How to Travel Long Term With Only Carry-On Luggage

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I have written an updated version of this post – see how to travel carry-on only in 10 easy steps

We are travelling permanently with only carry-on luggage, having sold the rest of our belongings. I have a 30 litre backpack and Simon has a 40 litre backpack and a small travel guitar. It’s been surprisingly easy to live with such small bags and to fit everything we need into them, including two laptops and an SLR camera. Life is actually much simpler when you own less.

Benefits Of Travelling With Just A Carry-On Bag

  • No wait for bags after flights.
  • No worries that the airline will lose your luggage, especially when you have connections.
  • We avoid airline fees for checked baggage.
  • We always take our backpacks on buses in South America (we can almost always fit them under our seat), which avoids worries about them being stolen from the storage compartment or roof.
  • Our bags are lighter and easier to carry around when looking for accommodation or getting to the bus station.
  • We don’t have much spare room in our backpacks so it stops us buying things we don’t really need.

Although Simon has two carry-on bags because of the extra guitar we haven’t had a problem taking these on planes, except in the Bolivian Amazon when we were travelling on tiny 18 seater planes. There was no overhead locker and very little room under the seat, so we reluctantly had to check in Simon’s larger backpack and the guitar (in a soft case) – luckily it was fine.

We could actually get away with less stuff, but we work as we travel so need laptops, and we’ve needed warmer clothes in South America for high altitudes. Even still, our backpacks are half the size of every other traveller we’ve seen. We just don’t know what they have in those huge packs!

Our Updated Packing List

We recently updated our packing list to reflect the changes that have happened over the last 10 months of travel. [Update: see our most recent packing list here].


Books we'll be able to replace with a Kindle

Books we’ll be able to replace with a Kindle

We got rid of very few things as everything we have we use. We lost some sunglasses (now replaced) and a cardigan, and we dumped our playing cards and phrasebooks that we no longer needed.

Our biggest change is that we have just ordered a Kindle. When this arrives we will be able to leave behind our Spanish dictionary, guidebooks and three novels that we usually carry around. This will save us loads of weight, and solve the struggle to find decent, affordable books to read. We are very excited and will be writing about how we get along.


There have been a few additions:

  • Asus EeePc 10 inch netbook – We realised early on that sharing the Macbook Pro when we both need to work at the same time was not going to work, so we bought this in Buenos Aires. [Update: I later updated to a Macbook Air].
  • Small Mouse – Simon needed this for design work.
  • Tiny Tabletop Tripod – This is really small and comes in handy at times, although I’d get rid of it if Simon would let me!
  • Warm Clothes -When we got to Bolivia we needed warmer clothes for the high altitude cold weather. We bought an extra fleece, thick socks, hat, gloves and scarf; and I got an extra long sleeve tshirt. All of this will be dumped as soon as we reach the Caribbean coast. We are done with the cold!
  • Kindle – As explained above when we get this it will save us tons of space and weight.

Tips for Travelling with Only Carry-On Luggage

We are firmly convinced that travelling with just carry-on bags is the way to go. Here are our tips on how to do it.

1) Choose a Small Backpack

Choose a backpack that is no bigger than 40 litres, preferably 30 litres. If your bag is small you can’t overfill it. Our current backpacks are the Tortuga Outbreaker (Simon) and the Osprey Farpoint 40 (Erin)โ€”you can read a detailed review of our carry-on backpacks here.

2) Minimise Your Clothes

Most people overpack clothes, but you can get away with very little: a few tops, a few bottoms and a fleece. Pick a colour scheme so that everything goes with everything else. It is cheap to get laundry done in many parts of the world or you can hand wash things.

Shoes are heavy so don’t take more than two pairs. We have hiking shoes and sandals (update: I now have a pair of lightweight and ultra comfortable Tieks ballet flats for dressier occasionsโ€”see my Tieks review here). In hot climates when you aren’t doing any serious trekking then just a decent pair of sandals is enough.

The common wisdom is not to pack jeans but we do have a lightweight pair. In hot climates you don’t need them but in South America it is often cold and these are great to have. We get our laundry done for us so we haven’t had a problem with them taking too long to dry.

3) Compress!

