I’ve just packed everything I own into a backpack for my move abroad.
Usually I do everything in my power to avoid looking like a dorky tourist, but not this time. I was actually doing the large backpack on the back, small backpack on the front thing, because my bag is simply too full to attach them together.
My minimalist self is having an internal meltdown at the fact that my bag is basically overflowing, and I’m wracking my brain for ways that I can whittle down my possessions so that I don’t have to cart around this anvil on my back.
I’m not the only one to struggle with the inevitable stuff vs. bag size problem. One of my friends just moved to USA and took a total of three full suitcases (yes, three!) of her stuff over.
For those of you who may be planning a move abroad, and are frankly quite terrified of the moment you have to pack your bag knowing full well that your worldly possessions could not possibly be squeezed into such a seemingly tiny space, here are 7 tips that might assist your efforts.
1. Be brutal
The first step is to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to have to dump a bunch of your stuff.
I’m sorry, this is just the way it is. It’s unavoidable. Unless you are one of those rare few who owns barely anything, then you’re going to have to be brutal.
Spread out all your goods, then pack only the items you use regularly. Books are a definite no-no as they will immediately take up both weight and space in your bag – instead, invest in an e-reader. I use the Amazon Kindle, which I absolutely love!
As for the rest, question whether you actually need it. Toss anything left over. Your local charity bin will thank you kindly.
See my post on selling everything you own for the story on how I got rid of all my stuff.
2. Compact every item to a miniscule size
Every time I purchase hairspray it seems to come in a larger, ‘25% more value’ tin. Now this is great when I have a bathroom to store it in, but backpack space is a limited resource so when I’m travelling I have to go with the smallest size.
Most liquid toiletry items can be compacted into smaller, TSA approved, space efficient travel bottles. This is another time to question what you really need to take – that bottle of fake tan and massive hairdryer are just going to take up precious space.
3. Vacuum seal the crap out of bulky clothing
Seriously, vacuum seal bags are a godsend. We were given a few before our tip to Europe and they came in super handy for clothes that we’d only wear occasionally. Bulky winter jackets are jumpers can be made so much smaller when all the air is sucked out of them (and if you’re still in need of these, check out this guide to buying the best cruelty-free winter gear!).
It’s as simple as 1) insert clothing items, 2) fold vacuum seal bag in half and sit awkwardly on top until most of the air is squeezed out, and 3) seal the bag. Viola, your clothes take up half the space.
4. Play tetris with packing cubes
To save yourself emptying the entire contents of your bag just to locate that one pair of swimmers you packed at the bottom, packing cubes come in super handy.
Separate your underwear from your pants and your beach clothing from your winter scarves by packing them in separate packing cubes within the bag. They take up no extra room and you can play a fun game of bag tetris while packing.
5. Shake it up (or down)
Ok, so all your shit still won’t squeeze in to the bag (yes, this is exactly what happened to me when I was packing for my move). You think you have it all sorted but really, who are we kidding? It’s not gonna fit.
A great trick is to sit your backpack upright, and give it a good shake. Everything inside should shift a little further down, compacting to leave a gap at the top of the bag. Bonus room!
6. Utilise every corner
If you give your bag a bit of a feel up, you’ll probably find that there are a few random spaces here and there where you can fit a few items.
Mine classically appear down each edge of the backpack, and in the corners of the bottom pocket. Any last items still not in the bag can be craftily inserted into these spots.
7. Wear your bulkiest items
Well, I didn’t wear my winter coat because hey, I’m headed to Sydney so I’d swelter when I got off the plane. But I did wear my hiking boots, plus a pair of jeans and a jumper. The bulkiest items are going to significantly impact your bag space so carry them on your body instead.
Try not to be that person who lugs around 2 backpacks + 2 duffel bags + a handbag and a laptop bag! I know you think you need it all, but seriously, you don’t. If it doesn’t fit, then empty your bag, reassess, and start again.
Check out this backpacking checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything! Did you manage to fit your entire life into a backpack? Share your success or fail story with us in the comments!
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