Authored by Andrew McGuire
Traveling with one backpack is a skill to be learned and perfected. Even the most seasoned travelers fight the urge to over pack, and most will probably admit to throwing extra items into their bag at the last minute. Though practice makes perfect, and over time I’ve managed to hone my packing skills to the point where everything fits into one backpack, whether it be for 2 months or 2 days.
There is something liberating and exciting about being able to live out of just one piece of luggage. When you’re hauling heavy bags it’s awkward on public transport, inconvenient to drag across town, and airlines will hit you with extra fees. You’re less likely to travel off the beaten path with all that weight, and it’s difficult to find your things when and as you need.
So if your resolution for the new year is to travel lighter and pack less, consider the following rules.
10 Tips For Traveling With One Backpack
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7 Days – That’s the Rule!
Do you really need 10 shirts? Probably not. If you can’t wear it more than once or if it can’t easily dry overnight, don’t pack it.
Of course if you’re going on a hiking trip and will be sweating all day, it’s probably not feasible to wear your shirt twice (but throw some powder detergent in a ziplock bag just in case!). However, if you’re just planning on sightseeing, chances are there should be no problem wearing at least some of your clothes twice.
Go for tried and tested favorites (no one in Australia will ever know that you’re an outfit repeater), and don’t pack more clothes than you need. A very wise traveler once said “You can change your outfit every day, or just change your city!”
Think about the fabric of your clothing! Only pack lightweight clothing that can be easily rolled up in your backpack.
This kind of clothing is easy to carry, saves space, and will also dry much easier should you need to do some laundry during your trip.
Don’t Forget Dark Colored Clothing
Not only should you think about the fabric of your clothing, but you should also consider its color and functionality.
Darker clothing is less likely to show stains and is easier to pair with any pair of shoes or pants that you bring along. Dark t-shirts can be both dressed up for a nice dinner or dressed down for an athletic activity.
Wear Your Jeans & Jacket For More Space
Wear your heaviest and bulkiest clothing while traveling! I usually wear a pair of jeans and a jacket onto the plane. These two items alone will take up a majority of your pack space (you can also apply this rule if traveling with heavy hiking shoes).
If it’s too hot for a jacket, tie it around your waist or around the straps of your pack.
Never More Than Two Pairs of Shoes
NEVER bring more than 2 pairs of shoes. One pair of shoes should be a sneaker that can double for athletic activities and also going out for a casual meal.
If you must bring a second pair of shoes make it a pair of shoes for more formal occasions or nicer meals. The only time I break this rule is if I slip a pair of lightweight flip-flops into the side of my pack.
Toiletries: Pack Only the Essentials
Only pack toiletries that you can’t buy at your travel destination. Unless you’re traveling to an isolated or ultra rural location, you can save a lot of space in by buying toiletries upon arrival.
If you’re staying in hotels, the majority of the time they provide the essential toiletries for you. Shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, soap. Most will have toothbrushes, razors, and toothpaste available for you too. You’ll find that picking up toiletries on the road is super easy, and often cheaper than if you were to buy them at home.
Bring Your Travel Books
Reading is one of the best ways to pass the time during long hours in transit. But books are heavy. Period. And they take up a LOT of unnecessary space in your bag.
While I am a huge fan of guides like Lonely Planet, and being able to read a novel while waiting for my flight, these are easy enough to carry on a Kindle or e-reader. And a great way to save space is to print out city guides instead of carrying around a bulky book.
If you do travel with a book, only take the one. When you’re done reading, you can swap with other travelers who are always willing to trade. Or hit up the hotel/hostel library where guests can exchange books.
Roll Your Clothes – Don’t Fold
Instead of folding or balling up your clothes into your pack, roll them up. You’ll be surprised at how much space this can save.
This also makes it easier for you to more efficiently dig through your backpack’s contents without dumping everything out.
Invest In A Quick Dry Towel!
I first bought one of these wonderful towels as an impulse buy at my local sports shop. However, it has quickly become one of the first things I pack.
If you’re staying in a hotel there may be no need for this item. However, if you’re like me and stay at hostels then this may be a lifesaver. It even doubles as a beach towel if you’re going to a more tropical destination.
Pack Necessities First
Finally, always pack your necessities first. Underwear, t-shirts, socks, and the items that you will definitely have to use. This way if you run out of room while packing you can leave out those less important items, and you won’t have to dig through your bag to pull them out.
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