One of the questions that this site regularly gets is recommendations on how to travel as lightly as possible. Depending on your trip it might not be possible to travel light. The ultimate is just to take what you are wearing and a credit card. Unfortunately this approach is expensive so here are a few other ideas.
The main things affecting how little you can get away with fall under the following categories:
- Climate: The weather is the main factor effecting the amount of clothing you will need. For travel in hot countries one change of clothing might be enough. Simply rinse out the clothes every night and by morning they will be dry. For this option its worth taking an extra set of underwear and socks. If the weathers going to be cold then washing and drying clothes is a major hassle so you will probably want to carry more spare clothes. Its always worth carrying a light weight water proof top even if you aren't expecting rain.
- Remoteness: The more off the beaten track you are travelling then the more gear you will probably have to take for example food, medical supplies etc.
- Comfort: Generally the more gear you have the more comfortable your trip will be but you have to carry the weight and also you lose more if it gets stolen.
- Accommodation: If you are staying in good hotels then you will probably not need to take anything else. If staying in cheaper accommodation you might want to take a sheet sleeping bag in case the bedding is dirty these pack down fairly small. Finally if you are camping then you will obviously need the most equipment. In this case the only real way of decreasing the amount of gear is to sleep in a bivi bag rather than take a tent. Sleeping out in the open is one of the best experiences but you will obviously have less privacy and you may have to go to sleep with the locals watching you!
Whatever you throw out there are some basic things that you should not cut back on
- Medical and First Aid Kits: There is really no good reason to cut back on these items.
- Water purification: You might not need a water filter but a few purification tablets take up no room keep them with your first aid kit.
- Mosquito Repellent: The solid 'lipstick' tube types fit in the smallest pocket and last ages.
- Personal Hygiene: A bottle of shower gel or bar of soap, tooth brush and paste.
- Compass and Whistle: Planning walking off the beaten track then these are essential.
- Swiss Army Knife: Loads of uses from preparing food to cutting toe nails.
- Tools and Spares: If you are travelling with your own transport then spares and tools come under the essential heading.
Things to Throw Out
So what are the common things that you can cut back on?
- Personal Hygiene: Essential but can be cut right back rather than shampoo, conditioner and shower gel just take a bottle of shower gel. Ladies do you need all that make up? Gentlemen use a local barber for shaves or a battery razor will take up less room than a can of shaving foam. Deodorant is a luxury especially in the third world where no one cares how you smell, small solid sticks take up less room than aerosol deodorants.
- Favourite Teddy: People often take lucky mascots along with them, live on the edge and leave them at home.
- Guide Books: Guide books are obviously useful but try and find the best one for your trip and avoid taking several just in case one has better information than another.
- Personal Stereos: Not necessary although blocking out the world can be great at times. Its not the personal stereo but the ten cassettes that take up the room. Consider a small short wave radio instead especially if travelling in a group.
- Shoes In general one pair of comfortable shoes or walking boots and a pair of light shoes or sandals are the best options when on the road wear the shoes so that you have less weight to carry.
- Towels Towels take up a lot of room. Take the smallest towel possible. Speacial travel towels are available from travel shops these are a good replacement for the traditional towel and take up vertualy no room.
Make it Small
The key to travelling light is keeping everything you take to a minimum. A classic example is with toiletries people usually take the bottles that they come in which would probably keep them clean for a month or so at home. Decanting these into smaller containers which hold just enough for your trip saving space and weight. Suitable containers can be found in camping stores and 'Body Shop' containers are also ideal. The other problem with a lot of the containers that shampoos, sun cream etc are sold in is that they have flip lids these are a nightmare when they come open in a rucksack another good reason to put them into another container.
If your sleeping bag doesn't have a compression sack then get one it will reduce the size. Camping gear especially clothing has come along way in recent years and for a price you can get lighter gear the decision is upto you.
When it comes to a back pack for travelling light then really minimum is 35 litre. You can easily travel using accommodation with one for extended periods. It is also possible to do basic summer walking / camping with a 35 litre back pack. For a bit more comfort a 40 / 45 litre backpack would be better. Really anything above that and you will not be travelling light. One thing to be aware of with this size back pack is that the waist belts tend not to be padded and can become uncomfortable if you are doing a lot of walking.
If you are travelling in a group then avoiding duplication will reduce weight so one guide book, share a bottle of shampoo etc. Just make sure if you split up you have what you need.
The other benefit of getting everything into a 35 litre rucksack is that in most cases you can take it on planes as hand luggage. The main advantages are saving time when you arrive, preventing thefts and it'll end up at the right destination.
Just come back from China so thought to prove it can be done the contents of my rucksack would be laid bare. The trip was for several weeks to China in the summer staying in accomadation. Everything including the day sack fitted in the main 35 litre back pack when travelling from town to town, as you can see I took slightly more than the absolute basics.
1 * Lightweight Water Proof (Monsoon Season)
1 * Fleece (Only used as pillow over night on train)
2 * Long Trousers
4 * T-Shirt
1 * Shorts
1 * Swimming Shorts
4 * Socks
4 * Underware
1 * Sandles
1 * Boots
1 * Baseball Cap
- 35 Litre Ruck Sack
- 20 Litre Day Sack
- Swiss Army Knive
- Mag Lite Torch
- SW Radio
- Phrase Book
- Guide Book
- Passport Holder
- Money Belt
- Cable Lock
- Insulation Tape (101 uses)
- Sewing Kit
- Shower Gel (Also used for clothes washing)
- Toilet Paper (Flat pack takes up less room than roll)
- Tooth Brush
- Tooth Paste
- Insect Repelent
- Travel Towel
First Aid Kit
- Paracetamol Tablets
- Nurofen Tablets
- Diocalm Tablets
- Steri Strips
- Anti Septic Cream
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