10 Packing Light Tips 17

Tourists have suitcases. Travelers wear backpacks.

Part II


Since you have already read my post about WHY you need to Packing Light Part I, you may now be wondering how in the hell all of that is going to go into ONE small, carry-on backpack.  Just to clarify; when I say to “pack light” I actually mean “Pack Smart and Small” meaning, pack as much as you possibly can shove into that small bag!  Here are a few tips and tricks to get the best real estate value for your small bag with packing light tips.


1) Forget luggage.  Get a backpack.

This is probably the best tip on here, which is why it goes at the top.   I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Tourists have suitcases.  Travelers wear backpacks!”

Have kids?  Here is the best carry on luggage for kiddos!

Backpacking Asia

Two months through Asia with nothing but the packs on our backs

Mr. E.E ready to backpack through Europe!

Mr. E.E ready to backpack through Europe!

2) Tie Shoes to the Outside

Shoes are one of the bulkiest, most awkward items to pack and get your clothes all dirty.  Using straps and/or the pockets of the backpack, loop the straps of your tennis or hiking shoes through the laces so they aren’t popping out and save valuable packing space inside.


Bonus Shoe Tip:  If you must pack a pair of shoes inside your bag, use a cheap shower cap to keep them together and not get dirt and grime on your clothes.

3) Pack INSIDE the Shoes

Utilizing every nook and cranny will help you pack more items into your small space.  Here are just a few ideas of what to pack inside your shoes:  Socks (duh), fragile items, toiletries baggy, jewelry tucked into the toe….really anything that will fit!


4) Roll, don’t fold

Rolling your clothing will not only take up less space but will also decrease wrinkles and lines in your clothing.

5) Vacuum Sealed Bags

If weight is not a concern (some airlines have a poundage/kilo maximum even for the carry-ons, despite how much you can cram into those bad boys) then use a vacuum sealed bag to pack even more.  Even without a vacuum (for example at the end of your trip), rolling the air out of the vacuum bag will give you way more space (since it always seems that you come back with more than what you left with).

6) Invest in quality Luggage/Backpacks

Just because you can fit everything for your trip into one backpack, doesn’t mean that you only packed a few items.  If you get a quality backpack that can take a beating, you can give any clown car a run for it’s money.   If you have to call for backup and have it be a two-man job just to get it zipped, you know you were doing it right! There are many quality backpacks and doing your homework on the pros and cons of them will help determine which one is best for your needs.  I personally love my Osprey bags.  Yes, they easily go over our typical “budget traveler” spending, but like good shoes, spending more once can save you in the long-run.   They don’t mind being man-handled and IF something were to bust, there is a life-time guarantee on replacements, so I have no fear of shoving “just one more shirt” in.

Big backpack with smaller day pack detached

Big backpack with smaller day pack detached

I also love SMART backpacks, like our Osprey Daylite Backpack that actually can attach as a small day bag  to the large one so your actually only lugging around one for the space of two.  One reason this is great is because you can pack even more stuff, attach it to your bigger pack and have that only count as one carry-on.  Which means that you also get a “personal item” like another small bag or purse (for even more stuff!) Can you say “Hello extra dress?”

Small day pack hooked onto back of large backpack

Small day pack hooked onto back of large backpack

6) Mix and Match Outfits

This one is a given from my packing list, but is so important to mention yet again.  Don’t worry about being fashion forward.  Instead, worry about which is more important: those baggage fees for having to check a bigger bag (aka: more clothes) or saving that money for more gelato (uuh, no brainer right there!).  Bring only a few items of clothing that can be versatile and have many different combos with the same clothing because you can always….

7) Do laundry along the Way

Ready for a shocker?  You can actually wear clothes more than once!  I know, hard to believe, but the “only 5 outfits” you packed now just became 10 days worth of clothing.  Do some laundry in a shower and/or sink and you now have infinite days of duds.

Take along some dry detergent or get a traveling pouch of gel and don’t mind the fact that the maid is going to see your grannie panties.

8) Attach Heavy Items to the Outside

Jackets and coats are another big, heavy and bulky item that simply take up too much space.  If you have more straps, attach these to the outside or go all sorts of MacGyver on it with some string.  Either way, you just saved yourself a TON of room inside your bag.

9) Think Light Layers

Packing light weight (which are often quick-dry) clothing not only helps with packing fewer things, but you can still be toasty even in the coldest of climates.  Long underwear paired with another thin layer and hiking pants will keep you warm enough as well as a long underwear top with a few long-sleeved shirts and good coat (that was attached to the outside) and you can ditch the bulky sweaters and heavy jeans, meaning more space in your backpack.

10) Pack Heaviest Items on Bottom

Since I only recommend backpacking it, you will be carrying this on your back (wait…did I really need to just explain how backpacks work?).  Therefore, unless you want to take a faceplant into the ground due to poor weight distribution, pack anything heavy towards the bottom.  When on your back, the bottom of the pack will be close to your center of gravity so you can avoid any face to ground contact.

