7 ways to pack lighter


When I travel to see friends or colleagues, I often receive gasps of surprise at how lightly I’ve packed. Here are some of the ways I pull it off.

1. Interchangeable wardrobe components

When packing clothes, I try not to think in terms of ‘outfits’ and instead in terms of groups of things that go together. This gives me maximal flexibility, and reduces the number of clothes I have to bring. For instance, I have a pair of jeans, some nicer pants, and some shorts that all work with 6 different shirts. I have a different pair of jeans and a pair of shorts that work with an additional set of 4 shirts. So, I can go 10 days with as few as two pairs of jeans/shorts/pants.

2. Don’t bring ‘options’

Bring one thing that you know works reasonably well in 3 different situations, not 3 things that work great but only in one situation. My Sperry Boat Shoes are a great example of this: I can wear them in casual situations, obviously; they’re not too hot when walking around a city during the summer; and if I need to go to an nicer restaurant, I can wear them with socks and slacks, making them just formal enough that no one will complain (at a glance they might pass for loafers).

3. Limit shoes

Shoes are oddly shaped, hard to compress, and cumbersome. Pack as few of them as possible. Use the principles from #1, #2, and the next tip to reduce your footwear to the minimum.

4. Wear the big stuff on the plane/train/etc

Wanna bring a large item but can’t fit it in the luggage? Wear it! During the summer I’ll bring a pair of sandals and a pair of shoes, packing one and wearing the other, respectively. If I’m traveling to my hometown of Tucson, doing so usually allows me to pack everything I need into just my laptop bag, though it can be a little tight. During winter, I’ll carry/wear a heavy coat or boots rather than pack them.

5. Don’t bring aspirational items

I used to try to convince myself that I was going to go running when I visited my parents in Arizona during the summer. I’d pack several workout shirts, a couple of pairs of shorts, and, worst of all, my running shoes. But did I ever go running in triple digit heat? Spoiler alert: no, no I did not.

6. Luggage tetris

Some types of items take up a lot of space, while some items can fit just about anywhere. I tend to pack shoes, shirts, and pants first, then stick socks and underwear in the nooks and crannies left over. Depending on your bag’s layout, rolling your clothes can make them easier to pack. Another neat trick to reclaim some of the room your shoes take up is to fill them with items (I usually stick with socks, but don’t let that stop you from being creative!).

7. Bring vs. buy

Depending where you’re going, you may be able to purchase many things that you’d otherwise pack. If you’re visiting friends or family, it rarely makes sense to pack toothpaste, for instance, but if you’re short on space there are many things that you can buy when you get to your destination. I did this recently with spare boxers and socks, but I more commonly just do this with toiletry items.

Anything I left out? Excited to try out something on this list? Think this would help someone you know? Share! Comment! Do all the things!

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