How to pack light to travel light

Kathmandu ambassadors Alesha and Jarryd are professional photographers, writers and founders of adventure travel blog NOMADasaurus. They’ve been exploring the world together since 2008, searching for culture and adventure in off-the-beaten-path destinations.

When you can list your residential address as the airport and have raced through Tokyo Station too many times to count, packing light can save a trip. Ever been on the London Tube at peak hour? You don’t want to be weighed down with a bag as big as a baby elephant.

After more than a decade on the road, we’ve managed to get packing light down to an art form. Here are some of our best tips for how to travel light with the right gear.

How to pack light 101: your bag choice

When you’re shopping for a pack or bag to take travelling, it’s easy to get caught up with the idea that you’ll need the biggest one possible to fit all your stuff. But if you buy yourself a 70L backpack, you are going to throw extra things in there because you have the room.

Always go for the smallest bag you genuinely need. Even if you’re travelling for months at a time in varying climates, you really shouldn’t need much more than a 38L carry-on bag. It all comes down to knowing what to pack so that you can pack light, which we’ll talk about it in the next section.

Having a smaller bag is also so much more convenient than a giant suitcase or backpack. You’ll be lighter on your feet, helping you to dash through LAX for that last-minute flight. Smaller bags fit in overhead compartments on planes or at your feet in buses, and will save you time and money in the long run.

Ever gotten off a plane and known that you don’t have to wait for your luggage to arrive down the baggage carousel? That is a feeling as sweet as Manuka honey.

Woman hiking with blue backpackWoman hiking with blue backpack

You’re not moving house

You do not need to take every piece of clothing you own with you. As a general rule of thumb for travelling light, lay out everything you think you need for your trip, then halve it.

The trick with packing light is to only bring a very small selection of clothes that can be used for multiple purposes. Pants that can be turned into shorts, hiking boots that look smart and are lightweight and shirts that look good both on the trail and in the bars are essential.

Remember, you can buy just about anything you’d ever need while you’re on the road. Don’t stress about leaving something behind. It’s better to buy one thing you forgot while you’re travelling than have five just-in-case items that you lug around everywhere and never use.

Do as the merino do

Now that you’ve narrowed down your packing list to only include a handful of clothes, it’s time to invest in the absolute best quality material for travelling – merino wool.

Merino wool clothing is durable, lightweight, quick-drying, a great regulator for body temperature and doesn’t hold body odour. For those who want to travel light, these features are invaluable.

Being quick-drying means you can take just a couple of pairs of t-shirts, socks and underwear in your bag, handwash them in the evenings, hang them in your hotel room and wear them the next day. You can spend all day walking around a city and still go out for dinner in the same clothes that night, not being concerned that you smell. And because they breathe as well as keeping you warm, you’ll be comfortable in all climates.

Corespun merino wool clothing isn’t the cheapest stuff on the market, but you only need a few items and they’ll last.

Pack light with the right bag...