Thursday 5 April 2012

Light Packing Revisited

Way back in May 2008 I wrote a blog post on light packing, listing the items I take with me on Lonely Planet assignments to Poland.

It's still one of the more popular posts on my blog, receiving many visits and comments.

Four years on, I'm planning to travel to Poland again and things have changed. Technology, in particular, has moved on and has allowed me to reduce my packing even more.

I still travel with cabin luggage only, stored in my trusty High Sierra backpack purchased in 2005 (pictured above, packed and ready to fly via Ryanair from PoznaƄ last year).

So it's time for an update. Here's what I'll be taking with me this year to Poland (with sidetrips to London, Stockholm and the eastern Czech Republic):

  • 3 shirts (2 t-shirts + 1 with a collar)
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 3 pairs of underwear
  • 2 pairs of trousers (1 jeans, 1 black)
  • 1 bathers
  • 1 fleecy top
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 woolly hat
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 pair of boots
  • iPad
  • Apple wireless keyboard
  • iPhone
  • Mophie Juice Pack battery case for the iPhone 
  • small tripod & Glif tripod stand for the iPhone
  • chargers for the above, plus an AU > Euro power adapter
  • headphones
  • folder with printouts of Lonely Planet text by city
  • clipboard
  • pens & 2 notepads
  • foldable bowl and fork/spoon
  • Crumpler satchel
  • toiletries
Of course, a fair few of these items will be travelling on my person rather than in the backpack.

So what's changed since 2008?

Threads and tech

The clothing is much the same, based on my "rule of three" - I've found it's the perfect mix for a late Polish spring, adaptable to hot humid days and cool chilly ones. My one indulgence is the pair of bathers, because I do just occasionally stay at a hotel with a swimming pool.

The tech is quite different. Out goes the Sony Vaio laptop, Olympus digital camera, Palm PDA and Nokia mobile phone; in comes the iPad, wireless keyboard, iPhone and Mophie battery case. Clearly that's a big reduction in weight, especially when you factor in the fewer leads and chargers required.

Paper goes digital

Physical books have completely disappeared too, present instead in digital form on the iPad and iPhone. Though I have been known to pick up the odd undemanding novel from the local bookshop chain EMPiK as I potter around Poland.

Unfortunately I still need printouts of the previous edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook I'm researching. I'd love to have all this on a waterproof tablet with a long battery charge, on which I could make quick marginal notes with a stylus. One day perhaps, as the tech matures.

Image reduction

Where's the camera, you might wonder? For years I've taken photos on a simple compact digital camera, and had plenty of them published. Now, with the camera of the iPhone 4S approaching the quality of that of my digital camera, I've decided to use that for my photography instead.

It's a bit of a leap and I'm aware it has limitations, but I trialled it recently on a week in Thailand and it was quite successful. The bonus of being able to automatically back up images via hotel wifi to iCloud each evening is an added incentive. It'll be interesting to see how it goes.

Bowl food = soul food

The other item that might raise eyebrows is the foldable bowl. It's a clever item you can buy from camping stores, a flat circular piece of plastic which magically folds into a usable bowl. It's for evenings when I'm completely exhausted and just want to eat something simple in my hotel room - I pick up some muesli and milk and use the bowl for them. Bliss.

What do you think, would this work for you or is it too restrictive? Do you have light packing tips you'd like to share?


  1. Fascinating that you have dropped your camera and are now using an iphone only. It's a leap of faith or technology I am not yet prepared to take, having just bought a new Canon and lenses.

    But what a reduction in weight that must bring!

  2. Linda - It's really just an experiment still, may prove to be an error. However... I've never had much focus (ha!) on photography and have only ever used a simple compact digital camera, so it doesn't seem that much of a leap. And the iPhone, being a small, powerful computer, has some very useful editing tools on it as well. We shall see...

  3. Hello! Very inspiring post; I've been reading up on traveling light as I'd really like to only travel with a carry-on + camera bag or if I can get it smaller, just a carry-on with another empty bag stuffed inside for later. Can you tell me which model the High Sierra backpack is?

    I am definitely going to try for the Rule of 3 next time I fly. My first and only time flying back in 2008 - I packed way too much. Thankfully I've learned a lot since then. Have you used the Rule of 3 for when traveling during colder seasons? How has that worked out?

  4. Sorry, don't have the model number handy but as I bought it in 2005 I imagine it's been superseded by now.

    I'm usually travelling in spring or autumn (fall), so need to consider cool weather, and the gear I list above has worked well with that. The key is the fleecy, which is brilliant at retaining heat but not bulky. Even in winter you could take the above, along with a heavier coat which you'd carry with you onto the plane.

    Good luck!

  5. Great blog, Tim, thanks for the tips. I'm trying to travel light more and more - love not having to pick up bags at the other end. On my recent Cambodia trip I managed it one way but had to buy a bag there to check-in on the way back, d'oh! Camera gear is increasingly hasslesome. Travel with a Canon DSLR and one lens only and no charger (just spare batteries, which weigh less) but considering going compact only sometimes. And leaving the devices at home sometimes too (though I miss my iPad when I do!). And wear the same clothes day after day :)

  6. Love this post which I stumbled upon through chance on Traveller. I do wish something like your list would exist for women. Yes I know it can be adapted, but I'd hate to have to start buying things at my destination because as the previous poster said wearing the same clothes all the time :-(

  7. My wife follows a similar routine. I think it depends a lot on what kind of travel you'll be doing (how formal the events etc), and how often you can get to a laundromat.