rarely touched.
7 Smudge-proof brown eye liner
8 Another device to control my hyperactive oil glands
9 For my smoochies
10 Mineral powder
11 So that I can see myself while applying #1-10
12 Shu Uemura eye lash curler. The BEST in the world.
13 Because nails need cutting, too.
14 For those errant facial hair

10 Of Denim Shorts and White Tees

They're the most basic things that a sole sister can have inside her backpack...or closet. They are essential and transcends time. They are and will always be in vogue. You can never go wrong with them. And that's why you need them!

I bought my denim cut-offs a few weeks before the start of our backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. They were spankin' brand new. Now they're torn, frayed, stained and wrinkled. I still love them and will probably continue wearing them when I get back to the real world.


I also have a dozen or so of plain white tee's.  I bought my tee's from Forever 21, Hanes, H&M, Bench, Folded and Hung and SM (again, they have it all for you!). I like my shirts 2 sizes too big, v-neck and the thinner the cloth is the better.

Bonus! That Ultimate Girly Thing

This item would differ from one sole sister to another. One thing is the same though - Whenever we take out this item from our backpacks, it should instantly make us feel like a girly girl and that we have a walk-in closet full of chic clothes.

For me it was a tight mini bandage skirt. I could wear it up or wear it down. It's perfect for going clubbing at Angkor What? bar in Siem Reap or for when I decide to splurge on a fancy dinner. Which rarely happens (considering our limited escape fund) but when it does, I'll sure be glad I have this at the bottom of your backpack. So, what's your ultimate girly thing?

I bet you have more tricks on being chic while on the road! Care to share with your fellow Sole Sisters?

Sole Sister Chichi
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38 sole trails

  1. Hahahah! Thanks Renevic ;) *blush*

  2. thanks for this post sole sister, Chichi! this is very helpful for me while preparing my packing list for a 3 week travel to EU :) i am also backpacking and getting really stressed out what to pack :)))

  3. OMG love all points! I must say except for the makeup, I have all in my basic travel packing list. Scarves and dresses are loveeeeeee.

  4. Nice post girls! This is real helpful! Let's go chic! :)

  5. hmm i like the skirt with the black top at number 8, when is the next "wardrobe sale" coming? :)

  6. I know exactl how you feel Yvonne! It took me almost a week to pack for our 6-month long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Glad I could help out a fellow Sole Sister. Feel free to spread the word ;) Happy travels and we can't wait to hear about your EU adventures.

  7. You're good Astrid, you have everything already, it took me a while actually to pack these things. Thanks for dropping by!

  8.  Glad it helped you out Tina! Spread the good news of Chicness ;)

  9. Oh no Claire, I have no more wardrobe to sell! I only have 2 medium-size suitcases to come home to in the Philippines. But it's ok, the memories from this trip are worth mroe than Carrie Bradshaw's closet.

  10. I'm planning to bring almost all of the things above except for the make-up and oil control thingy (because I'll be packing a lot of face towels since I sweat like crazy even on an ordinary summer day) LOL

  11. Glad that you're not cursed with oil glands like mine Katrina! Happy travels to you ;)

  12. Amazing! =) Whenever I travel, I have to leave behind most of my girly stuff and just bring versatile, all-weather clothing that is comfortable for hiking, as well as for sleeping. Oh how I wish I could bring a hairdryer when traveling long-term~!!! However, my male travel partner keeps my over-packing tendencies at bay, which is actually a good thing. Also, I kept my backpack at a maximum of a little over 7kg weight to save on checked-in luggage and sore back during my recent 7-month (Dec 2010 - July 2011) backpacking trip to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand =) Keep up the good work girls! I hope I can chronicle my travels in the same frequency and creativity as you girls do! =)

  13. You're even more amazng Marnie! 7kg is swell. That's what we've learned in our travels, to keep it at that limit not just to save on check-in fees but to prevent future scoliosis as well ;p Can't wait to read or hear about your own Southeast Asian adventure! Happy travels!

  14. Ugh! Learned the heavy backpack lesson the hard way the first time I went SEAsia backpacking in 2009... after that trip, I swore... never again will I bring a backpack reaching more than the 7kg mark! But then again, with less clothes, doing laundry chores is more frequent and troublesome at times. But hey! You're doing your laundry at a different place each time which not everyone can do right? =p aaah the convenience of a lighter backpack far outweighs doing my laundry every 3 days =) You girls can do it too!

  15. I still want more Suelas shoes coz they're comfy and great for light packing. And I can never have enough basic tees :D

  16. I noticed you did not include swimwear/bikini and sarong (unless the scarf can also double as a sarong) :)

  17. Just covered the basics Kat ;p

  18. We vow not to bring more than 7kg on our next trip! Care to share your tips on how to pack really light? We're dying to know. Have you written an article on that Marnia?

  19. sharing this to some of my girl friends who loves traveling. for sure it's a big help.