Packing cubes can work to squeeze your clothes into a nice organised package, but even better are compression bags. They are plastic bags that you roll up and squeeze out all the air. Ours save us loads of space. We like the Packmate travel bags as they are more durable than most; Eagle Creek compression sacs also get good reviews.

4) Take Small Toiletries

To take your backpack on a plane you need all liquids to be under 100ml, so take small amounts of everything and restock when you need to. There are some great products that make this easier:

5) Look into Lightweight Alternatives

Our rain jacket is not much bigger than an apple

Our rain jacket is not much bigger than an apple

There are many lightweight alternatives available to heavy items. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Montane Featherlite Smock – this windproof, water-resistant jacket keeps us dry in all but the heaviest downpours, weighs nothing and is the size of an apple. [Update: The smock no longer available}
  • Western Digital My Passport Hard Drive – 1TB of storage in an amazingly small and light package.
  • Martin Backpacker Travel Guitar – much smaller than a regular sized guitar and it fits in overhead lockers on planes.
  • Travel towel – Simon hates the texture of his but it does dry him and takes up far less space than a regular towel. Most accommodation provides one anyway so it definitely isn’t worth carrying something bigger. I have a 20 year old threadbare towel that packs down as small as a travel towel but has a real towel feel [update: I now just use a sarong as towels are usually provided].
  • Tieks ballet flats – If you want a smarter shoe for travel ballet flats are a great option. I love Tieks because they are both stylish and very comfortable, don’t weigh much, and fold down to a tiny size. They come in a huge array of colours and there’s even a vegan range which I wear. See my Tieks review.

6) Go Paperless

Books are heavy so the Kindle is going to make a real difference to us. We also got rid of our paper journals and started writing on the computer instead. We do carry a pocket size notebook for jotting things down when out and about. When we are settled somewhere we often buy a cheap school notebook for planning (sometimes paper is just better for this), but we get rid of it when we are done.

You can take photos of any documents you need, although we do carry copies of our passport.

Light cotton shoulder bag we use as a daypack

7) No Daypack

We only have one piece of luggage on travel daysโ€”our main backpacks. My Osprey Farpoint backpack is actually daypack size so we use this for long treks or when we need a bigger bag. The rest of the time we use an ultralight packable daypack that packs away in our main bag or can be used for extra storage: we often use it for food on long bus rides.

8 ) Share Power Cables

We have two cameras and two laptops and they all (annoyingly) have different chargers. All the chargers use the same size kettle lead power cord though. Rather than taking four identical power cords we just have two for when we need to power both laptops at the same time. We never need to charge all four devices at once, and this saves space.

Even better, one of the leads fits European style plugs and the other US style (UK plugs are too bulky and less common). We have found either of these two covers us all over South America, so we could even get away with losing our travel power adaptor.

We charge our iPods through our laptops with the small Apple USB cable.

9) Take a Small Camera. Maybe.

I do have an SLR with a big 18-200mm zoom lens, but it is heavy and takes up a significant amount of space in my 30 litre bag. There are times (mostly in cities when I don’t take it out much) when I feel like getting rid of it, but then we see the amazing landscapes of Bolivia’s southwest or spot wildlife in the Amazon and I’m so glad I have it. [Update: I now have a mirrorless camera which is smaller but just as good as my SLR.] 

There are some great compact cameras around so if you aren’t already into SLR photography then it might be a good idea to stick with a smaller camera.

10) Leave the Penknife

A penknife is one of those really useful items that are always on travel packing lists. In fact, we rarely used ours and you can’t take them on planes in your carry-on bag so we didn’t bring one this time. We haven’t missed it. We picked up a plastic knife from a takeaway and this is good enough for cutting bread, cheese and tomatoes for sandwiches. We haven’t needed it for anything else.

11) Only Take the Essentials

Beware those packing lists that list many items that “might come in handy”. In two years of travel we have never needed a sleeping bag, sleep sheet, mosquito net, washing line, travel sink plug (they don’t work very well anyway and a sock does the job), travel pillow, door stop or collapsible bowl.

That said, we do find a small roll of gaffa/duct tape handy for fixing things and taping over holes in mosquito nets (you could manage without it though) and head torches are definitely very useful if you are going anywhere you won’t have power at night (or places like India and Nepal that have frequent power cuts).

