Packing: travel light!

Reply
#1 Nov 22nd, 2010, 04:08
Join Date:
Nov 2010
Location:
Brussels, Belgium
Posts:
20
  • YellowOnline is offline
#1
TRAVEL LIGHT!


I haven't been in India yet (leaving in three weeks), but I do have quite some experience packing stuff Because a lot of people seem to be unsure of what to pack and how much, I'd like to contribute a small post on packing in a warm country. So this post is not for Himalaya trekking, even if the 'philosophy of travelling light' remains the same (and is even more important there). Lastly: this is a personal opinion of course (even though a lot of travellers share it). But give it a try: once you go light you'll never want it any other way and you'll look at other backpackers with a bit of pity.

1) Backpack
For years I travelled with a 75L backpack. In hindsight I feel a bit silly. A 75L backpack is big and, usually, heavy. Ideal is a backpack of, say, 45L. It's a luxury to have a backpack weighting less than 10kg (22 pounds) if you're constantly switching means of transportation. Because of its size, it is also easier to keep it with you instead of needing to put it in the back of a taxi or on top of a bus; or somewhere else where it can be stolen obviously easier than when you have it on you.
If you can't fit everything you need into a 45L bag you are packing too much stuff - it's that simple. I used to go abroad with stuff for pretty much every possible circumstance and always ended up not using half of it. Why bring half a wardrobe with you if there's only a small chance that you'll need all of that stuff? In a worst case scenario you can buy anything needed wherever you are. The advantages of travelling light outweight the possible disadvantages.

What looks more comfortable?

2) Clothes
Most people think like this: I need a pair of socks and boxers per day, a T-shirt a day, two trousers and two sweaters a week, some reserve, ... . Wrong! This might be OK if you go on a Club Med holiday, can afford to take 25kg of luggage with you to put it in your hotel room for the whole of your holidays. If you need to get around, you don't want weight, so you take less stuff.
Four pairs of socks, 4 boxers (or slips; and add two bras of which one sports bra for the ladies) should do for underwear. Trousers and T-shirts: two will suffice. One lightweight fleece should also be enough. All of this for any trip, whatever its length. Why? Because you can easily wash all of it! It doesn't take long (what's 15 minutes?) and in any warm country drying it in the sun shouldn't take long. In a lot of countries you can even let someone else do you washing for a price you can't even buy a bread for in your own country; hence also giving those people a legit way to earn money. The latter is not a paternalistic or neo-colonial behavior but a win-win for everyone (cf. sherpas in Nepal).

3) Shoes
I love my superdeluxe hiking boots a lot... in the mountains. If you are not going into the mountains, why would you bring 1.5kg heavy boots? Yes, ankle support is very important - no doubts about that at all - but in terrain where you need that support. If you don't go anywhere like that: leave them at home and instead bring only one pair of simple shoes, next to the obvious sandals. Do not bring a pair of regular shoes, a pari of sandals, a pair of hiking boots, a pair of beautiful shoes in case you end up in a posh place (you probably won't) and that extra pair in case anything happens to your other shoes. Something is wrong if your bag weights 6kg when all you've packed are your shoes.


4) Hygiene
  • Something that takes too much space in any bag is classicaly the towel or, worse, towels - plural. Two towels seem to be the minimum for a lot of travellers: one to lie on and one to dry themselves. Personally I think one is enough. But even if you take two of them: buy one of those ultra-light ones. They cost about €20 in Belgium for a 120gr (4oz) towel that absorbs almost 10 times its own weight. This really makes quite a difference in your bag.
  • Toiletry: you're backpacking, not going to an Academy Award ceremony. Use small bottles of shampoo and soap (can be refilled - avoid waste!); leave make-up, lotions, perfume, ... at home. If you need to shave something (beards, legs,...): while a real barber knife would be ideal, few have taken a course to know how to handle it. Take your usual stuff with you but avoid throw-away. For shaving cream: stick to small bottles once again. Aftershave lotion is needless weight.
  • A roll of toilet paper goes a long way and doesn't weight much. Have one on you at all times. For the ladies specifically: tampons are hard to find in a lot of countries, so take those with you as well - but try to calculate how much you'll need. There's no point in carrying a family pack of Tampax for a three-week trip.
  • Optionally, a nailclip can come in handy.
  • If you plan to be a lot in forest area, surely bring a tick tweezer. A regular tweezer can do the job too if you've done this before. Don't squash it!


