Try This Smart And Lightweight Backpacking Techniques
The hardest part, before you leave for a long trip is deciding things you wanted to carry with you, and how much to pack really matters. Nobody likes carrying hefty packs around, and over-packing always seems to be a problem.
Being in a situation where the immigration officer request for a security check on your bag can be painstaking. You probably have to dig everything out and in the end having a hard time putting them back nicely in place.
Organizing your backpack is the key to have a hassle-free travel and you’ll often find it’s easier not to rummage through to find something in your backpack. Smart and lightweight backpacking is about deciding you can get by with less. Finding a sweet spot depends on how much weight you are taking in.
How Do I Start?
These are my few quick guide before you start;
- Bring all your stuff together and weigh it – Know the “consumable” and “non-consumables”, food and water are consumable so the weight is perishable. Weigh the rest (must items), these are going to stay on your back no matter what. Knowing this “base weight” also helps you on strict budget airline’s carry-on limit.
- Think hard, do you really need everything? – If your vacation goes for a month or even just a couple of days, you may not need some items. Items like tent or sleeping bag can really put extra weight on your bag. They can be rented cheaply or borrowed. Prioritize – take only if you will use them often.
- Use laptop/adapter with multi-cable to charge all your electronics – It’s common that we may bring few adapter to charge our devices. Having few adapters is extra weight and you may need to find an extra power outlet to charge them. Get a multi-cable charger. You can find a cheap one on Amazon HERE, and use with travel adapter with USB port. Or better, you could just use the multi-cable charger with your laptop USB port to charge all your devices at once. No extra adapter and power outlet to look for.
- Don’t buy new travel gear right away. Do research and compare the item. Sometimes it’s best to invest in certain good quality gears. Buying a poor quality gear may break in a short time. Check for an older model, they might go on sale at a discounted price. Or you could find a used quality gear at classifieds for a lower price.
3 Steps to Pack Smart – Make A List, Categorize and Pack
1. Packing checklist
One of the first things I do is writing up a list, narrow down the items that are necessary for my travels. This helps evaluate the limit that I should pack. I would not want to bring in extra weight while I travel.
Imagine carrying hefty bag when you decide to walk most of the time. More strain on your back and an unpleasant trip. By listing down, you are making yourself aware of gears that are only necessary for your trip.
2. Categorize your Gears
When you list all your gears, categorize them – cables, adapters, chargers goes in a case/pouch. Do the rest. You will find it lot easier to get them out and eventually remember where you put them. Use packing cube or small case to store them separately.
The best way to organize your clothes is using packing cubes. With packing cubes, you can efficiently organize all your clothes and free up more space in your luggage or your backpack. Packing cubes come in various size and some can nicely compress and keep your clothes wrinkle free.
Tips: Keep loose and light fitting clothes in your packing cubes – like shirts and inner wear, Thick and heavy clothes like jeans, sweater or hoodies, roll them and pack separately inside you luggage/backpack.
Getting 3-4 packing cubes should sufficient depends on how much clothes you are packing in. Here’s a rough guide;
- Beach shorts, Swimwear, underwears – 1 small packing cube
- T-shirts, long-sleeves and other dresses – 1 large/medium packing cube*
- Short/long pants, hiking pants – 1 large packing cube
*extra packing cube if necessary (for dirty laundry)
How many cubes do I use? I usually pack lightweight so only use 3 packing cubes at most. I am currently using MUJI packing cubes for my garments. Japanese brand – pretty cheap, very lightweight and fits easily in any backpack.
There are many branded and quality cubes available out there, but I found they are either bulky and heavier. Sure they are durable and definitely good packing cubes, but when it comes to packing smart and lightweight, these MUJI cubes fits just right to my preference.
What makes MUJI differs from most packing cubes I have seen on the market is their simple design, lightweight and quality material used on their travel accessories. On top of that, their cubes can be folded and made into a small pouch with a nice loop for hooks, which is a great idea to hook them outside your bag for easy access.
