Having had a few trips where luggage has been mishandled and has not arrive at my destination when I did, I have taken great strides to become a “packing queen” and avoiding checking bags at all costs. I take great scrutiny into what gets packed and what does not, and use unique strategies to maximize what can fit in the bag(s) that are chosen for each trip.
Well ahead of departure day, we gather everything we would “like” to take, along with everything we will need. I then choose the bags that are best suited for the volume of things we have to pack. Note: we always pack backpacks – not suitcases – for ease of transporting.
We often need several pairs of shoes due to the nature of our trips – hiking, beach, everyday. Which adds a logistical curve ball into my master packing plan. Nonetheless, I make due and use the shoes as storage compartments for socks, underwear, and other small items. The key is to not leave any empty space! Be sure to cram things in every nook and cranny. Empty space is wasted space, and potentially a shirt you have to leave at home.
Once I have done my first practice run, I then consult the airline’s specifications to be sure our bags fit within the parameters for carryon baggage. If they do not, I have to reconsider and remove items that may not be needed. This process sometimes takes three or four times of packing and unpacking before I am happy with the result.
The Osprey Manta 20 Hydration Pack is small, but can carry more than you would expect. It’s important to be sure to push smaller items down into the bottom corners, and make good use of its expandable, stretchy construction and outer straps to hold jackets and the like. This bag has been with us to California, Cambodia, Colorado, Hawaii, Italy, Memphis, Nepal, Paris, and Thailand.
While we try to avoid taking larger bags, the Women’s REI Co-op Crestrail 48 Pack is our go-to bag when we need extra capacity. It’s big enough to hold several weeks worth of clothing, but small enough to still fit in an overhead compartment. It has traveled to Australia, Hawaii, Nepal, New Zealand, and Portland.
The Women’s REI Co-op Traverse Daypack is my go-to bag for hiking, as well as traveling. It’s about the size of an average backpack, but has a unique design that expands in just the right places and has the capacity I need no matter the situation. It also has side pockets that are great for my 32-ounce water bottle and miscellaneous clothing items/shoes/travel pillows, etc. An added bonus is that it is waterproof as well. This bag really has been everywhere: hiking locally, Australia, Cambodia, Hawaii, Italy, Nepal, New Zealand, Paris, Thailand – too many places to list!
In desperate times, when I need some extra help to get things to fit just right, our compression bags come to the rescue. I try to avoid using them because it is extra work, but when I can’t quite get everything to fit, they do come in handy.
One of the best Christmas gifts I have received in that last five years or so is the “strawberry bag” Bill’s sister gave me. At first it just seemed like a kitchy gift, but with all the traveling we do, it’s been perfect! It takes up very little space, is cute to carry around, and is a life (and environment) saver when it comes to shopping local markets or grocery stores and when needing a little extra carrying space on the way home.
Some of the Miraculous Feats I have Pulled Off
Fitting a backpack containing a video camera and microphone inside my Crestrail 48 Pack along with a tripod and clothes for four days. Still having room for a pair of tennis shoes, a hooded sweatshirt, and a t-shirt I purchased while in Portland.
Epic Adventure to Bangkok, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii, 2014-2015
Packing 26 days worth of summer-climate clothing, shoes, toiletries, and other things we needed into my Crestrail 48 Pack, Traverse Daypack, and a small CamelBak hydration pack.
Italy and Paris, 2015
We successfully packed everything we needed into Bill’s Osprey Manta 20 Hydration Pack and my Traverse Daypack. All for 10 days of plane and train travel. It helped that we did not plan any hiking for this trip and did not have to pack our hiking boots.
Taking photos at a conference, I successfully packed a DSLR camera with two lenses, an iPad and keyboard, and my clothes for four days into the Osprey Manta 20 Hydration Pack.
Twenty two days of travel – twelve of those days hiking in the Himalayas – only three backpacks. That included all of the items listed in my “Preparing for Nepal” post, all of the clothing we would need, and then some!
The photos below illustrate a breakdown of what was in each bag when we returned home. Some of the items missing are the toilet paper we had taken with us for use during our trek, and the majority of the snacks we had packed and eaten. As you can see, there was still a rather large amount of things that fit in/on each bag!
Thankfully we had the compression bags to help this time. I rarely use them – I tend to just roll everything, but sometimes I need a little extra help to make things fit. Even with them, it was pretty tight getting all of our clothes to fit inside the Crestrail 48 Pack.
Accomplishing all of this is no small feat! It takes a decent amount of time and energy to get things just right. But in the end it is so worth it to not have to pay baggage fees, and to have the piece of mind knowing your luggage is safely with you every step of the way.
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