After living the digital nomad lifestyle for just about two years now, I’ve learned quite a bit about how to live out of a backpack. Besides durability and function, there’s one trait that almost all travelers are concerned about when it comes to their gear—weight.
Here are my five tips to lighten your backpack so you can spend more time wandering and less time resting your back.
1. To cut pounds, save ounces
If there’s one overarching rule when it comes to backpack weight, this is it. If you really want to save weight, you should focus on the entire picture and not just a few individual items. Shaving an ounce or two off of every item in your pack adds up to pounds of weight saved!
2. Less is more
This is an inherently simple tip, but it’s so valuable. If you’re doing any long term travel you need to rethink your usual packing routine. You might be used to packing an entire change of clothes for every day of your week long trip to the Bahamas, but that just won’t fly when you’re living out of a backpack. When I traveled the world for a year and a half, I lived out of 3 t-shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 3 pairs of socks, and 4 pairs of underwear (plus some auxiliary items, of course!).
Less clothes = less weight. Simple.
3. Merino wool
If you’re wondering how I managed to do laundry every 3-4 days, here’s a secret—I didn’t! I did laundry maybe once every two weeks, on average. So how did I manage to stay fresh enough to cozy up at a swanky bar? Merino wool.
Merino wool is an amazing fabric that is absolutely perfect for travel. It’s lightweight, durable, comfortable, versatile, and most importantly… antimicrobial. This means that it doesn’t get stinky like cotton does. You can easily wear merino wool clothing, like t-shirts, socks and even underwear, for a week with no problems—and while I opted for changing my underwear every few days, I could probably get a week out of them as well. Just don’t tell anyone you’ve been wearing the same underwear for a week. On second thought, maybe just don’t talk about your underwear at all.
All of this means that you can get by with less clothing than you’d think. A few shirts will go a long way and should be capable in a bunch of different temperatures.
4. Multipurpose items are THE BEST
Whenever possible, go for multipurpose items. Instead of carrying a bunch of different outlet adapters, try to grab one that can do them all. If you can, try to bring one or two cables and one charger that will work with all of your electronics. Multipurpose soaps are great as well—you can use one bar of soap for bathing as well as cleaning your clothes.
5. You may think you need these things, but you DON’T
There are a handful of items synonymous with travel that just aren’t really necessary these days. Get rid of these to save space and lighten your pack.
Books. Grab a kindle or eBook and go digital! These are lighter and can hold a couple hundred books. Plus, you can easily find one charger to handle your kindle, phone, and other electronics. No brainer!
Towels. Instead of a bulky cotton towel, grab a microfiber one instead. Lighter and faster drying than its traditional counterpart.
Cash. The weight may seem insignificant, but see my first point for that. Cash isn’t as needed as most people think and can be a big security risk when traveling. Opt for a debit card with no ATM fees!
Minimal use items. Keep in mind that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to buy stuff during your travels. Leave the big Advil bottle behind and hit the pharmacy when needed.