Another great thing about this packing cube is they come with 2 zippers compartment (Double- Medium Size), I usually use the second compartment to keep my dirty laundry. Good thing? You don’t have to give up space for another cube. MUJI is available in regional stores worldwide here.
For toiletries, I use their MOMA MUJI Nylon Hanging Travel Case. Comes with good quality nylon made case and a hanging hook that is very useful to hang the case anywhere. There is a nice little zipper to put your toothbrush, contact lenses, nail-clippers and even a special zipper that you can store basic med-kit (meshed). Available at Amazon HERE. Look for discounts.
Here are 2 other good quality, value-for-money packing cubes that you can buy to organize your clothes.
1. E-Bags Packing Cube – very durable, price includes cubes with three different sizes. Front mesh for ventilation and high quality corded pulls for the zipper.
2. Bago Packing Cubes – this packing cubes comes with waterproof, rip-stop honeycomb Nylon fabric that durable for long term use. It also comes with 6 laundry organizer bag.
There are few electronic gears that I keep in a separate case. I keep my camera gears in a case that allows accessories. It’s a good idea to keep your camera in an individual case with all the accessories, as it’s easier not to lose them. Depends on the type of camera you use, you can invest in a good case or bag that stores accessories as well. Electronics gear is valuable stuff that you may want to consider investing in a good case/bag to keep them safe and free from damage.
Camera & accessories
HD Action Camera – Action camera is my quick alternative to capture my travels. The compact and small design allows me to take HD videos as well as still shot without dabbling into complex manual settings. It doesn’t have the configuration to take manual shots with zoom capability but they can be pretty handy for a quick shot. On top this, it is a fully waterproof camera. The best action camera available today in the market is GoPro.
There are few accessories that I use with my GoPro. To keep the accessories, I use 3rd party case from SmaTree. They are cheap, lightweight a good quality case for GoPro. SMACASE G-75 from Smatree has sturdy built quality, minimal design yet it can hold few GoPro accessories together in one case. There is a small zippered pocket to keep cables, locking screw or cleaning kit with this smart case.
DSLR/Point-and-Shoot – DSLR cameras might take lots of space in your bag so consider if you really need one for your travels. If you are using DSLR for your travels, get a good camera bag for your camera and lenses.
If you do have a plan for trekking or even hiking, consider the smart way to pack up an item that makes use of less space and lightweight gears. These gears can really put more weight on your bag, so consider only those you will be using often.
Pack small or lightweight item like hydration bag and collapsible food container. A bulky and heavy item like tent can be borrowed before a hike.
This is probably the least important unless you are on hiking or tramping in the outback. But still, these items can be useful in any situation and get something fixed temporarily. My suggested item for survival/emergency during your travel;
- Non-Slip Pocket Multi Tool – Comes in handy wherever you go. It has the basic tool for everyday use.
Dizaul Portable Solar Power Bank – Very useful when you go camping or off the grid for a little while. The solar charging option is not the best (slow charge) but able to juice up the power bank or revive a dead phone while you are out in the sun.
- Small Medi-Kit – Most don’t bother to bring a medi-kit while they travel. It’s important to keep one just in case you got minor bruises. Small medi-kit is cheap and can be tucked in your backpack easily.
- Dry-bag – These things definitely come in handy when you need to keep your electronics gear, wallet or others away from moisture. It always a good idea to keep your electronics safe inside a dry bag even if you have a rain cover for your backpack.
- Nite Ize Gear Tie – Organizing your small to medium sized item becomes super handy with this flexible cable that can be used to hang, group, strap or organize your gears nicely. Get creative and you can transform it to hook or strap your shoes, clothes, small bags and almost any other things you carry with you.
- Duct-Tape – A must have for any long term traveler. Duct tape can be really handy in case of anything breaks or torn. A quick and temporary fix for the most situation.
- Cable tie – You should have a bunch in your backpack. It’s cheap and easy to tie-up plastic bags with dry food or to organize your cables nicely.
