Picking the right bag for light travel.

Selecting the best bag for travelling light is a very personal choice. We all have different objectives and goals. But I've put together a few pointers to consider when deciding on your travel bag.

Human nature has us filling our bags!

Give me a massive suitcase and I'll fill it! I think we can all relate to that. "Hey, I've got all this room, why not just put a few more things in it!"

Luckily that's not how I roll these days.

About to embark on my solo trip to China earlier this year with my original light bag.

First and foremost one needs a bag!

Choose your bag carefully.

So my first tip is to get a bag that you're happy with the size and can manage easily. This could be a daypack size like I use of 24L, or it could be a 40L pack or carry-on trolley bag. They've even got hybrids now that look like a pack but have an in-built trolley system - very cool, but it does add extra weight to the bag. But it's certainly a great option to consider - I think they are the best of both worlds.

What ever bag you choose be mindful of how much you can fit in it. The bigger the bag - the bigger the cram!!

The things I personally look for in a bag are that it must:

  • Be lightweight
  • Have minimal zips on the outside
  • Not too have too many zones/compartments in the bag
  • Have a decent frame for hiking
  • Have lockable zip tabs
  • Open like a suitcase for easy access
  • Be small enough to take 5 kilos (11lbs) but with spare room for souvenirs. 

Love the harness system on my bag. Worked well when I hiked from Biassa to Porto Venere on the Cinque Terre peninsula.

The bag I chose for my 5 kilo (11lb) travels.

I chose a Vaude Wizard 24 + 4L daypack with proper back support/hiking frame.

It weighs about 1kg (2.2lb). 

The best thing about carrying a light bag is that it means you can carry more gear.

The other great thing with this bag was that I had the ability to add more space to it by opening up a zip. Suitcases often have this feature too. Anyway this wee trick allowed me to add 4L of packing capacity for souvenirs. 

When I pack I like to leave the top quarter of the bag empty - it just makes finding things easier and allows for bad packing moments when everything gets thrown in in a mad rush! (Yes, I'm not perfect!!)

Between the frame and my back was a great air space which meant no major overheating of my back and no major sweat patches on my tee shirts. 

Another important aspect of the bag, was that it wasn't too complicated, with too many extra pockets which also add to the weight. I wanted clean lines, and limited access for thieves to help themselves. The bag I chose had two large internal compartments with tabs that I could lock together with one small lock.

Security was really important to me as I was travelling by myself. I didn't have anyone to literally watch my back or my bag. Where I went - my bag went too. 

My bag also opened down to about 2/3rd open, slightly like a suitcase, making finding things quite easy. It also had a spot for my 2L hydration bladder which was invaluable on long hikes.

My bag opens to about 2/3rds down - making it very easy to see and access my gear.

Choosing a carry-on trolley bag for light travel.

I do have style-envy when I see people walking along with the cutest trolley bags. Honestly, they are just gorgeous.

This envy was made worse when I was at Sydney Airport, and I went into a luggage shop to see what their options were. I foolishly picked up a hard-case trolley bag - preparing myself for the heavy weight I was about to lift. 

To my shock the bag literally levitated up. My jaw hit the floor and the shop assistant laughed as she noticed my reaction, which was far different from my expectation. I didn't ask any questions as this was just heading into too dangerous territory for me!! I mean, I had my daypack on my back - where was my loyalty?!!!

I quickly backed away - literally frightened by the weightlessness of this bag (which did come with a $AUS500 price tag - another reason to be frightened!) But my guess, would be that the bag weighed between 1.5 - 2kg (3 to 4.5 lb).

 There are great benefits for trolley cabin bags.

  • If they are robust they protect your belongings
  • They are a great option if you can't lift and carry a daypack
  • If you stick to a weight limit they are easy to carry upstairs
  • And they're so pretty or cool!!

Confession time: I wasn't always a light traveller.

Yes, the evidence is below. In the 90's I lived in London and had a fabulous time exploring the world - but lightweight wasn't a thing then (actually it probably was - just not to me). 

So I had a 70L pack. The irony of the brand name is not lost on me...Karrimor!!!! Subliminal messages were encouraging us to literally carry more!

I've blogged previously about my travelling days of lugging around (and bragging even) my 15-20 kg bag (that's 33-44lbs!). Or translated to plain English, bloody heavy.  So I think it's good to remind myself of how far I've come, and to remind you, my readers, that I once was a heavy traveller too. 

We've all been there.

Gotta love the blurry photos of the old days! So young - OMG, that pack looks so heavy!

How will you be using your travel bag?

When you go to buy your bag, think about what you need it to do.

Will you be:

  • Getting taxis/cabs or using trains and buses?
  • Will you be walking long distances with your bag?
  • Will you be having multiple destinations or are you just going to one place, one city, or a cruise?
  • Can you lift and carry a daypack?
  • Could you carry your trolley bag upstairs if the lift was broken?

These are all some ideas to consider before picking your lighter travelling bag.

Try before you buy.

Another option is to borrow a bag off a friend or family member. By trying bags out before you commit to buying you really get to understand how you can manage the bag. 

It's all very well, me saying, "Buy a day pack" but in all honesty you might hate it! You've got to do what works for you. Borrowing someone's bag for a weekend trip is a great way to road test whether a certain bag style will work for you. Several friends of mine have had a play with my day pack to see what it's like in reality. 

What I want and what you want out of a bag could be completely different.

Hopefully I've given you some ideas and thoughts.


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