Packing Tips and Tricks when you have a weight limit

How to maximise the space in your travel bagYes, I’m out on the road again. I travel a lot due to the work I do and I’m often ‘on the road’ for weeks at a time. I have to take a laptop, phone and iPad with me, along with their relevant chargers. These are my tools of trade and my office is wherever I am sleeping that night.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog, we try to go paperless where possible though it is not always so easy to achieve. Many of our clients like to handle the physical resources we develop rather than reading them on an iPad, so I have to find room for these in my luggage as well.

Of course, I also need to take changes of clothes along with me. Thankfully, I work ‘out bush’ so don’t need to dress up! Add in toiletries, a sleeping bag, pillow and a sheet for those places where we have to ‘camp’, cooking items and ‘hard-to-get’ food items and the weight really starts to add up.

Unfortunately, because we fly to remote locations in smaller aircraft, I am often limited to 13 – 15kg of check in luggage and 3kg of hand luggage. This obviously means I need to pack smart and light. I’ve been asked on numerous occasions how I fit so much in my 40-litre bag. Well, firstly, it’s a bit of a Tardis! I can often find a place for that ‘one more thing’. Secondly, I take lightweight items and thirdly, I pack with a particular system.

This is what I do:

My sleeping bag is down-filled and weighs 0.92kg. I take a self-inflating foam pillow that rolls up and my sheet is a silk and cotton sleeping bag liner. These items sit on the base layer to the bottom of the bag as they can take some squashing. Then I fit in a rolled up towel (I take a normal sized bath towel but I could save more room by using a travel towel), first aid kit and toiletries bag, plastic cutlery, a sharp knife and a device that makes carrot or zucchini noodles – great for salads if I get somewhere and find there are no cooking facilities. I also add in some stock cubes, as vegetable soup is a quick and healthy meal when I am on the road.

The first layer includes items that are bulky but can be squashed

I start to build up the second layer; this includes items such as shampoo (in a plastic bag in case of accidental leakage), bathers, PJ’s and a hat. I also fit in packets of vacuum-packed cooked rice, packets of cup-a-soups and items such as vitamins and facial wipes wherever I can find a space.

Next, I roll all my clothes. As mentioned before, I don’t have to dress up for work, so this means that I can wear t-shirts or shirts that might end up a bit creased from the travelling. I find myself frequenting the travel shops to purchase woollen t-shirts and lightweight pants that travel well and dry out quickly.

Roll don't fold your clothes

Then I add my walking shoes (wrapped in a plastic bag) and pack the rest of the clothes around them. Underwear and socks go into the pocket located on the front flap of the bag – this makes them easy to find. Once all clothes are packed, I secure everything with the luggage straps.

Securing items will help relieve pressure on your cases zips

On top of this pile, I add any hard copy books I need to take with me and zip up the bag.

Place any books or folders on top of clothes

I might tweak the contents for each trip depending on my destination, but I’ve found it’s better to be ruthless in eliminating items that I probably don’t need. I might need to add in an extra pair of socks, beanie and scarf for a trip to Central Australia in winter (believe me, it can get cold), but I can then leave out the bathers and dress that I usually pack if I am working in the Tropics.

Convertible backpack bag

I have found the bag itself has been as important as what I pack inside it. A heavy bag means you can’t pack as much if you have a weight limitation, however your bag needs to be sturdy enough with good zips. I also find that having the option to put the bag on my back when the terrain is rough or there are crowds to negotiate is easier than pulling the bag along on wheels. My current bag converts to a backpack when needed but the straps can be stowed and I can use it as a pull along bag. I love its versatility!

So what tips do you have for travel packing? I’m always looking for ways to travel lighter. Let me know in the comments!



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2 thoughts on “Packing Tips and Tricks when you have a weight limit

  • May 5, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Haha – I think our year of minimal packing into a Hiace helped you out here. I do similar stuff to you except for the type of trips I take, I almost never need to check a bag. If it doesn’t fit into a carry on bag, it doesn’t go with me. The exception is overseas trips like I did last year and I also have a bag that both has wheels and converts to a backpack. Mine is an Osprey and I love, love, love it! I got it for Australia last year but have used it several times since and it is quality built, lightweight, and will last me for years, I think. In December I did a 3-day trip with a tiny backpack that I carried onto the airplanes. While staying with a niece, I pulled out an extra pair of shoes and she said “What are you? Mary Poppins?” as I seemed to have almost nothing with me and yet had everything I needed.

    I’m curious since I’ve never owned an iPad – what does it do for you that the phone and laptop don’t?

    • May 5, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Yes I think it must have, I still remember that non-crease nylon dress I wore any time we needed something nicer to wear and that pair of shorts that I think I wore out after constant use over the year. My bag is from the Kathmandu store and it is just perfect. The iPad is great for e-books, it’s much easier to save my reading matter to the iPad.I often save in an App like GoodNotes and I can then highlight text if I am reviewing documents. I can also show clients an electronic copy of a handbook, easily check emails, write notes and check my calendar. Yes it’s similar to the phone but there are Apps I can get on the iPad that I can’t get on the phone and it’s easier for me to read. One of my co-workers just brings her iPad instead of a laptop to save weight as she can complete reports on it, I just don’t like the way Word operates on it, not as easy to upload to Box.

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