One of the biggest mistakes one can make while backpacking is taking too much stuff. While packing, you might think every bit of it is useful, from the lucky underwear to the teddy bear. But believe me, those things that might seam “oh so essential” at first will become your worst enemy if your backpack turns out to be too heavy. Happily, leaving stuff behind isn’t the only way to make your backpack light. Here a few packing tips from someone who passed from a 23 kg suitcase to a 13 kg backpack in the past 8 years of traveling.
1. Reasonable size backpack
A really exciting thing to shop for is a first backpack. Choosing the right one can be hard and they are million tips that could be given (Let’s keep them for a future post). However, a little talk about size matters here. Truth is, the bigger your backpack will be, the more stuff you will be tempted to put in. I would say a perfect size for a backpack (2 weeks to 2 months trip) would be around 40L to 65L. My first backpack was a monster of 75L. And on every trip I took it with me, I ended up filling it and I could barely carry it by the end. I now travel with a 50L and believe me, there is plenty of space for everything I need! Here (Canada) or here (USA and others) is where you can buy what I consider being the perfect backpack! Other plus: smaller backpacks can be carry-ons and save you money on flights!
2. The dream towel
When traveling, I always bring a towel for showering and beach/pool use. However, regular towels are way too big and heavy to get in a backpack. Believe me, you want to replace it by a micro-fiber towel. Mine is the Travelling Light DryLite Towel from Sea to Summit and I looooove it. You can buy it online here (Canada) or here (USA and others) and lots of outdoors stores carry it. It’s great because not only is it tiny (Small one like mine is 32 X 16 in) and it’s light (2 oz), it also is super compact (the pouch is 3 ½ X 3 ½ X 2 ½ in), it dries really fast and it has a anti
bacterial treatment that keeps it clean. Guys, that’s the dream. A big, heavy and smelly towel ? Not the dream.
3. The perfect raincoat
Another thing that can tend to take space and weight in backpacks are raincoats. Nevertheless, they are kind of essential to bring along. Unless you are traveling somewhere that gets cold (below 60oF), you will only need a light raincoat. You can easily add layers underneath it on chillier days. My favourite raincoat brand is K-way. You can buy your own here (Canada) or here (USA and others). Those are the best because they turn themselves into tiny pouches with straps that you can easily carry around, once the rain stops. And once in bag form, they are really compact (6 X 7 X 2 in)!
4. Hydrating without being burdened
Although a water bottle might not seam absolutely essential, they come in handy and are more ecological than plastic ones! But carrying an empty bottle can be annoying. Well, not if you can make it tiny, which is possible with a Hydrapak stash bottle!!! Those are 1L or 750ml durable and flexible bottles that you only have to twist-n-click to close and squeeze to pop open. When closed, they are 2.25 X 4 in! Plus, they are 50% lighter than a hard bottle (3.1 oz). You can order yours here (Canada) or here (USA and others).
5. The magical toiletry bag
You kind of can’t avoid bringing a toiletry bag. It’s super useful to carry your stuff from your dorm to the hostel bathroom and prevents your shampoo from leaking on your favourite sweater. Throughout my traveler years, I have bought many of these, always looking for a durable, light, bigger (then smaller) toiletry bag. Well, a few years ago I found the perfect one… and it was the cheapest! Ha! It’s a waterproof toiletry pouch that closes with a string. It has pockets inside and, the best part, it can shrink so it takes almost no space in your backpack. And it is super light! Mine is from Creazy and you can order one here (Canada) or here (USA and others) for a really low price!!
6. The daypack you need
Personally, I hate having to carry a daypack outside of my backpack while traveling: it gets really uncomfortable and it’s not practical to carry it upfront. While travelling from a city to another, I usually wear my backpack and a purse (the purse is my carry-on). If I bring a daypack, I want it to be as small and light as possible so it doesn’t take up too much space. Drawstring bags can be an option because they meet those two criteria, although they are really uncomfortable. Another option is compact daypacks that can be rolled into a pouch. Chicobag have great quality 15L that weighs only 7.2oz and, once in a pouch is only 8 X 6.25 in. You can buy those here (Canada) or here (USA and others).
There are some sacrifices one has to make while packing: going for 2 in 1 shampoo, transferring everything into smaller bottle (and then forgetting what is what), leaving the air dryer behind… But happily, outdoors companies have understood that some stuff can’t just be left behind and have created small and light (and super cute) stuff to make our life easier. Believe me, you won’t regret adding those to your birthday gift list! For other great gift ideas for travelers, read my 15 Gift Ideas for Travelers article!