It is a common occurrence to see travelers in the airport or on public transportation that seemed to have packed every single belonging they own. It is certainly nice to have your own gear that you know and trust but what many travelers and backpackers fail to understand is the limitations they are putting on themselves by trying to bring too much. Weight and bulk are your enemies when you travel and if we look at the necessities that you truly need, you can travel with a much smaller pack than you think.
The Preferred Packing Setup
A good setup is one that uses two backpacks, a main pack and a lighter and smaller secondary. The rule is to be able to pack so that your main bag can stow away in the overhead compartment on your flight or bus and your secondary pack is able to piggyback on your first bag or for you to wear it on your front side when not used as your personal item when traveling. This means you never have to check your bags and therefore you can keep an eye on them at all times. Plus with a secondary bag you can keep copies of your important documents in the event your other bag is absconded with.
Pack Necessities and Leave Amenities
First off on your checklist are the bare essentials and should include the following or something similar. It is wise to bring something to contain water in such as a Camelback or Nalgene bottle. A midsize Camelback or Osprey can work great as your secondary bag and also a good day-hike bag. Then you will want to always have some back up snacks that are small, full of nutrients and have a shelf life such as Cliff bars. These two essentials have come in very handy for me especially traveling through Central America where the buses love to breakdown. I also carry a small medic kit with a typical setup and a good tube of ointment, superglue, sunscreen and zip-ties as these items ALWAYS come in handy.
I also carry a SteriPen water filtration device that is small and can kill “Montezuma’s revenge” in questionable water. You will need a good pair of shoes which I usually wear when traveling and pack my smaller, lighter flippy floppies. I always carry my waterproof point-and-shoot camera, laptop, charger, cheap unlocked mobile phone, and a small packable travel hammock (so you can sleep or rest almost anywhere). Then I carry my favorite swimming trunks and 4-5 days worth of underwear, 2-3 pair of light wool socks and 4-5 good comfy shirts. Then I take two to three pair of convertible pants that pack easy and work as both shorts and pants as well as a packable long-sleeved jacket.
Plan Ahead and Plan Light
What most folks don’t understand is that anything you need can be bought whenever you get to your destination. If you are going to a remote part of the world then pick up your items when you land or your bus reaches the last major town. Yes, cold weather travel certainly adds bulk and gets trickier to get around this issue but if you have good gear and use your head then you can pack for any situation to where you are light enough to be mobile and explore this daringplanet.