3. Pack Smart – Compact & Lighter
I usually carry two backpack – a small 12-litre daypack and a 40-litre main backpack. It works well for me and I had traveled for months without any trouble. Daypack allows me to keep important stuff or the one that I use often, like the passport, electronics gears, travel itineraries/maps, hydration pack, portable chargers and some emergency cash.
There are few things that you can pack smart between your day pack and the main backpack, saving time and make your travel hassle free. You may use this guide to suit your travel preference; a short 1 week or even couple of months trip. Some are useful but it may not work for everyone.
Day pack (12-20L )
Putting up all your personal gears, wallets or purse and everything else in your main backpack probably not very convenient as these are the things that you might use often. And these things are valuables that you may want to keep them with you while you leave the hotel or the backpackers.
Even if you plan to store them in a locker, it will be much easier to keep the small day pack inside the locker, than messing up things in your main backpack just to get them out. Get a separate dry-bag and organize your heavier electronics gear like laptop, headphones, and chargers so that you can easily store them in a locker.
Day pack comes in handy when you need to get some of your personal items like phones, wallet and travel documents. I use a 12 L Transit Magic Travel Bag from Kathmandu. It’s a versatile backpack that can be changed to waist-pouch. The outer fabric is made of ripstop nylon, very durable and lightweight (slightly waterproof), while the lining is made with polyester.
Using this backpack in a waist pouch mode is not very comfortable and I would rather use only as a backpack. What I love about this day pack is the high-quality zippered pocket at the front-bottom and hidden zippered pocket at the back that comes with well-organized slots for credit card/travel cards (with RFID-shielded pocket) and additional meshed pocket to keep coins. There is also a small hook for keys. The main 8 Liter storage is not designed and padded for keeping a tablet or laptop, but you can easily fit in an 11″ MacBook Air.
It is small, lightweight and convenient when I use to travel in the city and also during airport immigration clearance. I can easily organize my electronics gears, keys, coins and other similar items in the day pack that needs to be scanned separately during airport clearance without having to stuff them in my main backpack.
What’s in my Day Pack
1. Rain Poncho
3. Small Dry Bag
4. Laptop (during airport transfer/immigration clearance)
6. Passport/Travel documents
9. Emergency Cash
- Keep your main backpack lightweight by placing all your electronics gear on the day pack before checking-in to a flight. This is a good idea when you are traveling on a budget airline that impose a strict carry-on luggage. Small daypack with one carry-on bag are usually allowed during boarding and I have no issue doing this several times during my travel. You can keep the small day-pack underneath the front passenger seat.
Main Backpack (40-60L)
This is the “mobile” wardrobe for the clothes, sandals, towels, and toiletries as well as some dry foods. Try to invest in a good backpack, a comfortable backpack for traveling should be around 40-60L, depending on your preference.
I personally like the side-load version of travel backpack compared to a top-load as it is much easier to organize my stuff and take them out when I need them. The example below refers to how a side-load differs from the top-load backpack.
I am using Osprey Farpoint 40 and it’s one of the best investment I made on a good quality backpack. This backpack that I use is just 40 L capacity (there is 60 & 70 L version as well), small and lightweight, but I can pack my clothes easily and unload without hassle due to their side-load design. Though it is limited on capacity, organizing other items in the main compartment is a breeze. On top that, the size of this backpack is just nice that they are carry-on compliant on budget airlines.
Find out more about this backpack – Best Carry-On Travel Backpack? Osprey Farpoint 40 Review
Organizing your Main Backpack
1. Travel clothes
Use packing cube to organize your travel clothes. Fold an additional packing cube for dirty laundry. Keep them separately.
2. Electronics Gear
Keep cables and chargers in separate small case or pouch. If I’m going to use my laptop or camera often, I will keep them in my day pack for easy access, else I will just tuck them in my main backpack.
Keep your toiletries bag and towels on the top section of your backpack. These are the first thing I usually look for when moving into a backpacker.