There is a truism about traveling the globe, I think. That truism is that you are always going to come back with more stuff than you left with. It habit, especially for us first world people. You buy cool stuff found along the way. You pick up gifts for people back home. Lets face it, nobody can resist that souvenir T-shirt from the street vendor. It’s a fact of travel. That being said, I like to leave space in the backpack to allow for newly acquired stuff. Not a lot of space, but enough so I can come home with one bag the way I left home.
Backpacking is a style I have been employing so long, I can’t remember another way. Well, that’s not completely true, I used to take a large blue hard-sided suitcase to summer camp as a kid. I held everything I needed for the week at camp and was basically indestructible. I think it was one piece of a set my mother picked up when she was young. It was old and showed the signs of many, many places. But camp was a learning experience. So, was the military. You go into the army ad they give you a fancy green backpack. You put all your stuff in it, and then you put it on your back. I learned fast during those days that LESS IS MORE. if you don’t have it, you don’t have to carry it around.
I have never forgotten that lesson. I still travel that way today. Still, less is more. Whether your in Cairo or Paris, Lima or Honolulu, if you need to find something you usually always can. Dragging around a lot of “Maybe” items doesn’t happen. You can rent gear or find a place that sells it. It’s a great world out there, and they have stuff.
As far as my individual travel style, I pack for a week. If I’m going out for a week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, I pack for a week. 7 days worth of pants (shorts and jeans), 5 days worth of shirts (I will have bought a couple by the time the week’s out) and 10 days worth of underwear and socks (Cause sometimes you don’t actually find the laundry mat where you think you will). It’s really that simple. It also takes up surprisingly little space in your pack. Extra space is god when you’re on the go. It allows for the rest of the crap you need to pack.
My standard packing list is pretty much like this:
Kelty Backpack (2600)
Rip Curl drawstring bag
Journal with extra pens
A cloth Royal Crown bag containing toiletries, Zantac, and Imodium
A small backpacker first aid kit
A small cloth zippered bag with passport, shot records, travel itinerary, diving cert card and log book (If Required)
A couple of trash bags for the odd rain event
5 shirts, 2 shorts, 1 pair of jeans, good long sleeved shirt, 10 days underwear and socks, hiking boots, Tevas sandals, a rain shell, and a hat (usually bought along the way)
Multi-country electric adaptor
Apple phone charger
Camera battery charger
and an external battery for the iPhone
That’s really about it. That amount of stuff will fill the backpack about 85 % full. The drawstring bag can be used to carry stuff onto the plane or as extra storage. I pull the drawstrings full out and tie them off to the carry loops on the backpack. Sometime, you just end up buying extra crap.
I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of stuff. It’s not. It’s what I need to get around wherever I’m at. If something really comes up missing, I go buy one. To be completely honest, the only things you actually need to travel are a passport and a good credit card. The rest of it is just stuff. Back in the days of the tall ships people went abroad with just the clothes on their back. They all had a good time. You can too.
I can just images the thoughts at this point. I can’t go on vacation with just that little bit. I have to have changes of clothes. I have to have extra shoes. I have to have my computer and my dvd player and my big thick book (Okay I admit I drug a copy of On the Origin of Species all over Europe one summer). The truth is , you don’t. You don’t really need it. You certainly don’t need to be dragging it everywhere you go. Trust me, your back will thank you if you don’t.
This is the way I roll. I understand that other people don’t roll this way. I have lots of friends who have multiple bags all the time. If that is what you need for a security blanket, then do it. I have found a way that works for me. It may or may not work for you.
The one thing I absolutely do recommend is leaving a little room in your suitcase or backpack for the stuff you pick up along the way. The first time you find yourself in Heathrow, watching a bunch of shocked people trying to stuff all of the crap they brought into one piece of baggage because the customs people at Heathrow will only allow a single piece of baggage through x-ray with you, you start pack less. You also laugh when you get to the other side of the x-ray line because you only brought one bag and breezed right on through. Just sayin.
Try less. Just a little less. You find it’s not that bad.
What’s in the pic, It’s all you REALLY need.