Are you about to embark on a long-haul, months-long trip, but the thought of dragging a giant suitcase across a whole continent is already making you tired? Do you want to spend more time “living in the moment” and you’re pretty sure that starts with scaling down your Stuff? Are you just trying to avoid baggage fees? You’ve come to the right blog. I love packing light, and for my four-month trip, I’m only bringing one carry-on and one backpack. Here’s my strategy to make it work for you too.
Simplify Your Wardrobe
The first thing to do is give up on the dream that you’re going to look cute the whole time. You have to approach clothing like it’s for survival, not for style. Every extra ounce is going to slow you down, and when you stop moving you die. If you don’t think in these apocalyptic terms, you will convince yourself that you have the space to bring those cute peep-toe d’Orsay flats. YOU DON’T. I say this as a woman who owns four pairs of cowboy boots (one of which I refer to as “the formal pair”): stylish shoes will spell your doom.
Everything in your suitcase needs to be worth its weight. You’re shooting to pack one week’s worth of clothing. If you’re not going to wear it once a week, then it has to stay home. There will be a few items you won’t wear constantly that you’ll want for certain weather conditions, but those should be kept to the absolute minimum.
Pick clothing that can do double duty — yoga pants that you can walk around in, chunky sweatshirts that can be neck pillows, plain shirts that can dress up or down. Go monochrome or simply patterned and eschew graphics; it’ll make it easier to look neat and put together if you’re not working around a giant Coca-Cola logo. Bring clothes you love wearing and feel good in, so you won’t mind wearing them day after day, but not clothes you can’t bear to lose; heavy rotation means heavy wear and tear, and you might have to say goodbye to a t-shirt or two.
Take Your Cues From Outdoorsy Types
If anyone has mastered the art of minimalist travel, it’s your friends who are always inviting you camping. You want to pack like you’re summiting Everest, not vacationing. There’s a whole world of gear that will make your life easier, and if you shop wisely you don’t have to spend a fortune on it. The outdoor market has given us lightweight, small-packing stuff like microfiber towels (and you should never, ever travel without a towel), collapsible water bottles, and self-inflating pillows. Be discerning — there’s a lot of stuff you don’t need, too — but take advantage of advances in travel science. Spending wisely on good gear can save you hours of heartache.
Outdoorsmen also know that weather protection can save your holiday. Know your destination’s climate and prioritize space in your suitcase for the right clothing for it. A rainjacket or good warm socks can make or break a day on the road.
Put Everything in a Pile and Then Leave Half of It Behind
I mean this literally — grab everything you think you want to bring, put it in a pile, and then start sorting and paring down. Chronic overpackers especially should be looking to cut it by half, or more, before putting anything into the suitcase itself.
There will be your “nonnegotiables,” like medications, contact lenses, equipment you need to work, underwear, etc. Those can be in one pile. Add to that pile anything you’ll need for activities you have planned — swimsuits for beaches, safety gear for hikes or outdoor sports, camera equipment for tours, etc. The rest should be subjected to rigorous “do I REALLY need this?” interrogation.
It’ll be difficult to get four months’ worth of toiletries through the 100 mL rule for liquids, so you should be planning to replenish those supplies on the road — bring only what you need to get you through the first two or three weeks, instead of trying to supply the whole trip. Bring bar soap instead of shower gel; some brands, like Dr. Bronner’s, can also be used as laundry detergent.
Have a Reality Check
Run your packing list by your most sensible friend. “Are you sure you need the cactus-print crop top?” they might say, hypothetically, not directly to me about a specific shirt. It can be easy to get caught up in your own attachments to your Stuff while you pack, but an objective observer can help shake that loose. Check the internet for pre-made packing lists for your destinations to see what others have brought.
Plan to Lighten the Load
You might have brought it with you, but you don’t have to bring it back. If you’re bringing books, plan to abandon them when you’re done — someone at your resort or hotel is bound to appreciate the fresh reading material. If you buy a souvenir t-shirt, see if you can retire something you brought with you. If you’re changing climates partway through the trip, or you’ll hit a seasonal shift, plan to ship clothes home once they’re not needed — or if you’re not particularly attached to them, donate them before you move on. You’ll figure out pretty fast what you don’t need, so don’t hold onto dead weight.
Lauryn Mac is not only the author of this blog for Groupit Travel, but she is also a writer, photographer and traveler extraordinaire! She is busy following her own packing advice since she is leaving tonight for a 4-month travel adventure to Oceania and Southeast Asia as a solo traveler. You can follow her adventure here and on social media where she will be blogging, vlogging, and sharing photos exclusively for Groupit Travel. #justgolauryn #roadlaurrior
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