Do you wish you could travel light but don’t really feel like you know where to start? I’ve had a lot of readers asking about how to pack light so it’s time to discuss. I’ll be honest, it does take a bit of getting used to, and the old saying that “practice makes perfect” is true. Even in comparing my backpack from the trip I took to Brazil last November to the backpack that’s accompanying me in Europe right now (hai from some train in Switzerland!), I’ve learned what I really don’t need, and what other things I didn’t have before but needed to get.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, packing light is not just about tossing beloved items to the wayside; actually, it’s helpful to buy new things to help you out. Traveling with less is challenging if the tools you’ve been trying to use while doing it aren’t the best choice. I won’t cover every fine detail about packing light in this post, but it is the place to start if you’re wondering how to tackle it successfully. Here’s what you need:
By far the most significant space-saver is leaving all the extra shoes at home. Shoes add bulk and weight, even if you stuff socks and underwear into them. For the trip I’m on right now, I’ve got one pair and one pair only: a reliable, comfortable, and versatile pair of Doc Martens (note: this is aside from a pair of flip flops which I don’t really consider footwear). When I compare the difference of my pack from Brazil (that I stuffed 3 pairs into) to now (shoe-free), it makes me do a little happy jig. Finding that one magical pair of shoes that are good for sightseeing, hiking, and drinks in the evening is a challenge but worth the effort.
A Great Backpack
People feel quite divided about the backpack versus rolling suitcase debate. If you truly want to challenge yourself to pack less, then what you need to do is carry that weight around on your back. Once everything is all ready to go, do you really want to carry around a 50 pound backpack that looks like a stuffed sausage? Probably not, and this alone can give you the extra push to leave non-vital items at home. I love my 46L Osprey Kyte* pack (of which there is surely a men’s equivalent). It’s just the right size and can usually go carry-on with most flights I’ve taken. It’s also pretty forgiving and can fit quite a lot if needed, so it’s an ideal backpack for someone wanting to make their foray into packing light.
A Damn Fine Haircut
This might seem like a bit of a strange one, but I stand by it. The first few weeks after a haircut, you feel like a supermodel no matter what you do with your hair (or at least I do). It requires less maintenance, fewer products, and fewer hair tools to get it looking runway ready. Instead, it’s just a matter of maintaining what your hairdresser hath created.
A Carry-on Slash Purse Slash Day Pack
Traditional backpacks are wonderful for packing up your stuff and hopping on a plane, but they’re not so wonderful for a night out on the town dancing. In the same vein, even a large purse that is well-made is not necessarily that well-suited for travel. Matt and Nat answered my prayers for a carry-on backpack that is sturdy enough to carry belongings (even my laptop!) but also beautiful enough to take to a fancy restaurant.
A Wardrobe—Not Just Clothing In A Closet
If you simply buy whatever clothes you like with no regard to their color scheme or style or how they look on you, you’ll have an infinitely harder time packing light. As you start to lay clothes out for a trip, you’ll struggle to make outfits and choose items that mix and match easily. So if you want to make things easier on yourself, mentally designate articles of clothing that are your travel clothes. Then, when it comes time to get ready for your vacation you only pull those clothes and mix and match from a much smaller selection of your closet. I’m not going to say you need to do a total revamp of your closet and dresser drawers because that’s quite a daunting task and maybe you like all your stuff, but not all of your clothing is good for travel. Recognize that, and then you can select travel clothes from what you already have that are comfortable, versatile, and still your style.
What’s your biggest struggle when trying to travel light?
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