How to pack for backpacking : traveling light
I could not start my first article on this blog without the Bukowski super main stream quotes and the very essence of my travel philosophy.
“Everything you own must be able to fit inside one suitcase; then your mind might be free.”
The shoes rack that is judging me behind my pc and the wardrobes I have displaced in the triangle London-Padua-Vicenza can deny it all instantly. However the main thing I want you to get from this few lines is just how to enjoy a trip at its best without useless weights.
How to pack for backpacking : traveling light
Whether your destination is leisure or business, short haul like a city break or longer like a world tour, you will have to ask yourselves how to pack.
Are you ready to turn yourselves to travel with basic essentials on your shoulder?
How to pack and why to consider the backpack: main advantages
- Easily adjustable:
A lot of airlines are constantly changing the rules regarding sizes of hand luggage. For instance, Ryanair changed it three times last year settling just now at the tiny weenie 40cmx20cmx25xm luggage. Just a small backpack as specified on the website! Moreover, when flying with low-cost companies (e.g. Easyjet, Vueling, Monarch) you have to remember that after 70 hand luggage on board you might be offered to have it boarded on hold and you will have to wait for it at arrival (as for a normal luggage). Did you know that traveling with a backpack it’s almost impossible for this to happen? This is because it’s much more squashy and foldable underneath the seat.
- It’s the greener choice:
We are all used to apply the protective plastic film on a trolley during a long-haul flight, am I right? Well, being able to produce less waste in the terribly polluted world we are living in, it’s definitely a bonus and you definitely don’t need the wrap with a backpack.
- It’s more practical if you are unsure about your destination:
Have you ever booked an amazing rooftop AirBnb just to find yourselves climbing up 4 floors of dodgy stairs to reach it? Istanbul, Barcelona, Jodpur are just some of the amazing terraces I have been lucky to stay in. But also where I sweated a stone going up and down the stairs…
- Easily washable:
If you are planning a true adventure like the Santiago’s hike, a safari or Machu Picchu, you have to be able to eliminate the most annoying souvenir you could get: bedbugs! It’s everywhere even on some train seats and you want to be sure to wash your luggage in your washing machine with hot water and vinegar to get rid of it. Only then you will be able to sleep sweet dreams… jet lag permitting.
- It takes a very little space:
When not in use you can store it everywhere in the house and it’s not too bulky.
How do we pick our backpack?
There must be thousands of options on the market and I have selected for you the ones I have personally tried and loved considering the type of trip you are making.
Short haul – City Break
• Ferrino Core 30 L: an Italian excellence ideal for a business trip as it is equipped with a padded laptop holder and respects the maximum cabin luggage size allowed in most of the European airlines. It also has a side compression system if you need it to shrink last minute at the gate.
• QUECHUA MH500: roomy enough for a weekend at the beach or a city break, light and breathable for a hike in the mountains.
• Deuter act 40 + 10 L: I personally have used it for the most extreme excursions and I managed to fit in everything for every eventuality. This especially thanks to the lower compartment that can hold and protect anything (an extra pair of heels for an unexpected romantic dinner but also a hike kit)
• McKinley 65 + 10 L: this is one of the most spacious backpacks on the market, suitable for the most adverse weather conditions with the integrated raincover. Perfect for trips in the Nordic countries or with high risk of rain such as Thailand and China, as well as my first choice for holidays expected to be longer than 3 weeks.
So what and how to pack then?
This is the most popular question and the answer is very simple: everything that you are then able to carry on your shoulders. Let me explain better: clearly it depends on the type of journey you have to face, if it is a mountain holiday where you will go hiking every day you should not exceed 10% of your body weight to avoid straining your back. If on the other hand, you will carry your luggage only from the airport to the hotel, take your time and take advantage of the expandable pockets.
If you want to embrace the philosophy of real backpacking, the general rule is to focus on this list of items:
- eye mask
- dynamo battery / torch for unexpected excursions
- swimsuit for any eventuality
- microfiber towel (takes up much less space)
- plastic sandals to be used for a poolside walk but also for rock beaches
- hand washing soap bar for doing thelaundry or as an emergency shower gel
- 3 pegs because you never know
- safety pin
- first aid kit with normal and blister plasters, wipes, paracetamol
- small lace or cord
- waterproof document holder (for passport and tickets)
- map (old fashion but always useful)
- portable or solar phone charger
- Sun glasses
- Sun screen
- scarf to use as a scarf, hat or top (take a look on Youtube for the tutorial)
- rounded scissors
- notebook and 2 pens
- compass (if you don’t use it for practical reasons, it’s still very instagrammable)
- book or kindle
- a second pair of shoes
- a waterproof bag and a cloth bag
- a printed itinerary of the journey
- a mini-handbag / clutch bag
NB: If it is a low-cost vacation in a hostel I recommend you do not forget your sleeping bag and a water bottle, same for excursions where you may also need to bring a tent and the equipment sleep in the open.
Outfits: When you have completed this list with a tic next to each item, then it is time to think about the actual clothes. Personally I prefer technical or synthetic clothes because they are easy to wash up and they dry quickly, taking up little space in the luggage with little weight and allow you to dress up in layers. I also try to carry with me two or three versatile dresses both for an elegant dinner or sightseeing and a little jacket that has saved me several times from the cold wind or the crazy air conditioning of some restaurants. In general, I pick my outfits considering how much I can actually use them, if the “weight is worth the effort” and more recently (since Marie Kondo came up with her amazing book) I consider even if they spark joy.
Make-up: My attack strategy in this field is to invest in a good pair of eyelash extensions before leaving, those permanent ones that last up to a month and otherwise concentrate only on a basic kit made of face cream with sun protection, a dark pencil, a neutral travel lipstick and a blush. You will be surprised by the magic you can create with so little and you won’t regret it.
Where to put everything in the backpack?
Ideally the items on the list should be stored in the pockets around the backpack but not the central compartment which should be dedicated only to clothes. A trick to fit the clothes easily through the zippers and laces of the backpack is to place them inside a large plastic bag and let it slide naturally inside the backpack.
As you can see backpacking is not just traveling wild to the extremes wandering from one hostel to another, but it can be a valid aid for any type of vacation without having to worry about what to pack and going around with an uncomfortable luggage.
Have I been able to slide you naturally into this backpack-lover travel style too? Keep us updated!