HOW TO PACK LIGHT
Packing small is essential. What you bring involves personal decisions and everyone has their own idea of comfort and style. In the end, there is never a definitive packing list. Everyone has different needs that often change with the destination. My list suits my needs, but It might not suit yours.
By following a few simple field-tested tenets of travelling small, you can shed size and weight. Save your spine and your sanity.
You don’t need that. Or that. Or that either. Repeat this to yourself constantly as you pack. The unknowns of traveling make us want to surround ourselves with familiar items. You really don’t need a lot when you travel and you never need as much as you think. Take only the essentials and buy additions. It’s not that hard to find anything overseas.
The value of each item increases exponentially with each function. A down puff jacket and a small backpacking pillow case make bus and plane travel more comfortable. Forget the large neck pillow unless the inflatable kind. Fill your pack with as much as you can with moderate shoving. Leave behind the rest. Tough decisions on your living-room floor will pay big dividends on the road. You carry less weight making you more mobile.
Backpack. With a small pack, you won’t be tempted to overpack. We subconsciously like to fill empty space so if you have a big bag, you’re more likely to overpack just so you don’t waste space. The law of travel physics: the contents of your bag expand to fill the available space. Start with a bag that is just big enough for all your essentials and does not allow for buying any but the smallest souvenirs. I love my Deuter Futura 50+10 pack. It has a comfortable suspension system great for trekking. The pack itself doesn’t weigh much. I have room for my hiking shoes and compact down sleeping bag. Its weight when full is reasonable. However it is too large to be carry-on luggage on a plane. Storage on luggage racks is easier.
And if your pack is small enough, it can even be a carry-on on airplanes – but this would require a 40 liter pack or smaller which I think is too small for my travel.
Pack cover. For rain and to protect your pack on those filthy cargo holds on buses in India and SE Asia
Travel Cells. To make a large compartment functional, I use silicon nylon bags to separate out categories of clothes – one for each of socks, underwear, tops and pants and a large one for dirty clothes. Very light and indestructible.
Drysol antiperspirant. This potent antiperspirant is applied once per week or less and you never get body odor and your clothes never smell. You can wear the same shirt for a week! This reduces the number of clothing items and saves the need to do laundry frequently. I have been using it for 25 years safely.
WAYS TO SAVE WEIGHT.
Clothes. Use a layering system. Choose light, flowing, quick-dry cotton-poly blends in matching colours that handle wrinkles well.
Try to be dense. Buy clothes that can be compressed. Folded and rolled: smaller still. If your clothes take up more than one-third of your bag, you are probably taking too much. Laundry is cheap and available everywhere.
Puff Jacket. With high quality down, these stuff into the pocket.
Lightweight Rain/Wind Resistant Jacket. With no liner can be compressed to take up hardly any room. Part of any layering system
Convertible pants/shorts. Zip off legs.
Shoes. All you need are a pair of flip-flops and good low-cut hiking shoes. No high heels, dress shoes or hiking boots.
Silk Liner. Use as sheet, keep sleeping bag clean, adds few degrees of warmth, use it alone on hot nights, protect from mosquitoes and bedbugs, cleaner than some bedding in those cheap places, stuffs down to nothing
Sarong. It’s a changing room, it’s a blanket, it’s a privacy wall, it’s a towel, it’s a bag, it’s a sunshade, cover your shoulders or legs if you are visiting temples, a blanket to keep warm on the bus, a rug for the floor to sit on, padding for fragile items – it’s quite possibly the most versatile piece of cloth in your bag. Oh, it’s also a skirt.,,, and much more.
Fold-Up Backpack/Shoulder Bag. These little packs with no padding fit into their own pocket, use as daypack and to carry all everything you need in over air-conditioned buses.
Most modern electronics (like phones and cameras) switch voltage automatically when you plug them in. Leave voltage-specific devices and the heavy converter at home. A three-way splitter plugged into a multi-country adapter should be enough to keep all your devices charged.
Camera. Forget the big SLR camera with the extra lens. Most people don’t know how to use all the functions, don’t take really good pictures anyway and rarely print large pictures that require that big sensor. Look at things for visual memory and free up all that time deleting and sorting pictures. A phone camera is all most people really need.
Computer. If you must have a computer, consider a pad and add on keyboard or buy tiny computers like the Mac Air 11 inch.
If you must have something to play with, think of a Frisbee or hacky sack.
