Packing for a backpacking trip can be tricky and sometimes requires a little ingenuity, especially if you’re backpacking for a long period of time. Carrying what you need for your trip and at the same time keeping your pack light is a balancing act. Bring what you absolutely need and eliminating what is not essential. Over packing is a mistake, one you will have to carry around with you your whole trip. So be smart and think about what you will need for the area you are going to be traveling in.
The main thing about fitting in as much material into your backpack as possible is not folding your clothes, stuff them in your bag. By stuffing your clothes into your backpack it eliminates voids that folding your clothes would have created. Stuffing creates room so more can fit and therefore leaving more room to make decisions on what to bring. Though the down side of stuffing your clothes in your bag is that it will come out wrinkled, depending on the material the clothes are made of. Personally when I travel I don’t look at people and say “Wow, his shirt is really wrinkled,” thus my clothes being a little wrinkled is not a big deal at all (besides, the wrinkles fade out soon after being worn). Polyester verses cotton, polyester will always be the better choice as far as traveling attire. Polyester is much lighter, packs better and washes and dries much faster than cotton. Another reason why polyester is better than cotton, is that cotton will hold wrinkles a lot longer than polyester and cotton takes up more room in the backpack.
Another way to maximize space in your backpack is easy, don’t over pack! This has to be the number one problem when people pack. Staying on top of washing the clothes at night that you were wearing during the day can result in not having to pack as much. Quick dry socks, underwear, pants, shirts and jackets makes your backpacking easier and your pack lighter to carry. For example I have three pairs of ExOfficio underwear (http://bit.ly/16IDbFM), for two weeks when I was in South America I brought three pairs of these underwear. By washing and letting it dry overnight, having only three pairs of underwear was more than enough (could have gotten away with just two pairs). If warmth is needed in a destination down jackets works wonders and packs away significantly smaller than expected. As for shoes I have hiking boots which are my main wear during my travels but for around the town at night I wear my All-Star Converse. My Converses are light and pack up smaller than the traditional tennis shoes would. Also a thin pair of flip flops finds its way on the side of my bag, ideally used for showers and various hostels or any other destinations that may call for it.
By far the heaviest thing in my backpack is my sleeping bag. Some people don’t travel with one but when I’m going from hostel to hostel, knowing that I’m sleeping in my own sheets brings me some peace of mind. I have a compression bag I stuff my sleeping bag into, resulting in a more manageable size but the weight is still a factor I chose to deal with. When compressed its only two to three pounds, but that weight adds up when you are carrying the weight of the backpack and all your other materials on your back for most of your trip. So any corners I can cut to make my pack lighter I take advantage of.
Another trick for backpacking is Petzl oval screws. I use these oval screws to deter any thieves from trying to steal anything out of my backpack. I used these when I was at crowded market places like Otavalo Market in Ecuador or on cramped buses or in crowded restaurants. These Petzl oval screws don’t lock, but they do make it where if someone wants to get into your bag they can’t just quickly open it up with just one rapid pull. This gave me a little added confidence in that my possessions won’t be stolen as easily than if I didn’t have any protection.
These are my main tricks for backpacking and preparing for a trip. The more trips I go on the more I come up with little helpful tips like the oval screw to make traveling a little bit more easier. If you have any other tips that I did not mention please comment on this blog and let me and others know, I’m always willing to learn helpful travel tips.