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How to Pack Super Light and Have Everything You Need (Part 1)

I draw suspicion when I pass through customs sometimes.

"Where are your bags?"

"I don't have any."

"How long are you staying here?"

"Two months."

My friend Todd and I travel with just two tiny carry-on backpacks. Twenty eight liters. Not only is that all you need, it's all you should ever want. I'm going to explain how to pack everything you could possibly need and still have room for souveniers.

In fact, I carry a laptop, a professional camera, a bed, full rain gear and exercise equipment with me. If you don't need that stuff, you could easily pack even lighter.
Why Travel Light?

Have you ever taken a vacation in your own city? You take your significant other and you go stay in a hotel downtown. Somehow, even though you do the same exact stuff you would have done at your house, it's a lot more fun. It's relaxing.

Why is that?

I have a theory. I think that possessions bring along worry and stress with them. You have to worry where to keep them, whether they're clean or not, whether they work or not, whether they have batteries, and where they all are. Have a bunch of stuff? This mental baggage adds up.

Then you go to a hotel that has nothing but a bed and a coffee maker in it and you feel free. None of your stuff is there to bog you down.

The same goes for traveling, except that you also have to carry it all with you. I see these backpackers with 70L bags PLUS another backpack on their chests and I just wonder what in the world they could possibly have in there.

Maybe someday someone will show me.

When you travel light your range increases dramatically. Want to leave your hotel and take a walk through the neighborhood before getting a cab to the airport? No problem. Want to take a crazy train trip through Southeast Asia? Me too, but not with a suitcase or bodybag sized pack.

The nice thing about packing in one small bag is that it makes packing on side trips easy. Take out the stuff you DEFINITELY don't need, and keep everything else. You don't have to pick and choose what you transfer from your big bag to your small bag.

Clothes

Don't do that bundle method. I understand the benefits, but for me a least, it's just not the best option in real life. If you get the right clothes, like these Icebreaker shirts, your clothes won't get wrinkled.

The best way to pack clothes is to stack them all up, put them in an Aloksak, and zip it up 90% of the way. Then fold the bag in half and zip it shut after squeezing all the air out. This gets your clothes down to their absolute smallest size, is pretty good with wrinkles and makes them totally waterproof. Your bag can fall overboard and you'll still have dry clothes.

This also makes it so that you can remove your clothes chunk and get to the stuff underneath without messing things up.

If you buy the right clothes you should easily be able to fit everything into one bag.

Bring one pair of convertible pants. It's all you need unless you're on business. I only own one pair of pants now and have worn them every single day for over 200 days in a row. I also have a pair of running shorts which I wear when I wash my pants.

Bring one pair of shoes. If you're going to beachy areas you can buy a pair of flip flops when you get there for a dollar or two and not have to pack them and get sand all over your bag.

Two pair of underwear is all you need. Girls can take more since their underwear takes up less space. Go for the Ex-Officio brand and wash one pair in the shower every time you take one.

Try to choose a pair of shoes that you don't need socks for. I'll show you a pair in a few weeks that you can run and hike in without socks. If you have a favorite pair of shoes that does require socks, pack four pair of the thinnest wool socks you can get by with.

Outerwear

The best protection in terms of benefit to weight is getting a technical shell, rain pants, and a fleece. The fleece will be one of your biggest space hogs but I haven't found a way around it yet. A good Paclite shell and Paclite pair of rain pants will take up almost negligible space.

As a bonus, you can just wear the shell when it's slightly cold and windy, but not cold enough to warrant the fleece. You'll also be covered if there is a rain shower.

A hat is a good idea too. Get a wool one. I use mine to sleep on trains and planes by pulling it down over my eyes. This blocks out the sun and keeps me a few degrees warmer, which you need when you sleep.

Electronics

I travel with a lot of electronics. A laptop, digital rangefinder camera, backup hard drive, and phone. They key with electronics is to minimize the amount of cables you bring.

Your camera charger and laptop will probably use the same wall to brick cable (that figure eight connector thing). Take only one and throw the other away.

Get as many USB chargers as you can. The ZEN media player comes with the best one imaginable which is a standard and is only a few inches long. I also use mine to connect my phone to my laptop and to connect my hard drive.

You can either charge straight from your laptop, or you can get a compact plug in thing that lets you charge USB right off the wall.

If any of your cables are longer than a few inches, try to get a retractable version.

Try to get rid of anything other than your laptop that has a wall wart.

Put all of your cables in as small a bag as possible (I used the one that my underwear came in) to keep them consolidated and tangle free.

Stay tuned for next week to see a video of me packing everything in a tiny bag and for a collection of my best packing tips.

Filed under: Gear

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