Our Ultimate Packing List for Travelling Light

While hammering out the details for our upcoming trip, my husband and I printed off the packing list that we created several years ago. It’s been added to and modified numerous times over the years. We created our own because the ones we found online just didn’t cut it for us; they either missed very specific items that we ourselves like to bring, or they went above and beyond the items we need to travel comfortably. Since we only use backpacks and carry-on bags, we need a list that allows us to travel light. In fact, we travel so light that on our recent week-long trip to Paris, the desk clerk checking in our backpacks marvelled at the weight of our bags. So how do we manage it?

Without further adieu, here is our packing list:

Our own list may not work for you, of course, and this list was built over years of trial and error, over-packing and under-packing. So you should make your own list and tweak it as necessary. But it’s an example of how to customize a packing list for the way you travel, rather than trying to use a generic list that includes everything but the kitchen sink.

One thing we did was to create a list of “lessons learned” after each trip. For instance, on our last trip I failed to bring my sewing kit. We’ve never had to sew a button on holidays, so I decided not to bring it. Well, as it turns out, the sewing kit goes beyond actual sewing. The needles are handy for popping blisters. Gross I know, and it’s usually recommended not to pop blisters for fear of infection. But when you’re walking all day on a big, puffy blister, it’s not only painful but it can really put a damper on your holiday. But one quick pierce from a needle, and you can drain the blister, slap a bandaid or some moleskin on it and go on about your travels. Besides, most travel-sized sewing kits take up next-to-no room.

Travel-sized sewing kit

There are also things we used to bring that later become cumbersome, heavy and, often un-used on trips. For example, a portable electric water heater. We used it a few times to make soup or coffee in the hotel room, but it quickly became a burden to bring and something we rarely used. So we took it off the list.

As for shoes, I’ve learned that I need three pairs for all trips. It may sound like a lot for some, but I find that three pairs is just the perfect number for me. The first pair, of course is a good pair of comfortable walking shoes. They offer coverage, a bit of warmth on cooler days, and something to change into if one of your other pairs of shoes start to hurt your feet or gives you blisters.

The second pair of shoes that I always bring are sandals. They can be a little bit dressier than walking shoes for evenings. Sandals are also cooler for hot days, but still give a bit of cushioning for walking around a lot, especially in cities. My favourite pair are from Josef Seibel. I’ve worn this style of sandal for the last ten years, maybe more. I’ve only had to buy a replacement pair once because the elastics started to wear out and no longer had “spring” to them. They’re leather, have some cushioning in the sole, and have never given me a blister, ever.

The final pair, and I hesitate to even call them “shoes,” are a pair of flip-flops. Great for the beach, pools and hot springs, but they’re also nice for the plane ride. They’re also handy in hotel rooms and showers if you’re not sure about the cleanliness factor. Plus, they are light, inexpensive, and take up minimal room in your bag.

Here are my favourite three pairs of shoes for travel. I bought the grey walking shoes last year in Trier. I love them so much. They look a little beat-up because I wear them almost every day!

My travel shoe collection

Also, a note on packing light: the trick lies in the materials. I’ll give you an example. This year, we’re travelling through Europe in September/October, and the general weather forecast is somewhere between 12 degrees Celsius at night, and between 20-24 degrees Celsius during the day. But, we are also doing a two-night stop-over in Reykjavik, where it’s expected to be rainy, and a high of about 12 degrees Celsius during the day, and lows of 4 at night. This means we have to pack for two different climates. Layering is always an option, though with too many layers you run the risk of looking like a marshmallow.

Luckily, a few years ago I bought a very light down/feather jacket from Mark’s Work Warehouse  (Wind River, specifically) for our Kilimanjaro climb. It’s designed to scrunch down into a little bag. When I ordered the jacket, though, the little bag didn’t come with it. So yesterday we popped over to MEC where I bought a 3L stuff sack. My down jacket fits snuggly into it, making it very compact. The jacket, including the bag, weighs a whopping 369 grams.

Yes, this down jacket squeezes into that little 3L pouch!

Clothing materials are always evolving and getting lighter and more durable. While some outdoor clothing/equipment stores can be expensive, you can sometimes find a good sale or deals online. And it’s worth it to find revolutionary materials that do the same job that heavier fabrics once did.

So there you go, our packing list for travel and a few tips on creating your own! Happy packing!

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