Ultimately you have to decide what is most important to you.

To see exactly what is in our backpacks see our normal packing list and our cold weather packing list for a trip to Finland. We have descriptions of some of our favourite items on our Resources page.

I’ve also written a book The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light available on Amazon. 

Don’t forget travel insurance for your gearโ€”we’ve written about travel insurance for long term travel and how to buy it when you are already abroad.

Note: Some of these links are affiliate links so we get a small commission if you buy anything through them but you don’t pay any extra. Thank you for supporting this site!

Do you agree that travelling carry-on is the way to go? What are your tips for travelling light? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Are you planning a trip? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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130 thoughts on How to Travel Long Term With Only Carry-On Luggage

  1. I really like this arrival Erin ?,
    I was planning to buy my first backpack,and I was thinking to buy a 60-65l, but now I am inspired to travel with below 50l,as in India monks travells thousands miles on foot with very few belongings and still enjoys the journey, we really need 1/4 of how much we carries, thanks for the artical.

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  5. I only travel with my daypack too. My camera is now my phone. I wear convertable pants when I step onto my initial flight here in Minnesota, where it’s usually cold. These are usually then my only long pants. My fleece can roll up and I can strap that onto the pack ontop. If I’ve brought a knit hat and gloves, I roll those into the fleece. I usually have four shirts, button short sleeved. Two tee shirts, that say nothing on them to give off a non American look hopefully. One bathing suit. Four each pair of socks and boxer underwear. I do slip in my ENO hammock with straps, which rolls to the size of a softball. Two pair shorts, my third pair is my convertible pants. I go old school with shaving and use DE blades with shave soap, along with other necessary toiletries. I have a CPAP sadly, and to carry that I use a soft lunch box with straps. I can actually get some other items in there like USB cord and an extra battery to charge phone. I bring a small binoculars too. The more I travel, the better I get at packing. In some countries the cost to do laundry is minimal. The soft lunch box is great too for day adventures too. Put your water and lunch in there. I only collect refrigerator magnets for souvenirs. They take up no space. I wear my hiking boots onto the plane at the start. My sandles are straped to the side of the day pack. These are some of my tricks…

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  9. I know this is an old post but I thought i’d chip in here –

    You say you don’t know what people have in their large rucksacks but also say you’ve never needed a sleeping bag in two years… You must be very rich to afford constant hostels and hotels and you can’t actually travel or walk around that much with all that heavy electrical gear in your bags!

    I carry a sleeping bag (sometimes two in colder weathers…) a raincoat, some toiletries and my dogs stuff. I also have a banjo. I live rough 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in the UK.

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  11. Carry on only for us too!
    A 10 liters dry bag as a washing machine and for beach and water territory the only thing I miss the most is my Swiss knife …

  12. we use a piece of car tube as a plug, we always take a small piece of blind cord for a washing line,hotel soaps and shampoos, we cannot take shavers in our carry on, we usually purchase a cheap metal knife on arrival, we take an ipad and a netbook, we find that combination is good, the netbook has a 500 HDDwe have a comprehensive first aid kit with heavy duty drugs etcwe find the long lightweight trousers with zip off legs good, always take brimmed hats and sunscreen and repellent always preload ulamon maps on the ipad which has a GPS function, the new ipad has an excellent camera also we carry cash in a neck wallet and use credit cards rarely, we have opened a wells fargo US debit card bank account which is widely accepted

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  15. I am currently on a 5 month backpacking trip, luckily to all warm climates. My issue has been now airlines not only do measurements which my 30L meets no problem, but they have reduced carry-on weight. So combined weight has to be 7kg or less. How on earth is everyone doing this? I know for myself I stuff all my electronics in my pockets. But how are you guys doing it? Would love some advice on the “weight” issue airlines are choosing to enforce now.

    • Luckily we’ve never had our bags weighed, even on cheap airlines like Air Asia and Ryanair. It’s one of the reasons we don’t want our carry-on backpack to look too big, as we think that would increase our chance of them noticing it. Also, we check in online so that we don’t have to go up to the desk where the scales are.

      • Be careful not to use Jetstar they have a scale they bring out and weigh your bags before you board their plane. So far I haven’t seen them doing it on all their flights. Thank goodness!!

