Carry on only travel is one of the best things ever. Learning to pack carry-on only is a skill that can easily be mastered. Our backpacks are an Osprey Sirrus 36L and a Deuter 46L. Airlines are now starting to charge you just to put a bag in the overhead compartment which means carry on only travel really pays off! The downside of travelling out of a backpack is that things really can get messy quickly! It’s so easy to quickly stuff some clothes into your backpack and then have to pull everything out in order to find what you need. The downside is that you now need to repack your entire backpack to move onto the next location. This isn’t really ideal especially if you like to move around quite a bit like how we travelled through Vietnam for one week.
We’ve come up with a few tips to help you pack more efficiently and stay organised while you travel.

1. Pack Light

We definitely covered this in budget travel 101, but this is kind of a no brainer again. The less you bring with you then the less you need to rummage through in order to find that perfect top! A good tip is to pack just enough clothes for a week and you could find a laundromat to get your clothes washed and then you’re good for another week! If you’re travelling in cold climates then you could probably get away with less, depending on how long you are travelling for! In general we aim to travel with 2 -3 bottoms, and approximately 5-7 shirts depending on the climate. Warmer countries we tend to bring extras as you can sweat through them quite quickly. Colder climates we tend to pack less shirts since you don’t tend to sweat as much unless of course you are busy skiing or other outdoor activities.

2. Use Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are the best things ever. Normally my tops will all go into a small packing cube, and maybe some pants. Jason will normally use another packing cube for his shirts as well and then we each have one for underwear. These cubes are a fantastic way to stay organized because you know exactly where everything is. You can pull out the underwear packing cube and grab some clean undies or just grab a shirt, they are so convenient. We have to compressible ones that are pretty fantastic, you can manage to get quite a bit in there and it compresses into a neat package!

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3. Electronics

It is so easy to lose a phone charger or cable while you move from each location, and that would suck! We just got this awesome electronics organizer to keep all of our cables, SD cards and adapters together in one pouch. Our cameras then go into a small bag which normally sit in the middle of our backpacks when travelling for safety.

4. Important Documents

Having a pouch to keep all your documents together is essential so no one loses a passport, or visa documents, or even a credit card. These documents usually go in a safe compartment in our backpacks that we rarely touch. I used to keep all of these in a ziplock bag in the top pouch of my bag but now we have a little pouch that keeps everything organized!

5. Cold Weather Essentials

Usually when we are travelling to cold climates we like to store our jackets, beanies and gloves instead of carrying them around with us. Then we take them out on arrival and get geared up for the cold. Unfortunately a lot of these items are so bulky! Compression sacks are so perfect for these things! We travel with our compression sacks and stuff our down jackets into them along with our beanies or gloves. This stuff gets compressed down into a small bag which usually gets hooked onto the outside of our backpacks for short flights, or it gets stuffed into our sleeping bag compartment of our backpacks. When we arrive at our destination, we know exactly where everything is. We undo the pouch and suit up and then stuff the compression sack back into the bag while keeping everything else inside the bag organized still!

5. Shoes

Our rule of thumb is no more than 2 pairs of shoes! For our Vietnam trip we both travelled with flips flops and sneakers. For our upcoming Canada trip we will both be travelling with our snow boots and flips flops for around the campsite or campervan. When travelling you wear your heaviest and bulkiest pair of shoes on the plane and strap your flip flops to the outside of your bag.

Backpack Packing Guide

Packing our stuff into our Sirrus 36L.

6. First Aid Kit

We use a small pouch and make sure we have plasters, antibiotic cream, allergy medication, pain killers and any other special meds either of us may needs. This kit usually goes into one of our hip straps on our backpacks so it is easily accessible in case of emergency.

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7. Toiletries

We have a small hanging toiletry pouch which is super handy for campervans or even hostels. Our toiletries consist of tooth brushes and toothpaste, bar of soap, some silicone tubes of shampoo and conditioner and two travel tubes of perfume. I usually keep my menstrual cup in a pouch in one of my hip straps as well along with some purell. We normally travel with a Turkish towel in case our hotel or hostel doesn’t have towels, or you can use a microfiber towel.

8. Dirty Laundry

At the end of the trip our sleeping bag compartments usually ends up being our dirty laundry storage, which leaves space for our winter gear in the main backpack compartments. If there is quite a bit of dirty laundry then we may use the compression sack for that so it doesn’t take up as much space.

9. Day Bag

We’ve managed to get everything so neatly stashed away but we cant seriously walk around with everything on our backs everyday. One of the best things is a packable backpack! These are so convenient as they are small and can be hung onto the outside of your big backpack and then can be unfolded and used during the days for all your essentials. Also if you’ve done a bit of shopping on your trip you may be able to get away with using this as your personal bag on the airplane.

10. Pack & Unpack Strategically

Pack items that you normally wear, don’t bring that one pair of pants that you haven’t worn for two years thinking that this trip might be the right time for them… you still won’t wear them. Pack items that work well together and can be mixed and matched easily. Keeping this in mind you should be able to unpack the first shirt and it can easily pair with your pants, this prevents you from unpacking everything to look for the perfect top.

Backpack Packing Guide

All the items above packed into our Osprey Sirrus 36L

We hope these tips will help you to pack lightly and help keep you organized while you travel. Keeping organized and packing light helps you to keep track of all your items and not loose anything while you are on the road.

Did we forget anything? What are some of your top tips for packing lightly?