How do you pack when travelling slow?
Lightly. Very lightly.
When I’m travelling from place to place, people often ask me how I get by with so little baggage. Especially when I’ve been away for months on end.
And I’m honestly a little shocked. What do they mean “so little”? I’ve got everything I need!
Then we compare notes. I’ve heard some crazy things people pack. These include:
- formal wear
- dress shoes
- hair dryers
- curling/straightening irons
- power transformers
- complete makeup kits
- litres of apple cider vinegar
- barrels of protein powder
- semi-pro photography equipment
Looked at individually, each item sort of makes sense. But together with normal amounts of clorthing and travel equipment, it adds up to a massive amount of stuff.
So, how do you say no?
I fight baggage temptation.
Now, with slow travel, I’m always tempted to pack every little thing I think I might need.
After all, I’m not in a rush. I might be staying in one place for a while. I think I’m covering all my bases. That by bringing everything I need, I am opening up opportunities. I’ll be ready for anything!
But there are several issues with this method.
First, it costs a lot to move from place to place. Airline baggage fees. Taxis to and from accommodation. Daily storage rates when checking out. It all adds up.
Plus there’s the physical toll of lugging all your belongings around. Getting 20kg of space on a plane is awesome, but just try carrying it for any length of time. Unless you’re heavily (haha) into weightlifting, you might not enjoy the challenge.
And speaking of challenges, when you pack too much, it becomes hard as hell to keep track of your belongings. Stuff just gets spread out everywhere. And when repacking, there’s a massive chance that you’ll leave something behind.
Another factor is souvenirs. When taking mementos for others back home, it’s nice to know they won’t get crushed in transit. Which of course depends on how much stuff you take with you!
And lastly, there’s peace of mind. For me, less baggage means less baggage. The less stuff I carry with me, the less I worry. I don’t have to think as much about about where it is. About looking after it. About fitting my bags into lockers.
After all, this is what slow travel is all about – travelling without stress.
So what do I pack?
A better question is what do I leave out? And the answer changes on my destination. A tropical holiday will have completely different requirements to an alpine trek. So I draw up a separate packing list for each journey.
In any case, I use a simple process to decide what to pack and what to leave:
- Am I gonna use this thing?
- Am I likely to need more than one of these things?
- Is it hard to buy/borrow one there?
If the answer is “no” to two or more of these questions, then it more than likely stays at home. With a few notable exceptions – such as toothbrush, laptop, glasses. I could pick these up anywhere – and usually for cheaper than I can get them back home. But I use these things every day, so it’s better to keep these things with me at all times.
How to pack clothing.
Once you’ve cut down your baggage, packing becomes simpler.
For a start, don’t fold your clothing. This wrinkles your sartorial choices, and isn’t the best use of space. Rolling clothing up into tube shapes is also inefficient, as this method leaves gaps.
Instead, its better to bundle your belongings around a core object. This saves space by keeping your clothing together without gaps. It also keeps them flatter.
Here’s a visual guide I put together.
If you want a more in-depth description of this method, I highly suggest you read the process described over at the highly excellent travel resource site One-Bag.com.
And last but not least, always always ALWAYS put your wet weather gear in an easily-accessible part of your bag! I’m not even kidding. The number of times I’ve had to pick apart my luggage looking for a jacket or umbrella is embarrassing. Trust me on this – you do NOT wanna get stuck unwrapping your clothing bundle during a downpour!
(*As a disclaimer, that is not my motorcycle. It belongs to my friend and fellow traveller Motozoa. I just wanted to get your attention!)