Open Backpack!,  Sage advice

What not to pack?

There are various schools telling you how to pack – some people start two weeks early and a while before setting off don’t remember what they had already thrown into their backpack, so they just end up throwing everything in once again, just in case. Others gaze at their wardrobe for so long that finally they just toss half of it into their luggage, as it comes.

Piotrek takes 10 minutes to pack and almost always remembers to take everything. I myself also rarely overlook anything, even though I used to forget a towel constantly in my salad years. However, the whole process of packing takes the exact amount of time that I have + 10 minutes. I do not recommend this method.

We have already established that I’m not the best person to give you advice on how to pack quickly, but I might have something to say on the size and weight of luggage.

What do I use for packing? A backpack, obviously. Mine’s a fantastically comfortable 60-70l Karrimor which I’m not replacing until it decides for itself to fall apart. For my weekend plane trips I usually make use of budget airlines that like to teach the passengers to be economical with your luggage space. Then, all my luggage is a 30l backpack. I only use a suitcase when travelling by car or sleeping in hotels, which mostly happens on business trips.

So don’t load yourself down, nobody will carry your luggage. Pack only as much, as you can easily manage by yourself, carry it for 15‑20 km, take it off your back by yourself and still be alive. Most of my further advice results from this crucial condition.

Depending on whether you’re the type that takes a lettuce drier, a back brush and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or just one extra pair of underwear and a toothbrush, you’ll benefit greatly, or not at all, from the following observations.

Let’s start with the cosmetics.
  • If you’re not leaving for a whole year, don’t pack family sized shower gels and lotions. Most drug stores have small travel versions of many cosmetics, you can also use samples.
  • If you don’t feel yourself with no make-up, who am I to tell you that you should? I would, however, strongly recommend limiting your make-up kit to 3-4 basic products (in my case, these include a concealer, bronzer and a mascara). Whether you’re trekking in the mountains or lying on the beach – full make-up won’t make you prettier.
  • If you’re staying in hotels or guesthouses, check whether they offer towels and cosmetic kits for their guests.
  • If I decide to skip something and need it afterwards anyway, can I still buy? Almost always – sure you can, often cheaper or better quality. Sometimes, however, it’s good to make some research. It’s highly probable that if you go to some non-touristy parts of Africa or Asia, you won’t be able to purchase sunscreen cream or sunburn lotion. On the other hand, the local mosquitoes will laugh their socks off when they smell your insect repellent. A local product will be more effective.
When clothes are concerned:
  • As I have learned during the numerous trips with my friends (I love you, gals!), for many people it is not obvious that the number of dresses should not exceed the duration of the trip. Well, it shouldn’t. Moreover, it is not obligatory to have a different outfit for each day!
  • If you haven’t worn an item for the last year, you will definitely survive without it during one week of holidays.
  • Does the T-shirt match the trousers and shorts that you’ve packed? If not – out of the backpack!
  • Take the culture of your destination country under consideration. In many places it is a faux pas to uncover your legs or show too much cleavage.
  • You will need a decent and light waterproof jacket almost wherever you go, then you can skip an umbrella.
  • A colourful sarong that you buy from a local vendor is a super multi-purpose item. It will serve as a scarf, light blanket, towel and afterwards it becomes a nice souvenir.
What concerns electronic devices, books and expensive stuff
  • Take your laptop only if you’re gone for two months or more, then you will actually need it. Otherwise a smartphone will definitely be enough. Or – here’s a crazy idea – take a break from technology!
  • If photography is not your income source, think twice before packing every lens and filter. Sometimes all you need is a compact camera and positive thinking.
  • I have already mentioned the need for the feminine feel once in a while, I’m sure you’ve already unpacked your hair straightener.
  • It’s really good to have a nice read or a guidebook with you. It’s even better if they come in pocket sizes or as e-books. A good idea is to only take some copied pages from your guidebook and throw them away as you go.
  • Things tend to get lost on the road. So far I have only managed to let go a towel, a pair of old sandals, a pair of new sandals and a sweater, but it’s good to have in mind that something may vanish or lure a thief. I try to reduce the amount of valuables and hide cash in my bra (useful tip: remember to take the money out before washing it).
What else?
  • Before you pack something that will fill half of your packing space, try to find an alternative. For instance, microfibre towels instead of thick ones, or several thin layers of clothes in place of the favourite baggy sweater.
  • Wherever the road takes you, two pairs of shoes and one pair of long trousers will be enough. Jeans are not the best option, they are heavy, won’t keep you warm and take a long time to dry out.
  • No matter how far away from home you travel, there’s always a way to wash your stuff. Do not take a three-week supply of underwear.
  • A pillow adds 20 points to your comfort when you’re sleeping in a tent. Take an inflatable one or – even better – a waterproof bag that you can fill with soft clothes.
  • If you need to take kitchen gear, do invest in light camping versions.
  • Share, share, share! If you’re going away with a bunch of people, you don’t need 3 gas cookers and 7 toothpaste tubes.
  • Pack food supplies only when you’re going to a super expensive country and even then don’t go crazy and look for alternatives. Which is better – taking 5kg of canned tuna or a telescopic fishing rod with you to Norway?
  • Before you leave, check the customs regulations of your destination. There are better things to do on your first day of holidays than disputing with the customs officers.
What are your ways to avoid excess luggage and a spinal cord injury? Let me know in the comment section!

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