How to Pack Light for Traveling

How to Pack Light for Traveling

The fewer the bags, the better! Packing only the essentials makes your trip so much more enjoyable because you do not have to manage a ton of extra stuff when you are trying to get from place to place. When plans change (as they often do), you can easily adapt to the new plan!

If you’ve never tried to pack light, it may be a bit intimidating at first. The nagging question of “what if?” gnaws at your brain when you’re packing for a trip and compels you to pack. One. More. Thing. Do yourself a favor and mute the “what if” in your head for a moment. These are the easiest things you can do to pack light for your next travel adventure!

Packing Light for Traveling

Make a Packing List

There’s nothing worse than leaving for the airport and realizing you forgot your (fill in the blank). A packing list helps avoid this problem while simultaneously helping you cut out some non-essentials. We recommend making a list of only the essentials, which we will be discussing in the article. It’s important to make a list before you start packing your things, because this will help you stay on track with the items you need.

Use Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are the perfect way to stay organized, maximize space, and avoid the headache of searching through your bag every time you need something. Good packing organizers should be lightweight, color coded, and water resistant.

Use Every Inch

Using every bit of space is important when keeping your bag size small. Filling your shoes with things like socks and other smaller items is a great way to save some space. Rolling your clothes is another great way to pack them tighter and avoid wrinkles.

Traveling lightweight

Bring Items That Have Multiple Functions

After you’ve reduced your clothing down to the essential items, it’s time to do the same to the rest of the items you pack with you in your luggage. Consider the special items you bring with you to deal with unique circumstances and think about how you could bring something that handled the job of a few of those circumstances.

For example, it’s better to pack a poncho because you can use it as an umbrella, a backpack rain cover, or a rain jacket! You can also bring a travel towel which can dry you off, be used as a ground cover, shade cover, or a variety of other things.

Pack Mix and Match Clothing

Avoiding doing laundry and having options of what to wear each day of your trip are two of the most common reasons people practically bring their entire closet with them while traveling. But consider how often you actually end up wearing all the clothes you brought with you? What about all of the shoes? If you’re like most people, you likely wore 1/3 of the stuff you actually brought!

So how do you reduce the clothing and shoes you bring while also trying to avoid running out of outfits? Easy! Count to 6. As in, only pack 1 hat, 2 pairs of shoes, 3 bottoms, 4 tops, 5 pairs of socks, and 6 pairs of underwear! Limit yourself to these clothing items and you’ll be surprised by how little you need while traveling! 

Layer Your Clothes

Having good layers allows you to maximize your wardrobe. Depending on the climate you are going to, having two base layers (t-shirts or tank tops) with a thin but high quality mid layer (Something like a sweater) with an outer shell (rain jacket or insulated jacket) should have you equipped for most places you’ll go.  

Have the right gear

Your gear can make or break your trip. Most of the time what you bring is dependent on where you're going, but we do have some staple items that always come with us.

  • Insulated water bottle: Most airports have water stations where you can fill up anytime. You’ll stay hydrated, save money, and use less plastic.
  • Headlamp: You never know when you might find yourself needing a light and let’s be honest the light on your phone isn’t the best.
  • Packable Travel Towel: They are extremely versatile. It’s likely you’ll be wanting to jump in somewhere, need to dry some gear off, need a place to sit, or even get a car unstuck (we actually had to do this before).
  • Lightweight packable backpack: These hardly take any space in your luggage and when you arrive at your destination, it allows you to easily hike around with a small day bag.
How to travel light

Bring Small Toiletries

The best way to cut down on toiletry weight is to buy our toiletries when you arrive at your destination. However, that’s not alway ideal if you have items that you like or are going somewhere remote. In this case bringing us 3.4 ounce leak proof containers which is the max size you can bring in a carry-on bag. Even if you're checking a bag, we still recommend using these smaller containers for more flexibility, space saving, and to save weight.


If you have a travel buddy, share your sharable toiletries to avoid bringing multiple of the same items. 

Pick the right travel bag

Obviously, the right bag for packing light is the lightest bag you can find, however we believe the functionality of the bag can be more important than the weight. A backpack is always our first choice for a travel bag, but there are a lot of backpacks out there. Choosing the right bag will help you pack better, be more organized, and stay comfortable. The main things to consider when choosing a bag are:

  • Comfortability: A bag with comfortable straps and some padding on the back is a must
  • Pockets: Bags that have a large main compartment are ideal for using packing organizers and carrying larger items. Bags with lots of pockets can be a little overwhelming and heavier.
  • Waterproof: A waterproof bag is ideal for almost every trip, because having all your things get wet is no fun. Sometimes waterproof bags do not have enough packets, so if you're choosing a non waterproof bag, make sure it has some water resistant fabric.

If you exceed the space in your backpack, then we recommend using a duffle bag or a small wheeled carry-on bag. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, carry-on bags must not exceed  22" x 14" x 9". When choosing a larger carry on bag, make sure it is considered if you need something water resistant (never hurts to have water resistance and not need it, then need it and not have it). 

