You might have read that the happiest traveller will be one who can fit their bag/pack under the seat of a bus or take it as hand luggage on a flight. You may not believe this is possible, especially when first throwing a few things in a bag. However, after learning the hard way with 70-90 litre packs, every subsequent trip you always try to take less and less and still lament having too much. Then at last you manage to get everything (with a few secrets that are shared here) into a 35-45 litre pack that fits neatly under a bus seat or overhead bin and are truly a free and happy traveller who would never ever even consider taking a ‘standard’ backpack again to a developing country. A small portable backpack really is the difference when it comes to independent travel. The freedom it offers and hassle it removes is worth what you sacrifice in not taking ten times over. Not to mention the fact that you will be the envy of everyone you meet! Don’t believe it? Sceptical? Read on for some reasons why you should, if nothing else, pack light.
The famous saying goes, everything is essential, only some things more than others. You will have no idea of what you actually need and how little you use when you are away when sitting at home. Everyone says pack light, but the vast majority of backpackers don’t until they have learnt the hard way – ten reasons why you really should:
Your bag is your life, or at least becomes it. The smaller it is the less it sticks outs and the less vulnerable you feel. The closer you can stick to it and less cumbersome it is the happier you will be. Imagine you are on a bus. Do you want your bag under the seat in front of you or in the luggage hold or roof above/below/under you?
A large, bulky, full bag gives less room to fill with souvenirs, becomes a nightmare when using motorcycle-taxis/rickshaws and has to be checked in (often at extra cost) and waited for, when taking flights.
The thought of wearing the same thing day in, day out may seem terrible now, but it gets easy with the right clothes, and is always preferable to unpacking your entire bag. Circumstance are different when on the road with everyone in the same boat. Nobody cares if they see the same T-shirt two days in a row! There is no need to take too many clothes as they can be easily washed and dried, normally overnight.
You will need to walk with your pack on freely (sometimes quickly avoiding touts/traffic), sometimes right across town or from hotel to hotel and it’s often hot, really hot. When you do take transport, you can swing a small bag over your front and jump in a taxi/rickshaw with ease, quickly and without having to separate yourself from it. In addition, leaving your pack in lockers can be a problem if it is huge.
Carrying a large, heavy, bulky bag onto a bus may sound alright, but when it is packed you cannot and are therefore normally separated from it (it goes on the roof, underneath or is left at the back next to god knows what). It is normally okay there, but this can make you a little paranoid about theft as it does happen.
When using mini-buses that stop at the side of the road – a common way of getting around in many countries – they are normally crowded and have no luggage holds, so your bag comes on with you. If crowded you’ll whack everyone in the face [with bag] finding a seat and might need to buy an extra seat for a large pack. The same is true of public transport (notably metro/underground and/or tram systems) in rush hour where you find the same issue and may have to pay a surcharge a large bag.
If your pack is full it is difficult to get to things without pulling other stuff out, so you don’t use what’s at the bottom, it being easier to wear what you had on yesterday or what is at the top.
You will be uncomfortable moving from town to town (short hops) not being able to jump on and off small buses/taxis. Not to mention that a giant oversize bag does not exactly make you the most confident as you will always feel like you are sticking out.
You will not believe what an advantage it is to be able to travel from A to C with a quick stop off to see a sight at B carrying your bag, rather than having to do it in a separate day trip, wasting time and money.
Quite simply you’ll spend a good deal of time on the road thinking, ‘if I had a huge pack or one like that girl/guy we saw at xyz I could not do this’ – of course you need some bulky items, but there is no need to have a 60 plus litre bag. Not unless you are camping and if so why?