Over a year before my projected departure for a year-long (or two) trip around South America, I have already done my packing list.
I’m excited, yes, but another reason for my uncharacteristic advanced preparation is that I don’t want to overpack anymore.
I still remember my 70-day solo backpacking trip in Europe when I filled out my 45+10L backpack. It certainly wasn’t fun walking around with such a heavy bag! Plus, if you’re not an organized packer like me, you’d have to unpack everything every time you arrive in your hostel, just to find an item to use for that day.
Of course, I had a reason for bringing so much clothes in Europe; it was winter, so I knew I had to layer up. I had one sweater, one fleece jacket, one windbreaker, one leather jacket, and another thick jacket, among a number of short- and long-sleeved shirts, tights, and pants.
All the jackets I brought turned to be not enough for the -15 deg C weather there. Interestingly though, I still ended up not using a lot of the clothes I brought (hint: it’s cold, so you don’t sweat!). If I hadn’t borrowed those winter clothes from Greencycle friends in the Philippines, I would have left them behind in Europe.
Learning a lot from that Eurotrip, I vowed not to overpack anymore, especially for backpacking trips where I have to transfer from one city and country to another in just a matter of days or weeks. It’s highly stressful, not to mention hard on the body.
In preparation for my 2015 South American trip, I have already bought a beautiful Kelty Redwing 40L backpack, ordered through Amazon (thanks, Kin!), to make sure I don’t bring too much stuff with me again. I love my local Montanara brand, but they had gone out of business and I couldn’t find any local backpacks that meet my specifications (front loading, lots of pockets, etc.).
To help me pack more efficiently, I will also use packing cubes. These are zippered travel organizers that come in different sizes. Most come in sets of three to four, and are used to pack clothes, underclothing, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items that would otherwise just clutter your bag.
I used to put my things in plastic bags before packing them into my backpack. The plastic bag doesn’t only organize my stuff, it also protects my clothes from getting wet (flashback to the time when my backpack took a dive off the pier in Caramoan and into the water. Ugh. Don’t ask me why it happened because I still couldn’t understand it!).
The plastic bag is also great at filling in all the spaces in my backpack. However, it doesn’t really give me a quick look at what’s inside. So every time I needed something from my bag, I would have to take out everything and look in every plastic bag.
Enter packing cubes–the ultimate travel organizers! Anma Lifestyle sent me a set to try out, and I was skeptical at first. How could these small fabric containers help me with my packing? They looked too small for my clothes.
I soon learned that you can indeed stuff several days’ worth of clothes in those organizers. I crammed four shirts, 1 microfiber towel, five pairs of underwear, and two pairs of socks in just two cubes. I used the other one to store my Kindle, address book, notebook, camera charger, phone charger, Kindle charger, and several other smaller items.
A fellow travel blogger, seeing me with only one carry-on, asked how I could stuff over a week’s worth of clothes and shoes + laptop + DSLR camera in one backpack. My answer was simple: packing cubes + the willingness to wash clothes while traveling.
I love Anma’s set; the design is nice, and the material is flexible enough. However, they use a strip of ribbon as a slider in the zipper and it came off really easily. Before I leave for my next trip, I would have to replace it with a string or something else, otherwise zipping it close without a slider would be a pain. I hope their next batch would have something sturdier.
That said, I’m now a fan of packing cubes for life. Who knew accessories like this could make our travels so much more comfortable? I can’t wait to use them again for South America!
How about you? Do you use packing cubes when you travel?