How to keep your backpack light

My bags at Praggue railway station
My bags at Prague railway station

I have seen plenty of people paying tonnes of money at the airport baggage check-in counter because of overweight luggage. This has always confused me because, for some reason, my bags always weigh way below the permissible limit.

In 2012 ahead of my five-week Europe trip, when I was checking in at the airport, I actually got a little worried to see my big bag weigh less than 11kg when the airline allowed 25kg.

“What did I forget?” I thought. But during the trip it turned out I hadn’t really missed anything and I realised I was good at packing right and light.

When I can do it, why can’t you? Here’s how to keep your backpack light.

Mix and match clothes: The clothes you carry make the most difference. You don’t want to be in the same clothes in all your pictures and end up packing tens of different shirts and tops. And that is what makes your backpack more and more heavier. Carry clothing that you can mix and match and wear so that it doesn’t look the same in every picture. But if you ask me, I don’t really care if I’m wearing the same clothes in all my pictures! I just carry bare essentials because it is I who’ll have to carry all that load.

Laundry: When you are on a long trip and plan to do laundry during that time, it does not make sense to carry more clothes because you’ll be washing and reusing them anyway. Usually, when I am travelling for two weeks or less, I do not do laundry. I carry three jeans/trousers, five T-shirts and a couple of shorts for such trips. For longer trips, I carry more or less the same number of clothes, maybe fewer shirts. I hate doing laundry and only do it once in 10 days or so.

Me with my bags in Sri Lanka
Me with my bags in Sri Lanka

One main, two backups: I follow the one main, two backup policy when it comes to packing clothes. Say, jeans, I carry three of them. I wear one and I have two backups. Same goes with shirts and socks and underwear. (Well, I tend to carry more socks and underwear because I hate doing laundry. But three is adequate for any long trip.) I usually carry one beach shorts, because if that one is lost/damaged, I can always use one of my three regular shorts.

Books: Lots of people love to carry books while travelling. Books are great, especially if you are travelling alone. But they sure are heavy. Even if you want to carry books, do it one at a time. Give away or exchange the old one for another when you finish it.

Snacks: Many budget travellers like to carry various snacks along. It makes sense if you want to save money. Eating at restaurants all the time can cut a big hole in your pocket. But are you overdoing it? Do you have snacks enough for five days’ meals in your backpack? Take it easy. You can always replenish. Keep stuff to nibble on, and stuff that can keep you from going hungry for a day. But that’s about it. One packet of biscuits and a few small cakes should be adequate.

Footwear: I usually carry two pairs. A tough pair for walking and slippers.

Gadgets: The more dependent we become on gadgets, the heavier our backpacks get. I have seen people travelling with a smartphone and an ipad. That makes zero sense to me. I don’t carry laptops on short trips, especially when I’m travelling alone. But when I have to carry gadgets, a netbook, a smartphone and a camera serves all my purposes.


These are, of course, just some of the many ways you can go about reducing your backpack weight. If you have something to add to this, please feel free to do so in the comments section.



One thought on “How to keep your backpack light

  1. I am often teased about my ability to pack lightly! I do it because I hate to check baggage – I really only do it when I have a super long trip or am flying internationally. I tend to pack a ton of lightweight dresses in order to pack light.

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