Backpacking Light – Smart, Efficient and Comfortable

Backpacking Light – The best backpacking advice I can give is be prepared, but travel light. As experienced backpackers will tell you, there are some basics of light and easy backpacking you need to know.

You’ll be surprised as to how little you actually need when traveling. 

I did half a year around the world using a single medium-sized backpack. It wasn’t a tramping pack, just a normal backpack of about 15 – 20 liters.

Of course if you’re traveling in winter you’ll need a bit more in the way of warm clothing, but still, I’m sure one backpack would do the job.

So when I started putting my kit together for my most recent trip, I was happy to know that everything I needed and wanted to take with me could fit into a backpack.

When setting out to pack light for backpacking, the size of the backpack matters.

Consider the kind of backpacking trip you are planning. Will you be backpacking across several countries sightseeing and staying in hostels? Or will you be backpacking in nature and spend your days hiking and making meals?

Other things to consider includes:

  • Where you are going
  • How long you will be there
  • Climate and weather
  • Are you sharing supplies with others

Also it’s essential to consider your physical fitness level.

A 65 liter backpack may suit your needs. Consider 90 liter backpack if you have the strength and endurance to haul it.

Backpacking Light

No matter your outdoor adventure, there are certain things you will need. But remember, every piece of gear you bring adds weight to your pack.

Your pair of hiking boots will be among your heavier items but you’ll be wearing those along with a pair of hiking socks. 

This list of backpacking essentials includes:

  • Water bottle 
  • Extra water
  • Water filter
  • Rain gear
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Extra pair of wool hiking socks 
  • Travel toothbrush that folds, toothpaste
  • First aid kit
  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tree hammock, etc. for backpacking in the outdoors

You may want to bring a luxury item as well. This can be a deck of cards, a book, specialty camera, toilet paper, etc.

When you consider what is backpacking, it’s important to remember everything must serve a purpose. Be it a long journey or a short one — from my experience of traveling over the years — only bring what is essential.

Essential tip for beginner backpackers: You’ll want to keep the heaviest items, such as a tent, closest to your back. A tent can be 15 pounds (7 kg) so be prepared.

Remember the essentials for easy backpacking.

It’s critical to protect against mosquitoes and to have a small first aid kit. Prioritize space for these.

Some people suggest you cut your toothbrush in half because even small things weigh and they add on.

Everything adds up. You can make lightweight traveling easy. 

How to travel light

Think practical to travel light. Ask yourself: ”Do I really NEED this?”

Bring two pairs of underwear. Wear one and back one. You can wash and leave one to dry while you are wearing the other one.

Make sure everything goes with everything else. If you are backpacking as a means for traveling and are less focused on nature backpacking, you’ll need to consider clothing more. All of your shirts have to match all of your bottoms.

If you have something that only goes with one other item, it’s not a good idea to bring it. Bring a mini-laptop (I recommend about 10 inch screen) with you. It might not sound very lightweight, but in the end it is.

You won’t have to bring any books, notebooks or travel guides. Instead you can download it all into your laptop and read them from there. Make sure it’s a light one though.

Nathan took a 15 inch laptop and 2 months later simply gave it away to the Red Cross – too much hassle!

If you are a smoker, now could be a good time to quit. Traveling is a great time to break the smoking habit because you will be out of your usual routines.

Don’t bring clothes made of heavy fabrics like jeans and wool.

Bring as light clothing as you can.

If you’re going to colder places, buy long johns and poly-pro tops instead of woolen jumpers and hoodies.

Bring stuff that can be used as several things, like a sari.

You can use it as a normal towel, a beach towel, dress, skirt, blanket, fold it to make a bag, etc. 10 Best Microfiber Towels – Quick Dry Towels

For guys, instead of bringing a pair of shorts AND a pair of board shorts, try to look for a pair of board shorts that look just like normal shorts (or as close as it can get).

Don’t bring anything white, since you don’t bring many clothes you’re going to use the ones you have a lot.

White clothing will need to be washed more often than dark and colored fabrics.

Backpacking Light tips

There are some basics of backpacking light. The most important is to think if you really need the item. 

The first few weeks were upsetting as I tried to pack my gear in my backpack when we left to go to a new place (which was nearly everyday).

And since we basically walked everywhere (for hours every day) with a 7 kg tent, we started hunching and our backs were really hurting.

It didn’t take us long to realize that we couldn’t continue like this.

I remember how tough it was at first to throw something out – I always had 100 reasons to keep every small item!

But the thought of carrying that backpack around for a year like that was just unbearable, so I had to get rid of my ego and think practical.

It’s actually a really good ‘spiritual practice,’ learning how to get rid of the ego’s “want” for everything.

