Packing ultra-light

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Being separated from their luggage is fear shared by all budget travelers. This phobia is colloquially known as Backpackers Separation Anxiety (BSA). Often when traveling by bus or van, everyone’s luggage is heaped together in the underside storage compartment accessible from the outside. If the bus makes frequent stops the only guard you have against someone grabbing your bag is the trustworthiness of your fellow passengers, not a comforting situation. Not to mention that checking baggage when flying is inherently risky, and, more recently, a significant expense.

Given this aversion to being separated from one’s pack, it is crucial that the sum total of your belongings can be easily carrier on your back, stuffed in overhead bins, and even under seats. 

My goal for this trip was to use a bag less than 30 liters (1800 cu. in.) and a packed weight of less than 15 lbs. Mouse over the items to see what they are.  

a few folded shirts, pants, etc.
All the clothing items I’m bringing

As you can see I brought 2 sets of pants, shirts, boxer briefs, and socks; one cotton t-shirt; one set of long underwear; one pair of sandals; one stuffable rain/wind jacket; and one pair of shoes. I am always wearing at least one set of clothing, so only one set is packed up.

Doing laundry every night or every other night becomes a necessity when you pack like this. A relaxed self esteem is also required, as you’re probably not going to look very fashionable and people will definitely notice you wearing the same clothes day after day. 

travel items, netbook, passport, etc
All the non-clothing items I’m bringing

The non-clothes supplies are fairly standard travelers gear: travel pouch, guidebook, clothesline, drain plug, soap, music device, flashlight, water bottle, lots of zip-loc bags, rubber bands, watch, notebooks and pens, sewing kit, and pack towel. Originally I wanted to avoid bringing a computer, opting instead to store my files on a small USB key, but when I decided I was going to work while traveling I was forced to bring a small netbook computer.

small packed backpack with a toliet roll on top
Everything packed into a 28 liter bag (toliet roll for size comparison)

This is all my gear packed into my 28 liter (1700 cu. in) backpack next to a toilet paper roll for size comparison. It not only easily fits into the carry on bins, but also fits under the seat of most airplanes. In the end it ended up weighing about 18 lbs, more than the 15 lbs goal I had set, but I attribute that to the heavy laptop and charging cables thrown in at the last minute.

With this pack I can travel through civilization in reasonable comfort indefinitely, and rarely separate from my belongings.