How to pack

So… this blog is shifting towards travelling, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I originally intended to write a message to my sister with packing recommendations but I thought it might be good to share it with the World.

I once read that the best way to pack lightly is to pack only the essential, and then discard a third. While I agree with this (and it has taught me how to pack and what to leave home) I must also say that this trick doesn’t work on me any more because I pack quite efficiently. That said, let’s first look at the basic rules of a good pack:

  1. The bag must be just right for what you carry, neither too big nor too small.
  2. The items in your bag must be [ideally] compartmentalised (sorry, long word); this means you want smaller bags in your backpack, for ease of access
  3. What you need more frequently goes on top, and the rest gets packed from lightest items (at the bottom) to heaviest (at the top)

And of course, we should not forget the dogma of packing,


And, unlike religious dogmas, this one is not wise to follow.

Point one: I don’t know how many of you read the first point and thought But of course, I’m not stupid!.
Of course you aren’t! That’s why you are here. That means if you are planning a trip, and you don’t have a backpack yet, it might be wiser to pack (i.e. find, gather and organise) the things you need and only then go buy a backpack that’s the right size. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But not many people think about packing before getting the bags…

Point two: items must be separated. Ideally clothes on one bag, toiletries in another, electronics, random items in a third… you can choose. I recommend drybags because your items will be dry after a heavy rain, or if you fall in the river, or if you need a jacket and it’s pouring like poor Noah with his Ark. Don’t complain about the price, you can find really really cheap ones on ebay and use them. They are also easy to open, easy to close, and allow clothes to be compressed inside, saving you space (more on that later).

Point three: heavy things on top and close to your spine. Think of a backpack as an extension of your back. Because backpacks are nicely attached to your hips, and the shoulder straps are just for balance, you want the weight to be as close as possible to the centre of your hips. The more far from your spine and the more lower it is, the more forward you need to lean to keep balance, and therefore the more your hips and shoulders suffer. A quick search gave me these two images:

Related image

Image result for backpack weight gravity
It’s also recommended to adjust the straps every time you repack (that means put all the items inside the bag) because the weight will be different and your shoulders might suffer more from it. That’s why it’s good to keep a bag with frequent items (phone, charger, sunglasses, snack and map, for example) to avoid having to empty the bag every time you need something!
Great! Now you know how to pack, and how to do it effectively and efficiently… but what will you pack? Here everybody does it differently, but I still really emphasize the idea of discarding a third of what you take. Let’s say I’m going to Slovenia for two weeks, will sleep mostly in Hostels, Couchsurfing, and maybe once in a train. I don’t know what I need, but I know I don’t need sleeping bag, nor tent, nor anything to cook… wait. Nothing to cook? I can’t afford restaurants. What about clothes? Two weeks = fourteen days = at least 8 t-shirts, 2 jumpers, one jacket for the cold, one for the rain, then pants, shoes… wait. Isn’t that too much?
Let’s review this.
  1. I’m sorry, but I can’t afford restaurants or eating out every day. Well of course you can’t, but you can afford supermarkets and they are full with delicious goodies, many of which you have never seen or tasted, and there’s always the option of a universal sandwich. So don’t forget a spoon and a fork, but please forget the knife at home, it’s not allowed on planes; the best is to buy a nice knife for $1 wherever you land, and leave it at the hostel when you leave. And a big tupperware; it will be very useful to keep your half-eaten tomato, the opened cheese and other things, and the lid will serve at the same time as a chopping board. Now you are equipped like a pro to eat anything you want from the supermarket and don’t spill the open items on your new souvenirs.
  2. I’m sorry, but I’ll sweat. If you have watched Shrek (the movie) you might remember that Ogres are like Onions, they have layers. And you, as a clever packer, also have layers. It’s pointless to bring a winter jacket when you can instead bring a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt, a jumper and a hoodie, and put the rain jacket on top… voila! You are ready for a very cold day, thanks to the power of layers. But also well equipped for a very hot day, a windy day, a chilly night…
    And what’s wrong with hot weather? Nothing really. That means you can wash clothes (if necessary) in the shower and they will be dry the next day. And if they are not, wearing a wet shirt for half an hour is very pleasant under a scorching sun.

Before we finish this post, I want to recommend a method for packing clothes. Fold the clothes carefully and then roll them (they won’t get creases) and put them in your biggest drybag. When the bag is full, you can compress the clothes (removing the air) and close the bag, and you’ll have a very compact bag with lots of clothes.

All that said, let’s make a small list of things to pack.

  • For eating, we need
    • Knife (buy on arrival)
    • Spoon
    • Fork
    • Tupperware
  • For clothing (two weeks) we need
    • 4 T-shirts
    • 1 long-sleeved or thermal
    • 1 jumper [and / or] 1 hoodie
    • 1 rain jacket (also called windbreakers), which are thin and light
    • 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of long pants
    • Underwear (remember: not too many!)
    • Open and closed shoes, if you have space, and flip-flops.
  • Toiletries
    • Toothpaste and toothbrush
    • Hair brush, if you need one
    • Soap (not needed, hostels always have a lot. Just ask them) Or bring a tiny hotel shampoo bottle.
    • Nail clippers
    • [whatever else your hygiene requires]
  • Extras
    • Passport, credit card, health card
    • Chargers, devices…

And you should be ready to go! Once you have these items together you can guess what size backpack you need (for the list I made you need maximum 30L. That means you can buy a backpack between 25L (and pack really well) or buy a 40L one (and pull the side straps to make it smaller [in this picture the orange straps])


Nico Jones Written by:

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.