If there’s one thing I hate when traveling, it’s lugging around a ton of unnecessary shit. A typical vacation is usually trying to hit multiple cities in a short span, and oftentimes staying at two different hotels in said cities in order to be close to the next transit option, so we’re moving around a lot. I don’t want to be carrying six pairs of shoes with me the whole time just in case I might use them.
Now, I am by no means an expert packer, and I’m sure I still bring too much or even bring the wrong things. But here’s a look into the kinds of things I take with me on each trip to try to pack as lightly and economically as possible.
Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack: I used to have a 60+ liter pack, but it got to be a little much after hauling it around Vietnam for two weeks. The 40 liter Farpoint has just enough room for everything I need, with a bunch of convenient compartments for the smaller things. Putting my little bag of toiletries in the top front pocket is especially convenient, because the bag is carry-on size. It can even fit under the seat in front of you in a pinch. And remember: there are two kinds of luggage – carry-on and lost.
Packing cubes: Since the bag has one main compartment for clothes, packing cubes have become one of my biggest necessities when traveling. I can split up my clothes, keep them folded and neat at all times, and be able to easily dig out something that may otherwise be buried on the bottom of my bag. For convenience, these things cannot be beat.
Hiking boots and Smartwool socks: These are the perfect combo to keep your feet happy the entire trip, no matter what kind of terrain you’re on, or whether you’re wearing long pants or shorts. Bonus, the socks can go a few wears before they start to feel weird, so you’ll have to wash them much less, if at all.
Hiking pants: When you pack light, your clothes have to be versatile. I love my LL Bean Cresta pants, which tick all the boxes: light, moisture wicking, abrasion-resistant, and UPF 40+, but they also look nice so you can wear them on a hike or wear them to a nice restaurant. I also pack a pair of North Face Paramount convertible pants: water-repellant, UPF 50, durable, and they can zip off into shorts so I can get two bottoms for the space of one. This was very handy on the Inca Trail, where we walked through hot desert and cold mountaintop. One of each of these pairs of pants should keep you covered your entire trip.
Reversible shirt: Recently, I discovered the magic of the reversible shirt, and it’s changed my packing for the better. I only have one at the moment, but I’m definitely going to invest in more. I can get two shirts packed for the space of one? It’s a dream come true. The one I currently have is a moisture-wicking long-sleeved button-up, so it can be used in almost any situation.
Folder for documents: We always have a folder for our travel documents. It’s kind of old school, but if your phone runs out of battery or you can’t get onto the internet, it comes in handy. We put our flight itinerary in there, our travel insurance, and a calendar list of places we want to go with addresses and days we want to get there. The spreadsheet also has our other travel information—bus numbers and times, etc.
Quick dry towel: LeeAnne brought one of these on our trip to Iceland and it was the envy of our group. You’re not always going to need something like this if you’re staying in hotels, but when you do need it, you will find it irreplaceable.
Collapsible small backpack: I’ve got a tiny backpack that folds up into itself that is great for day trips when I want to leave my larger pack behind, and also great for having on the plane with whatever I’ll need for the flight if for some ungodly reason I need to check my main bag, or even if I just don’t want to get up to the overhead compartment every time I need something. Also works for filling with souvenirs on your way home.
Collapsible rain jacket: Anything you’re not going to need constantly should be able to fold into itself to save space, and a rain jacket is one of those things. The one I have is much more condensible than a bulky umbrella. It also functions as a lighter spring jacket if necessary.
Kindle Paperwhite: I don’t always have a lot of time to read on a vacation, and often when I have downtime I want to be sleeping. This doesn’t allow me to justify carrying around a big book for a long time, so I bought a Kindle. It takes up no room and weighs almost nothing, and as long as you have a WiFi connection, you can pick up new books almost instantly if you need to.
Melatonin: I recently realized the miracle of melatonin chewables when I had to take a redeye from San Fran to Philly and go straight to work. I sat down in my window seat, chewed two melatonin gummies, and put on the Sleep playlist on Spotify. I’ve never slept better on a plane, and was actually ready to go to work after I landed. That’s never happened to me before.
Those are pretty much my only requirements. Of course, I bring other clothes, but you can pick and choose what you’ll need. A few t-shirts (making sure one can double as an undershirt for something nicer if need be), and underwear—but not too much. For longer trips, you can always do some sink laundry if necessary. Sometimes, I’ll also try to bring an extra pair of shoes, but nothing too clunky; either a pair of Toms or some flip-flops will do for when I want something I can quickly slip on or off.
Hopefully this can help, or give you a little insight into your own packing habits. Everything I think about packing, I ask myself how often I would use it and if I really have to be carrying it around for a week (or more). The answer is almost always no. Always remember: you’re not going to see any less of the places you go if you don’t bring your 12 favorite shirts.