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When is 'lightweight travel' not lightweight?

Travel Forums General Talk When is 'lightweight travel' not lightweight?

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1. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

A couple of recent threads prompt me to ask the question of when is 'lightweight travel' not lightweight?

Most people will usually say that they try to travel as light as possible and then go on to pack everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. The two commonest mistakes that travellers make are trying to see/do too much in too little time and packing too much. Just as most then go on to try to see/do too much, most go on to pack too much.

To travel 'light', you first have to define just what 'lightweight' in terms of travel is. If I use the most liberal definition I can imagine, it is a maximum of around 25lbs/11kg. in my mind. If I define it by what I personally accept as lightweight then it is 15lbs./7kg. maximum. If I define it by what I personally have as my goal, then it is 11lbs/5kg. total including the weight of the bag itself.

A fairly recent statistically reliable survey found the average baggage weight per passenger was 17kg./ 37.5lbs. That is a long way from any of my definitions of lightweight and yet it is the actual average being recommended as the weight to use when calculating passenger/baggage weight loads for flights!

So if that is the average then clearly, the majority of passengers are travelling HEAVY.

IF someone wants to 'travel light', then clearly, doing what they have always done is not working. First, you have to define 'light' and then you have to learn how to achieve that weight goal. It isn't enough to simply say, 'I pack as light as I can', you have to actually WEIGH things before you pack them.

People often think that to pack light it means you must do without something. That isn't true. Everyone has different things they determine they NEED to take. A person interested in photography takes a camera for example while another person won't leave home without his hiking boots. You may need to take your hair straightener or resign yourself to frizzy hair every day. No one wants to have a 'bad hair day' when on their vacation and it is unreasonable and unnecessary to ask them to do so.

So how do you reconcile taking what YOU decide you NEED and still pack light? The answer is simple. You find the lightest weight example of each item you decide you need to take. A camera can weight 2lbs. or 3lbs. Hiking boots can weigh 4lbs. or 2lbs. Even for a pair of hair straighteners there is the LIGHTEST weight example made. But the ONLY way you will end up with that lightest weight anything is by comparing weights. You can say, 'I bought a lightweight rainjacket. I know it's lightweight because it says so on the label.' That's not good enough. A rainjacket can weigh anything from 3lbs. down to 7 ozs. Just because you bought one that weighs 14ozs. and is advertised as a 'lightweight rainjacket' does not mean there isn't a lighter weight one out there just as easily available to you.

Another way to pack light is to look for multiple use items. One of my favourites in that category is a Buff. If you don't know what a Buff is have a look here.
It's really just a much smarter version of the old bandana. But it's also much more than just headwear. It can be used for anything you could think of using any piece of cloth for. To blow your nose in, to bandage a wound, to rob a bank, to dry yourself after a shower. The number of pieces of headwear it replaces is just the tip of the iceberg.

Another favourite of mine is Camp Soap. See here:
It will wash anything you want to wash and replace all washing products you would carry. Shampoo, hand/face soap, dish soap, laundry soap. What's more, it is concentrated which really does mean you only need a few drops at a time. A 4oz bottle will last me nearly 3 months of washing, me, my hair and my clothes. How much weight do you carry in shampoo and other washing products when you travel?

Next in how to pack light is about numbers. If you go on a 2 week beach holiday where you fly to the destination, take a cab to the hotel and unpack till you reverse the process and fly home, then you don't need to pack light. You can take 14 t-shirts, 14 pair of underwear, 6 bathing suits, etc. etc. But if you are actually going to be travelling around and moving from place to place, then numbers become more important. It's also true that the longer you are going to travel for, the more important they become.

No one is going to pack 90 t-shirts for a 3 month trip obviously. What happens is you have to WASH stuff. So if you are going beyond that 2 week with a t-shirt for every day type of travel at all, then what number should you pack? Funnily enough, someone who will travel for a longer period soon learns that the answer is to pack as few as you can. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that packing and therefore moving around with 7 rather than 14 t-shirts and less of everything else as well, will mean you travel lighter than with a higher number of each. But why 7 instead of 14? Why not 5? What is the lowest number you could get by with? The answer is THREE.

