Most hardcore independent travelers will agree that you can pack for a year ’round the world in just one carry-on. Being able to fit your life into one backpack is almost a meditation exercise for me. It makes me feel free. But since this is a money blog, here are some financial benefits of packing light:
- More fun time. You don’t have to arrive to the airport as early, and you don’t waste time waiting around at the baggage claim after arriving. Now you have more time to soak in the culture!
- No lost luggage. You don’t have to worry about lost or damaged checked luggage, and spending money replacing items in a foreign country.
- Increased airport flexibility. Being one unit allows you to easily be “bumped” onto another airline, or you might go standby on an earlier flight. Similarly, if you miss a connection, you don’t have to pray that your luggage will still show up.
- Cheaper transportation. You can take public transportation everywhere with ease – subways, crowded trains, even hanging off of a farmer’s truck. You can also walk longer distances without suffering.
So I thought I’d share some of the somewhat specialized gear that I actually don’t mind spending money on. I would have to say 75% of my stuff was bought at either the REI Outlet or Columbia Outlet stores.
Luggage – REI Tour Pack
I don’t think REI makes this anymore, but it’s a pretty simple bag and cost about $125. It’s basically a big squarish backpack exactly the size limit of a carry-on, with nice padded shoulder straps and compression straps too. Good quality, YKK zippers. There is also a small detachable daypack – perfect for carrying your rain jacket, maps, guidebooks, and bottle of water when out and about. A similar bag would be Rick Steves’ Classic Back Door Bag
The general idea here to have it be lightweight, look casual, and be fast-drying. That way you can just hand wash them at night in the hotel room and have them ready to go in the morning. I love my REI Sahara Convertible Pants. They convert to shorts easily, so it’s one less thing to pack. You can also buy hiking or “travel” shirts, socks, and even underwear that can be hand-washed and will dry overnight. My next purchase will be some nice travel boxers of Ex Officio. Technically, you could simply buy one of each of these, and just wash as needed! I think I’ll spring for at least 3 of each.
I always bring a good fleece jacket, but since I own one already that isn’t an extra expense.
Silk Money Belt
This “personal lockbox” allows me to sleep in hostels and walk around busy areas while keeping my passports and credit cards safe. It’s highly unlikely someone will poke around there without me noticing. Besides, it’s actually pretty comfortable. Here’s an example for $13.
Extra Toiletries Kit
I basically bought some cheap travel-sized (and TSA approved) plastic bottles, and made a duplicate of all the personal products I use everyday. I don’t move things in and out of my toiletry bag, it’s always 100% packed. Contact lenses, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, whatever. So when I need to pack, I just grab it and go.
I would like to say I have a sleek 3 lb. laptop and some nice GSM cell phone/internet hookup, but I actually don’t pack anything electrical with me besides my camera. Just about everything I need can be accessed by finding an internet cafe. I can post to blogs from anywhere, or even log into my computer remotely if desired.
Packing Light & Right – Rick Steves
Carrying off the art of one carry-on – SF Chronicle
The Travelite FAQ
Please share your own tips as well in the comments! Right now I’m trying to figure out how to fit in a week in Thailand in March or April. Gotta work on my mid-term goal