Halfway through our first trip around the world, we found two lightweight 30 liter Quechua backpacks that weighed a mere 510 grams each and were only slightly taller than school backpacks, with minimal buckles and pockets.
They were exactly what we needed to pack as much as possible without going over the weight limit many airlines place on the first free carry-on bag.
Previously we had been traveling with a 40 liter Patagonia pack and a carry-on suitcase, which we were paying for on non-international flights. We figured we could simply buy new clothes with all the baggage fees we’d save.
Three years and three long trips later, we’ve learned how to fit our whole lives into 30 liters each.
What He Packs
T-shirts, shorts, long sleeve t-shirt, button down shirt, socks, gloves, underwear, leggings, an umbrella, headphones, flip flops, TOMS shoes, toothpaste, toothbrush, shave cream, a razor with extra cartridges, bug spray, SPF, cotton swabs, and an envelope of currencies (dollars, euros, and yuan).
What She Packs
T-shirts, shorts, long sleeve shirt or fleece, leggings, a dress or two, socks, underwear, flip flops, TOMS shoes, swimsuit, face moisturizer, toothbrush, floss, conditioner, comb, face towel, razor, manicure kit, vitamins, MacBook, camera, universal charger, and a knife sharpener (my most handy tool for dull Airbnb knives).
Because I (Lu) am the smaller person, my clothes take up less space so I pack more of the communal items.
Optimizing our packing list has become a game of sorts. We’re always evaluating how to lighten our load even more. For example, I recently decided to ditch the case for my manicure kit and simply use a zip lock bag. Aaron has experimented with Uniqlo’s AIRism line, which makes ultra lightweight t-shirts, but ultimately went back to cotton. We shared one computer on our most recent trip, but I’m advocating for him to bring his own laptop next time. It’s all trial, error, and personal preference.
On travel days we wear our jeans, down jackets, waterproof shells, and sneakers, since these are our bulkiest items. We carry our jackets if it’s too hot, but usually we fly and it’s pretty cold on the plane. Phones, passports, and credit cards go into zipped jacket pockets or my fannypack.
We have to do laundry frequently, but other than that, we’ve never felt inconvenienced or deprived. We quickly discovered that everything we need is out there in the world. We’ve purchased dresses, sweatshirts, hats, sneakers, pants, antibiotics, laundry detergent, and yoga mats while traveling.
We’ve also discovered that we don’t need any speciality gear. We hiked in New Zealand and Patagonia without hiking boots or poles, and our backpacks doubled nicely as hiking daypacks.
There are many merits to traveling this light. We can walk long distances in these packs if we need to, and quickly too. We don’t have to worry about loss or theft because we never have to part with our bags. Packing and unpacking is a cinch, especially with packing cubes, and on travel days, we only have to remember “phone, passport, computer, camera.” Everything else is replaceable.
It has simplified our lifestyle and become our go-to for long trips where we move around a lot. Try it out – you might find you can experience the world just as well (or even better!) with a lighter bag.