Guides

Tips for Packing Light (Pt. 2)

When thinking about packing light, either for the backcountry or for travel in general, there’s no single list that works for everyone. Instead, I like to think about these guiding principles that help me do more with less.

Words by Tiana White, Outdoor Program Director at Westminster College.

Tips for Packing Light (Pt. 2)

When thinking about packing light, either for the backcountry or for travel in general, there’s no single list that works for everyone. Instead, I like to think about these tips for packing light that help me do more with less.

Tips for Packing Light

Determine gear by defining goals.

Comfort and safety are high priorities for most travelers, backcountry or otherwise. What else will make your trip as you envisioned it? For example, if returning with high quality photos is a goal, you might pack more camera gear in your backpack and streamline something else. If lounging in the sun is your goal, then perhaps a hammock is worth every ounce.

Learn the skills that allow you to bring less.

For example, instead of bringing clean clothes for the duration of your trip – learn how to ask for the laundromat in a foreign language, or learn how to wash them yourself with what you will have available. Think about other skills that can help save weight and space.

Understand your gear.

Take time to learn about the functionality and limitations of what’s in your backpack. If you’re bringing a GPS, for example, know in what situations it will and will not be helpful and the extent to which it can serve you as a tool in your travels. It’s important to examine all of this before your trip so you can plan contingencies.

Replace “what if” items with intentionality.

Adventure is often what draws us to travel. With adventure comes uncertainty. Think about the realistic worst-case scenarios for your trip. What impact will weather, remoteness, and itinerary glitches have? Do you have what you need for those situations? Can you improvise with what’s in your pack? It’s important to identify the difference between thinking and knowing you can improvise something.

Learn from others.

I can’t write this without acknowledging how many other people have been instrumental in helping me develop my own systems and innovations. Take a look at what travelers are posting online and ask your friends who have done similar trips how they packed and how it went. You’ll soon develop a discerning eye for what will and won’t work for you.

Free your hands, then your mind.

A backpack that fits well, is packed well, is light, and is just the right size for your trip is truly liberating. A few considerations: do you need to carry it on to an airplane? Are you traveling through narrow canyons? Through water? Might you need to pack up and go quickly? All of these things will help determine the type, size, and shape of your pack.

I was recently in Mexico during Hurricane Patricia, and at one point we were forecast to experience the worst of the storm. Patricia caused massive floods and landslides but no deaths as a result of landfall, for which I was grateful. As I tucked everything into my backpack in case of evacuation that day, I was reminded of the ideas above and paused to think about packing in a new light.

Want more? Read Tips for Packing Light (Pt. 1).


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