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All discussions about ‘what to pack’ seem to start with the misguided question, “well how long are you going for?” Embedded in this question lies the single greatest misconception about the art of packing: that it somehow has something to do with how long your trip is going to be.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it has nothing to do with how long your trip is going to be.

If you can pack for 2 days then you can pack for 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years. How? Simple: by doing laundry. Technically, all you should ever need is two outfits: one to wear, and the 2nd to wear after you’ve washed the first and are waiting for it to dry. If your destination is warm, then you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt with sandals, and you have a 2nd pair of shorts and a shirt in your bag. Sandals are great because they remove the need even for socks.

If your destination is cold you have a few layers, jacket, etc., but you’re wearing it all, with another shirt or two in your bag.

Toothbrush, underwear, and camera should be the only other items in your bag. Guide books are great but if you’re really trying to get lite they’re just too heavy. Rip out the pages you need most, or flip through the guidebook at your hostel as most will have them lying around. Also, every single traveler you meet will have a LP so just ask them if you can take a peek at bfast, map out your day, and be off — without the hassle (or the cost).

I also advise against packing for inclement weather. The risk is too high to lug non-essential gear thousands of miles away just in case it rains or ‘gets chilly.’ You can always pick something up on the spot, for cheap, if really necessary. You can miserable for 2 weeks lugging an oversized bag around, and then be happy for 2 days when it rains and you’re prepared, or you can be brilliantly happy for 2 weeks as you whisk around the world with a tiny bag on your hip and miserable for the 2 days of inclement weather for which you’re unprepared.

Overall, the best advice is this: bring half the stuff and twice the money.

Quick Tips

DO pack
  • outlet converter
  • extra passport photos
  • stomach medicine
  • phrase book
  • extra batteries and memory cards for your camera

DON'T pack
  • laptop (take an iPad instead!)
  • more than one pair of shoes
  • big bottles of shampoo (pick-up travel size soaps upon arrival)
  • bath towels (bring a small towel or stay in hostels that provide towels)
  • big books (use a kindle or an iPad instead to stay lite and save space)

Other tips
If you can live without it, live without it.