In my current days of adult travel (in which trips are few and far between yet easily financed) it’s simple for me to pull out my biggest suitcase, stuff it full of crap, and be about my way. However, back in my days of being a lost undergrad looking to see the world, this was definitely not the case.
My Wal-Mart backpack, now muddled with the patches of various states and countries and somehow lacking any sort of holes or disfigurements, would be packed to the brim with essentials most Thursday or Friday nights on my newest journey out of town. When I would arrive at my chosen destination and someone would ask me, “Hey, can I borrow your umbrella? I couldn’t fit mine in my bag,” I would sometimes sneak a smile.
Packing like the nomad you truly are requires skill, dedication, patience, and intuition. It is not a task for the weak of heart, similar to travel in itself. If you’re about to fly first class to the Galapagos Islands, ignore this post. But if you’re planning to hop on a bus, then a train, then hitchhike to the nearest hostel with a backpack strapped on, read on.
1. Roll your clothes. Even though they look way nicer when folded, rolling your clothes and tightly stacking them in a suitcase saves a ton of space… as well as the ensuing wrinkles.
2. Put on your heaviest items. This means that when you step into the airport, your biggest boots and thickest jackets and sweatshirts should be on you, not tucked inside your bag.
3. Wear what you know you’re going to wear. A nomadic trip is not the time and place to pack that dress you bought two years ago that you’ve been meaning to wear. You’re just going to end up wasting space and possibly trying to sell it on eBay when you get home.
4. Give space bags a go. Or pseudo space bags since the real thing is kind of pricey for what is a glorified plastic bag. If you’re really looking to save space, buy yourself tons of large freezer bags and stuff your clothes inside and sit on them to squeeze out the air. Prepare to bring extras since they will pop before your journey home.
5. Pack solid items on the bottom. Clothes will morph around, say, your lava lamp, however your bag will not be able to close directly on top of it. For this reason, pack shoes, lava lamps, and other heftier items on the bottom of your suitcase.
6. Avoid packing clothing that only has one purpose. Instead of packing that shirt that you can only wear to a club, pack the tank top that can be paired with a multi-use pair of pants. You need to get the most out of the space that you have.
7. Don’t pack items that are on their last leg out. If you’ve got one pair of shoes packed but they’re clinging to life, the place to kill them isn’t somewhere along your trip to Budapest. Leave them at home and pack (or wear) the item that is going to be reliable.
8. Keep yourself mobile. Even if you can pack a suitcase the size of a small garage, that doesn’t mean you should. No amount of clothes is worth being that guy lagging behind the group dragging your stuff around. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing. You always want to be able to comfortably carry all your own stuff in one bag and maybe a purse.
9. Pack the night before. Even though it’s sometimes more convenient to wait until the day of, especially if you’re leaving later in the day or you don’t really have a lot of toiletries to leave laying around, pack the night before so before you fall asleep, you can jot down anything you forgot about during the packing process so you can pack it the next morning.
9. Allot double the amount of time to packing than necessary. For some reason, I always think I’m going to shoot through packing in one hour, although I have literally never accomplished this. Always set aside double the amount of time for unforseen circumstances… like trying to decide if you really need those four-inch wedges.