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5 Tried and Tested Travel Packing Tips – So You Can Pack Smarter and Travel Lighter

Let’s face it: we dread nothing more than packing for a trip. It doesn't matter what kind of trip you’re going on, packing is always the most challenging part.

So many of us turn to the Internet to find out how others are doing it and how we can pack smarter, lighter, more efficiently.

Would you believe that I’ve managed to travel with a 30L backpack for six months around the world? No? Well, I did. Here’s how:

1. Travel with the seasons

On any trip the weather will affect your choice of clothes and what you need to pack. On a short weekend trip in the middle you simply have to pack warm clothes. But if you’re going on a trip around the world, you can plan to travel with the sun for a good deal of the time. I started my trip when it was summer in the northern hemisphere and traveled slowly enough to catch spring and then summer in the southern hemisphere and am now back to spring in the north.

I knew I’d have to prepare for colder temperatures at altitudes over 3000m (especially in Bolivia) and all the way south in Patagonia, where the wind can bowl you over. So I brought some thermal layers that were still extremely light and packed a down vest that packaged up extremely small. I bought a scarf cheaply when I was in Chile and left it behind as I left Patagonia.

If you expect mostly warm weather, it’s easy to pack mainly summer clothes, which will reduce much of the weight in your pack. Part of the fun of escaping home is also the opportunity to miss out on fall and winter for once.

2. Invest in technical clothes

These days you can find all colors and styles and many nifty designs and still feel properly dressed when you wear nothing but specifically designed outdoor clothes. They’re lightweight, quick drying, usually offer additional UV protection and come with hidden pockets for your valuables. They pack extremely small.

These clothes usually handle crinkles pretty well, even if you roll them up and put them in a stuff sack. And you can throw them all in the laundry together without fear of colors bleeding.

Now, outdoor clothes tend to be more expensive than your normal cotton T-Shirt, skirt or jeans. But they also tend to last longer and are more versatile in different climates. If you want to save money, then only buy on sale or go for clearance items from last season. I have very rarely paid the full price on any of my many technical clothes and some of them I've had for years.

3. Be organized and compartmentalize

I travel with several stuff sacks and other pouches and small bags in order to organize all the items in my backpack. I keep clothes, tops, underwear and socks all in separate bags that roll up tightly and all have a dedicated space in my backpack. That way I always know what is where and can easily grab it. I also have a mesh bag for dirty clothes ready for the next time I have to do laundry.

Cables, chargers and spare batteries are sorted into a small pouch originally intended for toiletries. Due to its compartments I am able to organize the smaller items and keep everything in place and wrap it up neatly.

Most of my travel documents are in a small, transparent case not much larger than an A5 envelope that closes with a zipper. It packs flat and goes in the same compartment as my laptop in my shoulder bag. Almost everything I carry with me has its dedicated place in my backpack and my shoulder bag and many items are sorted in a lightweight bag or pouch.

I bought my backpack specifically, because it has two main compartments, one top and one bottom, which allows me to organize my packing more roughly, but in a manner that makes sense. Clothes go in the top compartment; everything else goes in the bottom compartment.

4. Roll your clothes

This one is easy: don’t fold your clothes, roll them up. There are a few ways how to best fold something, try all of them and pick the one that works best for you. Most challenging are my blouses, to be honest (and I have four of them, three short-sleeved and one long-sleeved), because of the collar. But it is possible and because they’re all very light and made from technical materials, the crinkles are gone very quickly when I put them on to wear.

You can roll all of your clothes, sort them into your stuff sacks and then roll up the stuff sacks to close them. Make sure to let out the air before rolling up the stuff sack, which almost creates a vacuum and makes the packing easier, leaving you even more space.

5. Read travel packing hack lists

I’m serious. They contain a wealth of information. Some items that I ended up packing, such as clips, or duct tape, or reusable mini-shampoo bottles have come in very handy at times. I brought some things along on my trip, because they can be used for more than one purpose (like a light sleeping bag liner, which has been a sleeping bag, a cover and even a scarf once).

When I travelled in South America, I was grateful to have a few clips, because you will often cook in hostels and spices don’t come in containers in South America, but small bags. By having a clip to keep them closed tightly a spice spillage in my bag was prevented

Truth be told, no list of travel packing tips will ever be complete. Peruse as many of them as you wish and you will still find some solutions by yourself that you've not read about everywhere else. By doing what I explained above, I have traveled very far indeed and never felt bogged down by my luggage. I have used everything in my bag at least once, usually multiple times, never needed to throw a useless item out and managed to keep my bags as carry-on for almost all my flights.

Believe me, I've traveled with a 65L backpack plus 20L day-pack and it was a painful experience, especially whilst searching for a hostel in some places. This time around I wanted to try something else and I am ever so glad that I did.

If you want to know what I actually packed, I’ll be happy to tell you. If you don’t believe me, I can send you a photo of my backpack and all its contents. Try it out and be converted. Travel will never be the same again, trust me.

And if you have some unique and useful packing tips yourself, please feel free to share. There’s always a more efficient way and how you pack can always be improved.

About the author

Anja

I left home eight and a half years ago to travel around the world for what I thought would be three years. I somehow ended up living a year in Melbourne, Australia, almost three years in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a year in Victoria, BC, Canada. In between I traveled slowly, but extensively. Just when I thought I’d go home and settle down for a bit, I ended up living in London working for one of the biggest online travel agencies there is. Needless to say travel holds my heart and when I finish my current trip around the world, I will have been to roughly thirty countries (“only” ten on this trip, though, seven of them for the first time). My first passion is, and always has been, writing. When I get back to Europe, I will continue to work on my freelance career, keep writing my own blogs and publish a novel one of these days, all whilst living on a houseboat, because settling down is not for me.