5) Sleeping
  • You will not need your -10C (14F) capable sleeping bag in a warm country. Every hotel will have bedsheets and if those aren't warm enough you can still sleep with a few more clothes on. A good idea, however, is to bring a liner (not sure if this is the proper word): a sort of bag you usually put over a sleeping bag. The difference is the warmth (which is not a problem in our destination country) and, surely, the weight. My regular sleeping bag I use in the mountains weights 2.5kg (5 pound) - which is quite light already. A liner typically weights less than 180gr (6oz). Not everyone takes a liner, but it can be handy on a train or just to feel more at easy in a dirty bed.
  • This brings us to the subject of mosquito nets. Should you bring one? Well, it depends. In Africa: yes, absolutely. In Asia: a lot of people don't because the type of malaria isn't as bad as the two African ones. Personally I take one with me: I prefer this on sleeping in a room filled with a poisenous cloud that is not only bad for mosquitos but also for me. The only problems you can encounter are 1) finding a spot to hang it; 2) not letting the net touch you (because you'll get stinged right through it then); and 3) making sure it's all around you: if the mosquito can find its way in there's no use in having a mosquito net.


6) Medication
Getting ill is probably the best recipe to turn a wonderful experience into a nightmare.
  • Malaria: Well, we were talking about it. There are several options here. Doxycycline, very popular and quite cheap, ideal for people who aren't worried about using antibiotics for prevention. I always learned that this is the wrong way to use antibiotics as it would increase the resistance against the antibiotic. And it has the side effect on some people to make them allergic to sunlight, which is not fun if you go to a sunny country. Ironically, you'll only find malaria in sunny countries these days (used to be different!).
    The classic drug is probably mefloquine, better know under the brand name Lariam. As far as I understand from a little research: do not try this if you have any form of mental disorder. People with a past of psychological problems tend to react very bad to this. The advantage is that you only need to take it once per week and it is cheap.
    These days most people use atovaquone/proguanil, as far as I know only available under the brand name Malarone. It hasn't got the side effects of the other, but must be taken daily and is pricey. In Belgium I pay about €50 for twelve doses. For long trips this is very expensive. Personally, I take Malarone with me and use it therapeutically: if I get malaria, I treat it with high doses of Malarone. This is cheap but perhaps more risk than you want to take.
  • Diarrhoea: an Indian classic. I always have both immodium and a laxative on me, because both can happen. Probiotics are popular too, but I don't have any experience with those.
  • Water purifier: makes even Ganges water drinkable. Do not, ever, mix up these tablets with any medication. I'm not sure what would happen if you swallow one of these, but the warning 'environmental hazard' on the packaging makes me think it would kill all bacteria in your body - also the good ones.
  • Antihistamine: usually sold as Actifed. Why on earth would you bring this? Well, this is only handy for a minority of travellers - the kind that are deaf for at least one week after a landing by airplane. Actifed reliefs pressure in the ears because of a cold. It does exactly the same trick when flying: use it approximately one hour before landing. A present form the Gods for those who tried chewing gum, eating, drinking, and all of those other tricks in vain not to suffer too much while landing.
  • A basic, lightweight medkit: because you never know where you'll be when something happens.

7) Other
Some things in life are needed on any trip.
  • A universal bath plug. Because usually, it won't be in any sink where you stay.
  • Knife. Whether it is a fancy Swiss knife or a simple French Opinel: you'll need a knife at one point.
  • Sunglasses and suncream. Well you are going to a sunny country, right?
  • Packing bags. Uses these to package your stuff inside your backpack. It's not fun having to pack/unpack everything if you need something at the bottom. Also, customs can be in a bad mood and make you unpack everything a few times just to annoy you.
  • Flashlight. Don't even think of the big MagLites. Ideally you take a very lightweight LED head flashlight. Two advantages: they work with AAA batteries because a LED doesn't need much power; and you chave your hands free when doing whatever you are doing in the dark.
  • A guide. Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, Footprints, Guide du Routard,... I can't imagine not having a guide on me. You always have something to read too.

