Travel happy by packing light

//Travel happy by packing light

Things have changed a lot over time. We’ve gone from our weekend travel trips within the country to longer travel trips abroad. We’ve changed from luxury Emirates flights to cramped Air Asia flights. All this was to save a little money and to travel for a little longer. With the change in our traveling style came a big change in the way we packed our bags. The well worn oversized white Victorinox bag lay gathering dust under the bed. Amazon was consulted and a lighter more durable backpack was ordered. All these preparations were made so that we could pack efficiently and travel light.



Suitcase vs backpack: Our dilemma continues!

P.S: You can check out more details about the Suitcase and the Backpack by clicking on the highlighted links.

There are just so many reasons why it is important to travel light. Reasons that we discovered the hard way! The way you pack will typically define how you travel and vice versa. Luxury holidays mean that you can pack luxuriously. Whereas backpacking holidays mean that you need a backpack . While it looks all cut and dry not everyone is convinced.

In September, Shawn and I set out on our first backpacking trip. We were headed to Indonesia. Unlike most seasoned backpackers we tend to over plan. In some cases it worked to our advantage and in some cases it didn’t. Anyway, I’m moving off the topic here. A friend joined us for a week on the first leg of our journey. He carried three bags: One on his back and two in his hands. This was a stark contrast to our method of packing. Shawn had one backpack on his back which housed our clothes and I had a smaller one which held our electronics.


The stark difference between the two different ways of packing helped me analyze first hand which one worked best. Sure, our friend had everything that he wanted in his bag but we didn’t run short of anything (except sunscreen which we bought in the shop). It was also far easier for us to manage getting in and out of the ferries in Indonesia. If you’ve been to Gili Trawangan you will know that you jump into quite a bit of water when you get out.


Indonesia certainly told us that we were carrying way too much! Yes! With two backpacks we still thought we were carrying too much. Our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia was closing in and we decided that it was time to order a proper backpack . We narrowed down on a Wildcraft bag that I really liked.

What made the bag different from the hordes that we see in the market? It had a front opening. This meant that you could lay it flat on the ground and opening it like a duffel. Definitely saved us time when unpacking and repacking. The numerous pockets helped us stash everything separately. We no longer had to carry our dirty laundry in the main compartment so that was a definite bonus point.


To travel light is to pack light

That’s me after I ran to catch the train. Not something I could have done with a suitcase!

Getting a backpack was the least of our worries. We needed a way to compress all our stuff into one backpack and it had to be under 20 kgs. Now the weight was not a worry because our combined luggage rarely goes beyond 12 to 15 kgs. Space was a big consideration. We were going to climates that ranged from 4oC in the North to 33oC in the South. That meant that we needed warm clothes as well as loose cotton clothes.

We solved our dilemma quite easily. Each of us packed a jacket but the jacket was tied around our waist. We needed a pair of jeans to help us keep warm. So we wore those. That put two bulky items out of the way. Next the thermals went in. Instead of packing thick layers of clothes a single layer of thermals helped immensely. A few t-shirts each and shorts were the last items of clothing to get into the bag.


Travel light

Our efforts at packing light were a definite improvement if not an all out success.

We left with two thirds of our bag full. Unfortunately when we reached Sapa we went on buying spree. We needed warm clothes for our upcoming trip. Since we packed light we managed to fit two fleece jackets and a pair of ski pants in without much trouble. At the end of the trip we could still travel light.

The airport scale measured our luggage at 15 kg! We couldn’t have been happier. Some people say that they can never travel light. I say that to travel light you need to make choices. Choose what is important to you and keep the rest at home.

Life is far too short to carry unwanted baggage!


We aren’t the absolute best packers but our single large backpack does tend to stun people. I try to explain that the electronics are in my backpack but most people say that it doesn’t count. Irrespective if you want to travel light you need to learn the art of packing. Here are a few tips that help us.


It is very tempting to pull out the best things in your wardrobe and pair all sorts of outfits together. I’ve done that and I’ve realized that most of the clothes are brought home unused. Instead pick out 4 or 5 tops and choose a variety of colors. It will make your choices seem wider. Two sets of shorts and a pair of jeans are my standard but if you have a pair of cargos, then pack the cargos. They would do well to replace your jeans as they are lighter, they occupy less space and they dry faster.


It is wise to accumulate your clothes together and head to a laundry. Most places wash clothes by the kilogram. It isn’t that expensive to wash your clothes once a week. It also helps ensure that you don’t pack extra and in turn you travel light.


