I’m heading to India for a month, traveling through the country using planes, trains, and automobiles. It’s a trip I’ve wanted to do now for many years. Timing wise, I would have preferred to do the trip at another time as it really cuts awkwardly into some of my goals and kills some momentum. But three of my best friends are going to be there at various times that I’m there, as well as a few other people who I haven’t seen in a while. I don’t know how many chances I’m going to get to Travel with friends like this, so I figure why not. Plus I could use the break as I have been working on overdrive for the last couple of months.
Anyway, I’m only packing a single carry-on backpack like I usually do. A friend asked me for some advice on how to do this so I figure I’d just write something up real quick. Here are some quick tips to help you accomplish this.
1. You need a good bag
You want a carry-on backpack and nothing bigger (I think this point is obvious). There are a ton of them out there as ultra-lite travel is a growing category. The Wirecutter even did a breakdown and analysis of the best carry-on backpacks. Getting a quality bag is worth paying extra for because it will last many years and follow you on many travel adventures. My bag, the Aviator from Timbuk2 (no longer available), has been through hell and back and still looks brand new. Before my last trip, I lost one of the female buckles. I walked into the Toronto Timbuk2 store and they replaced it free of charge before I headed to the airport. Thumbs up for awesome customer service.
2. You need good clothing
Good clothing is subjective, but there are some rules I follow. It must look good (that means none of those god awful pants that convert into shorts when you unzip the bottoms aka travel clothes), feel good, and have properties like anti-odour, anti-bacterial, wrinkle-resistant, quick-drying, strong, durable, light, temperature regulating, etc. So cotton and polyester are out, for example. Clothes made of materials such as merino wool, tencel, modal, and silver fibers are generally good candidates for travel clothing. With good clothing, you can Bring a single pair of comfortable pants that look good instead of 3 or 4 pairs that will stink after a single wear. When it comes to packing, your clothes will take up the most space so don’t take this lightly. Invest in good clothes.
3. Be prepared to lose it
If you bring it, be prepared to lose it. So things like expensive jewelry are out. Only bring the necessities, and be fully ready in your mind to have it rip, snap, snag, break, get stolen, soiled, burned, and shredded. I have lost count of the number of items I’ve lost over the years while traveling.
4. You don’t need to pack that
The best travel experiences and memories aren’t always comfortable. You have to change your mindset. If you’re female, you might not be able to bring your entire makeup kit. You’ll just have to get used to it. Every single item you have on your packing list must, must, MUST have a good reason to make the cut. Otherwise, you’ll end up bringing more than you need. That means no hair-dryer “just in case” the hotel doesn’t have one. A carry-on backpack is a great constraint to have – it will keep the number of items you can bring in check. If you bring a huge piece of luggage, you’ll just find ways to fill it up, no matter the size. Embrace the minimalist mindset – you’ll be happier with it.
5. Try to find travel-sized versions
A toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant are all things that come in travel sizes. Other things like pens, notebooks, nail clippers, and hand-sanitizer all come in tinier sizes. For liquids, you can only carry so much. Get the TSA travel-sized liquid tubes to put your favourite shampoo and other things into if you must. If it passes rule #4 (you don’t need to pack that) then see if you can get a tinier and lighter version of it.
6. Know where you’re going
Packing for a country that can go from rain to wind to sun and back again in a matter of minutes like Iceland will be slightly different than packing for a tropical island like Fiji. Clothes is the obvious thing that will be different. You’d also want to maybe bring an umbrella to Iceland but not Fiji, but you’d bring some bug spray to Fiji and not Iceland. Many things will stay the same, though. If you pack correctly, maybe only a handful of items will change and the rest will stay the same.
7. Get some good shoes
Shoes are a tough one. If you’re packing light, putting an extra pair of shoes into your carry-on can be tough. I generally bring only a single pair of shoes. For women who love their shoes, this might be very tough. Shoes should be comfortable and versatile enough to look good in a variety of outfits and situations. For men, a pair of chukkas, desert boots, or Tom’s classic can go a long way (but depends on #6, where you’re going). For women, I have no clue. Good luck.
8. Try to only bring items that have multiple uses
Because you are so constrained with what you can bring, the items you bring should have multiple uses whenever possible. That’s why things like travel pillows are out. They take up too much space and you only use them on long plane rides. That marginal increase in comfort on the plane ride isn’t worth lugging it around for a few weeks or more. This might make more sense with some examples. Below you’ll see my packing list and gear I’m bringing with me to India.
What I’m bringing to India
This is everything I’m taking in my Aviator carry-on backpack or wearing the day of travel. I haven’t finalized my packing list just yet (I’ll likely remove some items rather than add), but this will give you an idea of just how much stuff you can bring in a carry-on backpack.
1. 1 pair of shoes, the Nike Metcon 2. I got these on clearance during Boxing Week at the Nike Outlet. They look decent and are meant for various activities so I figure these are worth a go in India. The pair I bought are a light brown colour.
2. Aviator backpack. This was a gift and I’m mostly pleased with it. One thing drives me crazy with the backpack, and that’s the inability to access the laptop compartment without opening up the top compartment. This is clunky, and sometimes a pain, especially when getting through airport security. But overall, this is a great bag.
3. 7 pairs of underwear.
- 2 pairs of Comfortable Club boxer briefs (micro-modal)
- 2 pairs of YAthletics boxer briefs (silver and merino wool)
- 2 pairs of Bensly boxer briefs (tencel)
- and 1 pair of boxer briefs from Unbound Merino (merino wool).
