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Travelling light is fun!

May 3, 2010


[tweetmeme source=”living_minimal” only_single=false]Yesterday I got back from a spectacular week in one the last natural forests and marshes in Europe. For those interested it were two Polish National Parks located in the regions of Bialowieza and Biebrza. For me this meant a week with minimal contact to the outside world. A week without Facebook, Twitter or Googlereader. A week with a lot of travelling from place to place. The ideal situation to try out the next minimalistic goal:

Travel as light a possible.

So I did.


Before I write anything else I’ve got a confession to make. Even though I’m an graduating environmental science student I am a perfect example of a city kid. I have never been backpacking and I don’t even own hiking boots. The shoes I wear on a daily basis are a nice pair of Italian leather loafers and as for bags, they need wheels in order to handle the amount of stuff they can hold. Not the perfect starting situation for a hike to Poland.

So packing my gear began two weeks before the trip with a trip to the outdoor shop where I bought hiking boots and gathered information for the travel bag I needed. A week later I bought a nice 55 liter backpack and started thinking about what I should pack. I came up with the list written below. For a better overview I categorized the items.

The list

General items

  • 1 backpack (55 L.)
  • 1 daytrip bag (approx. 20 L)
  • 1 sleeping bag
  • 1 travel pillow + pillow case (very small, but very nice)
  • 1 iPhone + charger + earplugs
  • travel document
  • 1 card holder (that I use as wallet)
  • 2 notebooks (one large, one small)
  • ” The once and future King” by T.H. White
  • 1 flash light + spare batteries
  • 3 waterproof resealable plastic bags
  • 2 packets of playing cards
  • 3 pencils (2 black, 1 yellow marker)
  • study material (a necessary evil comprising 200 pages)


  • 2 pair of trousers (one short, one long)
  • 1 sweater
  • 3 pair of socks (the hiking type)
  • 3 boxer shorts
  • 1 leather jacket
  • 1 pair of hiking boots
  • 1 pair of  rubber boots (needed for the swamps)
  • 3 disposable rain ponchos

Personal hygiene

  • 1 bottle of shampoo (for both body and hair)
  • 1 tube of hair gel
  • 1 toothbrush
  • 1 tube of toothpaste
  • deodorant
  • blister bandaids
  • sunblock and aftersun
  • mosquito repellant
  • 1 tick pen
  • personal medication for my allergies
  • 1 packet of handkerchiefs
  • 2 towels (the small nano fiber versions)
  • 1 toiletry bag
  • 1 bottle of travellers’ laundry detergent


  • 1 vacuum flask for coffee
  • 1 teaspoon (for my coffee)
  • 1 bottle of water
  • 1 jar of soluble coffee
  • breakfast, lunch and snacks

Traveling with it

This might look like a lot. It is between 50-60 items (depend how you count) but it is at least half of what I usually took on vacation. After travelling a week with all of my stuff I must conclude that the list was almost perfect for me. There are 5 pieces of advice I’ve learned during this trip.

Advice nr. 1: Make sure that the items you need last are at the bottom of the bag.

The first thing I realized is how important the order of your items in your travelbags is. I had my bags reorganised twice before even meeting my travelling companions and once after talking to some more experienced travellers. Their help made travelling less frustrating.

Advice nr. 2: Be concious of the seasons but don’t overdo it.

Travelling in April in Poland meant two thing for me. High chance of rain and high concentration of birch pollen. The first one I wasn’t prepared for, the second I was. When it come to extended time of rain a disposable rain poncho just plain sucks. They might save you some space but in the end it just doesn’t work. Next time I will probably buy a nice waterproof wind jacket so I can also leave my leather jacket at home. Two birds, one stone. For the pollen I was relatively well prepared. Relatively because pollen means a lot of red itchy eyes and runny noses for me and that’s still no fun. I did however prepare by getting myself one emergency packet of handkerchiefs. I bought more packets during the first days of the trip. This was one of the minimalistic choices I made. I could have packed more but by some luck there weren’t any pollen I would have carried a whole bunch of useless handkerchiefs

Advice nr. 3: Carry food for just 1 day.

This doesn’t apply for the true multiple days wildlife trips. For those trips you can forget this advise. If you are however in the inhabited parts of the world on a daily basis (like I did) you just need a day ration of food. The first few days my daytrip bag was completely filled with food and snacks (and rather heavy I might add). This changed of course after I ate the larger part of that ration. By buying my food on a daily basis I lowered the amount of kilograms I had to carry significantly.

Advice nr. 4: Waterproof resealable bags are awesome!

I lost my larger notebook due to the days of rain we had. I didn’t lose the rest of my documents because they were in the waterproof bags. Ergo: those bags are awesome!

Advice nr. 5: Three sets of clothes is all you need.

One for wearing, one for tomorrow and one for emergencies. By carrying travellers’ laundry detergent you can wash you clothes once every 2 or 3 days. This greatly reduces the overall weight in your bags. Travelling with less than 3 sets is possible but I personally like the assurance of dry and clean clothes. I travelled with only only 1 pair of long trousers and 1 pair of short trousers. A week with low temperatures made it impossible to wash my pants. No problems for short trips of course but it could become problematic during the longer trips. As a side note I like to add that I don’t mean 3 pair of long trousers but 3 pair of trousers, 1 long, 1 short and one that can be unzipped from long to short.

What I’m going to change during my next trip

Not much really. I really enjoyed the setup of this list. My next trip will probably be a three week backpacking trip through Eastern Europe. The biggest differences with the payload will be the addition of a lightweight tent, an inflatable pad to sleep on and some kitchen related items. I will buy a new stronger daytrip bag (the old one has had its days) and bring less food with me. In this way I hope to have enough room for the new gear.

If you agree or disagree or have some great insights please do comment. I love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

For those interested in the areas I visited I added a photo slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2010 18:25

    You hit the nail on the most important travel advice I guess: travelling light. Going to try that out next week :-)

  2. porzellan permalink
    July 3, 2010 17:58

    if you consequently use the idea of “double agents” (two birds, one stone ;-), you can cut down on some more stuff:
    a travel pillow is superflous, if you lay down your head on a bunch made of your clothes & your daytrip bag.
    you do not need traveller´s laundry detergent – just use your shampoo.

    moreover you will win some indepence by using nonerasable things:
    there are flash lights you can reload by muscle power (with a pressing key or a cranc handle), so you do not need spare batteries.
    hankies made of cotton are washable & can replace tissues.

    a good idea of you i enjoyed:
    your plan to use something like a waxed barbourjacket, that will protect you of rain & additionel replaces your leather jacket. i will think about it for my own luggage!

    about tents:
    i have a tiny pink castle (pink because i am a princess girl & i enjoy to wake up in flattering pink light…) the tent has only one skin. therefore it is packed nearly as light & thin as a packed umbrella & very simple to build up.
    i enjoy the indepence & the possibility to travel low cost very much & i use it very often. one of the best bargains i have ever made! i got it in a sale for about 12 euro (that is far under 10 dollar, i guess). i invested two more euro in two cans of cheap hairspray to waterproof the canvas, just to be sure. (& there did not drib in one drop of rain, though i often slept under my pink canvas in heavy rain.)
    i also bought this kind of cheap, very thin & light picnic blanket with insulating, waterproof aluminum bottomside & flannel like surface to sleep on. (packed the blanket is nearly as small & as light as a folded jeans!)

    i LOVE lists like yours. thanks for sharing!

  3. November 23, 2010 20:40

    Das eigenlijk nog best veel!

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