My mantra for packing is simple: maximize space, minimize weight. Below I will explain how to get the most out of your bag and avoid classic over-packing mistakes by bringing just the essentials. Remember, a light traveller is a happy traveller.
As a general rule, don’t pack more than you can comfortably carry while traversing a new city in search of a hostel or on a day hike through the countryside. There is nothing worse than lugging a cumbersome, heavy bag around the world while you’re supposed to be on holiday. With a hefty bag you will be reluctant to take side trips and pursue unexpected adventures, putting a major damper on your fun.
I learned this lesson first hand, carrying a huge 90-litter backpack and massive duffle bag around Europe for two months in 2007. I remember trying to make my way up a circular staircase at the Archway tube stop in London during rush hour, as the masses headed down in the opposite direction. I felt like a salmon swimming upstream with a hundred pound dumbbell attached to my tail. If you follow my advice, you can avoid this mistake, saving yourself a lot of pain and frustration.
Understanding Your Needs
The first step to efficiently packing your bag is considering your itinerary and needs. Ask yourself these questions:
How long is my holiday? (Never pack more than 7-10 days worth of cloths)
Where will I travel? (In paved cities, rough trodden rural areas, developing countries?)
Will the weather be warm or cold, or both?
How adventurous will I be? (All day walks through the city? Hiking, biking, climbing or swimming? Adventure activities may require special gear.)
Will I go clubbing or fine dining? (Anything that requires nice cloths?)
What electronics are essential to my trip? (Cameras, Smart phone, Laptop, eReader?)
What luxuries can I live without? (1000 page Game of Thrones novel? Stiletto tipped thigh-high riding boots?)
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin packing a bag – yes just one bag – to meet all of your needs, including a little space leftover for gifts and souvenirs. Lets start with a suggested packing lists, which I will then break down and explain.
Suggested Packing List (multi-week holidays)
65 -75 Liter Backpack
REI Flash 18 Liter Daypack
3 Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sacks (10 liter size) – two for clothing, one for dirty laundry
7 pairs of underwear and 7 pairs of socks
5 T-shirts, 2 long-sleeve shirts
2 pairs of pants
1 pair of shorts
1 swimming suit
1 pair of urban trainers, 1 pair of flip-flops, 1 pair of low-cut light hiking boots (if active)
Travel umbrella or rain jacket/pants (a must for hiking)
Medical and laundry kits
Cold Weather Gear:
Down puff coat (800 fill)
2 pairs of long thermal underwear, 2 long-sleeve thermal shirts
Hat, scarf and gloves
2-3 Pairs of Smartwool Socks
Smart phone and headphones
Power Converter Kit
Optional: mP3 player (if needed in addition to your phone)
Optional: tablet, ultrabook or MacBook Air (if you must work while travelling)