When I first started packing I was 11 and my mother had sent me to her good friend in Germany for a couple of weeks, however I hadn’t chosen what to bring, I just had to put everything back into the bag when it was time to come home.
Fast forward to my first interrail trip with my friends: I had a huge backpack with all sorts of possible clothes, carrying it was not a problem, the problem was fitting it into lockers. At one point I remember carrying a portable drying rack that I could hang from the back of a chair.
Then sense came to me and I started cutting down on the things I brought, so my packs got smaller. I think flying was one of the reasons, but also the fact that I realised I didn’t need so much stuff.
I am not an impossibly light traveller, but I can manage with a far smaller pack than I used to. I have developed a travelling wardrobe made up mostly of black and white items, so that all match one another and I can pull out a decent outfit for almost anything I decide to do.
But I wanted to talk about my week-end backpack (that can actually fit enough for 5-7 days, if necessary). I bought a Tatonka Flightcase that is really comfortable to carry, both as a bag and as a backpack, even if I mostly use it as backpack, and complies with carry-on measurements. I use a Muji plastic bag with containers for my toiletries, which is also really comfortable, especially because you can get any size and shape you prefer, all in compliance with airport security rules. And my most recent purchase is a whole set of Eagle Creek Pack-it Specter Cubes and a Folder. And while I was at it, I also bought a couple of Pack-it Shoe Sacs, which will be more than enough, as my feet are so small that I can easily fit a pair of flip flops and a pair of sandals into one of the bags; the good thing is that they are waterproof, so even if you have muddy (or dusty) boots they won’t affect your clothes.
I like the Flightcase, but with it being soft and not having dividers inside, my clothes come out quite crumpled when it is not full. I think the Specter set is the perfect solution as it’s really versatile and so light that it’s almost like not having it, but I can keep my undies and bras separate from my T-shirts and my camera. I can keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones, I can keep all my socks together. It’s true that the bag is not huge, but this way, it feels more organised.
Of course I know that the pack-it cubes have been around for a while, but they were too stiff, which resulted in me being able to fit less in the bag.
The new Specter cubes are almost shapeless, as they are made of the very light and supple silnylon fabric used for ultralight tents. The material is ripstop, water-resistant and durable, but gives practically no support to your clothes. I chose them on purpose, as they can adapt to the shape of the bag I put them in, and that’s exactly what I need. The Flightcase is a rectangle, but my larger backpack is not, so I think these will be most comfortable.
I can fit about 6-8 rolled-up socks into a quarter cube. I pack my bras and panties into a half cube and t-shirts and leggings into the cube. I have a spare cube for dirty laundry, when it’s empty it takes up almost no space at all and weighs only 1 ounce. The first time I used it I was amazed at the amount of clothes it can hold!
I was so happy with the cubes that I have just bought a Folder: I went for the smallest size as I am only going to pack dresses in it, so it will probably be enough. I will try it very soon.
Many cheap airlines do not allow more than one piece of hand luggage, so I also got a Lifeventure Packable Daysack, in light stone grey. It folds away neatly in its own pocket and, when open, has a lot of space for everything in the main compartment, and handy external pockets for Kleenex, sunglasses, and so on. It also has two net pockets for water bottles.
I have sewn a strap inside the main compartment so that I can attach a Pack-it Sac to it with my wallet and passport, that hopefully won’t get stolen.
The straps are, of course, not padded, but they do not dig into your shoulders, unless you really overload the rucksack. I manage to carry around my iPad, my mirror-less camera with a spare lens, a water bottle, and other bits and bobs without problems.
I hope this was not too boring and maybe included some suggestions for travelling lighter in style.