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Travel Hacking: How To Travel With Just A Backpack


Backpacking. Photo courtesy of Matt Matches.

One question I often get asked is how I can possibly fit all my necessities for three months of traveling into just a backpack. The truth is it isn’t that difficult, as long as you know a few travel tips.

Choose The Right Backpack

Choosing a backpack for the first time can be daunting. Should you get panel loading or top-loading? Internal or external frame? How about size? What extra features are important? While most of those are important decisions in terms of convenience, when trying to pack as little as possible make sure your pack has as many pockets and compartments as possible. This will help you stay organized and eliminate the need to bring extra storage bags. It also helps compartmentalize what you’ll really need. For example, one pocket may be dedicated to toiletries, another to under garments, another to important documents and another to small shirts you can roll up small. Personally, I usually backpack for three months at a time and use a 55 liter bag, which includes multi-season trips.

Realize You Don’t Need As Much As You Think You Do

When packing, it’s hard not to constantly be thinking things like “But, what if I meet a prince and he invites me to a ball?” or “I’m invited to have lunch with the queen.” 

While I’m half-kidding, it’s easy to get carried away when it comes to possible clothing scenarios. The truth is most people will be able to tell you’re backpacking and will cut you slack for not wearing heels to the nightclub or having a new shirt to wear to dinner every night. Be reasonable, and think about necessities. If you’ll be visiting many religious sites, stick with more conservative clothing and try to choose items you can wear during the day and at night. If you’ll be going to a laid-back island, leave the formal wear at home and stick with casual pieces. 

Instead of bringing clothing for warm days and chilly nights, pack a long-sleeve button up shirt you can put over your t-shirt when it gets cold. It can also be helpful to choose a color combination and stick with it so you can mix-and-match your clothes instead of bringing 20 different outfits.

Downsize Items When Possible

I love finding travel items that help to save space. For example, instead of packing an ordinary toothbrush, I bring a foldable one. Additionally, one of my favorite travel products is the Lush Godiva Solid Shampoo Bar. It’s moisturizing, so you won’t need to bring conditioner, and allows you to bring just one small bar instead of two bottles of product. Remember, in terms of toiletries you don’t need to pack enough for the whole trip. Just bring enough for a few days and purchase extra toothpaste, floss and sunscreen along the way. In terms of clothing, warm but thin pieces like SmartWool can eliminate the need for baggy sweatshirts or coats, while opting for hiking sneakers instead of large boots will allow you to use your shoes for both active pursuits and leisurely strolls through the city.

 If you really feel the need to pack more than space will allow, invest in some space saver bags. These compress contents and help you fit twice as much luggage in your backpack. Do you have any packing tips to add? Please share in the comments below!
Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

I'm a conscious solo traveler on a mission to take you beyond the guidebook to inspire you to live your best life through travel. Come join me!

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