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Let’s make history today – this is the very first post you can find here on packing.
You see, for years I’ve always fought the packing nightmare. Coming from a family who takes large supplies (especially food!) to every big trip, I had to learn to pack light the hard way.
During my few last years of intensive travelling, I’ve been getting better at packing lighter. I feel like I’m almost ‘there’.
The omnipresent struggle: What if I’ll need it?
Perhaps it’s a personality trait. But I like to be prepared, I know the weather is always changing and often doesn’t follow forecasts. I freeze in air-conditioned rooms and catch cold in planes. I become too hot in warm climate. In the end, it all comes to “if I don’t need it, I’ll pack it anyway”. The struggle is real. At the same time, it’s totally a first-world problem. If you’re in the same boat, read on.
Forcing yourself into packing lighter
Once I started focusing on minimizing my load, I made a few interesting discoveries. You might laugh at me if you’re a pro packer, but I don’t mind. :)
You can buy stuff at a destination
Even if you don’t pack something, and the rare opportunity of using the thing left behind arises, you can often buy almost anything at your destination! There are shops, and they sell things!
You can do your laundry
No need to take clean underwear and tops for every day of a 3-week trip. You can easily wash things in hand (pretty much in any soap or get a multi-purpose one). Quite often, especially if you travel in Southeast Asia, there are laundry shops where they’ll do your laundry cheaply and well.
See also my post on the best travel money belts.
It’s ok to wear just a few outfits
I don’t know how it got into my head, but I often felt like a celebrity, meaning I couldn’t appear twice in the same outfit. The photos would be boring! Guess what – unless you’re a fashion blogger, it’s ok to wear the same thing over and over. Actually, the focus should be on the pretty places you take photos at, not on your outfit! Right?
Donating is good too
Did you ever have to buy something at your destination that you wouldn’t need back home or on other trips? A third umbrella, a hat that would get damaged in transit… find a local charity and leave a few items with them. You’ll feel good about yourself and at the same time will stick to packing light.
The smaller the luggage, the better
This one’s pretty simple. If you get a large suitcase, you’ll subconsciously try to fill it. In my gradual attempt to pack less, a few months back I travelled to Israel with a small suitcase, and took a big backpack with me as a carry-on, just in case. While on the way there I still managed to keep the backpack all tied up into a small bundle with just a few things inside, on my way back it grew into a full monster. You’ve got space, you pack it with unnecessary things that could have been left behind.
That also leads to my newest find: the CabinZero bag
When trying to pack lighter, I’ve looked left and right for backpacks of a good size, which wouldn’t look as if I were going hiking to the mountains and that would be gentle to my back.
While I don’t often do product reviews (except a few here) and don’t normally test products, I decided to reach out to CabinZero, because after all my research, their backpacks seemed as the right fit for me and my situation and thus also many of my readers’.
After 4 trips with a CabinZero bag, I’m a real fan and can happily recommend it further.
Size & Capacity
The size is undeniably the best selling point. Maximizing airlines’ carry-on allowances (incl. low cost airlines), the bag is wider than a normal big backpack.
Mine is the maximum 44L, but you can choose models ranging from 28L (which I don’t see myself using).
From more than about 70 styles to choose from, I think everyone can find their favorite CabinZero bag. I went for the ‘Desert Sand’ military style bag – it matches all my outfits including dresses and still looks cool enough.
Even my boyfriend doesn’t mind carrying it, as the neutral brown color is not against his male preferences :) I find CabinZero perfect for city trips, because the slightly hipsterish look will only add to a cool urban outfit.
The bag is comfortable to carry, the weight is spread around nicely, and my model even has the waist strap. The back is padded and so are the shoulder straps. All the straps are adjustable so you can make it fit your body well. The bag itself weighs almost nothing; it’s like a feather!
I myself am definitely far from a bodybuilder and struggle with heavy objects. I often get back pain just from carrying around a heavy handbag! So a proper ergonomic backpack is important to me and this model of CabinZero fulfils that to perfection.
The materials my CabinZero is sewn from are durable, don’t become dirty easily, yet are still lightweight. The zippers are lockable and CabinZero says you get a 25 years warranty if you like them on Facebook.
The laptop pocket in the military model is great. It’s padded on the inside and at the same time protected from all other items in the bag with a fabric. My 13-inch MacBook slides in nicely and still has a space around.
If you choose to check in a CabinZero bag, you’ll always know where your bag is. It has a unique tracking mechanism built in, which, upon activating, tracks the bag’s movement. The tracking is powered by Okoban, a global tracking system.
With a tracking like that, you don’t even need an additional luggage tag, in case you decide to have your CabinZero checked in.
This is for me the biggest ‘issue’. My CabinZero is not entirely waterproof. I learned the hard way in a Polish downpour. If the weather gets rough, be ready to wrap yourself together with your CabinZero in a big raincoat or invest in a large umbrella (not the tiny one that’ll let all the water slide right onto the backpack).
I reached out to CabinZero and learned they were actually in the process of making rainproof covers. The material that the backpacks are made of is waterproof, but the zippers can let some water in.
Be aware that while the portability of the bag is great, it’s not meant for being carried around for hours on end. Hiking with a CabinZero bag would probably not be a sweet affair either. This, however, comes from a person who can’t imagine hiking with any large outdoor backpack.
No outer pockets
If you’ve been used to carrying a water bottle in an outer pocket of your backpack, here you can’t. I don’t find that to be a problem at all, but I’m really trying hard to find more cons so as to stay as objective as possible. Ok?
In case you’re a pocket freak and like to separate things into their tiny compartments, you’ll have to invest in packing cubes. My bag comes with exactly 3 pockets:
- For the laptop, inside the bag, on the back side and padded
- For small items, inside the bag, on the front side
- For bigger flat items like magazines etc., outside the bag, on the front side
That’s it. So if you don’t use packing cubes and don’t fold or roll your clothes nicely, they can become one big mess. That probably happens if you don’t use the outside compression straps well and leave too much free space for everything inside to move about freely.
Where am I now with my packing, as of August 2017?
I think I almost graduated. I’m writing this post from a 5-day trip around Europe, during which I could do only with my new CabinZero backpack and a small handbag. I’m loving the portability! For long trips to exotic places, I’d still take my wheeled suitcase, but I’m already managing hopping around Europe with just a backpack on my back, comfortable wearing it and enjoying how without a wheelie I don’t have to wake up all possible neighborhoods if I have a super early departure or arrival.
How are your packing methods? Do you pack light or do you tend to overpack? Do you have a favorite backpack you’d love others to know about?
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Disclosure: Veronika of TravelGeekery received a CabinZero bag for free. Her opinions are, however, her own and unbiased. This post contains affiliate links.