Most travellers are victims of the overpacking trolls at some point or another. They think they’ll need this and they might need that and before they know it, they’re wheeling two huge suitcases behind them in the airport, stumbling with each step.
This doesn’t have to be you. You don’t have to be a victim of the overpacking trolls. Overpacking is easy to prevent and you’ll be happy you avoided the troll’s terror.
Clothing is often the place where people fall foul of overpacking.
Find a few tops that you like and decide on a rough colour scheme. By making all of your clothes go together, you create many more outfits from less clothes.
Generally, I pack basic trousers, a few neutral-coloured skirts and shorts, and tops that go with any of them. My coat is black and I have a scarf that can go with any outfit I put together. I can put on any top, any bottom and throw on my coat and it should all match (well, match enough for me).
Look at the weather where you’re going – this plays the biggest role in what clothes to pack. If you’re travelling somewhere warm, bring more summer clothes and beach gear. Somewhere cold will call for winter clothes and layers. In-between climates are tough, but can be done with clothes that can be layered. Figuring out how to pack for each is important because the overpacking trolls can strike anywhere, anytime.
Of course, shorts and tank tops will end up in your pack, but be sure you have a lightweight jacket or sweater if it gets cold at night.
The weather might not always be ideal, so prepare for rain, even if it’s a warm rain. One drenching at the beginning of the day might be fun but it might also drown your spirits if you have to walk around all day in wet underwear.
Bringing lightweight clothes makes laundry easy to do by hand and lets you pack even less.
A sarong that can double as a beach towel saves your from packing a huge fluffy towel. A hat, sunglasses and cover-up save your skin from burning, but can be fun souvenirs to buy once your there.
Layers are critical. Going into a shop might be warm and toasty but stepping out into blizzard-like conditions will require warmth.
For cold climates, I bring normal t-shirts and one or two long-sleeved tops that I can layer underneath them.
My legs and feet often get cold, so I bring a pair of leggings (sometimes running tights or thermals, but usually leggings that I can wear with a skirt or dress), extra sets of layerable socks and leg warmers.
I used to bring two outer layers, one soft shell jacket and another that could fit underneath, but now I bring just one lightweight waterproof windbreaker-like jacket, a fleece jacket and a few sweaters that I can layer under it. This makes it easier to pack and gives me more choices in how many layers to wear. It’s just one big mix-and-match game for me. Packing layers that can go together can make staying warm much easier.
This can be the toughest to pack for. If you’re heading somewhere that might be warm and sunny one day but cold and rainy the next or you’re travelling over multiple seasons, you need to be prepared for anything. In this case, layers are even more important.
By having clothes that can be made warmer or cooler as necessary, you can adjust to the changing weather.
Coats or outer shells that can be taken off, jackets that can be unzipped and hoods that can be put up for rain can keep you happy when out and about.
It’s difficult to pack for these climates, but it can be done.
Figure out how long you will be gone and what you can do without.
If you don’t need to do anything for work, maybe you don’t have to bring a laptop and the accompanying bulky charger. Internet cafes are usually easy to find, so if you only want to check your email a few times during your trip, leave the laptop at home.
If you are bringing a tablet or phone, it can double as an alarm clock, source of internet or even as a camera.
Don’t fall into the trap of bringing an electronic gadget just because it’s cool. Be sure to only pack what you will actually need and use. If you’ve brought it on a previous trip and not used it, don’t bring it next time (easier said than done, I know).
This is another place the overpacking trolls hit travellers. You probably don’t need as many toiletries as you think.
At a minimum, I can get by with a face lotion (or just sunscreen), glasses and contacts stuff, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mascara, eye makeup remover wipes and a pair of small earrings. It really doesn’t take up much space and I could definitely do without the last three.
Shampoo and conditioner might be offered wherever you are sleeping, but I can get by for one week with just one ounce of shampoo, half an ounce of conditioner and one ounce of shower gel (or bar soap). If I really wanted to pack super light, I could just pack a bar of soap and use it for my hair, face and body in a pinch.
Depending on where you’re going, people might not wear as much makeup as you do at home, so leave the heavy makeup at home. All the makeup I bring I can hold easily in one hand and even then I only wear it half the time whilst travelling (granted, I’m not a huge makeup wearer to start with).
There are countless other things to pack, but clothes, electronics and toiletries are the three places where travellers tend to overpack the most. If you really feel like you need something, bring it. But make sure you can carry everything yourself because you are the one carting it around! Don’t expect someone else to carry your bag for you.
Overpacking is a great way to put a damper on a trip and is exactly what the overpacking trolls want. I will admit that I have lost to their powers at times. As a victim of their sorcery, I beg you to not let them win.
Only pack what you need and leave the rest at home. It’s as simple as that.