5 Simple Ways to Pack Your Backpack Lighter

by Mark Wiens on June 18, 2012 · 11 comments

Here are my toiletries...

Here are my toiletries...

You don’t have to be a minimalist to pack lighter when you travel. It’s not about scaling everything down to the point where you claim you own just “five” things.

Instead, packing light is about being able to be flexible, to make taking transportation much easier to cope with, and just to save your back from suffering throughout your journey.

You may have already seen my packing list, and here are 5 of the ways that I lower the overall weight and size of my backpack.

My new backpack

My new backpack

1. Use a Smaller Bag

This might be an obvious way to scale back on the things you bring with you, but seriously speaking, no matter what size our bag is, we’ll probably fill it up.

Have you ever seen a backpacker walking about with a half empty backpack?

No, in fact most of the time I see backpacks maxed out and overflowing with extra things hanging from strings and carabiners.

Possibly the easiest thing to do when you want to pack lighter is to use a smaller bag – that way when your bag is full, it still won’t be too big.

2. Bring Less Clothing

Clothing is one of those things that I see nearly everyone bring too much of. Sure you need the basics and you need a few extras, but do you really need seven shirts and seven pairs of underwear?

I travel with no more than around three sets of clothes, sometimes with just two.

Now of course, you have to take into account the weather conditions where you’ll be traveling, but really think about how many clothes you actually need.

Remember you can wash your clothes in a sink each day or even buy new clothes wherever you are.

3. Hold Back on Toiletries

I’ve honestly seen travelers with toiletry kits that are nearly the size of my entire backpack!

Stuffed inside are full bottles of shampoo, entire boxes of band-aids, facial creams and who knows what else. Depending on your own physical needs and comforts, you can probably still cut back on some of the unnecessary toiletries. Also remember again that just about everything toiletry wise will be available in the nearest store in whatever city you’ll be in.

4. One Pair of All-Purpose Shoes

Shoes are extremely bulky and often quite heavy… but they are indeed important, depending upon where you’re going or the activities you’ll be doing.

The way I travel, I bring one all-purpose pair of shoes which I use for walking, hiking or jogging and I carry one pair of flip flips which I actually prefer to wear the majority of the time.

These two footwear options are probably all you’ll need for a normal backpacking trip and any extra footwear will only make your bag heavier with little use.

5. Less Books

I don’t mean less reading material (I think reading is a great thing to do when you travel), but I do mean less physical reams of paper that are outrageously heavy.

I know, it is really nice to have a physical book to read while you travel (maybe 1 or 2), but a whole stack of books may not be worth its weight. You can often find used books when you need them or trade with other travelers. Also consider an electronic book reader where you’ll be able to store hundreds of books on a tiny device.

When it comes to guide books, either don’t bother at all and just rely on information you find online, or I’ve seen people tear only the useful pages out of guides and ditch the useless portion.

I’m an advocate for traveling the way you feel most comfortable and we each have our own unique wants and needs. However I strongly believe that lightening the load is directly correlated with getting the most out of your trip.

These are just 5 suggestions, but there are countless other ways you can cut weight from your bag, so you can travel with ease and give your back a break!

About the Author:

is the author of 164 posts on Go Backpacking.

Mark was raised in central Africa before migrating back to the US for University. After graduating, he decided to continue traveling the world. On Migrationology, he shares the cultural side of travel from a slow paced local perspective that often revolves around his love for eating all forms of food. Join him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @migrationology, and add him on Google Plus.

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Categories: Features, Packing Tips & Lists
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