11) ) Keep Gadgets Limited and Small

We used to pack our laptop into our backpacks, which, in addition to the cords , was simply too space consuming (and heavy)!  We finally gave in and bought tablets which can now be everything we need in one: Books to read, internet/computer, GPS, guidebooks and MP3 player giving me just enough space to maybe cram in one more pair of shoes.

12) Bonus Tip: Enjoy the freedom of not worrying about lugging luggage around and looking like a true traveler.

Mr. E.E. Hiking through the Swiss Alps

Mr. E.E. Hiking through the Swiss Alps







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The Economical Excursionist

LeAnna and Andy have been travelling the world for almost three years straight. Currently living in Germany, the couple spends as much time seeing new parts of the world as possible. However, travel can be an expensive endeavor...unless you know how to TRAVEL HACK. Join us in our adventures around the world as well as to learn a few trips on how to travel hack your own trips.

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About The Economical Excursionist

LeAnna and Andy have been travelling the world for almost three years straight. Currently living in Germany, the couple spends as much time seeing new parts of the world as possible. However, travel can be an expensive endeavor...unless you know how to TRAVEL HACK. Join us in our adventures around the world as well as to learn a few trips on how to travel hack your own trips.

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17 thoughts on “10 Packing Light Tips

  • sabrina barbante

    I have travelled with backpacks a lot in the past, mainly in my 20ies. It was comfortable but also a bit difficult for my back. I wish I had read some of your tips before 🙂
    By the way, presently I still hate trolleys and prefer sacks. Good article! Thank you for sharing

    • LeAnna

      Yes! If you don’t have a proper pack and don’t pack it correctly, it can DEFINITELY be uncomfy (been there, done that!) Now, I actually think lugging a suitcase around is harder on my back as I bend over to pull it!

  • Dana

    Great tips! We always roll our clothes to keep things compact, and I love my packing cubes. I also do laundry pretty much every day. It can be a pain sometimes, but it means less stuff.

  • Sue @NoFixedAbodeForSue

    Great tips for anyone wanting to travel with a backpack but many would apply to a suitcase also (Ive never been a backpacker) I stuff all kinds of goodies into shoes when packing and find the rolling clothes not only saves space but helps keep creases out too. I have experimented with the vacuum packed bags and think they would be great if you are going on longer trips and so need more stuff but personally I like the packing cubes as they seem to take lots and keep me organized.

    • LeAnna

      I find that the vacuum packs work great for needing more space in checked luggage, but we are all about packing light and doing only carry-on now-a-days. Unfortunately, so many airlines are starting to put limits on weight and I’ve made the mistake of forgetting that just bc the sealed bags allow for more space, that doesn’t mean they’ve cut down on weight! Woops!

  • Amélie

    I find that tying shoes outside of a backpack can be a little tricky in some part of the world such as South East Asia where feet are considered a very unclean part of the body. Dangling shoes touching people in public transport would be a big cultural faux pas and it gives me the heebie jeebies when I see backpackers doing that in buses and trains. Just my five cents 🙂

    • LeAnna

      Very interesting! As you can see in the picture, those shoes are locked in well (and covered), but I totally know what you mean about the perception of feet in certain parts of the world- definitely something to consider for packs that aren’t as well protected.

  • Trisha Velarmino

    Osprey is definitely a backpacker’s favourite! But I have yet to learn how to pack light. I still can’t do it even if I have gone to long years of traveling without going home. I still endure the 80+10 litre backpack. Thanks for sharing!

    • LeAnna

      Haha, I feel ya!!! It definitely takes practice, patience and sometimes commitment (when I had back home State-side, it is often hard not to take a giant suitcase home just bc I know I can, but when I do, I end up HATE lugging it around, risk of losing it in transit, etc)

  • Maria

    I’m totally the opposite kind of traveller! I carry a big backpack but don’t overfill it, I’m both an obsessive organiser and love clothes, I love putting outfits together. I’ve never gone over a weight limit though. Funnily enough I rarely fill my backback as well, I have a 75l one at the moment and have it about 2/3 full. Packing cubes are my go to packing hack, totally agree with you about rolling clothes, so much better for not creasing clothes and space saving. 🙂

    • LeAnna

      So I assume you always check your bags then, right? Have you ever had lost/ damaged luggage? I think for me, that is truly one of the best things about being able to just have a carry-on. I never have to worry about a bag being lost (especially on trips where I might only be somewhere a few days)

  • melody pittman

    These are great tips and I love the idea of a backpack but if you are past a certain age or have any health issues (I have back issues), it is a no way, not gonna happen kinda thing. So many great stylish backpacks these days, too. I like the tip about tying the shoes to the outside, that is super smart!

  • Vanessa

    I LOVE travel laundry! Everyone thinks I’m kinda nuts but there’s something so relaxing about grabbing a coffee, doing a little people watching, and hearing your clothes whirl around in the machine. Great time for writing post cards! I’d rather spend my time like that than by waiting at the airport, crossing my fingers that the bag will arrive.