Now that I officially packed my backpack for world travel, I can comment on what I thought about trying to get everything in a backpack.
I chose a Minaal backpack after a lot of research.
I’ll get to the point. It was fucking heavy. 🤨
I’m a fairly strong woman, or at least I’m not wimpy, and I did not enjoy the backpacking method as a result.
The question is… Why not?
Let’s begin with weight of the Minaal empty. When it arrived I didn’t think much about the weight. I also didn’t have much to compare the weight to except my other old backpack, which was a bit smaller anyway. (Turns out the Minaal backpack, empty, weighs about four pounds.)
I weighed it after arriving in Denmark, because I was trying to figure a way to make everything lighter. Did I invest in a backpack that was too heavy, cuz clearly it can’t be that I packed too much. I hardly packed anything at all! Now, I don’t know what the weight of other backpacks are, but four pounds doesn’t seem very heavy so I would need to reduce what I put inside. User error.
Here’s how I packed.
Originally when getting ready in the United States, I set about packing as lightly as I could. I followed digital nomad recommendations, and made a huge effort to sacrifice extra clothing for less travel drag. When I made my first packing list, it was long. Over the months, before travel, I continued to cut it down to the point where I truly wondered if I’d have enough clothes. Following the advice of experts, I confidently proceeded.
In the end, I packed the following in my Minaal backpack:
- 1 pair of “jegging” jeans
- 1 pair of comfy pants I wore these on the plane
- 2 pairs of shorts with pockets
- 1 pair of lounge shorts
- 2 tank tops (1 was wool and 1 was cotton) I wore 1 tank top on the plane
- 5 tops (2 long sleeved thin wool, 1 long sleeve button down, 2 short sleeved shirts) I wore a long sleeved wool on the plane
- 1 long, summery dress
- 1 thin cardigan-type shawl to wear with dress
- 2 baseball hats (1 for me and 1 for Kamea)
- Crystal necklace in a leather pouch (a long necklace stuffed into a pouch) cuz crystals are pretty and it’s only one piece of jewelry albeit long (that’ll I’ll probably rarely wear given I rarely wear it at home) 🙄
- A couple pairs of undies and bras (I’m not a bra wearer – I don’t like them restricting lymph flow – so I only wear on occasion if a thin shirt would be too revealing.)
- 2 pairs of socks (I don’t have shoes requiring socks so these are for comfort around the home)
- 2 organic cotton moon pads
- 1 sleeping eye cover mask
- 1 pair sunglasses plus case
- 1 wool (thin) neck scarf (can be used as eye mask or to pull hair back)
- 1 sarong (used as a cover up blanket for comfort on the plane, picnic blanket, turn into a dress, or you never know what it could help with in time of need. It was highly recommended to bring one. I was glad I did because Kamea used it on the plane.)
- 1 portable charger (There’s some weight in this. On it’s own not much, but added to everything else, adds up.)
- 1 bag with 3 charging cords (for iPhone, Samsung Note, and Kindle), plus ear buds
- 1 TSA approved size zip bag filled with toiletries, essential oil, make-up. Admittedly added some weight from glass jars.
- 3 pairs of shoes (1 pair of thin black vibrams, 1 pair of active though still minimalist blue Vibrams, 1 pair of Tieks ballet flats that fold for packing) I wore the active blue Vibams on the plane
- 1 pullover windbreaker I carried and then rolled it up into a ball to use as a pillow on the plane
- 1 Manila envelope with copies of travel documents
- 1 thicker envelope with all documents supporting our attempts at dual citizenship in Italy
- 1 large zip bag with about 6 beef sticks, 1 can tuna, 1 can sardines, 2 bags of Epic meat bites (1 salmon, 1 bison/bacon)
- 2 drink containers (1 was snuggled into a designated pocket but the other was clipped onto the bag and swinging about like a clumsy weapon)
That many bullet points looks like a lot on paper, but when you roll the clothes and stuff them in a packing cube, it just doesn’t look like much. All of that ended up weighing 20 pounds. It felt like 50 pounds.
Also note that I had a small packing cube with vitamins, thermometer, hair stuff, etc in the suitcase so I wasn’t even successful at only packing backpack for my stuff, try as I did. 😣
Add to that my purse, which was actually being used for all technology. I didn’t want technology in my Minaal, because that would be under the airplane seat in front of me which would be a hassle for getting out. I opted for a purse to carry all tech. That purse, small because it was my “personal item” for discount airlines, still weighed in at 10 pounds with everything in it. 😳
So, now I’m at 20 pounds with the Minaal backpack plus 10 pounds with the purse.
Pictured above: my four technology devices and two for Kamea
The result of bringing four technology devices in my purse (ipad, iPhone, Samsung Note, and Kindle) was not my brightest move. Out of anticipated desperation I opted to bring extra, unnecessary devices “just in case” which is a no-no for backpacking minimalism world travel.
One shall not bring “just in case” items.
I brought the Samsung Note thinking it would be a preferred method for cellular communication, as written about in my previous blog article. I also brought it for the added camera, plus space allowing extra downloads of movies, in the event I ran out on the other devices and/or battery issues. Just in case.
For starters, if one runs out of battery, I have the portable charger ready for backup. I don’t need more! Moreover, if I run out of space on a device, of which I would normally travel with two anyway (iPad and iPhone – plenty of space), then I can read, draw, meditate, or talk with family. I mean, hilariously, I don’t even have enough time on the plane to watch all of the shows I downloaded. What was I thinking?
