Backpacking Long-Term With Carry-On: A How-To Guide

Your guide to planning and packing for a long-term trip with carry-on luggage

Here’s the deal:

Life on the road becomes instantly easier once you know how to pack and travel light.

The problem is that most of us don’t really understand the art of packing light with the aim of long-term travel.

Why We Love Traveling With Carry-On Luggage

  • It’s easier to haul (instead of dragging some 90 pounds with you).
  • You’ll avoid packing stuff you’ll never use.
  • It saves you money, especially on budget airline carriers.

The whole aim of packing light for long-term travel is to eliminate bulk and get you out of the rut of stacking yourself like a mule. In this post, we’ll show you how to effectively pack to survive a multi-destination trip while still sticking to a minimum weight of roughly 24 pounds. Please keep in mind that all travelers have their own needs and approaches to packing, so use this ‘guide’ as a loose manual and wing the way it suits your taste.

Rules for Traveling Long-Term With Carry-On Luggage

 

#1 Thou Shalt Pick the Right Bag

Packing effectively has a lot to do with what kind of carry-on bag you choose to use. Finding and sticking with a small bag will help you prioritize better and force you to pack only what you’ll really need, since there won’t be any room for clutter. A bag with a capacity of roughly 40 liters should do the trick. You can always use a light weight hiking backpack instead of a full travelling backpack.

#2 Thou Shalt Pack Only Essentials

Nice-to-haves are just that: nice to have, yet totally unnecessary to tag along. Focus on what you’ll need and try to avoid contemplating the “what if” scenario-style of packing. You really only need one week’s worth of clothing as long as you’re sticking to versatile garments. Skip the idea of packing gear that can be rented or borrowed and make sure you pack the things you’ll need to survive only.

 

#3 Thou Shalt Utilize Packing Cubes

Okay fine, using shopping bags is probably a perfectly alright way to pack your goodies for a long-term trip, but once you experience the organizational bliss of what packing cubes can do for you, we promise you you’ll never look back. This helps you roll and easily store your clothes inside your carry-on, making it much more space efficient.

 

#4 Thou Shalt Follow These Clothing Guidelines

While you may be tempted to jam in a bunch of clothes for your travels, you’ll actually only need a few garments that go well together. Go ahead and pack about 6 shirts and 3 pairs of pants, two of which should be short if you’re heading to a summery destination. Make sure you pack 1 sweater or hoodie as well as your bathing suit.

Pajamas are an optional extra which you can pack if you’re heading to a colder destination, otherwise a pair of boxers and a tank-top works just as well for sleeping purposes. 7 pairs of underwear and 3 pairs of socks give you enough fresh stock to stick to washing your clothes once a week, and if you stick to 2 pairs of shoes, you should be good to go.

 

 

#5 Thou Shalt Pack Sufficient Hygienic Supplies

Hygiene is always a top priority for traveling, even if you’re limited for space. Make sure that you pack toothpaste and a toothbrush. You also want to throw in sunscreen and a spray to repel the mosquitoes. Pack some deodorant, bar soap for washing, and a bar of hair soap for your noggin. Just remember to keep all liquids in sizes 100ml or smaller, since this forms part of traveling regulations.

 

#6 Thou Shalt Not Forget the Tech

Your day-pack should be reserved for your electronic gear such as a GPS device and a good digital camera. You can also throw in a small laptop, but only if you cover it with a hard-shell protective case to keep it safe and sound. This bag is also reserved for personal items such as your passport and some cash, your paperwork, and perhaps a few cards. A universal travel adapter is never a bad idea to throw in here as well, as is some hand-cleaner that can be used on the go.

Final Thoughts

All said and done, we probably won’t be able to be giving you a strict guide as to exactly what you should or shouldn’t be packing in your carry-on for a long-term trip, but we can share our ideas. We hope that this post has been helpful and that it’s given you some sense of direction and perhaps new inspiration to cut down on the bulk that’s been dragging you down on your travels all this time!

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