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How to pack light: Go green

One of the easiest ways to reduce your impact is to travel light.

My 'how to pack light' guide will help save you money and help save the earth at the same time. What more can you ask for?

How to pack light: Make a list

If you plan everything beforehand, you’ll be much more organised. Making a list and checking off each item ensures the importance of each and every item. I've put together a list of essentials in How to pack light list below, allowing you to streamline your packing experience.

How to pack light: Pack early

Most of us end up packing at the last minute in a frantic rush. This means you just pile in whatever you think you ‘might’ need, without giving it proper thought and consideration.

Before a holiday, my backpack generally looks like it’s been through an tornado, but luckily my husband Chris painstakingly takes everything out and repacks it for me, so I know to always allow some spare time.

How to pack light: Choose your bag carefully

I’m pretty fond of a backpack, I must admit. Especially one with wheels on if you get tired. But ultimately try and find a bag that’s already lightweight. Some of the hard cases weigh up to 8kgs on their own, so decide whether it’s really necessary.

Try and carry a reusable bag that can be rolled up into your case, as this can be used instead of plastic when you're shopping for trinkets, or grocery shopping. You can also buy day packs that are light and fit easily into your luggage.

How to pack light: Pack cleverly

My husband has a neat trick which saves a lot of space, and that is to roll everything up. Another popular technique is called bundle wrapping, which keeps clothes from wrinkling and takes less space.

Basically, this entails lying a shirt flat on the bed and placing a core central object (the bundle) on the chest area, wrapping the sleeves around it and bringing the bottom up to wrap it around the top.

Another tip is: if you’re going to go snorkelling just once or twice, perhaps it would be easier to hire your gear rather than carry it with you everywhere you go (this is the wisdom of hard-earned experience).

Practice lugging your stuff around your apartment before you go. Believe me, if you carry your luggage on your back, you become a lot more selective.

How to pack light: Ditch the toiletries

I used to go on beach holidays with a bag of cosmetics that must have weighed at least 5kgs. And the harsh truth is that I hardly even used any of them. So be militant - cut it down to the essentials.

You can repack your shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser into tiny reusable bottles, and carry a bar of soap in a reusable soap box. I no longer take any make-up with me on holidays and I only buy organic products that are kind to animals (and recyclable naturally).

How to pack light: Go electronic

I love guidebooks. Before a holiday I read an entire guidebook, making notes of all the places I want to visit, all the places we’ll stay and where we’ll find our fruit and vegetables, or vegan-friendly restaurants. At any given time, I travel with a guidebook and about three or four books to read.

But we’ve got to move on from traditional ways of getting information. Today, there are wonderful online resources: guidebooks, forums and travel networks where you can access information.

If you don’t have access to the internet, consider making a word file of all the places you want to go, useful numbers etc. And store your ebooks and travel information on your kindle, netbook, or Ipad. It’s easier than you think.

How to pack light: Plan versatile outfits that don’t wrinkle easily

Work around your outfits. Stick to colours that easily work together and mix and match. I usually only bring three tops or shirts, one jacket, one pair of trainers and a pair of flip-flops (a pair of heels if I might be going out), and one pair of shorts, one pair of pants and a skirt.

Out of this I can make a semi-formal outfit for any occasion as well as having enough casual-wear to get me from day to day.

I also pack a shawl which I can use to cover my shoulders in case of cultural sensitivities (mosques, churches etc).

And make sure you can dress in layers that work together. If you are going somewhere that gets cold, bring a light jacket and sweater instead of a heavy coat. When you're lugging all your stuff around, trust me, nothing is essential.

Enora and Guillaume Combot, walked through Africa with 2 skirts or shorts respectively, 2 t-shirts and their underwear. At the MOST their luggage was 8kgs. Look out for the upcoming article detailing their experiences.

How to pack light: Pack the same regardless of trip duration

It doesn’t matter how long you travel for. If you have the essentials, you can reuse, re-wear and replace if necessary.

How to pack light: Bring quick-drying underwear and socks

You can really reduce your luggage weight dramatically by just cutting down your underwear and socks. You can wash them every two to three days if they’re quick-drying, saving you a lot of weight.

How to pack light: Leave the diva at home

You don’t need to look different every single day and in most cases, you won’t even be seeing the same people. Frankly, most people don’t even notice what you’re wearing (as long as it’s clean and not smelling up the place); they’re more interested in your personality. What's more, serious travellers always travel light.


How to pack light: The one-bag-fits-all list:


  • Two pairs of pants. You can buy quick-dry travel pants as well as convertible pants so you don’t have to carry shorts
  • One pair of quick-dry shorts
  • Swimsuit
  • Long skirt (this can be worn anywhere, helpful in more conservative countries)
  • 4 pairs of underwear
  • No more than two bras
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 3 t-shirts (one fairly smart, 2 casual)
  • 1 long-sleeve shirt (travel ones these days have hidden pockets and are also quick-dry)
  • Sweater  (smart and warm)
  • Lightweight, waterproof jacket
  • Wrap/shawl – always handy to cover bare shoulders or useful for a slight chill

Toiletries and essentials

  • Long underwear if visiting a cold climate
  • Toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste
  • Small bar of soap, shampoo and conditioner in tiny reusable containers
  • Nail clippers and nail file
  • Laundry kit (detergent, clothesline, pegs) – check out your camping store for hiking gear that’s tiny and lightweight
  • First aid kit – we usually pack only the essentials (band aid, bandages, antiseptic blister kit, aspirin, motion sickness wrist-bands (I love these), lip balm, sunscreen and bug repellant.
  • Medicines – Ideally you won’t need any of these if you have a strong immune system but pack the basics just in case
  • Quick-dry towel (camping or lightweight)
  • Razor
  • Comb
  • Lipstick and mascara (that’s all you really need if you want to look dressed up!)
  • Feminine hygiene
  • Organic tissues
  • Condoms

Documentation and other

All the below must be carried in a moneybelt:

  • Passport
  • Plane tickets (check your flight dates and times again and again, nothing worse than missing a flight)
  • Traveller’s checks
  • Driver’s licence
  • Credit cards/ATM
  • Cash

Carry your daily items in a daypack and keep a beady eye out for pickpockets.

  • Guidebook or notes, e-book reader or other device for music, novels, internet etc.
  • Journal and pens if you're old-fashioned like me and enjoy scribbling notes
  • Camera – bring spare batteries, memory cards, tripod (Gorilla Pod is handy)
  • Inflatable neck pillow for the plane/bus/train (invaluable!)
  • Mini Flashlight
  • Universal Adaptor/Chargers
  • Cellphone
  • Swiss army knife
  • Luggage locks
  • Sunglasses
  • Pocket sewing kit
  • Tiny binoculars

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Visit green travel tips to find out how to make sure you entire trip is green, or check out green camping if you'd like to save money and the environment in one easy step.|


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Hi, my name is Melissa and I created this site together with photographer Christopher List to help spread awareness about green lifestyles and travel, so everyone can learn how easy it is to live in a sustainable way. Enjoy!

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