I also had my cute little travel journal in my purse, even though I’m not sure I’ll use it much. I am trying to transition all notes, journaling, etc to iPhone to enhance minimalism. Still, I wanted to bring it. Errrr. Just in case. To be truthful though, if I found I wasn’t using it, I knew I’d dispose of it. Trouble was that I didn’t know that yet. However, I had an inclination, because I wasn’t using it at home as much as anticipated. That’s a big clue. If you don’t use something at home, you probably won’t use it on the road. Probably.
I also had the smaller of the Everlast Rocketbooks in my purse, plus special pens to use for it, plus the little cloth wipe to use with it. I like this little system as the notebook is thin and light. Ideally, I’ll use this for my journal, sending the data into the cloud for storage. It’s hard to let go of the little leather journal though. It’s so damn cute. Traveling lightly… probably no place for cute.
Oh, and because I’m frugal, I opted to print all travel docs for the long travel day to get from the USA to Denmark because I couldn’t rely on a cell phone connection and I was freaked I wouldn’t be able to access them. Therefore, I had about 10 pages printed out, folded in half and stuffed into my purse.
But, we’re still not done.
I used a neck passport stash thing. It’s a tiny purse-like thing to stash a passport, boarding pass, slim wallet, cash, etc and it’s typically worn around the neck and under clothes, if desired, to keep those items safe and so you easily know where they are. For my neck stash I had two passports (Kamea’s and mine) plus two Global Entry cards (Kamea’s and mine), plus my slim wallet with credit cards, plus boarding passes, plus a couple of Greg’s business cards, plus my International Driver’s Permit. It was a bit irritating having that amount hanging from my neck.
I was wearing a lot of clothing plus carrying the Minaal backpack plus carrying my purse plus wearing the neck stash, plus keeping an eye on my kid and everything she was carrying.
I’ll take a moment to say that carrying all of that is also not fun lugging into airport bathrooms. Sure, I could have taken the load off and left with Greg to watch (that’s asking a lot seeing as he’d be in charge of like 6 bags), but I’ll be damned, I don’t know what’s worse… taking that load off and putting it back on again vs just wearing it everywhere, including while peeing.
If I had less technology in my purse, I could have put things from the neck stash into my purse, making the neck stash less irritating and making the purse less weight.
A day full of travel with all of the weight I opted to carry was no picnic, especially going through security.
You see, Kamea has an iPod and an iPad that she carried in a small backpack. She also was carrying her long-sleeved sweater which she didn’t want to wear – sigh – and also her own jacket.
You know what that’s like going through security multiple times, in getting from the USA to Denmark, carrying all of that stuff?
Again, less than ideal.
Taking out all 6 technology devices from two backpacks, taking out the zip bag of liquids, taking off coats (cuz it’s cold and I obviously can’t pack my coat in my backpack so I wore it through all the airports, Kamea, too), plus taking off shoes, noisily hitting people and displays from clipping a second canteen bottle onto my backpack, which not only added weight but awkwardness as it swung, and getting out passports and boarding passes. Being in a rush because, again, being frugal, we chose discount airlines where we had to get our 1 piece of checked luggage from baggage claim between all flights and then recheck for the next flight (that happened in California and Copenhagen).
My vision of low travel drag from going backpack style didn’t feel successful.
My shoulders and body cried every time I had to pick up those bags and wear them. All that weight, and I’m still not prepared given my limited number in clothes. I totally threw mindfulness and Taoism out the window as I opted to grunt, grimace, and bitch every time I moved.
I’ll figure it out though.
I am determined. I will not go through a long travel day like that again.
However, if I think about it, those long travel days are few and far between. And, if I planned it better (longer times between travel days) then they’d be even fewer and farther between. So, what do I do? Hmmmm. 🤔 Do I keep it all the same (just in case?) or let go of more to have better travel days?
I’m ready to shed.
It’ll be a good exercise in my passion for minimalism. I just don’t need so much. I can have more opportunities for silence and mindfulness if I’m not taking up mental and physical space with so much. I will be more relaxed with less.
I will let the Samsung Note go. It’s old and a sunk cost anyway. This means I can let go of the charger cord, too. Yippee. Additionally, I was carrying an extra Apple charging cord, that’s bye-bye, too.
As of now, I wish I didn’t have the Kindle, since I can read my books via the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone, but, to dump it seems so wasteful – it’s new and I bought it specifically for travel. Keeping it and carrying it and never using it seems wasteful, too. Totally overkill. What was I thinking? Yeah, yeah, yeah… “just in case.” I remain undecided for now. I should let it go. I know that.
I got rid of one of the travel water bottles, the one that hits and clanks everything I pass. If I run out of a drinking liquid while traveling, I’ll suck it up and buy something. I’m keeping the larger of the two, though, so hopefully that doesn’t happen.
I won’t carry as much food.
I will use up the glass-heavy toilettries and not replace them, or if I do replace, it’ll be with smaller or lighter options.
I am tempted to chase the warm weather, too. That would help in the clothing department. As of now, our current plan after Denmark is travel to and from United Kingdom and France with a short 3 month trip in Italy and the end of year holidays in the UK (more cold). I would like to be open to all seasons, but snow is proving difficult without boots and proper coats.
Maybe we could plan a year of warm/cool weather, and then, if deciding we want cold weather, make a separate 3 to 6 month trip for that where we pack specifically for it. But, packing for all seasons with limited packing space isn’t ideal.
I think the reason so many digital nomads don’t have these problems is because they’re not worry-freaks like me (I’m a work in progress). Most are also single and not traveling as a family. I pack my meat thermometer, my body temperature taking thermometer, essential oils, natural deodorant, natural shampoo, vitamins (though admittedly not many), cans of fish, water canteen(s), blah blah blah. I’m preferring to find some balance, though, and as I learn more while traveling, I’ll become more comfortable letting more go.