  20. No I haven't written about it yet! I have so much to share on my travels and cheap backpacking tips all over SEAsia but I'm such a lazy blogger~! Well, aside from the burden of carrying a really heavy 15++ kg backpack (plus a day pack for valuables!!), the first time I traveled around SEAsia for 6 months (Feb 2009 - Aug 2009), that I swore never again, I also met some inspiring backpackers who were able to really travel light! I remember meeting an American couple in Chiang Khong who swore they only brought with them 2 sets of quick drying clothing! They do their laundry every night and didn't mind wearing the same set every other day haha. The first step is to dispose the huge 45L+ backpacks and stick with a slightly bigger day pack. I really cut down the bag size... that way I can't over pack! From a 45L Conquer backpack, Deuter Futura 22 daypack and a North Face belt bag for my 2009 trip, well, for my recent trip, I just used a Kelty Arrowhead 2000 and the North Face belt bag =) I bring what could fit on those 2 small bags! That would be: Kelty - 5 shirts, 5 lightweight pants (2 fisherman pants, leggings, 2 3/4 cargo pants), 2 tank tops, 2 shorts, 1 swim wear, 5 sets of under-garments, 3 pairs of socks, a lightweight jacket (my UST Tigers jacket!! =)), 1 headware, 1 lightweight scarf, 1 sarong that serves as blanket sometimes, 2 small towel, netbag for toiletries (all in small sizes or sachets), small bag for make-up (Just the basics! Lip balm, nude lipstick, cheek tint, mascara, liquid liner and pressed powder), my HP mini netbook, chargers (netbook, phone and camera), a novel, 2011 journal, 2 palm-size notepad, flip-flops and (always!) a roll of tissue paper. For the North Face belt bag - wallet, passport, hand phone, iPod, Panasonic LX3, mints, and again tissue paper. I only brought 1 pair of shoes, my NB running shoe which served as my hiking shoe as well =) My travel partner's bag was even lighter than mine! I think he only brought 5 shirts, 3 pants, 5 underwear, 3 pairs of socks, 1 small towel, a novel, 1 sarong, a drawing pad, small bag for toiletries and flip-flops! He also brought just 1 pair of running shoe which was good for hiking too! Sometimes, we don't realize that the small things add up to the weight too. Before we know it, all those light small things, when bunched up together can sum to a kilo or 2! On my next trip, I think I can still travel lighter =) Maybe cut the number of shirts to 3 and lightweight pants to 3 as well? Hee. 

  21. I so love this post! I always thought backpacking can be done in style :) Which I think I did when I traveled for a month in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I just have my teeny tiny backpack! ;-)

  22. Wow, thanks for sharing your packing details Marnie! This can actually be a post in itself na ;p I browsed through your blog and hindi ko nga nakita ung packing list mo. Btw, i love reading your articles! I will solemnly swear to try and follow your advice. Bec as you've said the ease of traveling light far outweighs the need bring more stuff. I hope I can do what you've done. Aja!

  23. Thanks for sharing Dom! Yeah, hopefully it helps them pack for their next adventure. Just wanted to share my experience since I'm sure they'll be experiencing the same dilemma that I had.

  24. Happy that you found it helpful Carla! I'm sure you wowed them with your chicness during your trip ;) Care to share pictures on our Facebook page? We'd also love to share tips from you to our readers...

  25. nice post Chi!
    although i don't find everything in this post personally helpful for the simple reason that i don't cross-dress, i totally agree with everything!
    you've proven that backpacking isn't at all a fashion suicide! LOL

  26. I'm glad you're not a cross-dress Archer. Otherwise, the world will be minus one fashionable dynamite! I have to be honest though, sometimes we really have days (especially when travelling from one place to another) that we just wear whatever is on the top of our backpacks.

  27. thanks for the helpful and practical tips :)  -Rae

  28. Glad we could help out Rae! Watch out for more Sole Sister guides ;)

  29. hello, we have included your post in this weeks "worldFirst Wander" (the girl power edition) which is a weekly list of whats hot in the World Of Travel Blogging !

    this is the link

    please have a look and tell us what you think by leaving a comment on the blog, 

    many thanks

    Tristan (@wftristan)

  30. thanks for including us! looking forward to more stories girls! =)

  31. Thanks for including us in this week's weekly wander Tristan. We're blushing to the tips of our soles ;)

  32. We take our headware everywhere with us. We're like walking advertisements for it! We seriously love your product and can't wait to replenish our stock when we get back to the Philippines.

  33. That's so great to hear. =) Thanks for being Happy Heads! By the time you get back, we've got new designs. =)

  34. try bringing convertible pants instead so you don't have to bring a set of pants and a set of shorts separately. some convertibles can be converted into shorts, while some may be converted into 3/4. so yeah, you may cut down the number of pants and shorts you bring to 3. hope this helps! ;)

  35. Hey, Great article, just finished my Southeast Asia Backpacking trip and im missing it already!

    Check out my blog 

    For more tips and guides on backpacking in Southeast Asia. 


  36. It looks like you guys had a really good time in Thailand. Thanks.

  37. Great list ChiChi! My personal favourites when travelling are the leggings/tights, colourful accessories, denim shorts and scarves. It took me years to master the travel 'light' concept. With these 4 items, I'm sorted!


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