The Art of Traveling Light: A must for any backpacker


It is amazing how much stuff I think I need for a trip versus how much I really use.  And believe it or not everything starts to add up quick.  Extra buckles, pocket knife, roll of duct tape… get the picture.  Before I know it my packing light doesn’t seem so light anymore.  There is no better feeling than having a light pack.  It makes travel so much more enjoyable and does alleviate a lot of the minute headaches that come with the territory.  I have seen to many people struggle with their pack and from my own personal experience the whole pick it up, put it down process gets old really quick.  If you don’t believe me, try it.  And then try it in crazy places like train stations in China or bus stations in India.

Every trip it seems that I get a little bit more efficient and there is a learning curve involved in travel like this.  It requires a lot of trial and error.  I have taken about four trips and it has taken me three previous ones to help form the ideology of what packing light means to me.  And it is true, you can do laundry for the most part in foreign countries, and stinky doesn’t have to be the new clean.  But knowing just a few tips can help to make you more efficient and light.

Know the climate:  A few tips I have learned for myself is to first understand the weather, the climate, and the time of year you will be traveling to that particular country.  It is not a lie when they say that during a rainy season you may not see the sun for an entire month.  Or that winter can come over night.  I have learned that lesson in China and Mongolia and it is good to be prepared for any extreme situation.  Understanding the weather will also help as a good baseline for whatever layering might be needed.  And it is from here that the appropriate clothing needs to be accounted for because this is usually the bulk of the weight in a persons pack.  Colder temperatures require heavier clothing.  More active adventurers such as trekking require more layers to adjust to changes in climate to be prepared for anything.  You might actually need less than you think in tropical climates.  Know the temperatures and weather of your destination.  Rain, snow, sleet, what nights are like and how hot the days are.  Does it rain everyday?  At higher elevations how cold will it be at night?  Is it mountain temperatures, desert temperatures, or tropical temperatures?

Rule of 2:  Another tip to help increase efficiency and lightness is to try to find two uses for everything.  For instance, a good gore-tex shell jacket can be used as a rain jacket on rainy days but also as a windbreaker or evening jacket on windy chilly days.  A micro puff jacket can be used as a static insulating layer for warmth, but also as a pillow when in the tent.  A good merino wool shirt can serve as a great tee by itself or as a base layer in colder temperatures.  Learning how to find multiple uses for simple articles like these help to aid in a persons versatility in adapting to whatever may be needed on a trip or adventure.  It also helps to alleviate excess weight.

Avoid Bulky Clothing: I don’t think that there has ever been a better age for clothing technology as well.  It is pretty impressive that I can go from the Himalayas to the tropics for five months and only have to carry ten pounds of clothing with me.  The biggest areas of improvement in clothing have been in compressibility, durability, lightness, and quick drying capabilities.  Six years ago I was struggling to stuff my cotton cargo pants and shorts in my pack.  Now pants pack down the size of a coke can, weigh half as much, are made of easy cleaning fabric, and provide amazing comfort for anything thrown their way.  It is almost a disservice to not take advantage, and if you can, spend the extra money for added comfort.  The stoic breathe 90 t-shirt is one of the lightest shirts on the market and a great addition to anyone’s travel clothing.

Every part of the world is different and requires certain clothing.  For instance when I travel to tropical countries, I usually will only bring one pair of light versatile pants such as the Marmot Rockstars.  They pack down so light that even if I don’t use them, they don’t take up space.  They are perfect for those unexpected chilly evenings or trips to the jungle where the mosquitos will make a meal out of you.  In colder places I make sure to bring at least two pairs of pants that I rotate through.  This allows me to keep one pair clean all of the time and wear the other ones until they need to be washed.  It’s all about understanding that adds to traveling light.  Know what you need to bring, but also what you can rent along the way.    Remember, that for the most part you can do laundry pretty much everywhere.  So leave the 30 pairs of underwear at home or don’t bring any at all.  Everything is up to you.

Being light is traveling happy.

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