NOTES ON PACKING LIGHT

It’s been more than 15 years since I last checked luggage while flying, or packed more than a 25L pack while traveling. A lot has changed in terms of packing: better bags, better organization, and better fabrics in clothing, allowing you go to even lighter.
I go lighter now. I pack more efficiently than back then. Because I travel more now, I learned to carry even less and I move faster. Fluid. I also learned proper layering, not for the mountains, but for the cities.

So, what are the keys to do this? Simply knowing two things:

I know I need to allocate a small amount of money to buy anything I might need and don’t have with me at the location of my trip. I have the right gear and right clothing.

Yes, it comes down to those two things.

I know it sounds simplistic, but the truth is that, in most cases, you can get that emergency item you might need where you are traveling to. And if it’s vital, you would have brought it with you in the first place. Also, having the right pack to stash your clothing and gear is key. Having a piece of luggage that opens flat, for example, that is simple and easy to carry will make it easier for you to pack and see what can be left behind. And yes, high-tech clothing, with easy to care fabrics, that dry fast, can be layered, and be combined for multiples outfits, allows you to carry less, and be more nimble.

Tips for Packing Light

Check your destination

A good trip begins with knowing where you are going to be. What is the weather like during your stay? Are you visiting during rainy season or will it be bone dry? Does it get cold at night (like in the mountains)? Are there stores where you can buy toiletries? Does your hotel provide you with laundry? These kinds of questions will help you create your initial list of things to bring.

But remember the golden rule: take half of what you think you need out.

Choose the right bag

I’ve learned in the military that if you have a bigger ruck (AKA backpack) you will fill it with stuff. Choose the right bag for the trip. Try to keep it as small as possible. This will force you to bring only the necessary things for the trip. A small bag will also allow you to be more fluid and move faster both at the airport and at your destination.

Have a “buy it” budget ready

Things like toiletries can be bought at your destination. There is no need to bring your whole bathroom with you. Have for example a minimal set of toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste) and buy shaving stuff, shampoo, etc when you arrive. This “buy it” budget can also serve as an emergency budget. If you need to buy a tshirt, a rain jacket or whatever due to whatever reason, you’ll be ready.

Learn to layer your clothing

We’ve talked about layering many times in the Red Teams Blog. Layering allows you to combine your clothing in a way that not only creates a good system (keeping your cool or warm when needed) but also help you bring less clothing for your trip. Each part of the layering system works in tandem with the rest to create a great climate control. You can also play with this and create a system where an item can serve multiple purposes, for example, there are hiking pants that will pass as khaki as well and can be worn during a day hike and at night at the restaurant.

Remember, synthetic fabrics are your friends. Especially during the summer and if you plan on washing your clothes by hand at the hotel.

Cut the amount of electronics you are bringing

Do you really need that big, heavy camera and lenses? Or the smart phone you have with a decent camera will suffice for this trip? Can you go by with only an iPad and not a laptop, iPad and ebook reader? Try to think what you need and minimize the use of electronics. Of course, this is depending of the purpose of your trip. Also, try to get a combined charger for your electronics instead of brining a charger per piece of gear.

When in doubt, remove it

Unless you know for sure that you will use/wear a specific item, remove it. You’ll be surprised of how light you can go. And if you needed during the trip? Well, you always have that “buy it” money…

Packing light is about being free and enjoying the trip. Have fun and get out!

Go light and fast.