Not to bring: a raincoat - buy a small umbralle instead if necessairy; a sewing kit - handy on trekkings, but pretty useless outside of the mountains; a laptop - except the stress of it being stolen and the extra weight, you probably won't have an internet connection where your are. If there is internet, there will be a cheap internet shop too; books - I love books, but they are too heavy to travel. Better buy them on the road and sell them to other travellers when finished; a portable wooden chess set - from what I hear, you can get those very easily in Delhi

Really, don't bring your hi-tech stuff


--------------------------------------------------------------

If you carry all of this, you'll have enough stuff to survive any trip without much discomfort. I added a picture of my bag for India to sort of prove that it is possible to fit all of this in a small bag


I hope this information can be useful for someone. Please let me know if I forgot anything or if you don't agree with certain decisions.

Also let me know about spelling errors. I like to learn from my mistakes in English.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime. (Mark Twain)
Last edited by YellowOnline; Nov 24th, 2010 at 00:39.. Reason: Added some pictures, removed some typing errors, added a few more things, and tried in vain to use table tags (unsupported).
#2 Nov 22nd, 2010, 06:04
Join Date:
Jun 2010
Location:
Hyderabad, india
Posts:
8,570
  • narendra.d is offline
#2
Wow. That's one post that is worthy of being stickied and in the Articles section.

Great post and a Big Thank you.
#3 Nov 22nd, 2010, 06:05
Join Date:
Aug 2010
Location:
United States
Posts:
4,418
  • DaisyL is offline
#3
This is a very well thought out list. You make some very good points on how much clothing to bring. Also, the idea of bringing a guide book and no other books make sense. I love to read, but there are many book stores in India where you can buy books at a low cost.

I do see a problem with bringing a knife and a real barber knife in your backpack as carry on luggage. It wouldn't be allowed in the US, anyway. I didn't bring a knife into India for that reason, and yes, I could have used one for fruit.

Thank you for sharing this list, and welcome to IndiaMike!
#4 Nov 22nd, 2010, 08:21
Join Date:
May 2003
Location:
Northern California
Posts:
5,360
  • wonderwomanusa is offline
#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaisyL View Post I do see a problem with bringing a knife and a real barber knife in your backpack as carry on luggage. It wouldn't be allowed in the US, anyway. I didn't bring a knife into India for that reason, and yes, I could have used one for fruit.
Not a big problem if the first stop on the morning after arrival is to buy a knife! There's a big-ish shop in Connaught Place that has a wonderful selection.
The map is not the territory. --Alfred Korzybski
#5 Nov 22nd, 2010, 08:32
Join Date:
Aug 2010
Location:
United States
Posts:
4,418
  • DaisyL is offline
#5
wonderwomanusa - Good point!
#6 Nov 22nd, 2010, 08:53
Join Date:
Apr 2009
Location:
Montana, Hawaii, & Florida
Posts:
784
  • DaniMontana is offline
#6
Been wondering where to get a good travel/fruit/utility knife, are they sold in kitchen shops (do they have kitchen shops in India?) or specialty cutlery shops or??? I guess I'd have to part with it when leaving anyway, but it sure would be good to have.
#7 Nov 22nd, 2010, 08:55
Join Date:
Apr 2009
Location:
Montana, Hawaii, & Florida
Posts:
784
  • DaniMontana is offline
#7
Oh, and this is a great thread, the picture really is a good idea...thank you so much!
#8 Nov 22nd, 2010, 23:22
Join Date:
Nov 2010
Location:
Brussels, Belgium
Posts:
20
  • YellowOnline is offline
#8
Thank you. I'll try to add a few things tonight. Seems I'm missing some stuff like a simple nailclip e.g.
#9 Nov 23rd, 2010, 00:26
Join Date:
May 2008
Location:
bombay
Posts:
754
  • faustus77 is offline
#9
instead of a knife i carry a peeler
you can peel fruits and carrots and radish etc.
you have a flat one which has no sharp edges on the outside.
knives and peelers and nailcutters can be bought in every nook and corner of india and they are cheap.
at the end of the journey give it away
regards
#10 Nov 23rd, 2010, 00:32
Join Date:
Apr 2009
Location:
Montana, Hawaii, & Florida
Posts:
784
  • DaniMontana is offline
#10
Faustus, good grief, I have several already in the kitchen drawer....capital idea!!! I'm sure the peeler will be very happy in its new home when I depart! Thanks so much!
#11 Nov 23rd, 2010, 22:58
Join Date:
Nov 2010
Location:
Brussels, Belgium
Posts:
20
  • YellowOnline is offline
#11
Small update. Unfortunately, table-tags are unsupported, so the lay-out isn't pretty.
#12 Nov 23rd, 2010, 23:48
Join Date:
Feb 2009
Location:
U.S.
Posts:
2,484
  • namaste_cat is offline
#12
Excellent post with pics and everything. Thank you from a fellow light traveler. Sticky-worthy for sure!