Cosmetics. For women leave most of those cosmetics at home and go natural. To my eye, that is more attractive. Get a practical hair style that doesn’t need a blow dryer.
SECRETS of ULTRALIGHT BACKPACKING.
How to get everything into a 32 litre pack.
1. Do your own laundry. The only way to travel light is to wash your clothes frequently.
a. Carry only 2 or 3 of everything: 2 tops, underwear, socks: wear one and wash one.
b. Need a universal drain stopper, detergent and an elastic clothes line. Using the sink in your accommodation, use a small amount of soap, soak for a few moments, scrub, rinse, wring out thoroughly, wrap clothes in a towel to remove as much water as possible and hang to dry. The right clothes will dry in a few hours.
2. Drysol. A potent antiperspirant applied once per week, prevents any underarm sweating and completely prevents body odour. Clothes don’t smell and thus don’t have to be washed often.
3. Merino wool shirts, underwear and socks: quick drying, thin, non-itchy, breaths well, warm for the cold, cool in heat, and odour resistant (merino wool is naturally anti-microbial whereas polyester clothing absorbs odours). Wear the same clothes for several days without needing to wash them. Icebreaker (made in New Zealand) makes the best merino wool garments but they are expensive. Smartwool is also good. Merino products are best not dried in a dryer.
Here is a sample minimalist clothing list: Leave stylish clothes at home – nobody cares if you look cute.
• 2-3 Icebreaker merino wool short-sleeved tops,
• 3 pairs Icebreaker merino underwear or ExOfficio polyester underwear
• 3 pairs merino socks
• 1 pair merino long underwear
• 1 Smartwool long sleeved shirt
• 2 pair convertible (zip-off legs), nylon long pants
• puff 800 fill down jacket
• nylon rain shell
• shoes: 1 pair good hiking shoes, 1 pair flip-flops
• touque, wool gloves.
Other keys to light backpacking:
• Deuter Futura 32-38 litre pack. Lots of pockets, built in rain cover, air comfort system keeps pack away from back
• daypack with no padding
• basic toiletries: brush, tooth brush, toothpaste, razor, nail clippers.
• silk sleep sheet
• minimal first aid kit: bandaids, Steri strips, duct tape, ibuprofen.
• medium microfiber towel, small shampoo, soap
• electronics: Mac Air 11 inch, universal adapter, charging cords, smartphone (i phone best as syncs with computer), external battery pack.
• Kindle Paperwhite
• Petzyl Zipka headlight
• earplugs, eye cover, inflatable neck pillow
• bowl, cup, utensils
• Miscellaneous: plastic bags, duct tape, sew kit
One of the best ways to travel lightly is to wash your clothes while on the road. How you get your clothes washed depends on your length of stay in one place, the type of clothing you pack, your budget, your type of trip, and the time of year. Plan your wardrobe to put everything in a single load (different fabrics, colours and water temperatures).
Of these choices, the first (washing by hand) is probably the easiest. It doesn’t take up an hour or two while you wait for machines to get done, doesn’t require you to find a laundromat nearby, and doesn’t cost the large fees hotels typically charge. Let’s look at these options in a bit more detail.
1. Washer/Dryer in Your Hotel – cheaper than laundry services but often busy. Bring Purex Laundry Sheets.
2. Hotel’s Laundry Service. Convenient but expensive, good for suits that need to be pressed.
3. Neighbourhood Laundromat.
4. Dry Cleaner.
5. Washing by Hand. Most convenient and cheapest. Pack clothing made of thinner, moisture wicking fabric that dries fast. Go commando. Pack a small amount of laundry detergent and wash in the hotel sink and a clothes line or parachute cord to hang. Wring out the water by folding the garment over the faucet as an anchor, then lay it out on a bath towel and roll the combination up and wring it out again (step on the bottom to use both hands) to get the garment as dry as with the spin cycle of a washing machine.
AT THE AIRPORT. Once you’ve got your pack list dialed down to the essentials, you might find there are one or two items that just won’t fit. If necessary, exploit the airline industry’s three biggest luggage loopholes:
1. Wearing is not carrying. Stuff your pockets. Don your jacket. Wear your hiking boots and pack your sandals.
2. ‘Carry on plus one personal item’ should be music to your ears. Consider a small shoulder bag, a camera bag, or smaller backpack for those items you are taking as gifts, and those you will be bringing home as souvenirs.
3. Duty-free doesn’t count. If you can’t fit it in your bag, many airlines let you carry it on without penalty.