    • the trick is to give someone else your heavy stuff, books etc then check in then put your heavy stuff bakc and takee their heavy stuff when they check in, they do not weigh your bags after you have checked in, then carry your bags as if they are light ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Pretty cool lifestyle, small footprint for you individually so that you can travel and yet the carbon footprint magnitude broadens with all the air travel. Do you have any thoughts on that?

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  18. This post is great – I first read it over a year ago and it was one of my biggest inspirations to travel with hand luggage only! Now my husband Chris and I are travelling indefinitely, with just hand luggage, and have stated our own blog,! Never Ending Voyage has been and continues to be a major resource for us…as well as a great read!
    Thanks guys!

  19. Hi! First time here. This article was really interesting, but I can’t help but notice that all blogs about backpacking and traveling are for people who don’t usually go to cities. I don’t like the outdoorsy lifestyle, I’m a city girl and all I want to do is travel to other cities to learn about their history and stuff, and I hate the heat so all my travel plans are in winter/fall and in Europe. I need tips on that! do you guys know any blogs? I haven’t found backpacking lists for traveling like that, and I’ve been to Europe with a suitcase and it was the worst. Plus, like I read in one comment, there are cheap airlines that don’t allow much so I need to take that into account as well.
    I’m gonna keep reading your website as I’m sure I’ll find interesting things. I just wish I could apply them!

    Thank you guys

    Candela from Buenos Aires

  20. You work with laptop, fair enough! others , leave gadgets behind, Im down to a 28 litre pack , i use internet cafes , download or share photos others take and if i need to call someone i use a call box, 2 years round the world late 80 s never needed any of the above. Forget the gadget gawping , save space and weight,and try social interaction, you may like it!!!!! good luck

  21. I am going to Europe soon and taking carry on only. I wanted to thank you for som amazing tips. I have cut down on how much I bring and this will be a real bonus if I make it ok. Thanks again.

  22. I am so happy I found this post. I just bought an Osprey 40ltr for a year of travel around SE Asia and Oz, but I was still a bit apprehensive until I read all the bonuses of travelling light in this post. Now I’m certain I’ve made the right decision and I’ll be using your packing guide. Thanks a lot for this guys ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Really great! I go two times a year to my home country in Europe. I’ve always been taking large luggage with me with tons of clothes and shoes + unnecessary things i really don’t need. Last time I’ve only took one 35L Backpack with me and I didn’t missed anything, I felt more free. Now I never take more than 5 t-shirts and never more than 3 pants. And no one needs more socks and underwear than t-shirts. I think the amount of underwear and socks should be the same like the amount of t-shirts you’re carrying with you. and this helped me a lot to save space.

  24. Enjoyed you travel with carry-on. I travel frequently with a lightweight Samsonite carry on. I like it because of the wheels and it’s tough. I am getting older, so a backpack is a bit of a problem at time (bad back). I can fit everything I need in it and travel for months. I wear the heavier stuff while flying if necessary. I also have smaller shoulder type bag that is handy for small things and always get away with that on check in.

  25. Hi guys,

    I’m loving your website, finding it really useful. My bf & I are off travelling for a year from September and are very interested in the digital nomad lifestyle so this will be a good test run, plus an amazing experience.

    A rather mundane comment to leave, but your link to the Montane Featherlite Smock is broken. Possibly because they no longer appear to have a smock as such, but I would really like to support you by buying products via your site and currently cannot get to that one at least. I think one of the rucksack links leads to a product that is no longer sold or available as well.

    Happy travels!

  26. Hey guys! Hello from Argentina! Glad to hear u were in our land and liked it. Your post actually comes in handy cause im planning my first solo trip for next year. Im thinking 2 months backpacking in Europe so, packing light is one of my main concerns. The thing is (and here is where your wisdom will be really appreciatted) that if I do travel with a carry on compliant type of backpack, won’t I still have trouble with the items I bring along with me? As a budget traveler I want to avpid checking my bags and paying Ryanair their 20 euros extra per checked bag… but at the same time, wouldn’t I have trouble with items such as a) makeup b) contact lenses liquids c) shampoo d) other survival items?
    That is my main fear actually, cause I was under the impression that most of those are prohiitted in cabin bagagge.

