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Adventure School: The art of travelling light

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Travelling light gives you freedom and saves you time. It is the freedom to fly through the airport without having to wait at the baggage carousel or find a trolley. It is the freedom to walk or take public transport rather than take a taxi. Travelling Light not only saves you time, it also saves you money because you can take that cheap flight with no checked baggage.

The main principles of travelling light are:

  • Pack less
  • Travel with lighter gear
  • Bring multi-purpose devices
  • Dress sensibly
  • Buy what you need when you get there
  • Keep a stash overseas, if you regularly travel to the same destination

Pack less

It shouldn’t need to be said, but don’t pack so much.

Travel with lighter gear

An easy way to travel light is to simply travel with lighter gear. Your leather holdall may be a beautiful bag but it probably weighs in at over 2 kg, whereas an Ultra-Sil duffel bag (like the ones made by Sea to Summit) weighs only 80g. Don’t even think about a bag with wheels: adding wheels and a telescoping handle to your bag just adds extra weight.

When you’re shopping for travel accessories you should look out for the lightest gear you can find. The Sea to Summit Travelling Light range of travel accessories has been designed to be lightweight with more than 80% of the range weighing in at under 85g.

Bring multi-purpose devices

This is an easy one as new technology has eliminated the need to travel with a lot of things. Twenty years ago it was not uncommon to pack a Walkman, several cassette tapes, magazines and books plus a camera and film. That is bulky and heavy, and nowadays can be replaced by a tablet and a smartphone. If you buy the right devices you should be able to get by with a single charger that will recharge both your phone and tablet.

Dress sensibly

Don’t pack an outfit for every situation and instead pack a couple of versatile items that are appropriate for your trip. Your clothing will comprise the bulk of your luggage so thinking carefully about what you’ll be wearing will make a big difference.

Firstly, you have to be comfortable in your clothes and they have to fit in with your style of travel and suit the climate at your destination. Secondly, you need to pack clothes that either doesn’t show the dirt or can be washed by hand in a hotel room and hung to dry.

Ideally, you need to avoid packing a separate outfit for each day and instead pack a combination of hard-wearing clothing that can go weeks between visits to the laundry and lightweight, fast-drying technical clothing that you can hand wash every few days. This way you can travel with just a couple of changes of clothes but still look put together.

Generally, the best option is a mix between technical clothing that you find in outdoor stores for things that need to be hand-washed regularly and more conventional clothing that can stand up to the rigours of travel going several weeks between washes.

Khaki-coloured chinos are a great practical option. They’re relatively lightweight and comfortable in a hot tropical climate and the colour doesn’t show the dirt, which is handy if you’re travelling somewhere with dusty unpaved roads.

A lot of people advise against wearing jeans when you travel, citing the fact that they’re hard to wash by hand and take ages to dry. However, they are practical and hard-wearing and generally don’t show the dirt. You can easily go three weeks between washes and some people even go for months without washing their jeans. Sure, jeans are heavy; but what you’re wearing doesn’t count towards the weight of your luggage.

A suit is a surprisingly good travel outfit (you can wear a suit for months before needing to take it to the drycleaners as long as you hang it to air every second day) and the same can be said for flannel trousers. Most people can’t pull this look off unless they’re travelling for business and it would certainly look out of place in a backpackers’ hostel or campsite, but for a more mature traveller staying in nicer hotels, this is certainly worth consideration.

While you can wear the same pair of jeans for weeks without a wash, the same can’t be said about underwear, socks and shirts. These need to be washed regularly so you’re always wearing a clean shirt and clean undies. This is where technical clothing (the kind you can buy in outdoor shops) comes into play. Two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks and two shirts in a fast drying fabric will take up hardly any space in your bag and you can hand wash them every couple of days. The Trek and Travel laundry wash from Sea to Summit is ideal for doing laundry in hotel sinks. It comes in a leakproof bottle that lasts ages and it meets TSA requirements so you can take it onboard with your hand luggage.

Wear just one pair of shoes. Shoes are bulky and an extra pair of shoes can be the difference between checked bags and hand luggage. Wear shoes that are versatile and comfortable and wear them every day you’re away. Also, don’t take your most expensive shoes as daily wear is not good for them.

Of course, there are times when you need more than one pair of shoes (like when your trip combines hiking with a black tie event); but 90% of the time one pair of shoes is enough.

Buy what you need when you get there

There is no reason why you should overpack simply because you might need something when you’re away. If you really need something you didn’t pack then you can always buy it at your destination.

Keep a stash overseas

If you’re lucky enough to have a holiday home then travelling light is easy as everything you need is already at your destination. If there is somewhere that you travel to on a regular basis there is a much cheaper alternative to owning a second home; simply rent a storage locker where you can keep all the extra gear you will need when you get to your destination.

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