My bag is a 42L no-name backpack. The main compartment is is like 39L, top flap compartment 1L, and a 2L compartment on the bottom. My personal packing style is to compile all the essentials and lay them out in on the table, then put them all in the bag. Toiletries are always in the top flap compartment, shoes in the bottom, and everything else in the body.
I tried to multitask items:
-North Face jacket can be worn in Chicago because its wind resistant, SanFran because its lightweight, and the PNW because its also fairly water resistant.
-A sweatshirt of some sort.
-Shoes that can handle water and walking a lot, and something warm.
After packing an re-packing many times, I finally settled on:
North Face jacket, 2 pairs of jeans, thick leggings, 2 layering tanks, 1 sweater, 1 sweatshirt, 1 long sleeve t-shirt, 3 random shirts, 4 pairs of underwear (to be washed mid-way through the trip, fyi), 3 pairs of socks, rain-resistant booties (that did double-duty as nicer shoes), suede walking boots, and sneakers.
I had a little room to spare, knowing I might need to purchase an item or 2 depending on the weather. I'm glad I left space. ALWAYS leave space in your luggage! I made a few Christmas gift purchases and I accidentally on purpose found myself in a Forever 21 and bought a cool sweater. Also, leaving space allows you to pack really quickly. Everything fits really nicely when its folded neatly and carefully placed. However, sometimes you sleep past your alarm or are on the verge of missing your bus. That little extra room budgeted will allow you to throw things into the bag and have them all fit.
- Check the weather before you go!!!! It may rain so hard that boots are a must, but then again it may only drizzle and you'd be ok with sneakers. Always check.
- Do a quick calculation of how much walking you'll be doing and bring appropriate footwear.
- Lay everything out on a table before it goes into the bag. Looking at everything at once will help you realize if you have missed something.
- Pack a plastic bag or 2. You'll generate dirty laundry and need somewhere to quarantine it.
- Check your accommodations and the amenities they provide. If they have shampoo in the showers, then you can skip packing it. Same with hair dryer, towels, and linens.
- Be wise about your bags. As a woman, I can be a little more creative with my bag combinations to create more space in my luggage.
- IF you're doing a long-haul trip, throw a plastic bag with a change of underwear, shirt and other absolute essentials (for me its glasses and a travel deodorant) just in case you want to change on a layover, or worse.... luggage gets delayed!