4 Rules to Pack What You Need (and Nothing More)

Today we welcome Stratton Lawrence to the blog as we continue with packing week here at Just Trails. Stratton is a freelance journalist and blogger for eBay.com, who writes a wide range of travel and outdoors related content based on his personal experience as a serial traveler and adventurer. We like adventure around here…but we’ll let Stratton do the talking!

When J.J. Cale first sang, “Travelin’ light/ it’s the only way to fly,” he was certainly a man ahead of his time. In August, my now-wife and I flew to Scotland for our wedding. But even for a small family affair, the trip required far more than we would normally bring — tuxedo, wedding dress, special shoes — plus all of our usual gear, including a tent, sleeping bags, and camp stove.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

At the Edinburgh airport on the way home, after paying to check two additional bags, the woman checking us in asked to weigh our carry-on bags. Weigh the carry-ons?! If they fit, they fit, right?

Not so fast. As airlines continue to crack down on weight and seek extra revenue streams, carry-on baggage is increasingly subject to weight restrictions, meaning that even business flyers can learn a few tips from the most experienced backpackers.

And for our next trip, we’ll be back to following these rules that I carefully adhere to when I’m heading out on the trail for a long weekend:

Weigh Everything 

How much does the novel you’re reading weigh? What about your deodorant? When you’re carrying everything you need on your back, every ounce counts.

Get a digital scale and weigh everything you typically bring on the trail. Enter the data into a spreadsheet. When it’s time to pack, decide a total weight you’re comfortable carrying (don’t forget to factor in water). Use your list to limit yourself as you choose your true essentials.

2 Travelin Light

Let Someone Else Decide 

It’s much easier to have someone else that’s not going with you cut items from your pack. You may see a real need for that third pair of pants, but a friend may recognize that you’re bringing too much. Get an audit, and follow their advice.

Clothing: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

We all want to look great in our summit photos, but fashion shouldn’t be your motivation for slugging your way to the top. And besides, you’re going to be sweaty.

Think about how two days of clothing can be stretched over five days. Can you wear the same quick-dry shorts each day? Consider how layers can be combined and reused to create different outfit combinations. Most importantly, stick with synthetics that won’t retain water like cotton does. And if you bring extra anything, make it underwear and socks!

Keep Your Water in a Bottle, Not in Your Food 

My dehydrator may be my favorite kitchen gadget. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and heading into the wilderness shouldn’t mean we sacrifice nutrition for mac-and-cheese and sugary granola bars. But carrying food that contains water adds a ton of extra weight. By dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, we can keep the healthy calories while ditching the weight.

What other tips have you used to cut weight when you travel?

 Thanks Stratton!

(p.s. if you’d like to guest post and tell us an interesting story, feature a cool outdoor product or talk about a great trail tip shoot me an email rebecca (at) just trails.com and I’ll send you a copy of our guest post guidelines.

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User Comments

  1. strattonlawrence |

    Agreed Mark! I use Dr. Bronners – all purpose for soap and shampoo and non-toxic out in the woods. You can even brush your teeth with it, but I bring a trial size tube.

  2. Mark |

    Weight and compare. Take the items with the same functionality and half the weight or volume.
    Get the small trial packs of shampoo, soap and toothpaste.
    Merino wool clothing doesn’t need much changing or washing.

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