Updated on June 13, 2010
8 Tips for a Comfortable Lightweight Pack
Traveling lightly is my preferred way to go. I have found that if you can accept re-wearing some of your clothes and are comfortable hand washing your clothes in a bathroom sink, then a lightweight backpack is perfect. It is great to fly without checking baggage and to get on or off a bus without having to store or retrieve your bags from underneath.
The benefits of traveling lightly by far outweigh not having 5 pairs of shoes to choose from. For the most part, I tend to pack one pair of shoes, two pairs of pants, a pair of tights that can go under the pants, a few long sleeved shirts, a sweatshirt, some socks and underwear.
Because ultralight packs have little if any structure how you pack your bag is extremely important. The general rule is to pack the heaviest things closest to your back and then put the lighter items around the heavier. Obviously, you should also pad anything that is really hard and could make carrying uncomfortable or is breakable.
Here are some steps that I go by every time I pack:
1. Lay your bag down to pack it! One of the worst things you can do is pack your bag to be shaped like a pear. This can create all kinds of pain and back problems and will really make traveling unpleasant. When you are done packing, you want your bag to be as close to a rectangular shape as possible. This means that you have evenly packed all of your items and they should not be able to move around.
2. Separate your items. Take out the items that you may need very quickly and do not pack these into the main section of your bag. Nearly all bags have small outside pockets and these should be used for items that you may need at a moments notice, such as a flashlight or map.
3. Pack the heaviest items closest to your back. This means that if you have a pocket for water against your back, this is where the heavy items go. If your bag is longer than your back is, like mine, then this also means that the heaviest items will not go in the bottom of your bag; the water pocket is ideal for your heavy items.
4. Pack bulky things next. It is really difficult to get an oddly shaped item into an already packed bag, so pack your clothes or other softer items around the bulky object and pack this right after you have the heaviest things in your bag.
5. Now pack your softer, lighter items. If you have other items that are not clothes but have not already been packed, now is the time to fit them in.
6. Finish packing with your clothes. The most effective way to conserve space with your clothes is to roll instead of fold them. This makes it very easy to grab one item of clothing instead of having to take out all of the folded items to get one article. It is very easy to stick clothes into any space, so stick your clothes anywhere there is a hole.
7. Close your pack tightly. The top of your bag should be closed as tightly as possible and if you have any compression straps make sure that they are as tight as possible. Although your bag should be tightly and well packed already, these compression straps will ensure that the contents in your bag do not move around.
8. Pack the outer pockets. The last thing you need to do now is pack the items that you set aside earlier. There should not be too many of these, especially because now that you have a small backpack you will have it with you at all times, so your small outer pockets will work perfectly. I like to keep a map, flashlight, small alarm clock, and my Moleskine notebook in the outer pockets. So just stick in your smaller items and you are on your way!