I started asking myself:

Do I REALLY need this?

After that, every time we went to pack our bags we threw something out, and never would we buy something new without throwing away at least one item.

The more you discard or donate, the more you understand how little you REALLY need.

I disposed of 90% of my belongings (i.e gave it away to hostels and second hand shops) but I just didn’t have the guts to give my NEW backpack away, instead I sort of folded it in half since there was basically nothing left inside.

And one of the biggest benefits of traveling light?

No checked luggage!

Whilst the other travelers were still waiting for their 20kg backpacks and suitcases to appear on the airport baggage claim, I had already cleared customs and was out of the airport.

The weight of my backpack was 7.2 kg before leaving Stockholm, which included a bit of extra food for the stopovers at the various airports, which saved a lot of money!

I always enjoy the reactions from the check-in clerks when they realize the destination of my flight (over 20,000km from the point of origin) and my answer to their question of “How many checked bags do you have, sir?” is “None.”

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18 thoughts on “Backpacking Light – Smart, Efficient and Comfortable”

  1. That's some awesome tips guys. I've had the whole packing light idea in my head from the start. I am however yet to buy a pack and see how I go. I can see it being a bit of a wake up to how much stuff I will really need.
    My recent post Australia Day

  2. That's some awesome tips guys. I've had the whole packing light idea in my head from the start. I am however yet to buy a pack and see how I go. I can see it being a bit of a wake up to how much stuff I will really need.
    My recent post Australia Day

  3. Thanks Chris – yeah you never really KNOW how much stuff you will need to take on your trip until you have left 🙂

    These days all I take is a 35L backpack, even now when I moved to Switzerland for the winter – life is so much easier with having no check-in bags or having to carry around 60-70L packs all day long!

    We will be sharing more info about exactly what we bring along with us in a series of future blogs.

    When are you planning on leaving Australia and head to Europe?

  4. Thanks Chris – yeah you never really KNOW how much stuff you will need to take on your trip until you have left 🙂

    These days all I take is a 35L backpack, even now when I moved to Switzerland for the winter – life is so much easier with having no check-in bags or having to carry around 60-70L packs all day long!

    We will be sharing more info about exactly what we bring along with us in a series of future blogs.

    When are you planning on leaving Australia and head to Europe?

  5. That's the problem huh never knowing what you need till after your gone. I think I'll look at something between 40 and 60L anything more is defiantly going to be overkill. I'm only spending 2-3 months around Europe before heading to the UK for work anyway.

    At this stage the target is sometime in April as I need to fly back to Aus for my bro's wedding in October. I debated on waiting till after the wedding but I couldn't do it. The trip has been planned for too long to prolong the suffering any longer 🙂
    My recent post Australia Day

  6. That's the problem huh never knowing what you need till after your gone. I think I'll look at something between 40 and 60L anything more is defiantly going to be overkill. I'm only spending 2-3 months around Europe before heading to the UK for work anyway.

    At this stage the target is sometime in April as I need to fly back to Aus for my bro's wedding in October. I debated on waiting till after the wedding but I couldn't do it. The trip has been planned for too long to prolong the suffering any longer 🙂
    My recent post Australia Day

  7. A small backpack and rolling up clothes instead of folding them helps. I also tie my extra walking shoes to the backpack straps it save on space.

  8. A small backpack and rolling up clothes instead of folding them helps. I also tie my extra walking shoes to the backpack straps it save on space.

  9. Yeah exactly. sounds like you got a great plan then! I think 2-3 months around Europe is going to give you a great idea about the place, and see some amazing things 🙂

  10. Yeah exactly. sounds like you got a great plan then! I think 2-3 months around Europe is going to give you a great idea about the place, and see some amazing things 🙂

  11. Good advice. I travelled for a total of five months in 05/06…longest trip though was only three months, was such a pain having a heavy bag…travelling again in two months and definately travelling light. By the time I came home I had a heavy backpack, small front pack, duty free bag, laptop bag and a snowboard!

  12. If you're asking if you really need it you don't need it and if you're wrong you can always buy it there 🙂

  13. hai, really nice blog and give me a new perspective of what should be in my bagpack when i travel. oh..by the way, i think you mean a Sarong..not a sari. Sari is an Indian traditional costume that is 4-9 metres in length. Dont think you will be using that for towel.

  14. Hey Jy! Haha oops, thanks for the correction, yes you're right it's a Sarong I'm talking about! I'm glad it helped you out!

  15. Great sum up Ayngelina, very true! Yeah, usually you can find most things everywhere in the world – luckily! 😉

  16. Hi Steven! Wow, a snowboard?! Yeah having a heavy bag really affects your travels, good choice going lighter this time 🙂

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