Traveling Light

“Pack Light.” It’s a statement that’s constantly banged into our brains! But do we listen? Not always!

I know what you’re probably thinking… “But I do pack light!” And it’s true, packing light is completely open to intrpretation and needs. But I’d be willing to bet that even with your version of “packing light,” you still might be packing too much!

This was the exact situation I found myself in during my recent trip to Asia. I thought I packed plenty light…enough clothes for 5 days, plus warmer layers for the colder portions of my trip (mainly Bhutan with its high elevation and the mountains of Western Sichuan and Northern Yunnan provinces in China). I packed everything into my far too enormous 90 Liter backpack and was on my way! As I left for the airport, my roommate even glanced at my loaded bag and said, “That’s all you’re bringing??” With these kind words, I must have been doing something right!

Well, not quite. My backpack suited me just fine, that is until I stepped off the bus at the Longji “Dragon’s Backbone” Rice Terraces in China’s Guangxi province. From the bus drop off, it was nearly a 30 minute hike up a mountain (!) to the village of Ping’An, where the nearest acommodations were situated. All the other travelers on the bus had simply brought a small pack with them and they rushed up the hill as I lumbered along with all my gear.

That was the precise moment that I knew I needed to downsize…and stat! Fortunately, I was meeting my family halfway through my adventure, so I arranged a clothing swap with them. They would bring me lightweight, breathable gear that was antimicrobial and could dry quickly and I would effectively ditch almost every article of clothing I’d brought with me.

You see, I was inspired by a French-Canadian fellow who ended up trekking through the aforementioned rice terraces with me. He traveled with a 36 Liter backpack that was nearly 1/3 the size of mine! While we shared lodging the two nights we were together, he explained to me just how on Earth he could fit his entire life into that backpack.

The key was minimalism, and this certainly went for the clothing as well. He brought 2 pairs of anything that needed to be washed daily (shirts, underwear, socks, etc), one pair of pants and various single warm merino wool layers for warmth. Every night he would wash whatever he had just worn in the sink and let it dry. The next day, he rotated, wearing the alternate pair and repeating the process again that night.

This was the mentality which I took up after I swapped clothing with my family members. I was down to three of everything that touched my skin, 2 pairs of pants and one of everything warm. Every night or two I used my universal sink plug, by far one of the handiest items I packed, to wash my clothes in the sink. I used a few drops of this travel sized laundry detergent as the sink was filling up which proved to be more than enough, soaked my clothing in the soapy water and simply hung them up to dry!

It’s a system that worked incredibly well for me! And with so fewer clothes, my bag was suddenly spacious and considerably lighter!

I completely realize that this sounds excessively light, but I’d encourage you to give it a shot! After all, you never know when you may end up somewhere that requires you to walk a while with your luggage! So think twice before packing that extra pair of shoes! And besides…clothes literally are available everywhere in the world in case you decide you need more!

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2 Responses to Traveling Light

  1. Maria March 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    Thanks for the tips. Common sense but we all need a reminder sometimes and even if you’re not hiking up mountains on your next trip, traveling light makes your morning better… no sore back or neck from too much weight!

    • Aaron March 23, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

      Haha yes! This experience definitely converted me to an ultralight maniac (or something), which I talk about in subsequent posts. Glad you’re seeing the light, as it’s so easy to overpack!

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