Packing light is one of those topics we keep coming back to, probably because it’s one of the most important aspects of independent travel. Plus, it’s the number-one complaint that we hear from people: they’ve packed too much and have to carry it. Doing laundry is also important, especially when you’ve packed light and don’t have a lot of clothing options.

To listen, hit play below or find episode 117 in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud:

What is light?

Keep it to one reasonably small bag, and limit the weight to under 15kg. Your back will thank you and you won’t get hit with excess luggage fees on budget flights. If you can fit all you need in a carry-on bag, that’s even better – but you will have to leave the pocket knife behind.

Packing advice from twitter

@Cruisincal Lay everything on bed. Everything!! Then pack half the clothes and twice the money !!

@Uptake It isn’t packing light but an umbrella is always a great idea.

@Umarket Re: packing tips. Silk longjohns – super thin, light & warm. Buy scarf & warm sweater when you get to cold climate. @Nerdseyeview adds: i pack merino wool long underwear. but yes.

@Mygreenflight First, get the bag or backpack you will be happy to carry a long way – and only take what will fit into that

@Nerdseyeview i’m a pretty light traveler. layers, you know. but i still struggle with shoes. @kag2u tells me flipflops don’t count

@Collazoprojects I’m with @nerdseyeview on shoes: The fewer pairs, the better. Super bulky in any bag; best to buy on location, if need be.

@GuynGirlTravels Wish we could help – Girl is world’s worst packer – brings entire contents of bathroom and closet on vacas!

Basic packing list?

Check out episode 83 for a comprehensive clothing list, and add a first-aid kit, a pocket knife, toiletries, a torch and tech gear as necessary. There are many many packing lists out there, but it’s quite a good idea to make your own and then attack it ruthlessly. You could try limiting yourself to a certain weight – some people weigh each item individually and assess its usefulness versus how heavy it is. Or limit yourself to a certain number of items. Either way, cut down on everything – sort into categories and remove one or more item from each – toiletries, clothes, technology … remember, the less stuff, the better.


Hotel laundries generally charge more than budget travellers are willing to pay for, but there are other options. Head to the laundromat or use the hostel laundry for a fun-filled rainy day in.

If you’re travelling alone, you might not be able to make up a full load of washing, or you’ll run out of undies before it’s worth using a machine. So then, hand-washing is the solution. Wash a pair of socks or undies in the shower with you on a daily basis, and wash all other items in the sink. Use a universal plug, a rubber ball, blu-tack or a sock to plug the sink, and wash with your shampoo or soap. You can get specialised hand-washing liquid, but it’s not really worth having another item to carry around.

To dry, hang up your travel clothesline, or bit of string and allow to drip-dry after a bit of wringing out. Don’t put things directly on heaters if you can avoid it because of the risk of them catching on fire. Some hostels have a drying room, so make use of that if available.

Links from Twitter

To listen, hit play above or check in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

Your thoughts on "How to pack light and smell sweet podcast"

  • Superthin merino (like Icebreaker) is great in hot or cold climates. It even keeps my usually stinky boyfriend sweet smelling!

    on August 14, 2009 at 11:15 pm Reply
  • Guy says: Yes, I carry Girl's bags! She has enough to carry in her pocketbook! Girl says: Thank you Guy - you are my hulk. You spoil me so! LOL!

    on August 15, 2009 at 8:40 am Reply
  • Flip flops count when you're carrying them around on your back. (That quote was in reference to our recent roadtrip when Pam was fretting over whether she should add an extra pair of shoes in our huge minivan.) When I travel, I take fancier flip flops that can double as evening wear and then another pair for everyday wearing. And they have to be flat. Throw in some sneakers for hardcore walking days and that's it. Dr. Bronners (especially Sal Suds) is my go to for doing laundry on the road (and at home.)

    on August 15, 2009 at 8:49 am Reply
  • Thanks for dropping by everyone! @Roxane I keep trying to buy Icebreaker then going with a cheaper no-brand merino version. It's the best, but it's priced that way too :) Two pairs of my three pairs of socks are now Smartwool which is another branded merino-product manufacturer. They're excellent and help even my feet not to stink. @Guy and Girl Remind me never to go hiking with you two! Although if guy will carry all my gear... @Kelly Good call; thanks for the recommendations. We've found we overpack our Spaceship while we've been travelling around NZ. It's quite nice to have a van that you can chuck extra gear into. I've never heard of Dr. Bronners/Sal Suds - is it a US soap brand?

    on August 15, 2009 at 11:59 am Reply
  • Craig & Linda - Thanks for the mention. Although we have been twitter pals for quite a while I am embarrassed to say that this is the first time I've listened to your podcast! I don't make it a point to follow many podcasts but after checking out the past two episodes I have definitely subscribed in iTunes and look forward to keeping up with you guys. Keep up the great work! -Jeff

    on August 16, 2009 at 6:04 pm Reply
  • Hey Jeff, glad to hear it's been a pleasant introduction to the genre. Cheers - and thanks again for your contribution.

    on August 16, 2009 at 7:25 pm Reply
  • Just found this interesting packing resource. Helps you create a list of what to pack. Do not know if I agree with all of the results, but thought I would pass it along.

    on October 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm Reply
  • Sorry, pressed the wrong button. Here is the link

    on October 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm Reply
    • Thanks Mark, looks good (and great to have you drop by!).

      on October 12, 2009 at 6:04 pm Reply
  • i have switched from icebreaker to this american made merino clothing company called IBEX. super soft and cheaper than icebreaker. imo, ibex merino wool is of better quality. i also wear merino wool undergarment both in the winter and in the heat of the summer. kept me cool in the heat and warm in the cold.

    on June 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm Reply
  • Hi Theo, thanks for the heads up. We'll keep an eye out for it.

    on June 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm Reply

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