Packing light is a difficult task. If you’re born with the ability – congratulations! You are one of the lucky few. Most people, in my opinion, have to learn the art form of packing light over time. I’ve been learning for over a decade and I’m only just beginning to get the hang of it!
When we went to Europe I was adamant that I wanted to pack as lightly as I possibly could. We were going for a month in the heart of winter but I didn’t care… I knew it could be done! So, this is what I packed to end up with just 9.5kg of luggage:
MY CHECKED BAG – 7kg
I used my Osprey Fairview 55 for this trip and Ethan used his Osprey Farpoint 55. Same bag really, but the Fairview is optimised to be more comfortable when sitting on a woman’s hips. The 55 is actually just the 40 litre pack with a 15 litre removable day pack clipped to the front. It is carry on size if needed but we checked ours and used the day packs as our carry on. This was my first trip using a backpacking pack instead of a regular suitcase and I loved it! Packing cubes were a must to keep everything organised, but I use them all the time anyway! They’re the holy grail of packing after all!
INSIDE THE BAG:
2 x Long Pants – I went with two of my Freddy “jeans”. I know that real denim can get very uncomfortable in winter climates because it doesn’t work very well at keeping heat in. I choose my Freddy’s because they’re made of jersey cotton and elastane. They are super stretchy so I knew I could easily wear thermals or other layers underneath them, but they’re also a stylish skinny jean style that goes with everything. I brought one plain black pair and one pair that looks exactly like denim.
1 x Fleece Lined Stockings – These are my FAVOURITE when it comes to winter travel! I found them in a H&M in Japan and they are awesome for wearing underneath everything! So warm and cosy.
1 x Leggings – I used a pair of Gymshark leggings as an under layer instead of proper thermals. It just works better for me! They’re super high waisted to they kept more of my body warm, and again, they could fit under my regular pants.
3 x Base Shirts – Long sleeved thermal shirts from Macpac. Pretty self explanatory! I wore one every single day. They are awesome, and they come in nice colours so it didn’t matter if people saw them. I often took everything else off and just had them on and they were perfect.
1 x Down Vest – I got a super lightweight down vest from Macpac which came with it’s own carry case. Really warm to wear (with really deep pockets which were great for valuables!) and it packs down into a little tiny ball. I bought it in a gorgeous deep pink colour!
2 x Beanie and 3 x Scarf – I know you’re probably thinking I could’ve just packed one of each to save even more room… but because my clothes were so plain, this is what I used to make my outfits look different! Plus, half the time it was so cold that I was wearing at least two scarves anyway, so it worked out for the best!
3 x Socks – I had two pairs of Merino socks (which are so warm and soft, they are amazing!) and one pair of regular socks. I reeeeally regret not packing more socks because we didn’t have as many opportunities to wash as we thought we would. If I had my time over, I’d probably pack at least six pairs! You’re wearing the same shoes every day for a month… think about this wisely!
1 x Pajamas – just a simple t-shirt and shorts was all I needed to sleep in each night. I was never in them long enough for them to get dirty, plus it was never warm enough to sweat so they stayed clean!
1 x Sneakers – I packed my heavy winter boots because I had so much room and weight to play with, and I wore my comfy Adidas Superstar every day shoes on the plane.
Underwear – I only brought sports bras (four of them) because I hate regular bras and didn’t see any need to bring one when I wasn’t going to be wearing anything that required one. My sports bras are seamless and lightweight so they were a great choice. I brought 12 or so pairs of underwear though, and I washed these in the shower as I needed to. Easy done!
Toiletries – In the toiletries bag I had my contacts and contact solution, Codral Cold & Flu tablets, vitamin C tablets, a shampoo bar, some conditioner, a razor, two bottles of hand sanitizer, and some very basic makeup (tinted moisturiser, concealer, mascara, and blush). And that’s all! I don’t wear much makeup normally, and I always get my eyelash extensions done when I go away so I save a lot of room in this department!
MY CARRY ON – 2.5kg
This is where I used the detachable day pack! I’m going to go through all of this one in dot points as it’s all quite straightforward, but please feel free to comment with any questions.
- Passport (plus photocopies of passport, ID, licence etc printed AND in Google Drive)
- Contiki (and any other important) documents in travel wallet, all flights printed out
- Headphones and plane adapter
- Earplanes, neck pillow, sleep mask, fluffy socks
- Empty water bottle for filling up at airport
- Snacks – protein bars, just add water meals, electrolytes
- Kindle (and charger)
- Phone (and charger)
- GoPro (and charger, spare batteries, spare memory cards)
- External battery pack (and charger)
- Travel journal and pen
- Wallet (bank card, travel card, ID, emergency info)
- Every day shoulder bag
- Spare clothes (full outfit taken from checked bag)
- Plane clothes (what I was wearing! This included my big winter coat.)
- My special bag of plane essentials – hand sanitizer, eye drops, lip balm, deodorant, face wipes, tissues, extra hair ties, bobby pins, brush, bandaids, q-tips, herbal sleep tablets, motion sickness tablets, contraceptive pill, cough drops, ibuprofen, paracetamol, moisturiser, cleanser, hand cream, tooth brush, tooth paste, mouth wash, and teeth wipes!
And that’s it – finished!
We were really proud of our packing efforts. It was extra rewarding when people on our tour would look and say “is that ALL you brought!?” as we walked up flights of stairs with ease while they waited for the one person lift to come back down to the lobby for the fourteenth time.
We did each buy a new carry on bag while we were overseas but this had nothing to do with wanting more room and everything to do with wanting these particular items. I bought a Longchamp Le Pliage Travel Bag in Rome, while Ethan bought a super sophisticated leather duffle bag from London. We were easily able to make this work by clipping the day packs back to our main packs and packing our new bags as our carry on bags!
We also bought extra clothes while we were away, including some pull over jumpers and new winter coats. We even bought a new pair of shoes each. We had enough room for all of this in our tiny packs, but we really didn’t have enough room for souvenirs. Lucky for us, we only collect magnets and shot glasses! So it wasn’t so bad. But there were a few things we would’ve liked to buy but simply didn’t because of lack of room in our packs.
On the way home, we each had a total of 15kg in our checked bags, and probably 4 or 5kg in our carry on bags. The extra weight was mainly made up of the new winter coats and new winter shoes! All in all, we were very happy with how we packed and how the things we packed worked out for us.
How do you pack light? What are your travel essentials? I’d love to hear!