I’ve always been a fan of light packing and taking trips with a small bag. As you’ll come to see, there are a number of tips that make doing this so much easier.
But there was one discovery I made several years back that was THE absolute game changer in the realm of light packing. Out of everything that I talk about, this is probably the most useful.
Lite Adventurer’s Travel Tip #1: Woolite is your friend.
Not familiar with Woolite? Neither was I for my first 10 years of traveling the world. For the uninitiated, Woolite is a special type of laundry detergent specifically designed for washing delicate clothing. It’s mild, effective, and most importantly, it washes out very quickly with a minimal amount of rinsing. Perfect for hand washing clothes while we’re traveling the earth!
Fellow adventurers, whenever we travel, we are always going to be taking with us a healthy amount of Woolite. This is the one item that we most definitely do not want to run out of mid-trip, because A) it’s not always easy to find outside of the US (especially in developing countries), and B) similar replacement products are, simply put, total garbage.
Lite Adventurer’s Travel Tip #1(a): Spend the extra money and buy the real name-brand Woolite.
I’ve tried many of the generic versions and have yet to find a single one that is as effective as the original Woolite. The off-brand detergents either don’t work as well or they smell gross. What about other well known detergents? Many of you seasoned travelers have likely seen those tiny travel packets of big name laundry brands. They even advertise that they’re “great for travel.”
That stuff is nonsense; don’t even bother with those.
For our purposes, those things won’t work. They are way too thick and concentrated and do not rinse out well, so unless you are keen on spending half your vacation washing dirty detergent out of your shirts and undies instead of being out sightseeing or drinking the local variety of beer, stick to the real Woolite. Totally worth the extra cash.
Now that we’ve got our Woolite, we need a container to put it in. Since we are not checking any bags when we fly, the container must be small enough to meet carry-on guidelines. I like to use 2-ounce Nalgene bottles. One bottle will provide enough detergent for approximately one week of washing for one person. They’re very well made, and the cap is the perfect size for measuring out one wash’s worth of soap. But use whatever you like, as long as it’s under 3.4 ounces in size. If you’re feeling especially unmotivated, Woolite also comes in individual sized travel packets that come in packs of 10 or 20.
Woolite comes in 3 different varities: delicates, gentle cycle, and darks. The one I recommend is the one that comes in the smallest bottle (pictured above) labeled “delicates.” It isn’t too clear what the difference is between the delicates and gentle cycle versions, other than the fact that the gentle cycle variant comes in a much bigger container at a cheaper per-unit cost, so I contacted a representative at Woolite (yes, I’m a big nerd) to find out how the products differ. All the guy could tell me was that the formulations are not the same, and that for hand washing delicate items, the official company recommendation is to use Woolite Delicates.
“Why is this my number 1 light packing travel tip?” you may ask.
For this super light packing style we’re trying to achieve, we need access to clean clothes on a daily basis. We can accomplish this two ways: by taking tons of clothes (which we are not going to do; otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far) or by washing our very few high quality, quick drying items regularly, thus minimizing the amount of clothes needed in our bag.
Without a good soap that cleans and rinses effortlessly, this system will not work. That is why Woolite sits atop the pedestal in the hierarchy of light packing importance. It was the one thing that made the all-time biggest difference in my own personal travel experience.