It's true! Packing light for travel has never been so easy. Innovation and design have created the greatest opportunity for travellers to pack with lighter gear. Let me explain more...
Compare traveling light now to the old days.
It hardly feels like yesterday that I was lugging a bloody heavy pack around India. The bag weighed 15 kilos (55 lbs). I was 24, and the year was 1992. I was proud as punch with everything I managed to put in that pack.
I had a sleeping bag the size of a shopping bag, and a sleeping mat (just in case I found myself sleeping on the street - never happened).
I had two pairs of jeans that were a nightmare to clean and keep clean. Probably five tee-shirts. A thick and bulky yak jersey that I bought from the Camden Markets in London. It was good though.
I had some polyprop leggings and long-sleeved top that had a lingering odour no matter how recently I'd washed them.
I had a really cool (in my mind), stripey, multi-coloured South American shirt (another Camden Market purchase) that was for dressing up (not sure the term 'dressing up' is an apt description for me back then.)
I wore heavy leather hiking boots and had flip-flops in my bag. I don't recall having any other footwear.
I had a toilet bag with full sized shampoo and conditioner bottles, toothpaste, moisturizer, a block of soap, and a bottle of sunscreen. My toilet bag probably weighed a kilogram! And I had a full size towel. Plus a full size hairdryer with a curl diffuser attachment - omg, these were the big hair days!!!!
I also carried a Lonely Planet bible for traveling in India. This really was an essential travel item. With no internet or smartphones we relied heavily on the information of these fantastic guides.
Somehow, even though this doesn't sound like much - it filled my 75L backpack.
Excuse the photo quality - it's the old days remember!
Minimalist travel wasn't a thing back then!
I'm horrified looking at that backpack. I mean, what on earth did I have in those side pockets? It looks like a rocket about to launch.
I think I've mentioned before that the bag used to start at my bum and finish way over my head so from behind I looked like a backpack with legs.
It really is embarrassing to see this, but I must say, it wasn't always so easy to travel light back then.
My daybag is a third of the weight (5kg cf 15kg) and a thrid of the size (25L cf 75L).
Light clothing has changed travel forever.
Back then everything was cotton. And anything technical and made for the outdoors was super expensive.
Prices, while still costly, have certainly come down, and the variety of clothing choices has improved dramatically.
Merino and smartwool products have really been game-changers. The fact that they are lighter, easy to clean and dry, odour-resisting, and much more compact makes them absolute essentials for traveling light.
Merino clothing does need some special care - read this great blog from Merino Country in Australia for their recommendations.
Jackets and jerseys for traveling light.
The innovation around down and synthetic jackets has simply been revolutionary.
I used to travel with my big jersey as mentioned above and my FairyDown jacket (an old favourite amongst Kiwi travellers). The jersey has long gone, but my daughter now wears my jacket!
Compare this to my Icebreaker merino jersey and my puffer jacket - the difference is incredible.
Then and now. My hand knitted jersey while warm was sooo bulky.
Traveling light with a sleeping bag.
I don't generally travel with a sleeping bag these days but I can show you my 1991 bag and my 2020 bag! Seriously the 1991 sleeping bag would completely fill my current 24L daybag. Yet the newest one fits in easily if I need it to.
Yes, even with my clothes bundle, my tiny toilet bag and a couple of pairs or shoes - I still can fit this sleeping bag in, but the daypack would weigh 6 kilos (13 lbs). But I'm not worried about that extra weight if it means greater peace of mind and more flexibility.
Remember, packing light is not a competition, and it's all about what works for you.
The old and the new! What a huge difference in sleeping bags these days.
Simplifying your travels - where was the information back then?
There has been a huge increase in people traveling light and the information is so much more available.
Back in the 90's I don't even know if it was a thing - although I suspect hiking people knew a bit more about it.
Of course, I am a complete traveling light addict these days, and love hearing other people's stories about their before and after travel styles.
There's a whole industry arising which is fun. One of my favourite concepts is Splice Clothing who make reversible clothing. These clothes can be worn back to front and inside-out. So you get four looks from one item. Check Splice Clothing out here. I am an affiliate of Splice Clothing which means I earn a small commission on anything your might purchase through this link. I like to promote people who do cool stuff, are good people, and are fellow light travellers!
And if you want to read more on how my first traveling light journey started, have a read of this article I wrote.
Happy travel planning!