I remember the 40 Kg suitcase I carried on my first trip abroad. I disown that trip. Today, trying to master the art of traveling with 8 – 10 kgs luggage (realistic) and less than 8 kgs (optimistic), here are some of the things that have really worked for me.
Rule No 1 – Restrict your luggage to what you can carry. Nothing works better than a backpack and a daypack. Backpack for your basics. Daypack for your gadgets. The minute you need someone to help you with your luggage, you are way beyond traveling light. (This excludes the chivalry shown by cute backpackers around you)
Rule No 2 – Make a list of the things you need based on the number of days you are traveling for. Chances are very high that you may eliminate things even at the list level. I have often noticed that seeing hairdryers and high heels in writing, in a backpacking list, makes you rethink your entire list.
Rule No 3 – Use the 1/3 principle. If you are traveling for 3 weeks, pack for just 1 week. Wash and wear again – Finding a laundromat abroad is never an issue. If your only worry is wearing the same clothes across photographs, just take 2 thin colourful scarfs to mix and match.
Rule No 4 – Minimize heavy clothing and take layers instead. Using 3 t shirts instead of 1 bulky jacket helps reduce the load tremendously. Likewise, using a really think rain poncho is better than carrying a large waterproof windcheater. Except for extreme snow, you can manage with the layer principle for every type of weather.
Rule No 5 – Try to take multi-purpose things. For eg: A Dupatta that works as a Sarong in the beach, as a sheet to sleep on and as a cover during cold journeys. Folding it up, it even serves as a soft pillow. Buffs protect in the cold, work as headbands at anytime and eye masks in a long flight. An Ipod that also works as a backup storage device.
Rule No 6 – Travel with things that don’t mean much to you. If you think you are carrying a load, you can always get rid of somethings. Hostels aborad even have boxes where you can drop your stuff that other travelers get to reuse. (I buried shoes that meant a whole lot to me in a National Park in Brazil and cried over it. Unnecessary trauma I could have avoided)
Rule No 7 – Shopping is the biggest hazard to traveling light. If you buy something, get rid of something equally heavy from your bag. (If you are the kind to buy sculptures et all, backpacking may not be a good idea unless you have money to Fed Ex it)
Its not just about the ‘Traveling light’ philosophy. There are a special packing tips that have worked for me too. Here they are –
Find the backpack that is made for you. If you can spend half an hour in the dressing room of Shoppers, you can spend 10 minutes at the Wildcraft store picking out the right bag.
Place the heaviest stuff in the bottom inside area of the backpack. This really removes the load of your shoulder when you lift them. (Heavy stuff does not mean you carry a Shantaram book around your backpacking trip). The minute you have the right bag, everything else falls into place (literally).
Roll clothing instead of packing them in layers. This takes up less space. (A T shirt rolled up looks like a sock, I’m serious)
Start the trip with atleast 30% space left in your backpack. Unless you unpack and repack tightly on a daily basis, chances are that your stuff will expand to take up the entire space. (Yes, badly packed backpacks are Pandora boxes that don’t shut)
Segregate your stuff into multiple compartments. This ensures that you don’t empty your entire bag to remove one pair of socks.
At the end, do the drop test with your backpack. See if you can lift your bag and throw it like a shotput across the room. If it lands without spilling the contents or bursting open, you have managed to pack light.