There is a saying for packing in regards to this. The saying is, 'one to wear, one to wash, one to spare.' Just as you spend 5 minutes each night brushing your teeth and since it is a habit, don't even notice you are spending 5 minutes doing it every night, you can get into the same habit when it comes to washing your socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc. each night. This is also when the smart thing to do is to buy clothing that is made from fast drying materials. Taking 7 pair of underwear on a 3 month trip won't mean you do less washing either. Washing one pair a night takes no more time than washing 7 pair once a week, in total. It still takes you the same amount of time to hand wash each pair. So learn to use the 'Rule of 3s' for packing. Whether for 3 days or 3 months, it remains the same. One to wear, one to wash, one to spare.

Three simple things to do to pack light is all it really takes.

1. Weigh every item and find the lightest weight example.
2. Use multiple use items wherever you can.
3. Pack in 3s for clothing.

2. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 958 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

For me the most useful marker for "light" means carry-on.

I hate checking bags. Having them lost or damaged, as well as the wait at reclaim. My days of checking bags are pretty much over, and I've done RTW with carry-on with no difficulty.

Where I differ from your approach is I don't weigh things, but I do choose lighter and compact options. I keep toiletries liquids to a minimum and in small containers under the 100ml limit. 15ml of shave oil lasts me months.

The Threes thing works for undies and socks but I find it unnecessary for outer garments. I pack a pair of jeans (my idea of comfortable ranging from casual to smart) and a pair of zipoffs which dry quickly; I don't get the need for a 3rd spare set. Similarly tops - a t-shirt, a smart/casual shirt, and a hiking mesh top. For different uses rather than being 3 rotations.

Footwear is a big space hog as well as being heavy. I try to get by with just a pair of lightweight hiking trainer-boots , and this is usually successful. I failed totally last xmas though - trip to Oz including hiking gear for tassie, black shoes for dinners on a cruise ship, and reef shoes for snorkeling in Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

All-up my travel pack weighs in at 5-6kg. My bugbear is the lack of small travel packs to suit this - I use an old discontinued Eagle Creek one and take a fold-up flimsy daypack inside it.

3. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

An another thread you referred to an Osprey 55L with zip-off day pack(an abomination) Andyf. It seems you are trying to move in the right direction.

While it isn't my favourite travelpack, Eagle Creek do make one now that is perhaps worth looking at to see if suits someone's personal preferences. That is the Eagle Creek Systems Go Duffel Pack 35L (the smaller size you want).
The hip belt tucks away and the shoulder straps detach rather than everything being zipped away behind a panel. It doesn't have multiple compartments for organizing (they want people to buy their packing cubes). The suspension system seems adequate for most uses but not for all day, every day. carrying on your back like the suspension on an Osprey Farpoint 40. The pack's weight is good. It's a contender perhaps for some people.

One drawback that could be more serious is that it only comes in one size which means you either get lucky with fit or you have a pack that does not fit you well. But then again, that matters most if you will carry it on your back a lot.

I have to say that if you insist on not weighing things, while moving in the right direction by getting rid of the 55L pack, you could still move more by weighing everything. Jeans for example are an absolute no no for lightweight travel. They are simply too heavy and slow to dry. However, while I wouldn't pack a pair, I do also accept that my NEEDS are not everyone's needs. If you have some psychological 'need' or attachment to jeans then so be it. I would then try to find a way to reduce weight somewhere else to make up for that. But to do so I would HAVE to weigh things wouldn't I. Maybe cut your rain jacket weight in half. The Marmot Mica Packable rain jacket weighs only 7oz.
So go weigh your current rain jacket and see how much weight you could shave off.

4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 958 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I think you're confused OldPro. I've never had an Osprey 55L, I've used a 35L pack for years. So I'm not moving in "the right direction" - a bit of a judgemental attitude there?

A pair of smart jeans fill my need for something smarter than hiking pants for some of places I go.

