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Manageable bites

The goal posts have changed the last couple of years for carry on baggage allowance on many airlines around the world. If, like myself, you travel with carry on only, then you will have to do a serious rethink, if you haven't done it already.

For you newbies out there, this means having to pay some massive amount for being overweight and that'll dig deep into your beer money.

Traveling light is a lot different than most people do. Many carry backpacks and/or wheelie cases full of all kinds of stuff and a lot of it doesn't get used. There are a number of ways to cut down on the things you have.

Starting with:
what you need—as opposed to what you want!

Where do you begin?

This is gonna hurt. If you have one of those little wheelie cases and want to be away for more than a weekend, then you need to dump the silly thing and get an ultralight backpack. The main reason being those cases weigh a lot and that means you cannot take very much at all. Gaining 1-2 kilos more stuff is a vast improvement.
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Just because a lot of people carry the latest fashion backpack, doesn't mean you have to. There are some good alternatives on Amazon and other sites with seriously light packs. I am not talking the expensive 30L birdy ones that weigh .82 kilo or the like.

How about: .18 to .3 kilo, water resistant, strong, well put together and a lot less money. So when you're out in China and limited to 5 kilo carry on or 8 kilo in Europe and other places, then you should be able to take almost as much as you normally would and stay underweight.
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Gonex 20 L, cost me about 11 dollars.

This Gonex weighs in at 6.4 ounces (0.18 kilo) and suits me fine. They do a large range of luggage and are well worth looking at. There are also other manufacturers which make similar, which are just as good or better. My larger 35L pack (not Gonex) is 1.5 lbs (0.68 kilo) (which is why I bought it years ago), tough, has more room and I can still carry it on. I've had to do a lot of maneuvering to carry stuff and not be overweight for myself—let alone airlines. Then there are buses with luggage racks that a lot of backpacks are too big to fit. Some trains come into this category as well.

The one thing about the Gonex is insecurity. These things open far too easily for pickpockets and thieves. My one is modified, read about it here.

It's only a short trip

I was looking not only at what I carry, but how I carry it. The one thing I dislike, is having to mess around at airport security with a bunch of stuff all over the place. So my packs are kept as simple as possible. This February I am visiting my friends in Pamplona for 2 weeks. I don't need a full pack, so set about seeing how small I could go (hey, I was bored). Normally I have between 5 lbs (around 2.27 K) or about 10 lbs (4.5 K) on my back, depending on which backpack. That's well within everywhere I travel, for weight allowance (though I refuse to use budget airlines).

The following is one of the ways I set my pack up. It's not just what's inside, but how it is organized. The contents of your backpack will be different than mine, but the concept remains the same.
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Everything here fits in the bag at the top left.

  1. My shaver has a little cover it goes in,
    1. The bag on the right of it will contain everything you see until the next one on the bottom left.
    2. I don't always carry the toothpaste, just that it's left over from 2 samples I got a couple of years ago and saves me having to buy a big tube of the stuff.
    3. Next to the paste is a toothbrush. You don't really need a full long handle—I cut this one to take up less room.
    4. A brush for general stuff like cleaning up the cuffs of my jeans after mud has splashed on them (February is not a kind month)
    5. A bar of soap. Normally I don't carry it, but buy a bar or two when on location for a couple of months, but this time I had half a bar left at home and shoved it in it's "wrapper".
    6. Above the toothbrush/paste are three very necessary items. A fingernail clipper,
    7. A GI can opener (for when a regular one is not around)
    8. Some extra stretch bands for wrapping stuff up with.
  2. Then my lock for the hostel or a BNB door (key goes on my keyring in pocket).
  3. The lower bag on the left will have everything next to it inserted. These items are for my electronic bits.
    1. Charger cable.
    2. The charger, on the right, is 5V 1Amp and I can charge everything in my travel writing kit with it, including my main camera when it is with me, this saves me tons of room.
    3. In the middle is a 16GB flash drive by SanDisc to move stuff from my tablet and fone camera (I never use nearby devices or Wifi to move things between units) and backups.
  4. The two full bags, my shaver and lock all fit into the top left bag with a little room to spare for the few liquid items I carry (initially in a ZipLock bag for the airport),

Then there's the clothing

Regardless of how long my trips are, I have minimal clothing. Wear one, wash one. A T-shirt, pair of boxer shorts, pair of socks and a handkerchief. When I'm somewhere for months, I buy extra there. If something is better than what I originally had in my backpack, then it replaces the item. Seeing as it's a short trip in winter, I'll just wear my jeans and good sweater, that's all I need.
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The clothes all fit into the bag below them. Top right is my power unit for when plugs are not available. I never, ever, use USB power points at any kind of terminal because they are way too vulnerable. Below the unit is my paperwork, like copies of passport main page etc-etc. Both of these items go inside the interior zipped pocket of the Gonex. Sometimes I carry my Jag Bag, but not on this trip, it goes in flat to save space.

Finally a linen towel (linen dries fast), which sits in the front pocket of the backpack where it's easy to grab if needed.
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Normally the tablet goes in the bag seen. This time I'm leaving it home and just wrapping the thing in a Pertex sack with a rubber band around it.


The one thing I don't cover here much is Asia. Greg Rodgers does a better job on that score here: Backpacking Packing List. Pretty much along the lines I've said here, plus some more.

Is that it then?

Almost. A very few sundry items may be added, but they are quite small. While in the Basque Country this winter I will buy me a really nice winter coat, with detachable inner jacket. Decathlon has one that's a lot cheaper there, than in England. Unless, of course, El Corté Inglis has something better.

There you have it. Keeping it simple means minimal hassle, a lot less weight and room for adjustment. If I can do this, so can you. Then you can add another 3-6 kilos of clothing or whatever to your bag.

Some people might term me hard core, but after decades of travel I've found that less often turns out to be more.
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This is only about 1/2 full for this trip. Without water, I have 4.3 lbs (1.95 kilos) on my back.
Jan 27, 2020

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