I don't carry sweaters, just a light jacket that folds up into a small square, and when I get to India I buy a shawl which is light enough to wear back on the plane so I don't have to use their icky germ-infested blanket.

I also don't take socks, shirts & jeans and items of a thicker material. I do carry yoga pants (hey no snickering, they've come a long way, baby! :laugh ) and thin light t-shirts that fold to take up no more space than socks w/o wrinkling.

Ooh, I love the peeler idea too. I start packing early, so although I have 3 weeks to go, I've started. Off to throw a peeler into the bag. I bet I can find a good home for it when it's time to leave India.
#13 Nov 23rd, 2010, 23:52
Join Date:
May 2003
Location:
Northern California
Posts:
5,360
  • wonderwomanusa is offline
#13
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaniMontana View Post Been wondering where to get a good travel/fruit/utility knife, are they sold in kitchen shops (do they have kitchen shops in India?) or specialty cutlery shops or??? I guess I'd have to part with it when leaving anyway, but it sure would be good to have.
I bought a small folding knife in a shop at Connaught Place (knives in the window were my clue) ... the case was anodized aluminum and bright purple! It might have cost $1 ... not sure, as it was several years ago.

If you check your bag, of course, you can carry your favorite knife, or bring home the ones you bought in India.
#14 Nov 24th, 2010, 00:36
Join Date:
Nov 2010
Location:
Brussels, Belgium
Posts:
20
  • YellowOnline is offline
#14
About the knifes and peelers: personally, I'm not too much of a fruit eater (except banana, but you know, its peeled quite easily ) so I wouldn't personally take a peeler with me. A knife, on the other hand, has plenty of other uses except peeling fruit. So that's why I prefer a knife. I always have my Opinel on my (when travelling - not in everyday life mind you). But it is true of course that you can as well buy it at your destination. Still, if you have a knife, you can as well bring it. Doesn't make much difference for weight, and no problem when you have it in you luggage at customs at all (even in the USA). Of course you shouldn't try to take it in your carry-on luggage.
#15 Dec 12th, 2010, 01:01
Join Date:
Jun 2010
Location:
West Yorks, UK
Posts:
736
  • spud is offline
#15
A great read YellowOnline

If I had one grumble though, all your stuff are in bags inside a bag = extra weight. Sure one or two things I'd put in a sealable pastic sandwich bag or something, but my shorts, socks, sandals, and t shirts would just be rolled up and thrown in my rucksack as is

Now we just need to see what everyone else has in their backpacks now
Reply

Similar Threads

Title, Username, & Date Last Post Replies Views Forum
Loading up the New Backpack for 3-5 months of travel, packing light with this 48L Jun 17th, 2012 18:08 10 3580 Packing Tips for India travel
Packing Light Oct 23rd, 2007 01:26 21 4572 Packing Tips for India travel
Packing light.....will ship stuff back to the states!! Sep 27th, 2005 12:56 5 2700 Packing Tips for India travel
packing light, how light? Dec 5th, 2003 06:59 12 3609 Packing Tips for India travel


Posting Rules

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Forum Rules»
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.3.2
© IndiaMike.com 2017
Page Load Success