Lightweight Travel Gear

Weigh Your Bag in Advance

So you’ve got your bag packed, this is the moment of truth, pick up your bag and see how it feels. Hopefully through using your packing list and the best practices in the post, your pack feels light and is filled with everything you need. 

If for some reason it’s feeling heavy we recommend placing it on a scale to ensure your complying with airline regulations. For a heavy or overweight bag, be sure to remove the items at home to avoid extra fees and a hurt back.

Prepare for Lost Bags

Unfortunately, bags don’t always arrive where or when they should. If you check a bag, it’s never a bad idea to have some essentials prepared for the first couple of days on your trip. We especially like to ensure we have things like swimwear, outerwear or hiking boots to ensure we’re not missing any of the fun. For things like outerwear or hiking boots, we’ll usually wear these one the plane.

Carry-on is ideal

Skipping baggage claims and avoiding lost luggage are just a couple of the many advantages of only bringing carry-on. You are usually allowed one personal item (which they ask goes at your feet during the flight) and one carry-on item (that usually is stowed above your head). While this is offered for free with most airlines, it’s important to double check your airline's policy. 

It is important to note that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has restrictions for items that can go in your carry-on. Know what you can and can’t bring with the TSA’s “What Can I Bring” list.

The TSA uses the "3-1-1" liquids rule for a traveler's carry-on bag. This rule states that you can bring:

  • 3.4-ounces (100 ml) or smaller containers of liquids and gels (Including peanut butter)
  • 1-quart size, clear plastic zip-top bag (all liquids must fit in bag)
  • 1 zip-top bag per passenger

Note: There are some exceptions for medications and baby food.

Travel tips and tricks

Check Your Bag 

Checking a  bag may not be ideal, but it can be necessary for certain adventures.  If you're heading for a long trip, have sporting or hunting equipment, or are headed for extreme weather, checking a bag is the way to go. We recommend keeping your bag as light as possible still to avoid fees and to be more mobile when you are on the go. 


As you can see, packing light can be a fun and efficient way to enjoy your next adventure. By using the modern technology of today, you can bring all sorts of items that serve multiple purposes! And by using common sense, you can save the hassle of having to separate your toiletries every time you go through security by just picking them up at your destination!

If something stood out to you or you have other tips that we missed, we’d love to hear from you below!

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  • I have been very successful at packing light. I travel a lot with my daughter and we only take one bag a price and it’s always a carry on, I pack an outfit a day (max 5) and I roll everything. I wear the largest shoes or sweater and rewear jeans if needed. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and we haven’t had a problem yet. I would love to try packing cubes and thanks for the tip on socks in shoes because I have forgotten socks before

    Tahirah Nall on
  • Hi, my name is Jen and I’m an over packer. This was a great article, packed full of helpful tips! I was just recently gifted with a set of packing cubes. I’ve never thought about buying my toiletries at my destination. I always try to avoid the baggage claim, sometimes I’m not so successful. The tip that blew my mind, the one I will most definitely try is…that pre-pack list. I feel like that is going to be a game changer for me! Thanks for the terrific article!!

    Jen Z on
  • I have to tell you about my experience when I thought I was the only one going to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I had invited whoever wanted to come to come. Well, I was testing me because I had a heart cath and I wasn’t giving up a ski adventure in 2008 for any reason at all. They weren’t going to get away retiring me in my late 40s. So I went to wild cat mountain, and after going to the top decided I needed the ski class to go down the slope…Alone..huh? Maybe alone isn’t the best medicine on a high mountaintop ski adventure. I loved finding the ski class half way down, then we had other intermediate people like me to scoot down with each other…..

    Debbie Beswick on
  • The idea of a packing cube – it sounds like a good way to keep things organized too. I always over pack and that’s hard on the shoulders- great tips to help pack lighter. Thanks!

    Lori Weidner on
  • Don’t really understand packing cubes but I guess its because I seem to always use a small carryon as my luggage. Would love a good video on how to pack a small bag

    Samantha Cox on
  • Packing cubes are definitely a great option. I’ve done away with luggage since they fit comfortably in my backpack to carry on board. They also stay neat so when I’m at my destination I can take them out without having to worry about how they’ll look.

    Vincent Aceto on
  • I travel alot mostly quick trips. I always over pack and swear I won’t do it the next time. Cubes is such a great idea since im usually just digging like a crazy lady to find my favorite socks at the bottom of my oversized bag. Sounds like a stress reliever..thank you for the tips

    Jamie Perko on
  • Excellent article. I travel a great deal and practice most of this with a single Sandpiper of California carry-on which can turn into a back pack if ever in a pinch walking alot. Goal is to bypass baggage claim. Never suffer from lost bags. Regardless, others with me always check many very large suitcases each, so I wait patiently to collect their bags. Such as life… Thx for the wonderful information.

    Craig on
  • Pack light and also bring things you can jettison….discard/recycle things as you go.

    Kate Rivas on
  • Thanks for this! I finally got some packing cubes, so I’m excited to try them out this summer!

    Tia on

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