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Packing Light - Packing Right

Photo credit: Nomad Traveler

By Mark Laiosa

Your destination's climate and cultures, as well as your planned activities will make up the foundation of your packing list.  It will also play a key role in which bag you choose to pack; yes, bag, singular. A water repellent backpack is durable and available in a variety of styles. It will last longer than a hard-sided wheelie caroming over jagged rocks. Combo wheel/backpack models do exist, but packing any bag 75-80% full will reduce the wear and tear. Leaving extra space will provide room for items collected along the way.

What does your itinerary look like? Will you be in one place for a while, or are you moving from town to town?

A one destination trip is tempting to pack more, maybe an extra pair or two of undergarments and socks. If you are constantly on the move, pack light and enjoy the freedom. Either way, a good rule of thumb to follow is: if you think you might need it, leave it. You can purchase almost anything of necessity abroad, and making a trip to pick up such items might even turn into a fun experience

Photo credit: Clare Hancock


Hand wash clothing as needed. A twelve foot-long thin PVC laundry line is versatile for drying clothes or lashing items to the outside of your pack. There are also compact laundry bags that make washing easier.


When bags pack themselves from Immersion Travel on Vimeo.



Minimal is best for your body and mind. Less to haul, less to lose. There are packing organizers and compression cubes on the market that many travelers like to use. Light as they are, they add weight. Consider rolling your clothing and placing them in clear plastic bags, squeeze the air out, and secure with rubber bands. Bring an extra bag or two and extra rubber bands. Be sure to bring all bags and rubber bands home with you. Most countries don’t have systems in place to recycle or dispose of waste properly.

What about wrinkles? Wrinkle-free and non-iron clothing are usually coated with resins or formaldehyde. Instead, go with cotton. When you first arrive at a place, hang up your clothing and steam your day’s outfit in the shower (if possible) each morning. This will take care of most wrinkles. In colder climates layer your clothing and wear wool, which has the added benefit of being water repellent.

If you are visiting a destination that is religious, do your research about cultural etiquette and plan accordingly. Some places require head covering for women and modest body coverage for everyone.

Photo credit: Nomad Traveler

What are you standing in?

Footwear is as personal as your choice of partners. Though you are packing light, select one pair that will be appropriate for your trip. The right combination of socks and footwear that can take the added weight and the expansion of your feet will keep you buoyant. At the end of the day, give yourself or your partner a treat, a foot massage. Thin flip flops are also very handy to have, especially if you’ll be using community showers.

Here's a random collection of items that have more than one use: Socks as mittens; calf-length socks as a neck warmer; and swimwear as undergarments. Shawls and bandanas also have many uses.


Before you go

A beta-trip for a better trip

Take your packed bag along with you for the day, wearing the outfit and shoes you are planning on wearing more often. Or visit nearby friends for a weekend and see what works best or needs improvement. Is your bag to clumsy? Is your backpack balanced and comfortable? How are your feet? Fine-tune your kit at the end of the day.


Here’s a packing list to get you on your way:


  1. Four pairs of pants and shirts (quick dry clothing is best)
  2. Three pairs of undershirts
  3. Six to eight pairs of undergarments and socks
  4. Two sweaters or secondary layers
  5. Two pairs of flip flops
  6. Hat for appropriate climate


  1. A toothbrushes
  2. One small bottle of tooth cleaning powder
  3. Two deoderant sticks
  4. Bio degradable/Eco-friendly sunscreen
  5. Dental floss
  6. Glasses


  1. Copy of passport photo page and contact information in your bag
  2. Portable charger – used to draw power from the grid and then charge your device. Handy in areas where there can be fluctuations in power that might damage to your devices. There are also solar powered chargers that work as well.
  3. Download guidebooks and maps to your personal device, saving space and weight
  4. Small note book or pad and pen or two
  5. And if you've forgotten an item, shop where the locals go!


One last tip

Snap a photo of your checked bag. It will make the recovery of a lost bag easier, but then again, if you’re traveling light with a carry-on, you’ll get a head start on your adventure while others are waiting at the luggage carousel.

Travel well, travel light! Mark

Mark Laiosa has traveled through Asia for over a month with a very small backpack and a big smile.

Photos courtesy of Nomad Traveler.

June 1, 2017

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