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How low can you go? (Or light)

It has become a bit of an obsession with me to see just how light I can go with my bag. Part of this drive is from necessity: I have an old back injury that is bothering me more so I need to minimize the strain on it. I don't want to wheel a bag, though, so I use a lightweight backpack with a decent waist belt to shift as much weight as possible to my hips. I try to keep the bag small enough so that it can fit under the seat (my current bag is actually made for runners to carry a hydration pack in).

Right now everything weighs a little less than 8 pounds, including the bag, but I think I can do better. I've toyed with the idea of taking just one pair of pants, rather than two, for example. My wardrobe is very bland, but boy is it liberating not to worry about finding a place to check luggage when I arrive somewhere.

Posted by
1 posts

Hello Paul, I'm planning a trip this fall to travel Europe for 2 months, I wanted to travel light, but have never done anything like this before. I was wondering, are there any tips of the trade to keep the essentials to a minimum? what would you consider "the essentials"?


Posted by
7418 posts

On our last trip, I too was suffering from lifting my and my wife's suitcases into airplane overhead bins and going up steps. They seem to be getting heavier as I get older.

I bought a new 20" lightweight rolling bag. I intend to curtail my weight greatly on this next trip. It helps when carrying a Chromebook for traveling instead of that 17" laptop of the past.

One of my tricks is to get a pair of jeans and a pair of khaki pants heavily starched at the laundry prior to leaving. Both remain looking good for as long as a week if you can stay out of the mud. And sticking to one pair of shoes helps, especially since my size 15's tend to get heavy.

I had a friend that used to travel with a briefcase for as long as a week. He changed starched shirts ever other day and underwear daily--wearing the same suit. Every day was a new group of business associates.

Posted by
12222 posts

If you really want to travel light, then do so without a bag at all. Rolf Potts did it a few years ago. He did a six week "round the world" trip with no luggage. You can read about it here:

One of the secrets of cutting back on what you take is to make a packing list. Go over it a few times to cut any extras you don't want to take. Here are some examples.

-Take only one pair of shoes with a little foot powder and disposable insoles to keep them fresh. (The extra weight is virtually nil.)
-Take less clothes. Do laundry more often.
-Take a tablet instead of a computer. Better yet, take a mini tablet. Keep going, how about only a smartphone?
-Think e-books over paper.
-Leave anything that needs a converter at home. (Unless medically necessary.)
-Cut back on the "what if" items. One way to tell if you really need to take them is to ask the "Midnight" question: It's midnight and something happens that calls for the use of "x"--do you really need it immediately or can you get it in the morning?
-Cut back on liquids as much as possible. Even those in small 3-1-1 size bottles. The weight adds up.
-Use a bag of lighter material and less "bells and whistles."

And remember, one person's necessity is another person's frivilous item.

Posted by
1133 posts

Leon, to simplify the answer, I'd say take just one change of clothes besides what you are wearing. Wash things every night, which means you need clothes that will dry overnight. I add one additional set of socks, underwear, and undershirt. That just makes it easier to cycle through things.

Take the bare minimum of toiletries. I use soap obtained over there, for example. Take the least amount of electronics, too. I take just my phone. The only other item is any medicines you might need.

That's the gist of it. Eliminate everything you can.

Posted by
95 posts

My DH and I have really cut back on the amount of stuff we bring. We only carry on the bare minimum now and it has been liberating! But he could never travel with just one pair of pants and I could never travel with just one pair of shoes. DH is 6'6 and can't usually buy pants off the rack. So if something happened to his pants, a replacement would probably be next to impossible to find. Similarly, I have very high arches and it takes some doing to find a comfortable pair of shoes. So a second (as light as possible) pair will always be in my bag. I once lost a heel off of one of my shoes on a weekend trip to Chicago. I was able to find a replacement pair of shoes pretty easily, but my feet hurt like the devil by the end of the weekend. So those are two "what-ifs" that we're not willing to risk.

But we also did the "midnight" test that someone else talked about before. I have a very tiny first aid kit that I take just enough stuff that would get us through the night if there was an issue. A couple of doses of pepto, immodium and aspirin, a couple of band-aids, a very small sewing kit. Anything beyond that could be sorted out the next day.

Good luck with your packing obsession! I haven't weighed my packed bag, but I can't imagine it being only 8 pounds!!!