Are you tired of a being weighed down by a bulky suitcase, but don’t know how to pack less?
Well I’ve spent the past 3 years perfecting my packing routine by travelling with a modest 30 litre backpack. I can’t begin to tell you how liberating it has been. I too was a serial over-packer and now stand as living proof that change is possible.
Obviously my bag is an extreme example but the techniques I use are highly adaptable. Keep reading and find out how you can travel light.
Suitcase vs Backpack
Before we begin, I would encourage you to start travelling with a backpack (my tips work for suitcases too). Obviously not some enormous hiking bag, but a small carry-on backpack really provides seamless travel experience. For example, everyone’s complaining about Ryanair’s tough new baggage policy. Although the other budget airlines aren’t much better. Handluggage is still free but your case will be condemned to the hold as soon as boarding begins.
If you take a backpack however(or handbag/messenger bag) staff don’t seem to tag your bag for the hold. Whether it’s due to company protocol or the the human eye struggling to gauge bag size, I don’t know. In any case, staff only single out the people with suitcase style bags: even when backpacks are bigger.
Bag Size Is At The Heart of Packing Light
Just like in Parkinsons Law, it’s human nature to completely fill the space available to us. If you want to travel light, reducing your bag size will automatically constrain you into taking less. I recommend bags between 35-40 litres depending on what you’re doing/where you’re going. Don’t just wear as much stuff as possible to pull a fast one on the airline staff. If you need to move around in a hotter climate you’ll wish that the extra stuff fitted inside your bag!
Plan Outfits & Choose Nuetral Colours
An easy way to pack less clothes is to have a colour theme so that every piece of clothing goes together. Neutral colours complement each other the best and you’ll still look great whilst consolidating your wardrobe. Remember, traveling is about experiences, you don’t need the same outfit variety that you have at home.
Multi-functional is a Core Criteria to Travel Light
If something can do multiple functions, you inevitably pack less stuff. For me I don’t need a pair of casual shoes, gym shoes and hiking boots. One pair of cleverly chosen trainers acts as all three. Keep this philosophy in mind when you are choosing which items you will bring: it doesn’t just work with shoes.
Rolling clothes is a core principle of packing light. Your stuff will be better organised and as a result you’ll fit way more things inside. Try a method called Ranger Rolling if you want to be really neat, but it is pretty time consuming.
Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are game changers in the quest to travel light. Essentially, packing cubes split the big space of your bag up into several smaller spaces, that you pack individually. They too maximise space through organisiation, and when combined with rolling you’re destined for success. Plus, living out of a case is much easier when you don’t mess everything up each time you want to get something. You can check out our packing cubes to see the full benefits.
Reduce Bulk by Standardising Electronics Chargers
We’re taking more electronics than ever to travel, so theyre a big part of the oversized luggage problem. Standardisation of the cables however, is a great way to get rid of electronic ‘bulk’ in your bag. For example, all of my electronics (phone, electric razor, kindle, headphones) charge from a micro usb. That means I only require one plug and one cable (with the addition of my laptop charger) for all my electroncis. Many devices even have a usb cable with detachable plug (most phones now have them) so only bring the one plug. However, if your cable is fixed, you can buy adapted versions online.
Ditch the Beach Towel for a Sarong if your Goal is to Pack Light
Beach towels are a huge waste of space and get smelly really quickly. I’m not suggesting you lie directly on the sand but swap the towel for a sarong/canga. These are lightweight, compact and multifunctional alternatives, which are much easier to wash. If you’ve already got one, check out some of the novel uses for it here.
Down Jackets are Perfect for Packing Light
Pound for pound down jackets perform far better than thick winter jackets in insulating you from the cold. On top of this, they are lightweight and will usually come with a tiny storage bag they stuff into. I used my Rab jacket in -8 degrees when in Latvia and managed to come home hypothermia free.
Swap Books for an E-reader
Books are heavy and definitely don’t help when trying to travel light. Instead, get yourself a Kindle or add books to your tablet. Plus the books you download are a fraction of the price. If you must bring a book, set yourself a rule that you can only travel with one at a time. Most hostels have book exchanges where you can leave your book and pick up another.
The List Summarised
- Take a Smaller Bag – You’ll Always Fill a Space
- Plan Your Outfits & Choose Neutral Colours
- Bring Multi-functional Items
- Roll Your Clothes Rather than Fold
- Use Packing Cubes to Compartmentalise Your Bag
- Standardise Your Electronics Chargers
- Ditch The Beach Towel & Get a Sarong
- Opt For a Down Jacket (Preferably Packable)
- Swap Books For a Kindle or Only Take One