Travelling light. Advice for Backpackers.



“If it isn’t absolutely necessary, chuck it away”

- Sir Eric Shipton; Famous British Explorer and Mountaineer

After writing a piece about my packing dilemmas for our Himalaya Quest 2012 I thought I would share with you my tips for packing light and the benefits it’s brings to the traveller (*Updated August 2017).


I like to travel as light as possible; without going without, if you catch my drift.
The real benefits of travelling with just carry-on luggage are the obvious cost savings when travelling with budget airlines, along with the ability to keep your pack safe from dastardly baggage handlers and the freedom to move around unencumbered by more crap than you really need. It also means I don't have to get to the airport several hours before I fly and I don't have join the melee around the carousel after disembarking.

My standard pack for a long time was the Osprey Atmos 35 litre pack however these have been discontinued and I now use and recommend the very similar Osprey Stratos 34 which allows me plenty of room for essentials and one or two luxuries too. Lets face it who wants to travel so light that you don’t have a little room for manoeuvre right?
If you are travelling to warm destinations then packing light is a fairly straight forward procedure. This piece covers my general purpose kit. I'm not going to go into detail about specialised trips here, you can find that in plenty of my other posts
I have spent a fair bit of time over the last few years dialing my kit to suit my own personal needs.
I prefer modern synthetics or merino wool because of their performance benefits. Anything that packs small and dries quickly is perfect.

The Osprey pack has a good sized half-zip panel opening to access kit, stretch side pockets that will easily take training shoes, flip-flops, water bottles etc on the sides, and a useful vertically zipped expansion pocket on the front for stashing stuff on the go. It also has a detachable waterproof cover and the facility to take an hydration bladder, two really nice touches.
It has a comfortable back system and is robust enough to take plenty of abuse on the road.
Incidentally anything over about 35-40 litres and you will start to go over the hand luggage guidelines.
A good pack will pay you back tenfold.

The Osprey Stratos 34, my choice for a go-anywhere travel pack.

Clothing-wise I usually have one or two pairs of zip-off combat trousers/pants and I prefer the Tonka's made by British company Alpkit (I also have an old pair from Rohan with massive (and very useful) combat pockets, sadly these are no longer available). They are light, pack pretty small, wash and wear very well and have plenty of pockets to stash stuff in when you are out for the day. (Including some useful security pockets) And with the legs zipped off they make a fine pair of shorts!
Talking of shorts I often carry a couple of pairs of the Alpkit Faro Softshell variety (this is going to look an awful lot like an advertisement for Alpkit; they are a company based locally to me and I have a working relationship with them, however, I buy the products with my own money and wouldn't recommend anything that I'm not 100% confident in), the Faro's are the best shorts I have ever owned. They also double up as a mean pair of mountainbike baggies too.
On colder weather trips I replace the Zip-off combat pants with either Alpkit Chilkoot softshell pants or Rohan Superstrider softshell trekking pants(no longer available). Similarly I will have a warmer jacket/coat but this doesn’t go in to the pack because I will be wearing it!
If I am only going on a short 2 or 3 day hop into Europe I often have jeans and regular tee shirts etc because I don’t have the requirement to wash them and wear them again.

Alpkit Tonka zip-offs. Dead handy.
Faro's. The best shorts money can buy.

I carry a couple of merino wool t-shirts and a long sleeved version in either Alpkit Kepler or Rab MeCo. They are lightweight, hard wearing, quick drying, marvels, and are useful in all temperatures; be that nice and cooling in hot climates or as a base in colder ones. I use them often and they are also superb for high activity sports such as mountain biking or trail running too.

Merino wool, natures finest.

For a long time I used  a Paramo Parameta S-Light reversible hoody which was very good. I now have a Griffon grid-backed fleece hoody that doesn't look like a fleece and is useful for fending off the evening chill or over enthusiastic air-con. It’s another lightweight item that packs down nice and small.
For flying and the odd high society night out (:D) I have a Lowe Alpine shirt which nicely fits in to my ideals; and like all my other clothing items it requires no ironing. Unfortunately I can’t remember the model name. British company Rohan also do an excellent range of high quality travel wear, I have relied on a number of their products over the years.
I usually carry a pair of baggy swim/surf shorts which are smart enough to be worn off the beach too if I need to.

Alpkit's Griffon Fleece. Another of their superb products.

Underwear is covered with 3 pairs of Alpkit Kepler Boxers. My reasoning being thus: 1 pair to wear, 1 pair in the wash, and one pair in case of little accidents whilst acclimatising to the local foods! I've tried loads of different brands over the years including some extremely expensive ones, these are my current favourites.
For socks I have 2 or 3 pairs of Smartwool lightweight crew socks, and/or 2 or 3 pairs of trainer socks (the type that are hidden in your shoes when you are wearing shorts) which are Thorlos Experia multi-sport socks, I picked these up dirt cheap from a local factory shop and they are brilliant.

