The secret to packing light? It comes down to one very basic concept:
Pack only what you need; not what you think you might need.
And if an emergency comes up, you can usually buy yourself out of the problem in real time wherever you happen to be. This comes up surprisingly less often than you would think.
Clothes should make up the bulk of your luggage. You need far less than you probably think you need. Stick to well-made clothing made of quick dry material like high quality polyester; this way you can wash your clothes at night and everything will be dry by the time you wake up. Using Woolite to wash your stuff will make this daily task much easier. This routine will minimize the total number of clothing pieces you need to take with you, making it easy to fit everything into a single small bag.
How do you determine what to take with you? Here’s a comprehensive list of what I keep in my own bag:
I advise you to use this information only as a starting point. What you need to eventually do is find out what it is that you need for your particular style of travel. Maybe instead of four shirts you can get by with three. Maybe you just love your shoes and prefer to pack an extra pair than what I recommend.
I’ve found that the most effective way to find out this information is to write down a list of every single item you put in your bag. Put the list somewhere in your house. After your vacation when you’re back home, look at your list again.
Which items did you actually use? Which items were never even looked at? The stuff that never got utilized: that’s the stuff that you leave at home the next time. Once you repeat this process a few times, you’ll know exactly what you need and what you don’t. Stick to the list and resist the urge to toss in several just-in-case items at the last minute; I’ve done that numerous times in the past, and I almost always regret bringing the extra stuff.
Some of you may not want to pare down your luggage to the Lite Adventurer level of extremeness. And that’s okay too. If you normally lug around a huge checked bag and you’re able to use my advice to take a smaller carry-on sized roller bag, then you should consider that a huge win. It’s not as light as a single backpack, but it’s a lot better than where you started.
And that’s the entire point: to make your travels a bit lighter so you have less to weigh you down.