10 Ways to Pack Lighter

Posted May 13, 2013 by Kristin Addis in Travel Tips
My 35 Litre pack. It can be done!

My 35 Liter pack. It can be done!

When packing to travel around the world, it’s easy to get carried away (ha! Carried! Get it?!) and over-pack in anticipation of needing that dress or those pants.  In reality, it’s easy to chip away at the packing list and maybe, just maybe, get a year’s worth of luggage down to just a carry on-sized backpack.

Carry on for one year of travel? How is that possible?

I’m glad you asked.  I know it can be done, because I have been doing it on my year-long escapade around Asia.  The following tips can help you save money on checked bag fees, ensure that you always have the option of keeping your bag on you, discourage you from over-spending on souvenirs, and save your back:


 Pack Fewer Toiletries 

Most of the ladies who I traveled with were baffled by my small pack compared to theirs, so I started asking, what exactly is taking up all of the room in your pack? The answer: toiletries!
Ladies, what do you really need other than soap, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, toothpaste, lotion (with SPF), and deodorant? Nothing! No, you don’t need all kinds of ridiculous hair products, moisturizers, creams, and perfumes.  These things make very little sense when backpacking, and you’ll be shocked – shocked, I say! – at how little these silly products really do for you.

Why pack nail polish when pedicures in Laos cost $2?

Why pack nail polish when pedicures in Laos cost $2?


Familiarize Yourself with the Climate 

If you’re traveling somewhere cold, then, yes, you probably will go over carry-on sizing due to the heaviness of winter clothing.  If you’re traveling in warm areas, however, ditch the jeans!  Leave the jackets at home.  Forget the scarves and loads of thick socks.


Leave Your Giant Makeup Bag at Home 

Eventually, you’ll stop wanting to wear makeup at all.  If you’re in a hot climate like Southeast Asia, it will melt off anyway.  Bring a few of your key things that can be whipped out for special occasions, but, for the most part, I bet you five whole dollars you’ll stop wanting to wear makeup pretty early into your journey.


Easy on the Clothing

After completely miss-packing plenty of times, I can confidently say that one can usually get much more suitable and cheap clothing once on the road – especially in Asia.
I found that once I started moving, I was ditching and acquiring a new clothing items every couple of weeks.  It’s best to just leave room in the pack from the beginning for clothing that can be bought at your destination.

Leave room in your pack. You WILL feel compelled to buy hippie pants

Leave room in your pack. You WILL feel compelled to buy hippie pants


Use a Packing Cube 

Do not underestimate the amazing power of rolling clothing and sticking it in a packing cube.  It helps both with organization and with creating space.


Say No to Blowdryers and Straighteners 

They will blow fuses, ruin adaptors, and blow up in your face.  Okay, that last part may have been a bit of a hyperbole, but they simply wreak havoc on space and foreign electrical sockets.
Learn to braid your hair, throw it up, style it in such a way that highlights and emphasizes its natural beauty.  In short, love it the way it is and you’ll be surprised with the beautiful results.


How Many Shoes do you Really Need? 

Two pairs – that’s the answer.  One that you like to walk in (perhaps a pair of flip flops?) and sneakers, or hiking boots.  Pick one based on the activity you think you’ll be participating in the most.  The more shoes you have, the more weight, and the more space you’ll need.


Things You Most Certainly Do Not Need 

You don’t need a mosquito net, sleeping bag liner, giant blanket, pillow, etc.  All of these things exist at hostels and, while perhaps comforting, take up a lot of space.  Backpacking is all about minimizing what you own and making do without excess.
You may just come to love what you realize you never needed, and therefore probably never need again.


You Can Still Pack Fancy Cameras and Computers 

I travel with several cameras and a computer and am still able to carry on my luggage.  Get a small, light computer and make the room for your camera where your blow dryer, extra hair gel, or hiking boots might have gone.


Stuff Things into Your Sneakers

Stick things like power cords and chargers into your sneakers.  It’ll both protect the chargers and create extra room.
Extra points of your sneakers don’t stink to high heaven.

Do you have some pointers to share? Comment below! 

About the Author

Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis is the Chief Blogette at Be My Travel Muse, a website geared towards independent women travelers who like to head off the beaten path in Asia. A native Californian and former investment banker, she has dedicated her foreseeable future to seeking off-beat travel around the world.

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