It is important to pick items that are versatile. I absolutely love my crocs for this reason. They are slippers at home, shoes when I hike (Yes! I hike with them!), flippers when I snorkel (definitely protect your feet from sharp rocks and coral.) and to top it all they are comfortable. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t extremely fashionable. Okay! Shawn calls them clunky but I love them anyway.Take a jacket that can be used for warmth as well as for rain. This means that you are well protected. If you can afford one of those funky Colombia jackets that roll up into a tiny ball then you are good to go. I’m currently saving for one that will take me to minus 20! It’s amazing and I’m in love!


This is extremely useful if you are traveling as a couple. There is so much of stuff that Shawn and I share. By this I’m talking about the cosmetics. We use the same shampoo, soap, conditioner and creams. Hey! We aren’t picky and if we didn’t it would just occupy double the space in our bag.

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2018-08-11T12:11:56+00:00 January 16th, 2017|Travel Tips|14 Comments


  1. Robyn January 18, 2017 at 3:04 am - Reply

    I can totally relate to this post. I was camping for 3 months in New Zealand so needed to travel light. I celebrate when the airport scales read 15kgs or under! Excellent post and good tips for keeping luggage light!

    • Penny January 18, 2017 at 3:08 am - Reply

      Thanks Robyn. It is always a competition with us. We keep trying to get a lower number each time we travel. Unfortunately our lucky number seems to be 12. Then again I think that is good for two people’s combined luggage!

  2. Marguerite January 18, 2017 at 3:39 am - Reply

    Thanks for the tips! I’m always struggling with this issue! My trick is to pack at the last minute – it forces me to make the tough decisions because I have no other choice 😛

  3. Sara - I do what I want to January 18, 2017 at 3:50 am - Reply

    Hahahaha we’ve been talking about this for a while! We tend to travel light (12-15k) and even so we usually have the impression we are carrying too much! On the contrary, we have a friend who has the opposite situation. She goes for a long weekend with +20k just for herself! We’ve just made a move from Turkey to Panama (full move everything we own was moving!) and we only had 2 big traditional hard suitcases and 2 backpacks: that is our lives!!! We should keep it lighter I think

  4. Rosie Fliskey January 18, 2017 at 3:56 am - Reply

    I couldn’t agree more! I only travel with my hand luggage sized backpack. When I first went backpacking, my oversized pack weighed 16kg and half killed me. I bought a smaller bag and by the end of 5 months, it weighed just 8kg! Now I genuinely struggle to know how to fill a suitcase.

  5. Violeta January 18, 2017 at 5:02 am - Reply

    I always pack light. I don’t like backpacks, because it’s very hard to find your things inside them. However, sometimes I use a backpack instead of a carry on. When I take longer trips, I have clothes for about one week, and then I wash them.

  6. Melai January 18, 2017 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Great tips on what to bring as I always bring too much stuff that I end up not using. :))
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Brenda January 18, 2017 at 6:47 am - Reply

    Great tips! I still haven’t been able to master the backpack game. Im still a carry on person, but totally understand the benefits of using the backpack! I guess I need someone who can carry the electronics in their backpack and not to travel alone! haha!

  8. Rohan Cahill-Fleury January 18, 2017 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Thanks for these suggestions. We are about to try and pack 40L backpacks with everything we need to travel indefinitely. I think we will be so grateful not to have an excess amount of stuff!

  9. Joanna January 18, 2017 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Your article made me smile. On my last trip to Chile I managed to have a 7kg backpack for my clothes and toiletries and a 10kg one for my hand luggage (also a backpack, with my electronics in it). I guess I can’t go lower than that with all my gear. I have backpacked all my life with my trusty backpack but I do sometimes feel that a small carry-on would be better, for the solely reason that you can organise your things better in it.

  10. Joy Generoso January 18, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    How to pack light is something I need to learn. Husband and I been traveling for almost 10 years now and still I can’t travel light. I don’t know why it’s very difficult for me to do. Although I’m in the process of letting go extra purse, shoes and dress when traveling. These are good tips though. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  11. FS Page May 1, 2017 at 9:21 am - Reply

    This is such a useful and informative post. We are one of the victims of heavy packing and have decided to go light next trip onward. Though a few things seem difficult, we will definitely try out some of your tips. Also it would be very helpful if you can let us know exactly which backpack you bought?

    • Penny May 1, 2017 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      I’m sure Elizabeth will answer your question when she sees it. In the mean time you may find this article that I wrote helpful: Travel Happy By Packing Light

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