I haven’t decided when or where to go yet, but every once in a while I like to experiment with packing. When I pack last minute, I have a tendency to carry more than I need, which I usually regret when I’m on the road.
Today I bought a smaller suitcase: 45 cm tall, down from 55 which is the maximum for hand luggage. I was able to reduce the weight from 15 kg on my last trip to 7.9 kg. This is mainly because I’m not bringing my Digital SLR camera and guidebooks and because I’m carrying fewer clothes. These two things combined mean I’m crossing a psychological threshold where I don’t consider my luggage a burden. I can comfortably keep this on my lap while sitting in a crowded bus, carry it up a high staircase or down a muddy path.
I’ll feel more comfortable at airports, because the staff is much less likely to make me go through the annoying process of measuring and weighing my bag. Most airlines allow at least 10 kg which means I don’t have to optimize for weight. I normally do that by wearing a sweater and jacket, keeping my Kindle, water bottle and other small but heavy stuff in my jacket and making sure that I’m wearing the heaviest pants. That’s not very comfortable on a hot airport, but that is how I can reach that 7.9 kg figure, half of that being the suitcase itself and my laptop.
I used a similar sized suitcase on my late 2010 trip, but I carried heavier stuff and it was of such low quality that it broke down after a week. I ended up buying a larger one and filling it with more clothes and other stuff. So let’s try that again…
As you can see, my new suitcase fits in my old one, which I do plan to keep using for some trips. Because most airlines only allow once piece of hand luggage, I have to leave enough room to squeeze in my daypack. As soon as I clear the boarding staff I usually take out my daypack, put everything I need in it and put my jacket in the suitcase.
I use two small vacuum bags to compress my cloths. You don’t need a vacuum cleaner for those, just sit on it while you close it. The ones I have a very low quality, so I will probably need to buy new ones after opening and closing them a few times. The baseball cap is from Scottevest and has pockets for keys and credit cards, which is mostly just for fun, but also nice if it’s too hot to wear a jacket and you don’t like carrying stuff in your trouser pockets.
I carry and wear about 1 week worth of clothes. The trick is to have one pair of jeans and a t-shirt that dries really fast after you hand wash it, so that you can wear that while the rest of your clothes are at the laundry service. In Hong Kong you can have your clothes washed, dried and folded the same day for €2.50 at almost every street corner, but in more primitive places (or if you don’t want to destroy your precious fabric) drying might take longer.
When I stay in one place a bit longer, I’ll buy myself some additional clothing, flip-flops, a tea glass and other cheap comforts that you buy everywhere. When I leave I either squeeze the extra stuff in my bag of throw away my most worn out clothing.
Apart from the usual essentials like adapters, mosquito repellant, lightweight umbrella, mini shampoo and soap bottle, padlock and earplugs I bring my tiny Moo business cards, which allow me to put my photos to good use. Also note the envelopes which contain sim cards and left-over cash for countries that I’m likely to visit. I have a lot of those and sometimes carry them all, which is uncomfortable. I take a paperclip with me to switch sim cards. As for carrying these small liquids through airport security: they usually ignore or don’t even notice them, but it’s probably better if you put them all in a 1 liter ziplock bag.
I carry my Magic Mouse with me everywhere because I really don’t like the touchpad on my Macbook. I always assume my laptop will get stolen, so I use hard disk encryption and keep everything in the cloud: iCloud, Dropbox, Spotify, Github, FlickR, Omnisync, Heroku and Evernote (where I keep the checklist which I made while unpacking after this exercise). The work I do usually doesn’t require my physical presence or any heavy tools, but I can’t wait for Apple to come out with a Retina display Macbook Air, so I can knock off another kilogram.
The suitcase itself weighs almost 2 kg, so if anyone knows one that uses modern materials to achieve Samsonite level strength and durability at a fraction of the weight, I’d love to know.
My Scottevest jacket allows me to carry a lot of stuff comfortably on my person. My iPhone goes in my top left pocket where I can easily grab it to look something up. It has a small piece of velcro (klitteband) in the neck that holds my earphone wires in place. A bottle of water fits in my pocket which is mainly useful at airports: empty the bottle, go through security (who have a habit of confiscating or at least whining about empty bottles), fill it up and take it on board without adding extra weight to your hand luggage. It also has an inside pocket which is meant for glasses (it has an attached string with a microfiber tissue to clean them), but where a Kindle fits in a way that’s very comfortable.
Some drawbacks: I won’t be able to travel to places with night time temperatures below about 5 degrees celsius and daytime temperatures below about 10 degrees. I also won’t be wearing any fancy cloths. My Siberia proof winter jacket won’t fit in that suitcase even if it was the only item. I would need to return home for these kind of things or buy new stuff along the way and then ship it home afterwards.