Traveling light is a mantra to live by. While I always heard this statement, I never quite took it to heart. That is, until I had to hike up a mountain with my full, 45 pound (20.4 kilogram) pack on just to find some accommodation for the night!
But here’s the thing. Before I set off on that trip, I thought I was packing light. After all, I had taken only enough clothes to last me 5 days and only the guidebooks I needed. It looked like I had space because my backpack had a whopping 90 liter capacity. When full, it came up past my neck and was wider than I am!
All over Asia, people would remark about the behemoth on my back. I watched other backpackers going by with 50 or 60 liter packs and even a few who would breeze in with ultralight packs, including one French-Canadian fellow who trekked through the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in China with all of his stuff on his back!
He served as a great inspiration to me and since my return home I have been in the market for the perfect new backpack. I was looking for small, really small, like small enough to be a carry-on bag. I also wanted something comfortable and that came with an integrated rain cover, all of which my old backpack lacked.
So I set out to wander through one of my favorite stores in the world…REI. As I perused their extensive backpack collection, something definitely caught my eye. It was considerably smaller. So much so that it’s 1/3 the size of my original pack: The Deuter Futura 32 (pictured above).
So just how much smaller is it physically! Well, just look at this side to side picture with my old backpack!
And look at how much thinner it is than my old backpack!
I’ve shrunk 90 liters down to a mere 32! But size wasn’t all this pack had going for it! With pockets galore, there are plenty of handy spots to stash things. Unlike other top loading packs, its main compartment can be sealed off into two, with the lower one being accessible from the front. And best of all? Deuter’s “Aircomfort System,” which creates a space between the pack and your back! It’s the perfect solution to avoid sweating up a storm while wearing it!
So now the question is, am I crazy to have done this? I mean 1/3 less space than I had last time around? I don’t think so.
When I spent 4 days CouchSurfing in Salt Lake City last month, I took a bare minimum–2 outfits, one of which I wore on the plane. I packed everything, including toiletries, my travel towel and my super handy silk sleeping bag (which works fantastically well as basic bedding), into a very small daypack and even had room for a book, netbook and water.
Why is this relevant? Well, why exactly do you need to pack much more for a 6 month trip than you do for a 4 day one? It’s not like many people are going to see you wearing the same clothes over and over again. Take along some detergent and wash you clothes in the bathroom sink. Trust me, I know it sounds “weird,” but it’s a great thing to do! If you get things that will dry quickly (i.e. not denim), they’ll dry overnight.
Traveling in cold climates? Winter clothes can be really bulky! That’s why you should invest in some good lightweight gear (REI is a FANTASTIC place to find this stuff!). The name of the game is lightweight layering. Do be forewarned though that good outdoor gear can get quite expensive. And trust me, it’s definitely worth it!
So do I know for a fact that I can fit my life into 32 liters? No. But given all of this, I certainly think I can. And you know what? Now that I have the pack, I don’t have much of a choice but to make it work! Now…somewhere to go to try out my new gear….hmmmm….
Next time you go for backpacking, ask yourself this: Are you ready to climb a mountain with your pack? If not, pack less!
What do you think? Am I crazy for shrinking my backpack this much? What are your space-saving tips and thoughts on ultralight travel?
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