Traveling light is an art. Having everything you need and being able to carry your baggage with ease is the make or break of almost every trip. Although packing lists may vary, a simple set of rules will help you downscale your gear for any occasion.
Writing down everything you need is the best way not to leave anything behind, but packing lists are much more than that. Chances are that you repeat similar trips over and over again. Divide them into categories: overnight camping, beach holiday, city break, thru hiking, work trip, etc.
Holding on to your packing lists for various trip types (keep them online or in an actual journal) allows you to refine your travel setup over time. You will travel light but – most importantly – you will have everything you need.
Apart from making your lists by trip type, divide them also by category, for example: “electronics for work”, “electronics for holiday”, “first aid”, “skiing gear,” etc.
Take a close look at your baggage
Fancy travel flatlays are extremely popular for a reason. Laying out all your gear and examining it closely is an essential step in making sure you are not forgetting anything and not overpacking either.
First, gather everything you think you will need during your trip. Then ask yourself how you will travel: are you mostly going on foot? Do you need to take public transport? Unless you have a spacious car at your disposal, downscaling is almost always the way to go.
Choosing multi-purpose items is key both during city breaks and hiking adventures. For example, flip-flops are highly packable and can be worn with a dress, at the beach or in your hotel room. The same goes for more extreme gear: a poncho tarp will serve you both as shelter and as a waterproof jacket for hiking. Whatever the occasion, make sure that your setup is as functional as possible.
Choose lightweight gear
For frequent travelers, investing in lightweight equipment makes a lot of sense. You can buy lightweight carry-on suitcases and massively reduce the weight of your hiking backpack by splashing out on a lightweight sleeping bag, tent and even the lightest clothing.
However, many radical weight cuts (fit for any travelling occasion) can be done without breaking the bank. Ditch your first aid or medicine pouch in favor of a zip-lock plastic bag. Snap the handle off your toothbrush. Cut the excess off your backpack straps. Swap a towel for a tiny microfiber cloth. The list goes on and on and simple DIY solutions can often save you as much weight as swapping your old raincoat for a minimal modern jacket.
Guesstimating your baggage weight is all very well until you have to walk with it on your back, so getting proper scales is a no-brainer. On hiking trips aim to carry less than 20% of your body weight, although ultra-light backpackers can drop much lower than that.
Once you master the art of packing your shelter, food and everything else you need into a small backpack, a carry-on suitcase for a low-cost flight will present no challenge. However, checking your suitcase with both tape measure and scales is a good idea if you want to meet strict airline regulations, sometimes as restrictive as 8kg (18lbs).
The best hacks for travelling light are always highly personal and the most important advice you never hear about packing is this: lower the weight of your baggage by learning from your mistakes, make lists, and perfect your own best travel setup.