The Art and Science of Packing for a Trip

Traveling light can become a lifestyle once you begin focusing your attention on available options and planning for the trips needs. Traveling with lighter, easily rinsable, multi-purpose clothes actually makes the trip much easier on you when you no longer are hauling around oversized and heavy luggage.

Please Note: Most items shown on this page are linked to Amazon.com and in a number of cases we may receive a commission from Amazon if you purchase from our link. Every item we recommend has been used by us as we travel.

Six Steps To Better Packing

Pick your wardrobe carefully. Know the weather where you are going to help determine what clothes to pack. Also try to determine any special events that may require dressing up or dressing down. With this information you will be able to determine what you will need but also what isn’t necessary to carry.

Eliminate items that need special care. Don’t take clothes that wrinkle easily, regularly need ironing or don’t easily dry. (See our wrinkle remover idea below.) Avoid packing items, like silk, that are easily damaged in a laundry.

Stage clothes you’ve selected in one place so you can get the whole picture and make an evaluation. Ask yourself questions like what combinations do I have and how many items work with each other. By carefully planning you can pack a half dozen items that mix to produce a dozen different looks. It’s important to be able to mix and match. Planning on layering your outfits can eliminate the need to carry heavy items.

Select clothes designed to travel. Give priority to clothes that can be rinsed out and dried quickly. There are growing choices in miracle fabrics that are designed to keep you cool and dry fast. These items are generally lighter in weight so they take up less space when packing and usually work well in layering making them fit multiple uses.

Pick shoes with a purpose. We travel with very lightweight tennis shoes (actually running shoes- see below), a pair of sandals and we usually wear our everyday shoes. Pick a comfortable pair that will fit into your wardrobe choices. When packing, fill fold-top sandwich bags with socks and small items and put them in your shoes. This keeps things organized and also keeps the shoes from creasing.

Select the right suitcases and backpacks. It is awkward to find yourself on a crowded train with an oversized suitcase that you can’t lift or will not fit in the overhead. On buses and commuter trains, you shouldn’t place suitcases on the seats as you’re taking up valuable space. During peak times the aisles can be packed making it impossible to maneuver large bags Nothings worse than being lectured or yelled at, especially in a language you don’t understand.

Click above image for more information on packing cube

We have gotten into the habit of traveling mostly with two carry-on size suitcases and a couple of backpacks. We’re often use packing cubes to organize the suitcase contents and reduce items shifting around. Cubes are convenient to separate out clothes for just one night while in transit so you don’t have to rummage through a whole suitcase. We also travel with a light-weight foldable backpack for holding things acquired along the way or when we need to lighten the weight of a bag we need to check.

Clothes designed for the traveler and adventurer have become a whole category of its own. Brands like Columbia, North Face and Patagonia have built their brands around travel clothing but as the number of new miracle fabrics have exploded the choices in clothes for the modern traveler with many being at remarkable price points.


Do The Army Roll

The Holy Grail of packing is a way of getting maximum density in your gear while avoiding the bother of wrinkled clothes. To that end the military has a system. It’s called an Army roll (it’s also called a military roll but let’s give the U.S. Army the credit) and it really does work. Based first on the understanding that folds produce creases and loose packing of clothes adds wrinkles, the system was developed over years of practice.

The Army Roll may seem counter intuitive but it can be applied to many clothing items. In general its approach is to first fold clothes so that any creases are where they would be considered normal. Pant legs stretched tight along front and back creases and shirts folded so that the creases are straight down both sides of shirt front. After that the garments are rolled up tight and held in place. Often this uses cuffs and shirt tails folded up a few inches to tuck the roll into. Army rolls can work on slacks, shirts, jackets and even sport coats. For detailed information there are literally dozens of online videos – use the search term “army roll”.

A number of years ago we were on a cruise and our table mates were a retired couple who claimed that they traveled with only two carry-on suitcases and a couple of small shoulder bags and they used the Army roll system of packing. Over two weeks we remarked about their outfits and on formal night he even showed up in a tuxedo. On disembarking we can confirm that they walked out of the terminal wheeling those two carry-on bags behind them and two light canvas shoulder bags.


Travel Clothes

Our curated collection of light weight, easy dry clothing that can save you time and space while traveling:

32 Degrees – We’ve become very fond of this line of clothing. Available in thermal and sweat wicking shirts and other apparel. We both wear their T’s and thermals. LINK TO SHOP 32°

Exofficio – They offer a wide assortment of fast dry under garments for men and women along with interesting travel ideas. LINK TO SHOP Exofficio

Balanced Tech @ Amazon – another good collection of fast dry clothing. LINK TO BALANCED TECH

Click image to visit UNIQLO

Under Armor – This company was the first in the market with sweat wicking clothing and was originally marketed to the military and police. We started with this brand and the shirts have held up really well. LINK TO SHOP Men’s shirts LINK TO SHOP women’s wear

UNIQLO – this is a Japanese clothing company that is expanding quickly worldwide. We believe they offer a premium line utilizing a number of those amazing fabrics at a reasonable price. We have bought and traveled with their moisture wicking polo shirts and while heavier than some they still seem to rinse and dry very quickly. Order online and in stores. (we have no affiliation with Uniqlo)


Light Weight Running Shoes

Click image to shop Feetmat running shoe
Click image to shop Whitin running shoe

Feetmat Women’s Running Shoes – ultra light weight and very breathable. They also have some very nice water shoes.

Whitin Mens Running Shoes – An ultra light weight and rugged running shoe.


Our Easy Travel Wrinkle System

Click the image to link to this item on Amazon.com

Our system involves carrying a 2 or 3 oz spray bottle containing just a very small amount of ingredients. Once we are settling in and hanging up clothes we fill that spray bottle up with water and shake vigorously and mist those clothes wrinkles. Here’s the secret formula.

To a 2 or 3 Ounce Bottle add the following ingredients

  • 1 Teaspoon rubbing alcohol
  • 1/4 Teaspoon uncolored fabric softener
  • Shake

When needed, fill the bottle with water and shake well and mist those wrinkles away.

The Easier and Free Alternative

The truth is that a gentle mist of just water will relax most cloth enough to drop out those wrinkle. So if you don’t want to bother mixing up a batch of wrinkle remover, just carry that empty bottle and just fill with water. Less hassle and it works almost as well.


Packing Cubes

Click the image to link to this item on Amazon.com

The ultimate accessories for organizing your suitcase are packing cubes. Keeping clothes tight is an important part of reducing wrinkles and these inner packing cubes help with that. Another advantage is they allow you to segregate clothes into useful groups. No more rummaging through a suitcase, messing up clothes, looking for an item. We also use them to separate a group of clothes for a one night hotel stay while on a trip. No unpacking half a suitcase. When shopping for cubes you need to pay a lot of attention to the sets individual sizes for the best configuration to fit your suitcases.


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