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My evolution in packing light

I have found that each time I travel to Europe I take less with me. On my recent trip to Austria (July,2014) I took only my backpack/rolling bag and found it quite liberating. I use a Patagonia MLC Wheelie, measures 21x14x9 and I could easily live for a month out of this bag because I have found a few accessories that make packing easier:
1) Sea to Summit Co. makes a daypack called "the Ultra-sil daypack", this is so compact that it packs to a size smaller than your fist. I put the daypack in my main bag on the airline and then use it daily for rain jacket, camera, water bottle,etc.
2) I use the Rick Steves large packing cube for shirts and pants and two eagle creek packing tubes for underwear and socks, a Rick Steves toiletry bag (small one) for meds, shaving, toothbrush etc.
3) I have a Marmot Mica rain jacket that folds up to a very small package and I bring a Kuhl fleece pullover that is thin and packs well. Using a Lightweight waterproof shell and lightweight fleece pullover together allows me to stay warm down to around 40 degrees F.
4) I search the internet sites for sales on many of these items and can usually by them at greater than 50% off, I have found that the clothes that are made from nylon or polyester material not only wash and dry easily while traveling but also lay flatter and pack easier. All the shirts I take are long sleeve but have the button up fasteners so I can wear them in the heat of summer.
5) In cold weather I take a Patagonia Ultralight down jacket that packs into it's own pocket and basically the same clothes except I take very thin long underwear (hot chilly's) and wear them under my pants and shirts. I will usually buy gloves and a knit hat after I get where I'm going.
I have found that by getting everything into one bag only, that passes all the airlines rules, it has made travel so much easier, I will admit that I don't carry a laptop, I only carry a Apple mini iPad.

Posted by
1068 posts

There is no question that for me packing light has been an evolution, in part because I also know how I like to travel (which has evolved too.) Sometimes I listen to "experts" and sometimes I go my own way. Layering, as you suggested, with a light rain breaker and fleece gives lots of options and a pretty warm outer layer when needed. Long sleeve shirts with fastener buttons are a great idea and that's what I use too. If I didn't enjoy photography so #*$^& much, I would pack a pretty simple bag....but even that hobby has evolved. I take a fairly light carry on bag with mostly clothes, first aid kit and tripod. A smaller personal bag goes with me as well. I don't "need" the smaller bag, but feel better having my electronic gear, meds and some credit cards with me at all times. It does make traveling easier.

Posted by
1179 posts

Each person travels a little differently so our packing has to evolve from a basic light packing list to our personal taste/needs. I'm sure each person has an item they always bring that isn't on the basic packing list. Conversely, we have items we never bring. We review our choices after each trip and eventually figure out what does and does not work for us.

I pack differently for different trips. For a lot of domestic trips I only use a single under seat bag. These bags weigh around 10 pounds. I've never taken a laptop, only a smart phone. For work trips I'm carrying lots of paperwork (2-4 reams worth) and company issued laptop, so I use a rolling backpack. Work bags weigh around 20 pounds. For longer international trips I use a single soft sided travel pack. Those trips usually come in around 15 pounds. When I'm going into the bush my pack will weigh around 19 pounds to accommodate extra outdoor gear/camping equipment.

As you stated, it's important to lighten up where possible. Less clothing, lighter clothing, less packaging. I don't use pacing cubes and bundle wrap so I save extra weight. I use zip top baggies. I cut apart guide books. As stated, a light packable rain coat and down jacket are great investment items. These will shave several pounds off your bag. Other areas to examine for weight savings: Electronics (always heavy) that are powered by USB to save space and weight, Going virtual to save on paper weight (books, documentation), jewelry (keep it down to one metal, and maybe an extra necklace, shoes, toiletries (go dry, and decant as much as possible).

Posted by
18388 posts

I would encourage you to keep evolving. After 15 years of Rick-influenced travel, the total weight of everything I pack in a 1.8# convertible bag is just over 9#. By saving almost 5# on the bag, I don't need rollers, so I save more weight. If you've really learned to minimize what you take, you certainly don't need a 21x14x9 bag.

