The world of travellers has two types of people – those who pack light and those who wish they had. If you want to travel far, pack light. It is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the smartest things anyone has ever said. Packing light is a super-power which comes in handy not just in times when you are late and running to catch a bus but it also does wonders for your spine!
There are different approaches to focus on packing lightly – picking the right backpack, clothing, toiletries, etc. In this post, I’m going to share some insights on how to travel with ease, by packing light and without compromising on any necessities. Of course, the meaning of ‘necessities, and ideas of style and comfort varies from person to person. But by the end of this, you will, for sure, find something to thank me for.
1. Undetectable Extension Charm
In ‘The Deathly Hallows’, from the Harry Potter Franchise, Hermione Granger had a pouch sized bag in which she had everything stored from clothes to a tent. Sadly, us muggles don’t have access to the witch’s Bead Bag but that doesn’t mean we can’t put an ‘Undetectable Extension’ charm on our respective Forclaz. Just follow these simple steps:
- Pick an optimum size backpack. From experience, I think we all know how to cut our coat according to our cloth.
- Prioritize necessities among everything.
- Stuff-up your backpack with moderate shoving. Leave the rest. The stuff in your backpack will automatically settle down and leave you some leverage for those souvenirs you’ve been planning to buy later.
2. Size Matters
For a weekend or a week’s travel, a 40 L backpack is ideal. Though if you are on a cross-country expedition or hitch-hiking in a different country, you might want to take two bags. In that case, you have to mindful of the extra luggage charges, which can really make a dent on your budget. The crack to this problem is that you pack your daypack inside your full-size pack. At the airport, you can take out the daypack as your carry-on. This way, you won’t just compel yourself to pack smart but also save on extra luggage charges.
Pro-tip: Wear your bulkiest clothes while travelling.
3. Make a check-list
No brownie points if you guessed this one. Make a list of everything that you think you’ll need on your trip. This will help you not forget anything important you might regret not carrying, later.
If you are wondering why I didn’t start with the checklist and started with the luggage instead, it’s because I first pick the luggage I want to carry and then pick my stuff. It’s a way to assure that I don’t over pack.
4. Divide and Conquer
Divide the space in your backpack as per your requirement. Say, your backpack is of 40L which means you have 40 units of space. Now, divide these units among clothing, toiletries, footwear, equipment etc. If you have more than one-third of your bag filled with clothes, sorry to break it you buddy, but you are probably doing it wrong.
5. It’s not a last minute affair
Pack at least one day prior to your trip. This will give you enough time to think it through and arrange everything in a way that it is easily accessible. That way you don’t have to scramble your bag to dig out things. The more organized your bag is, the more convenient it will be for you later.
Packing in advance also allows you to assess the requirement of each item you put in. If you find yourself saying ‘what if’, you don’t really need that. Or that. Or that either.
6. One is crowd; two is comfy
This one is particularly helpful while travelling to the colder regions. When we think of cold, we involuntarily jump to the heaviest jacket in our closet. A much smarter way around it is to layer up yourself. Two t-shirts under a thin sweater will keep you much warmer than one heavy jacket. Instead of carrying something bulky, replace it with a fleece and a thin sweater.
7. Quickies for clothing
Here are some quick tips for smartly packing your clothes:
What to Pack
- Pick synthetic material over cotton. Synthetic material is lighter in weight and they dry quickly.
- Your choice of clothes should be comfortable for touring but can be appropriate for the evening as well.
- Check the weather forecast and make sure you have appropriate clothing.
- Coordinate your clothes to go with any combination. A blue denim works with every shirt, dark coloured trekking shoes will work for touring as well as for a night party.
- Carry only what you need, if not less. If you run out of fresh clothes, wash them. The hotel laundry service, a local cleaner or that old village lady, you can always get a clean shirt sooner than you expect. And if nothing, you can use the sink and running water of your hostel anyway.
- Leave your towels behind. I’ll give you two good reasons for it. One, they are heavy and hard to dry. Two, they are easily available at the hotels & hostels; and even available on rent. If you are not comfortable using the hotel towels, you can always buy a cheap one upon arrival.
How to Pack
- Folded clothes take less space than wadded. Also, easier to compress.
- Folded and rolled are the best way to pack your clothes.
- Ziplocs/airless bags are super helpful in compressing the clothes to its maximum. Especially on a longer trip.
For any trip, all you need is just one pair of comfortable shoes and one pair of comfortable floaters. To cut on weight, you can wear your shoes while travelling. If you decide to pack them instead, ball up your socks, belts etc. inside the shoes.
**Please be mindful of the local culture and traditions while dressing up**
You won’t wear a burkha in Goa, right? Likewise, don’t wear a crop-top to a mosque. It is important to respect the local culture, else you might end-up inviting unwanted attention. And on rare occasions, even trouble.
8. Threesome Is Awesome
Three shirts; three pairs of underwear; three pairs of socks. Doesn’t matter if your trip is one week long or three months long, three is all you need. Wear one, wash one and keep one in safe. In case you lost/damage one, buy one and blend in with the locals. I can tell you from my personal experience that the colorful local bazaars can be very tempting.
Even the most frequent travelers do blunders when it comes to packing toiletries. Over the years I have made many mistakes and figured out these basic facts:
- Don’t buy any toiletries which you can buy on arrival. Like the shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc.
- Start off with the smallest packing available and once you run out of it, buy a new one. You will be amazed at how easy it is to find your essentials even halfway across the world. And if you do not, buy alternative brands or just imagine how thousands of people live without it.
10. When in doubt, ask Google
Our smartphones are smarter than we credit them for. With a widely available 4G network, we can access the infinite information of the internet at just a click. You can replace your maps, guidebooks, books etc. with that small device in your pocket. And unless you’re a photography enthusiast, the camera quality in your smartphones are good enough to leave your camera behind.
Don’t forget to carry a three-way splitter multi-country adapter if it’s an international trip.
11. Friends with Benefits
Fuel up your backpack with items which are multipurpose. My favorite in this regards is a sarong and a bungee cord. I never leave my sarong and bungee cords behind and here is why –
Sarong: In additional to beach cover-up, it is a blanket, a makeshift satchel, changing room, picnic sheet, pillow, head scarf, privacy curtain and on some occasions, a towel.
Bungee cord: Hitch-hiking in the remote Himalayas? Tie your bag to the bike or the roof of the bus, strap things to the outside of your pack, or use it as a cloth line.
12. Things which should be easily accessible
To make travelling easier for you, there are certain things which are better if easily accessible.
- Passport/ID documents
- Notebook & Pen
- First Aid kit and medicines which you take regularly (if any)
- Power Bank
Remember, don’t pack for the worst-case scenario. Pack for the best case scenario and simple buy yourself out of any jams. And, when in doubt, leave it out.
Keep these hacks in mind when you are packing for your next trip and let your memory be your travel bag.
Packing light is a process, not a goal. So if there is any tip or trick that you use and it’s not on the list, please share it in the comment section and help me pack lighter.
Happy Trailing! 😀
Planning for an adventure holiday? Check out Adventure Trip Planning 101 for useful tips.