I like having loads of underwear on hand, because that’s really the only clothing item I care about having a fresh pair on at all times. Ideally, I’ll do a quick wash of my clothes every 5-6 days, but just in case, having a few extra pairs of undies is worth carrying for me.
4. 5 pairs of socks – 4 pairs of the YAthletics ankle sock and 1 pair from Unbound Merino. I really love these socks from YAthletics. They don’t stink even after a long day of walking and feel great.
5. 5 T-shirts.
- 2 shirts from YAthletics
- 1 shirt from Mr. Davis
- 1 shirt from Unbound Merino
- and 1 from Bensly
These shirts all look good, feel great, and have great properties. Not washing them is no big deal as they won’t stink, even after a heavy day of sweating and moving. All you really need to do is hang them somewhere to air out and the next day they are as good as new. You can’t do this with a cotton shirt. This is why I say pay for good clothing.
6. 2 pairs of shorts – 1 pair from Cobba and another from Aviator USA. These are both great shorts with lots of neat features and properties. They’ll help me survive the heat in India.
7. 2 pairs of pants – The Live Lite A/C pant and the Live Lite Adventure pant from Dish and Duer. I’m a big fan of Dish and Duer clothing. Their pants are great for a number of reasons. I’ll wear a pair of these in Canada to stay warm as I go to the airport, but will also wear them in India because they’re temperature regulating and I won’t feel like I’m wearing snow pants while I’m there.
8. The MEC ionic hoody. Another item I’ll wear in Canada as I go to the airport. I’ll wear it at night in India should it get a little chilly, especially in the north.
9. The ultrafine long sleeve crew neck from Element Pure. Made of tencel, this is an amazing long sleeve. I’ll wear this in Canada as well as on chilly nights.
10. Wind jacket from Puma. I don’t know the exact version or product name. I bought this on a whim in Hong Kong and I think I’ll be replacing it soon. It packs in super tiny, though and weighs almost nothing. Worth bringing to stay warm in places where it might be windy or at night.
11. Uniqlo down jacket. This thing packs in super tight. On my last trip to Chicago, I forgot I had brought it because it is so light. I ended up letting my buddy wear it to stay warm as it was unusually windy and cold (or usually, damn you Chicago!). I’ll wear this in Canada and doubt I’ll wear it at all in India. This can also double as a pillow on flights and trains.
12. Chaos multi tubular. Made of merino wool, I can use this as a scarf, balaclava, neck warmer, and so on. This is what I mean by a multi-purpose item. This will also keep me warm while I’m still in Canada and making my way to the airport.
10. Apple Macbook. Since I’ll be working for half the trip, I’ll need my laptop. These Macbooks are slim, light, and super sexy.
11. Nexus 6P. A big and powerful phone. It’s the only one I have, otherwise I’d prefer something smaller. I’ll use it to take photos and look at maps when I get lost.
12. 2 USB to USB-C cables. These are to charge my phone and Macbook. It saves me from carrying the Macbook charger.
13. Cambridge anti-pollution mask. I’ll use this for protection against the bad air quality in places like New Delhi. It will look weird and is tough to breathe in, but I’ll get used to it.
14. The Anker power charger. This is another example of a multi-use item. It acts as a wall charger, but also has its own internal battery that can act as a portable battery when away from a wall outlet to charge your phone or laptop while on the road.
15. Cozyphones sleep headphones. To help me go to bed through the noisy cities in India. I’ll be using this every night so to me it is worth bringing.
16. Scrubba portable wash bag. I’ll use this to do my laundry. Fill it up with soap, water, and dirty clothes, then beat up the bag for 5-10 minutes. Rinse and hang dry the clothes, and bammo, good as new.
17. Beats urbeats earplugs. They were on sale over Boxing Week and I needed some. They seem to fit my ears pretty well. I tend to go through earphones very quickly, but I’m hoping the Beats last much longer than what I’m used to.
18. Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Travel Adapter. This thing rocks. A travel adapter that is very portable and works just about everywhere, in every country I’ve been in.
19. Manta sleep mask. One of the best sleep masks I own. This one is super light, small, and you can adjust the eye covers to maximize light blocking.
20. Grayl water bottle. Water is a little sketchy and undrinkable from the tap in India. The Grayl is an awesome portable water bottle that will make any water drinkable. I’ll probably use this a lot.
21. Travelmore 20L Jetpack. This is a badass little daypack that crunches down fairly small, but has a lot of great features and holds up quite well as a daypack. I’ll use it to carry my Grayl, hand sanitizer, money, and maybe some snacks whenever I go anywhere and am leaving the Aviator in my hotel room.
22. Gee-Fi portable wifi device. This thing will act as a router and give me wifi just about anywhere. It costs 10 bucks a day to use, though, so I’ll only use it when wifi at hotels and lobbies aren’t available.
23. Deuter toiletry kit. This kit contains things like a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, nail clippers, disposable razor, deodorant, a portable clothesline, some bandaids, Tide to Go stick, Tide laundry packets, hand sanitizer, and medicine including benadryl, gravol, and immodium.
24. Other miscellaneous items include wipes, tissues, ear plugs, pen, moleskin notepad, headphone splitter, flashlight, safety pins, athletic tape, portable power strip, key and key chain, printed copies of passport, travel insurance, plane tickets, hotel confirmations, and train tickets.
As you can see, that’s actually quite a lot of stuff I’m able to fit into a single backpack. By following my tips you should easily be able to do the same. Traveling with a single bag is a liberating experience. Once you do it once or twice and get the hang of it you won’t ever want to pack one of those huge suitcases ever again.
I am going to India! is a post from Awesomeness Deluxe.