I do have a Montane jacket that's very light but for my needs those kind of things are often too flimsy. I use a Berghaus jacket that's very durable. Too thin and the waterproofing lasts two minutes when it's being stuffed in a pack all the time. Out of interest I just weighed it - 17oz which I'm perfectly happy with given what I demand of it.

5. Posted by CheersT (Inactive 2578 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

My packing pretty much mimics Andy. I've never weighed anything in my life, but I buy high-end clothing that's light/durable, easy to wash, etc. I've never understood the need for a third item of the same thing either, two is plenty and lots of time one works just fine. So long as it all easily fits into carry-on sized luggage with lots of room left over then I'm happy. It has been weighed a zillion times at airports and I've never been over.

I don't do any zip-off pants or "backpacker uniform" stuff though, many times I'm in situations where I have to look sharp so I need to cover that base too.

Lastly, I do check my carry-on sized backpack every now and then because depending on the destination I might have stuff with me that won't make it through carry-on security. For me the carry-on size/weight is more important once I arrive because it makes it soooooo much easier to get from one place to the next, especially when you're using one of the countless options for off-the-beaten-path local transport.

Different strokes, everyone's needs are different.


6. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

There is no actual 'need' for anything other than the clothes on your back, an airline ticket, passport and a couple of credit cards. However, most people would balk at that unless their name was Jack Reacher (Google him if the reference isn't familiar).

The Rule of 3's is intended to apply to any item YOU decide you NEED multiples of. If you're happy with one pair of pants, so be it. How about one pair of socks? Jack Reacher does it with one pair after all and one pair of underwear even. Three simply makes some sense based on 'one to wear, one to wash and one to spare'.

As for 'smart jeans' or 'looking sharp', please don't give 'smart jean's or a suit the credit for how you are perceived. As the saying goes, 'clothes don't make the man(or woman).' If Brad Pitt walks into a place in a dirty t-shirt and cutoff jeans, he's still Brad Pitt and will be treated accordingly. I've yet to be refused entry in a Michelin starred restaurant in whatever I chose to wear.

I did however get refused entry into Harry's Bar in Venice once when wearing shorts. I went out, zipped-on the legs and walked back in. Try that change in the street with ordinary shorts and a pair of jeans in your daypack. You do carry them in your daypack in case you need long pants to get in somewhere right? You know, to 'look sharp' and 'cover that base' if it comes up right? I can see you guys taking off your shorts and putting on jeans or a suit that you whip out of your daypack. Yup, it ain't a pretty picture.

While zip-offs may not be the most fashionable item to wear, they are very practical. Nor are all zip-off pants created equal, just like most things. They don't all have bulky zipper lines and cargo pockets you know.

You can bow to fashion or you can ignore it. The funny thing is that so often those who ignore it end up starting a new fashion trend. Remember when wearing jeans with a sports jacket or suit jacket would have been considered a complete faux pas? Now, everyone does it in all the most fashionable places. LOL

7. Posted by CheersT (Inactive 2578 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

You can try to spin zip-off pants anyway you like, but sometimes I'm in situations where more upscale attire is required, period. It has nothing whatsoever to do with bowing to fashion and everything to do with showing respect in certain circumstances.

I'm glad your zip-off pants work for you, but my travel requirements are different than yours.

Different strokes.


Post 8 was removed by a moderator
9. Posted by CheersT (Inactive 2578 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I can only imagine the tantrum that must have been at Reply #8, LOL.


10. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Yes I know you feel the need to pack a suit for 'crashing Embassy parties' Terry. You've trotted out that line enough times on travel forums. But not everyone finds "upscale attire is required, period" as you put it. Some people get invited to Embassy parties regardless of what they wear and don't need to 'crash' them. They can also walk into a lot of other places where the 'norm' is 'upscale attire' and yet they are not turned away in 'backpacker uniform' as you call it.

What differs in our travel requirements is that you apparently need to carry a suit while I don't. I'm glad your suit works for you, but my travel requirements are different than yours.