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When I first travelled overseas I brought over 25 kilograms with me, for a two week vacation. To be honest, I did not even know that airlines had weight limits on luggage. The limit for that first trip was 23 kilos, but the airline let it slide. Coming back was even worse with all the useless souvenirs I brought back, novelty cigarette lighters (I don’t even smoke), countless fake DVDs, hats, sunglasses, shirts, the list goes on. I think my carry on was over ten kilograms coming back.


I think I brought over 3 kilos just of cables for my camera, laptop, ipod and speakers. I even brought my wireless mouse, which meant the rechargeable batteries, which meant the battery charger and the list went on.


Over the years I have learned to travel as light as possible. When you have to carry a massive piece of luggage as well as a back pack and laptop bag any significant distance you will know why. Nowadays with budget flights and passengers having to pay extra for each kilo of luggage, combine that with the ease of portability, and you can see why it makes sense to carry as little as possible.


My dad was in the army and he used to go on army exercises, where they go out to the bush (forest) and practice maneuvers. He had a saying that stuck with me and it was ‘Pack it light, pack it tight and pack it right, because you’re the one who has to carry it’. In the army it is necessary to carry a rifle and ammunition and anything else the army require. Personal luggage must be reduced to a minimum, especially when this has to be carried over 20 kilometres a day.

Every second travel blog seems to have an idea of what you should and shouldn’t pack, but at the end of the day it is personal choice and you will decide what is important to you. Having said that, this is what works for me, and if you can take any advice away then even better.

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Pack it light


Pack as little as possible. That might sound obvious, but this is the key. If you need to bring something, bring the bare minimum, don’t bring 800 mls of shampoo when you only need 80 mls. These days I don’t bring a laptop with me. A smart phone is fine to check emails and stay connected. Leave that hair curler at home. It is easy to find ‘travel’ size toiletries these days. I can remember my dad hack sawing off half of his toothbrush handle, and placing his ration of toothpaste into an old plastic medicine bottle, just to save weight.  I re use those little hotel shampoo containers and just bring enough with me to last a few days until I can find a shop to buy some more at the destination. When I travel I don’t check in luggage anymore, it’s all carry on, that way I don’t have to wait for the baggage carousel and usually first in line for immigration and the at the taxi stand.



There is a whole stack of things not required. Sacrifice a bit of fashion and don’t bring an array of the same types of clothes. One pair of shorts, one pair of swimmers, perhaps a light weight jacket (depending on the climate) and one or two collared shirts. I always do a load of washing whilst away now. With a few days clothes spare, I will find a laundry mid trip to wash and dry clothes for the second half. On occasion, in an emergency I have bought some underwear along the way as well as a few T-Shirts to get me home. When I left home on my two year travel adventure I packed only ten kilograms.



Pack it right

Make sure that your luggage is packed in the correct order. Nothing is more awkward than hiking any distance with your backpack digging into you, or if it is lop sided. Make the back of the pack as flat and as spongy as possible. I use t-shirts to cushion the bag up against my back. Ensure that things you need are easily accessible. I often recharge my phone at airports, so the charger needs to be handy. A pen is often needed to fill in those departure and arrival cards. Anything that you will need to access quickly, don’t bury deep in the bag that will require you to unpack half of the bag to look for it, put it in the front pocket. All the documents I need, I place in order and staple it together, then rip it off or fold over when finished. For example; first is the airplane ticket, next come the map and directions to the hotel, then the voucher for the hotel etc. It comes in handy when at the counter and pays to be organised and reduces the risk of losing documents.



Pack it tight

A pack that is not packed tight is harder to carry. It saves energy if the pack is like an extension of you. It should not shift up and down or move too much. Keep those shoulder straps as tight as possible and keep the heavier things at the bottom of your pack.

All the luggage I took to China for 8 days


I recently went to China and was there for 8 days, and took less than 7 kilos with me. This what I took:


What I wore on the plane

  • T-shirt

  • Jeans

  • Undies (optional)

  • Shoes (I like velco or slip on shoes)

  • Hat

  • Socks



  • 4 T-shirts

  • 2 Collared shirts

  • Cargo shorts (something to swim in if needed as well)

  • Thongs/Flip Flops

  • Toiletries

  • 4 Pairs of ankle socks

  • 1 pair normal sports socks

  • Singlet

  • Hand towel

  • Half a roll of toilet paper (came in handy)

  • 4 handkerchiefs

  • 5 pairs of undies

  • Light weight spray jacket

  • HD Pocket video camera

  • iPhone and charger

  • iPhone headphones

  • Sunglasses

  • Pen

  • Travel documents

  • Empty plastic shopping bags and some smaller zip lock plastic bags

  • Passport


Wear the heavier articles on the plane. When I caught the bullet train, they do not weigh your bag, so I wore shorts and flip flops and packed the jeans and shoes to be more comfortable, but on planes, the standard carry on weight is 7 kilograms. Some airlines will weigh your bag, others won’t. Smaller planes need to watch their weigh, so the smaller the plane, the greater the likelihood they will weigh every single bag (and sometimes passengers) If it looks like your carry on might be over 7 kilograms, put some things in your pockets whilst checking in. The heaviest first, like the camera and charger. Put on your jacket, anything to reduce your bags weight. After check in, put it back in the carry on bag.


Do a bit of research about the climate and geography before you leave. Keep maps electronically, visit google maps on your smart phone and take screen shots of maps you may need before leaving. I knew Beijing was hot, but the forecast was also for rain, so that is why I took the spray jacket, in case it rained while I was on the great wall. The zip lock bags are also great for keeping my iPhone dry if it did rain. A hand towel in case the hostels did not provide any towels. After I was in China for three days, I found a laundry to wash just three days worth of clothes, but I knew with that done, I would be able to last until I got home.



I have carried deodorant in my carry on luggage many times, but this time it was confiscated by security saying it was pressurised and dangerous. Obviously I was not going to argue, but roll on is an alternative.


  • 4 Re-used hotel shampoo containers. Two filled with shampoo and two with conditioner

  • Sunblock

  • Bar of soap

  • Small travel toothbrush and a few small travel toothpastes

  • Plastic container with product for my hair

  • One reused plastic container to hold face wash

  • Disposable shaver with small shave cream (I didn’t even use it)


My toiletries I took to China for 8 days

Every time I pack my bag now I think of that old saying from my dad and ask myself, do I really need this? Your requirements are going to be different to mine and mine are even different each time I travel. Sometimes I bring a cable (headphone jack to RCA) that will allow me to plug my iPhone into the TV AV, so as to use the TV speakers for my tunes. Bring what works for you. If you can’t live without your laptop, then bring it.

99 packed light for China

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