The Fine Art of Packing Light

by Mike on January 21, 2013

On a trip around the world earlier this year, I managed the trip without checking a single piece of luggage.  The kicker was that some of the item brought were seldomly used so I could have gotten away with less.

There were two reasons why I was able to pull this off.  One, it was a short trip. Two, I knew where I was going.

Had I been traveling for any longer, I probably would have packed more items, thus forced to use a larger bag and more than likely check that piece of luggage.

Knowing where I’m going allows me to plan on what to pack.  My trip called for a stop in Dubai and South East Asia.  Both regions have warm climates with relatively no variation.  Knowing this, I packed a few lightweight summer outfits.

Later on in the trip, I was in South Korea where it’s subject to the four seasons.  Given I was going to be there  in the springtime, I had to pack some warmer cloths.

Had I expected any other climates such as winter, I would have packed a winter jacket and other attire.

The key to packing less it to bring only stuff you plan to utilize 80% of the time.  If you plan on wearing flip flops/sneakers everywhere, then you probably don’t need to pack any other footwear.  That’s more or less the principle I follow.

This might be TMI, but who cares. I love Exofficio boxer briefs.  Their tag line says it all: 17 countries…6 week…one pair of underwear.  I don’t wear the same pair everyday, but they are lightweight and dry fast.  So you can wash them in a bathroom sink.  The have odor and micro-bacterial resistance features making them ideal for travel.

I only really bring two pairs of pants – a pair of shorts and a pair of jeans.  I rock the Nike Dry-fit golf shorts because I like the cotton/polyester blend for humid climates when I’m in Singapore or surrounding areas.  In colder climate, I wear jeans.  That’s as simple as it gets.  There’s a neat article from an aussie research who asked 30 participants to wear the same pair of jeans for 3-months.

These are quintessential items that I wear more than 80% so they are must bring items.

T-shirts are a must pack item for me, but I don’t bring a clean shirt for everyday of the trip, that’s just too much to pack.  Instead, I pack several days worth of shirts and take advantage of wash and fold services.

You don’t need to carry a clean piece of clothing for everyday you’re on the road.  There are laundry facility abroad and most likely, wash and fold services that will wash cloths for you and very reasonable prices.

For instance, in Bali, I found a laundry service to wash the following articles of clothing:

  • 6 t-shirts
  • 2 pairs of boxers
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 2 pair of socks

The freshly laundered cloths were nicely folded and packaged ready for me to pick all for the grand total of 17,000 rupiah or $1.70 USD.

Laundry Service in Bali

Freshly clean cloths all packaged up


  • Make sure it’s strictly machine washable – a lot of times they’re family owned business and they may not speak English well enough to understand any special request aside from wash and cloths.
  • Ensure all pockets are empty – You don’t want to wash your passport or loose other valuables.
  • Don’t worry about clothing theft – A pair of my Nike Dry-fit golf shorts(which are awesome on South East Asia) costs more than the average monthly pay of a typical Balinese worker.  Despite this, there’s no theft.  The main reason is that no local could afford to buy it.  Secondly, westerners have much larger frames and the sizing of cloths is entirely different.


Packing less has some huge benefits that you don’t realize until you do it.  Some things I learned are:

  • Less stuff to Loose – The more stuff you have to keep track of, the more likely you’re going to loose something.  The less you pack, the easier it is to keep track of your all your belongings.  One corollary to packing less equates to a lighter bag, thus allowing you to be more mobile.  A smaller and lighter bag may allow you to take the metro or mass transportation more often relying less on cab rides, which will save you money.
  • Your Luggage doesn’t own you – On my trip around the world, I had some 22-hour connections allowing me ample time to leave the airport and explore the city.  Had I packed checked luggage, I would have to leave them and left luggage or check them in to my proceed flight(if it was possible).    I didn’t want my luggage dictating whether I was mobile enough to venture into the city.

That’s my approach to packing in a nutshell.

How do you pack for a trip around the world.


I dug up some old photos from previous trips and found photos of what I packed.

Packing light for an overseas adventure

What I packed for 12 day trip to Japan


1 pair of shorts
1 pair of convertible pants
2 button down shirts
3 pairs of exofficio boxer briefs
2 polyester blend t-shirt
3 cotton t-shirts
4 pairs of socks
1 vinyl travel wallet
1 pair of headphones
luggage lock
2 pairs of contacts
contact lens cleaning solution
contact lens case
digital camera
wall outlet adapter
hand sanitizer
small journal
iphone cord
macbook pro
macbook pro charger


Packing light for an overseas adventure

What I packed for a 8-day trip to Thailand. NOTE: always a good idea to pack TP for south east asia.


1 pair of shorts
1 pair of cargo shorts
1 button down polo shirt
5 cotton t-shirts
1 micro fiber towel
1 mini binder for all my travel documents
6 pairs of boxer (before I discovered exofficio boxers)
6 pairs of socks
alarm clock
small journal
small pen
2 cliff bars
toilet paper
ipod touch
ipod cable
ipod charger
3G juice for extra battery life
camera charger
camera(i’m using the camera to take the picture)

Related posts:

Crossfit Travel App
Inspiration to Packing Light
Why I have Two U.S. Passports

Previous post:

Next post: