Packing light for an active, varied, round-the-world trip

I can fit all of my possessions for this round-the-world trip in one carry-on. Well, that is, if I cheat a little. My goal has always been to pack light enough to meet Ryanair’s cabin requirements of one cabin bag with the maximum dimensions of 55 by 40 by 20 centimeters.

Ryanair says the weight limit for cabin bags is 10 kilograms, but I’ve never seen them check this. The airline seems to have eased up its rules, because now they’re also allowing one small bag of up to 35 by 20 by 20 centimeters (13.77 by 7.89 by 7.89 inches) per passenger. That’s totally doable, especially if you remember that the bag can be a little bigger than that, as long as you can actually smash it/fold it down to the right size if asked.

I have several goals with what I pack. One, keep myself warm, healthy and safe. Two, look good. Three, make my life as easy as possible as I travel. So I balance packing light with including enough comforts to sustain me. Here’s a partial list of what I packed for my round-the-world trip:

  1. Climbing harness, locking carabiner and belay device.
  2. Climbing shoes.
  3. Climbing shorts.
  4. Sports tank with built-in support, svelte enough for going out in.
  5. Reasonably quick-drying tshirt I won’t mind wearing a lot. Most blended tshirts fall into this category.
  6. Icebreaker cardigan, or other light jacket layer that resists odor and washes easily in bathroom sinks.
  7. Icebreaker travel clothes
    Visiting my little brother, wearing the pants my niece picked out and an Icebreaker shirt.

    Long-sleeved Icebreaker or similar multi-purpose long-wearing shirt >>>

  8. One pair of pants, appropriate for dancing, professional situations, and general sightseeing. In other words, they should be sleek and comfortable, with stretch. I allowed my three-year-old niece to go shopping with me and she advised me to buy this particular pair; as it turns out, she has impeccable taste.
  9. Light scarf.
  10. Five pairs of wool socks, differing weights, including one small enough that they don’t show over your chosen pair of shoes.
  11. Seven pairs of underwear, small and reasonably quick-drying (most women’s underwear seems to fall into this category, as long as it isn’t all cotton).
  12. One pair of flip-flops you can walk for miles in (mine are North Face).
  13. Two stretchy sundresses with built-in support (mine are from Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear).
  14. Two bathing suits.
  15. One travel towel/sarong.
  16. Tank top and stretchy shorts for sleeping; to double as streetwear in an emergency.
  17. One decent pair of sunglasses, polarized.
  18. Collapsible water bottle, such as those made by Platypus.
  19. Bandana and silicon earplugs, for sleeping.
  20. Digital SLR camera, and charger.
  21. Adapter. I researched what I’d need based on where I’m going.
  22. Laptop, cord.
  23. Some kind of laptop case that doubles as a collapsible day pack.
  24. Hard copy of my schedule, compiled into one master document and protected in a plastic sleeve.
  25. Simple first aid kit: band-aids and possibly moleskin, as well as cures for what commonly ails me.
  26. Vitamins (including fish oil and probiotics).
  27. Wet wipes.
  28. Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 1.48.10 PMToiletries. I go light here, but I’m bringing mosquito repellant, sunscreen and itch ointment. I’m also bringing silica hair powder, a volumizer that doubles as dry shampoo.
  29. Small notebook and two pens.
  30. Enough of the foreign currency to get me into the main city and out of the airport.
  31. Passport and some way to wear it under my clothes. Because I don’t like losing passports.
  32. I started out with ten Epic bars, ten Larabars, and my coconut macaroons with chocolate whey powder substituted for some of the melted chocolate. This is mostly to avoid eating overpriced airport food, and to have trustworthy, healthy snacks available.
  33. Ten or so teabags, assorted. Often, there’s hot water in a hotel or hostel, but it’s rare they have the kind of tea you want.

On the plane, I wore another Icebreaker shirt, comfortable jeans, a down jacket (doubles as a pillow) and Toms knock-offs in black. These canvas shoes are my new favorite traveling shoes — they’re minimalist and don’t offer a ton of support, but they’re very comfortable and they look decent in spite of being extremely inexpensive. And I’m kind of into minimalist shoes right now anyway.

As a sidenote, nobody is paying me to plug their products, or even offering free review material. I’ve just discovered that the brands I mention are excellent for traveling. As I’ve said before, good outdoor gear makes for the best-performing, most compact travel wear I’ve come across. It can be pricey, especially if it looks good, but I scour the sales on deal websites and physical stores — being size XS helps.

IMG_9457As for how to pack all this stuff into the small space allotted to you, that can be tricky. I took two thin plastic bags, the kind you use for produce in grocery stores, lined my (cleaned) climbing shoes with them, and then stuffed smaller clothing items into the lined shoes. I converted my clothes into tightly-rolled blocks and laid them like brickwork into the Tetris field of the larger, immobile objects. I used food bars to fill small spaces. I unlaced my climbing harness and strung it around the parameter of my suitcase. Basically, I was going for maximum density. I left enough space at the top for my laptop.

2 thoughts on “Packing light for an active, varied, round-the-world trip

    1. Yes, and it saves you money, especially if you’re going with discount airlines. Not to mention, it’s way easier to haul around on public transportation. Being lost with three large bags makes you feel like you’re losing your mind. Being lost with one small bag, well, that’s not all that bad.

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