Kepler merino boxer shorts.

I usually stuff all of this lot into roll-top dry bags for added protection and sortability (I made that word up) lots of companies do these but look for the lightweight siliconised ones - my favourites are of course the Alpkit`Airloks, but you probably guessed that already.
For roaming about on day adventures I have the totally excellent Atom Litepak, a little 13l packable siliconised daypack that will fit in your pocket and weighs grams.



These days I use just a plain old bar of soap instead of bulky shower gel; the soap lasts a lot longer and doesn’t have to go in the silly liquids zip-bag when you pass through airport security. If I am travelling for more than a few days I will buy toiletries like shampoo etc on arrival at my destination otherwise I use 50-100mls bottles for short trips. The exception is that of my shaving oil; I use a natural product called Somersets Extra Sensitive Shaving Oil it comes in 15mls bottle and is good for 50-60 shaves and it leaves you feeling lovely and tingly too.
 I use one of the Lifeventure giant sized travel towels that absorb huge amounts of water, dry quickly and pack small.

Perfect size and function.


The pack list. Remember that I will be wearing some of these items so they don’t all have to fit in the pack.

2 pairs of Alpkit Tonka zip-off combat pants
2 Alpkit or Rab short sleeved merino tees/ 1 long sleeved tee
1 Lowe Alpine shirt
1 Alpkit Griffon hoody
2 or 3 pairs of ankle socks
2 or 3 pairs of trainer socks
3 pairs Alpkit Kepler boxer shorts
1 pair of training shoes; currently North Face Hedgehog GTX
1 pair of Flip-Flops (Thongs) for warm trips
1 giant sized Lifeventure travel towel
1 small stuff sack containing camera/mobile phone leads, chargers, USB cables, Julbo tripod, travel adapters, head phones etc. Half a dozen small zip ties and a small roll of duct tape for emergency repairs
1 small bag containing toiletries, toothbrush, razor, travel plug, nail clippers etc
A headtorch, acouple of small padlocks, a combination cable lock, and a notepad & pen are always useful
Sleeping eye mask and ear plugs
Small first aid kit
Digital Camera
13" Laptop – my luxury travel item
A few zip-sealing plastic bags and a carrier bag for dirty laundry or whatever.
Guide book and compass. The compass is the most useful travel essential I own followed by ear plugs!

In the hotter climates I also carry a silk sleeping bag liner because sometimes the bedsheets might not be so great but mostly because it's much more pleasant to sleep in on humid nights; and it's great to have on those overnight bus and train journeys. For my Himalayan trips i use a Sea To Summit Thermolite Reactor sleeping bag liner. it is great just on its own but it also allows me to carry a lighter weight sleeping bag without compromising warmth.
A good quality pair of sunglasses can be essential; I favour Oakley in whatever style takes your fancy. The optics are superb and I can wear mine all day without feeling the strain that you get with cheap lenses.

Along with a bottle of water and a couple of pieces of fruit that little lot weighs in under 8kgs and I still have some room in the pack for purchases.

Big pockets are always useful if you think you are close to the limit because airlines only weigh luggage and not people!
 
Anyone taking advantage of the budget airline deals might also find these links to Hostelbookers and Hostelworld useful; they both offer a huge variety of accommodation options from the cheapest hostels to high quality boutique hotels. Both also offer very useful free downloadable PDF guides to many of the major cities; I've used several of them and they are invaluable.
Lonely Planet guide books are a great resource and their travel forum 'The Thorn Tree' is another excellent place to get genuine travel advice.

I've travelled all over the world on everything from 2-3day Euro-hops to full on  2 month backpacking trips with this kit list and never had to struggle; besides in most countries you can always pick up a few cheap extra's that can be given to charity at the end of your trip!

Remember that travelling is supposed to be fun; don't make it a chore. A smile or a laugh in the face of some minor hardship will get you a long way. Be flexible, blend in with locals, learn a few polite words and phrases; and try anything at least once. Have fun and don't forget to Chase The Rainbow! :)


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Thank you for looking, see you soon.
Please don't forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it :)

Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.



More images below.
Danny and I know how to chase the rainbow!

No caption required :)


Check out them fine rims on hedonists paradise. Ibiza.


Even my Mum chases the odd rainbow too. India.


Blending in with the locals. Malaysia


Car envy! Singapore



Dan in Koh Chang, Thailand.



Smiling again! Beer Lao, Beer Lao, Beer Lao...



It's not all about the partying!



You can't beat the manic tuk-tuk travel in Bangkok



I had to make use of that spare pair of underpants after visiting this food stall in Vientiane



A confused look and a smile got us a cheeky invite to someones wedding in Vang Vieng








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