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Backpacker’s guide to travelling light

June 19, 2016 12:26 pm

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Travelling light is awesome, you can avoid breaking your back with huge backpacks not only by taking the bare essentials but actually refining what you consider to be essential. Having a small backpack means you can comfortably wear it, and enjoy those few hours you have before your night bus by exploring a city with all your possessions on your back. It means you can save money by taking your small backpack on a flight as hand luggage. But most importantly, the less you have, the less you have to lose.

After every trip I go on my list of essential items gets smaller and smaller, and so does my backpack. Over the years I’ve got this down to around the size of a backpack you’d take if you were going away for 1 or 2 nights, and wouldn’t consider anything larger. In my opinion, you can travel for up to 6 months in a warm/tropical climate with nothing more than a 25 litre backpack. If you’re travelling places with colder and more variable weather then something a little bigger is probably needed.

I often boast to Rosie about my ability to pack light. On those rushed mornings where we’re trying to catch a bus against the clock, I like to smugly tell her the benefits of having a refined collection of possessions as she’s fighting under a mountain of clothes. So here are a few tips on how to refine what you take so you can fit it into a small 25 litre backpack.

On my first trip to Southeast Asia I took far too much stuff

On my first trip to Southeast Asia I took far too much stuff

Only take a few clothes

2x T-Shirt, 2x Vest, 2x Shorts, 4x Underwear, 1x Hoodie… Realistically that’s all you need, regardless of the length of time you’re away. Washing your own clothes or paying for a laundry service can be incredibly cheap when in places like Southeast Asia. You can pick up a small single-use packet of laundry detergent for next to nothing, and it allows you to rinse off your sweaty t-shirts while on the move. By having around 2 of everything you can wear one whilst you’re washing the other. Clothes dry in no time in a warm climate so there’s really no need to be carrying around mountains of dirty clothes.

Take the bare minimum toiletries

In terms of survival toiletries aren’t needed. But you’re not gonna make many friends if you stink so prioritise things that keep you clean. I like to think the essentials are a toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap and antiperspirant. Anything more than that is really not needed when backpacking and is just going to add weight to your backpack. Shampoo really isn’t needed if you’re dedicated enough to power through the grease stage and let your hair clean itself. Hair starts to self-clean after about a month and on my last trip I went for around 6 months without using shampoo. Sunblock and insect repellant are also essentials, but these can often be combined by getting a 2 in 1 sunblock with added deet to keep the mozzies away.

Rosie and her huge backpack as we searched for a Burmese train station

Rosie and her huge backpack as we searched for a Burmese train station.

Only take 1 book

I love reading when travelling, but so does almost every other backpacker you’ll meet. Just take one book with you and swap it with someone on the road. Not only will it have more sentimental value, but you might end up reading something you’d never choose yourself.

Roll your clothes

This might be a given but using a military clothes rolling technique instead of folding or just forcing them in saves valuable backpack space. Check out this hilarious youtube video on how to do it.

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1 Comment

  • Amy says:

    Greetings! I’ve been reading your website for some time now
    and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx!

    Just wanted to mention keep up the fantastic work!

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