My one weight compromise, I do a lot of typing and hate the faux keyboards of a pad, so I take a netbook, which doesn't weigh that much more than a pad, runs the same software as my home desktop, and is so much more usable for me. That goes in my "personal item".

Posted by
67 posts

I laugh when I look at old photos of me and my travel companions loaded down with oversize luggage. I've gotten to the point where I can travel for almost any length of time with Rick Steves' Appenzell bag (6.5" x 18" x 13") which is advertised as a day bag. I use it as my main carry-on and use a small cross-body bag as my personal item/day bag. It's large enough to hold my Kindle, phone, travel umbrella, water bottle and a few miscellaneous comfort items. I've streamlined my shoes to two pairs - a good, sturdy walker and a pair of foldable black flats, which, while not great for walking for hours, do dress up an outfit a bit. I don't include my dollar store flip-flops in the shoe count. They are thin and are only used for showers/slippers. I no longer carry laptops or cameras since my smartphone or Kindle can be used for pictures and communication. Like Carol, I take 3 or 4 each mix and match tops and bottoms. I sometimes take a jersey dress which rolls up small and unpacks virtually wrinkle-free. I keep a packable rain jacket and a pashmina in my bag at all times. In winter I add silk long underwear - top and bottom - a packable down jacket, a fleece vest, knit hat and gloves, and a cashmere cardigan. I substitute my walking shoes for comfortable ankle boots. I have a small tote in my personal bag that balls up small. I can put my winter outerwear in it and use it as a pillow on the plane. I've come a long way.

Posted by
18388 posts

I own an Appenzell bag, but although everything I take to Europe fits in it, I don't take it because the way it opens makes it hard to pack and the straps are not "hideaway", which leaves them hanging out and vulnerable in overhead bins.

Although it is too large for me, the Essential Carryon on is only a few ounces heavier and doesn't have the disadvantages mentioned above.

Posted by
67 posts

Lee, I hear what you're saying about the Appenzell. Though I haven't had a problem with the straps I do recognize the potential. I also think it is sometimes too casual for the way I sometimes want to travel. I'm always on the lookout for something of a similar size with hideaway straps as well as hand-carry and shoulder strap options.

Posted by
945 posts

Thanks for all the reply's, I learn so much from the people on this forum. My next trip is to Ireland for 14 days next May, I'm already setting up the schedule.

Posted by
18388 posts

Jaye, first, let me congratulate you for being able to travel with just the Appenzell bag. Although everything I brought back from a recent European trip fit in my Appenzell bag, I've been reluctant to use it because there is no extra space. However, if I felt comfortable with just 1400 ci, I would probably use a Goodhope bag, like this one. It has the advantage of "opening like a book" for ease of packing and has hideaway straps. I've used it for a couple of car trips, where any overflow could have (but didn't) go in the car.

Posted by
1965 posts

I want to speak up for the ultra-minimalist position.
A few years back I had a road-to-Damascus revelation when I went to Reno for a weekend
and for some reason I can't recall checked my bag. The bag didn't make it on the plane.
So I spent the weekend with just what I was wearing, plus a toiletries kit from the hotel.
I lived to tell the tale. (Although the chilly evenings had me asking around for a Goodwill or St.Vincent's)
This incident, plus the guest segment on the RS podcast a while back by the guy who went 'round the world in a
tech vest alone, are always on my mind when I pack.
Rather than opt for travel clothing per se, like the Ex Officio underwear and the fleece layering, etc.,
I used to just go into a local C&A and get a package of underwear and socks once a week or so and throw them away
after a couple days use. Now there's an even more frugal choice --- most towns have the equivalent of dollar stores,
like 2Euro shops, where you can get two-packs of underthings for 2 euros,
so my new habit is to leave whatever I wore in a given town in that town, and then get a new batch in the town I arrive in.
Dress shirts last a little longer, but I also discard them as I go along. Pants are a little harder because I'm not a standard size,
but those too I either dump or launder every six days or so.
So, I did three weeks in southern France this August, and when I got back on the plane I had one change of clothes in my bag and my souvenirs and that was about it.
And the bag is a promotional weekender from one of my magazine subscriptions whose zippers I close with a mini-carbiner. Leaves plenty of room for a fresh baguette and a carton of jus from the local grocery.