Why My Suitcase Is Always Packed (And What to Do About It)

by Hull & Stern

Article by

How To Travel Light (in 5 easy steps)

It's one of those age-old questions bugging travellers everywhere - how do I pack all the items I need and still travel light?

If you're tired of reading articles on how you should only occupy one-third of your bag and keep 2/3 free but can't quite figure out how.

Or looking at those Pinterest-worthy images showing 5 outfits for 5 days with 3 items of clothing but still getting nowhere.

This article is for you.

  1. Start with your staple items.

    Pick the things you absolutely have to travel with. This might be because of a functional use (e.g., zipper cargo pants for places with lots of pickpockets) or it can be something that just puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good to travel (e.g., your favorite jacket that your sister gave).

  2. Rule of 3

    Bring one staple item (your comfortable jeans, a Jumper or your leather jacket) for every three days of your trip. So if you're traveling for 9 days for example, you need 3 staple items. This would make it easier to form a foundation of your trip wardrobe and build your outfits from there.
    Try to really narrow down things to your most favorite and functional items. And set aside the rest on a different pile for now.

  3. Rule of 3 part deux

    Complete your staple items into outfits you can use keeping in mind that you need to use the staple item for at least three days.

    So let's say you're sure you want to bring your favorite pair of jeans, you bring three shirts you can use with it, three pairs of stocks, underwear along with any accessories.

  4. Pack your toiletries and other select-use outfits.

    This would include things like swimwear, pajamas, and exercise clothes. Try to keep this to a minimum depending on your travel itinerary.

  5. Pack everything and carry an extra outfit if there's space.

    In case of any accidents or fashion mishaps, pack an extra set of clothes. Try to make this outfit have the ability to mix and match with your current ones.

    This outfit is there to set your mind at ease in case you miscalculated.

    What happens if you need more clothes? Then it's an excuse to go shopping and maybe support the local industry by buying from independent retailers.

    You can always also just launder your clothes. It will give you an icebreaker to chat up with some locals about your wardrobe problem and find your way to a laundry shop or finding laundry soap to do it yourself.

If you think you still have a lot of space left, it's always good to give some allowance to get souvenirs for. Typically it's good to leave 1/2 of the space free (depending on the size of your pack in the first place). It gives you some leeway to just dunk everything in your pack when you're in a hurry instead of folding everything neatly. And your back will thank you for it if your backpack or suitcase is lighter than usual.

If you still lack space, go back to number 2 and instead of budgeting 3 items per staple of clothing - edit it to be higher at 4 or 5. If you're afraid of looking the same everyday, just carry more accessories or cover ups so you still get that Instagram-worthy shot 😉

How about valuables? We recommend keeping them in a smaller bag to have it in easy reach. A small cross body shoulder bag is recommended - this would help you keep the bag accessible and in front of you but away from pickpockets' reach. The size would help when going through airport checks and with your back. We're biased - but we find using the Hull & Stern Size 2L Adventure Dry Bag as the perfect companion for this. But any small shoulder bag would do too.