I’ve had to train myself to pack lighter and lighter over the years. The fear of having my luggage not turn up on the other end of my flight is enough for me to rely on a carry-on. And of course my recent hike in the Dolomites required me to pack light. Here, I pass what I learned on to you.
1. Rethink the “Essentials”
“I might need a flashlight. Toothpicks! A water gun! I must prepare for every inevitability!!”
I hear you. I used to be you. But then my ex said something useful (one of very few useful things he gave me): if you need it and don’t have it, we can always buy it.
Wow. That blew my mind. I don’t typically travel to places that don’t have the modern conveniences of a drug store or grocery store, so, yea, I can buy extra tampons or earplugs.
2. Embrace Wearing the Same Things
I know: you totally need three scarves for your long weekend trip. I get it. No one likes wearing the same clothes or accessories over and over while traveling. After all, you want to take good travel selfies! But trust me: when you’re actually traveling, you won’t give a crap about what you brought. You’ll be too busy having fun.
I opt for neutral pieces like dark pants or jeans with tops I can change the look of by adding a cardigan. A scarf (one!!) can also make an outfit look different. Stay away from trendy, stand-out pieces so that no one but you (and your nose) will know you wore that yesterday.
3. Invest in a Few Travel-Specific Products
I’ve never been all about paying a lot of money for something I didn’t see the value in. Boy, when I started prepping for our Dolomite hike, my eyes were opened to a whole world of expensive must-have travel essentials. Thanks, REI, for making me go broke. But there are a few essentials I do recommend.
ExOfficio makes great lightweight travel underwear. Yes, it is more expensive than sexy underwear (and decidedly not sexy) but the fact that you can wash it and leave it out to dry overnight means you really only need 2-3 pairs, no matter how long you’re traveling. I got hooked on ExOfficio and bought a lightweight dress that also proved its worth. I wanted to have something to dress up in without it eating up too much space in my backpack. I could change out the look by adding a scarf or cardi.
Bandanas (nothing fancy, just 12 for $10 type ones) are also essential. They can be used as washcloths, sweat wipers, and hair accessories. Packing cubes are a must. They help smoosh down your crap and help you stay organized.
If you’re camping or hiking, I also recommend a quickdry towel. The rifugios we stayed in didn’t provide towels, and taking even a beach towel would have filled my pack. These are super thin and surprisingly moisture-wicking.
4. Do NOT Bring Books!
Seriously, they’re the heaviest thing you can carry. Bring a Kindle, or do like me and bring a tablet you have the Kindle app on (I also use Texture to read digital magazines). It’s a lot lighter, and you don’t panic when you finish a book. There are always more.
5. Sleep On It, Then Clean House
Once you have what you think is the absolute bare minimum for your trip, step away from packing. The next day, with a clear head, go back through your stash. Remove anything you can’t justify. Give each and every item thought: can you bring a travel-sized toothpaste instead of full-size? Do you think it will rain and you’ll need the umbrella? How many shoes do you honestly have time to wear?
It may not seem like removing an item or two will make much of a difference in the weight of your suitcase or bag, but think of it like this: you’re freeing up space so you can buy fun stuff to bring home!