I am a minimalist by nature, so when it comes time to pack for a trip, I like to bring as little as possible. However, this is much easier said than done. I have packed for many a trip intending to keep it light, but instead ended up lugging around an impossibly heavy suitcase and a backpack that felt like it was stuffed with bowling balls. It’s not a lot of fun. Plus, there’s the shoulder and neck pain from carrying all of that unbalanced weight.
Over the years, I’ve learned a number of tips, tricks and hacks for packing light. It’s all about careful planning, smart choices and being able to leave behind items that you don’t absolutely need. The following are 12 suggestions to pack lightly for your next trip, no matter where you are going or how long you will be away.
Lists are your friends when it comes to planning and packing. Before you even take out your suitcase, make a list of everything you will need on your trip and how many of each item you will need. Keep in mind that many things can be re-worn or washed. Many bulky items (such as extra blankets and pillows) may not be necessary at all.
Once you have your initial list, go through it and score each item in order of importance. Give items that are crucial to bring a “1.” Items that you really want to bring, but may not be essential, get a “2.” Items that you want, but don’t need, get a “3,” and so on. Depending on how lightly you want to pack, and how much room you have, you may want to only bring the “1s,” or maybe all of the “1s” and a couple “2s.” You may wish to skip the “3s” if you’re really interested in packing lightly.
Switch to a smaller suitcase
If your suitcase is large, you may be tempted to fill it in order to avoid things rattling around. A large suitcase also gives you an excuse to bring more of those things you kind of want to bring but don’t actually need. Additionally, large suitcases, when stuffed full, are heavy. The simple solution is to get a smaller suitcase… or even just a roomy backpack, depending on the nature of your trip.
Having a smaller suitcase (or backpack) will compel you to bring only what you absolutely need. Don’t stress about the items you could not bring… chances are you wouldn’t have used them anyway. You’ll also save your back, neck and shoulders from the pain of carrying too much heavy stuff.
Pack only the clothes you need until you can do laundry
Many people like to pack an outfit (or more) for each day that they will be traveling. This, however, can lead to huge, heavy luggage. Instead of packing clothes for each day, pack only as many as you need until your next laundry opportunity. If you are staying with family or friends, or at a hotel, you can do your laundry there (with permission, of course). If you are staying at a place without laundry facilities, you can go to a laundromat in town or wash your clothes in the sink.
Bring soap berries for laundry on-the-go
Soap berries, also called soap nuts, are a natural, reusable alternative to laundry detergent. If you bring a small satchel of these on your trip, you can do laundry wherever you go, as long as there is a sink or even a stream around. These are worth the small amount of space that they’ll take up, especially if you’re going on a longer trip to a place with no laundry facilities.
Bonus: You can also use soap nuts to wash your hair and skin… they’re a true all-purpose cleaner.
Downsize the jackets, sweaters and shoes
If you can get away with not packing any shoes aside from the ones you are wearing, that’s excellent. If you need more shoes, keep it to only one other pair. Find a pair that is versatile for multiple occasions. The same goes for jackets and sweaters. These items are bulky. Even if you’re going to a colder location, bring as few jackets and sweaters as you can, and instead focus on layering lighter clothing.
Choose lightweight fabrics
Skip the heavy, dense clothing and pack clothes made from lighter fabrics. You don’t need a lot of heavy denim or corduroy; these items will only make your suitcase heavier. Keep it light.
Roll your clothes
Rolling your clothes is a great way to maximize your space. If you choose lightweight items, you can roll them up really small and fit more into a small suitcase or backpack. Rolling clothes also protects them from wrinkling, so it’s a perfect travel solution.
If you can, wear your heaviest items
If there is a bulky jacket or a pair of pants that you absolutely need to bring, wear those clothes on your trip. That way, you won’t have to take up valuable luggage space.
Bring only small and essential toiletries
Pour toiletries into small travel containers and skip the ones you don’t really need. Also, keep in mind that you can buy most of these items most anywhere, so unless you’re going to a destination where you won’t be able to do this, don’t pack toiletries at all and just buy what you need once you arrive.
If you bring a towel, only bring one
Towels are bulky. If there are going to be towels you can use where you’re going, don’t pack any (sorry, Douglas Adams). If you’re not sure, limit yourself to packing one towel and wash it when necessary.
Consider compression bags
If you do happen to need to bring a lot of clothing or bedding with you, consider picking up some compression bags or packing cubes. These items can compress your clothes, pillows and blankets down so that you can fit more into smaller luggage.
Keep the gifts small
If you’re bringing gifts for the host (always a good idea), keep them small and compact. If you have larger gifts, consider mailing them to your host before your trip.
Do you have any other ideas for packing as lightly as possible? Please share your knowledge!
— Tanya Mead