    Thank you in advance for your help!

  27. I am currently planning my next trip to America and although I advocate for packing light my partner is more of a ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ kinda girl. I have convinced her to buy a carryon only bag and reading your site makes it a lot easier to get her on my side about unnecessary items!
    I took a trip around China last year with a bulky suitcase FULL of items I didn’t need or use and came back with souvenirs and presents that i don’t even know where they ended up! I won’t ever be travelling with more than a pack or carry on spinner from now on!!

    Thanks so much for all the useful hints and amazing content! One day I hope to be a digital nomad permanently too!

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  29. Hi there Simon and Erin. I would just like to say how inspirational your site is and I think its amazing what you are doing. Back in 2006 I went to the USA and Canada and travelled with a tour company called Trek America for 10 weeks. I got a flight to New York and met up with random people and we all went on a mini bus with an American guy as our driver/tour leader. It mostly involved camping and a bit of lodging/hosteling for budget travel, however in the cities we stayed in hotels. It was the best thing I ever did. Now I am going to NZ on a working holiday and I have already purchased some of the items you have specified on your site and I have found your tips very helpful. So far I have purchased a 40 litre OSPREY FARPOINT backpack which is carry on compliant. I have also got a EAGLE CREEK large double sided cube, a small LIFEVENTURE cube, compression roll bag, Somerset shaving oil, Lush bar and also many other items which I have researched. I wish you all the best on your travels and I’m sure I’ll keep up to date with your site while I’m in NZ. Thanks.

  30. That is a great list. A few years ago I had a bit 65ltr rucksack for a years travelling but ever since I use a 32Ltr one but only on 2 or 3wks trips. Saying that I often wondered if I could manage for long period with it. I know I definitely can now that ye are doing it as I know that we always bring too many t-shirts, bottoms etc.

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  34. This is a great post, Simon and Erin. I’ve always been an advocate of travelling light, for the same reasons. I made a short video on my blog about what I took on my last trip and normally carry very similar stuff to you. I can’t bear the thought of lugging an enormous bag of redundant stuff around, especially as I travel alone. I’ve also got rid of most of my belongings over the years and live a very minimal life, which I find so much easier in many ways.
    I really love the layout and look of your blog. Keep up the great work.

  35. Great list! Thanks so much. I remembered seeing this months ago, and, with my upcoming move to Australia, I checked it out again. I shan’t be taking just hand luggage as I am settling in Melbourne for 6 months (maybe more) to begin with so have decided to have a few added comforts, but your list has certainly helped me a lot.

    It’s important to adapt each found list to fit your individual needs. I too am a digital nomad so need all kinds of tech (and Apple!). However I’m not a musician so of course wouldn’t bring a bulky travel guitar with me. I find a screwdriver and bottle opener to be useful at times so will bring a penknife. So as much as I’d agree with a lot on this list, it is down to the individual person.

  36. Some good tips. I bought a 45l backpack and thought I was amazing because I could fit everything in but after 7 months travelling, I now have 2 additional bags! After reading your post I think I will have a repack!

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  39. Very good and practical information. I have a medium size backpack (60 ltr) and a small 30-40 liter “day pack”. I once lent my medium backpack to a friend but suddenly had to travel to Burma with only my small day pack. I was worried that it wasn’t gonna be enough for more than 10 days but I was amazed at how much easier it was to travel with only that bag and how I was able to pack the same amount as in the medium size bag. The smaller bag has more compartments and it made it easier for me to find what I needed when I needed it. I’m now more reluctant to carry the medium size backpack and make every effort to fit everything in the smaller bag. My friends always travel with much larger backpacks and are often surprised at how much I can actually take.

  40. Thanks for this, I am currently planning my next trip to Australia and trying to decide what type of backpack I need. It has convinced me I can carry a lot less! Also I had the same worries about the kindle breaking. I’m currently in the South of Thailand and my kindle broke this week, I was devastated. Half the screen won’t work, so I contacted through their website “chat” and because it was in my handbag when it happened they are sending me a new one free of charge all the way to Thailand. So, if something does happen to yours Amazon are pretty helpful!

    • I have heard so many amazing things about Amazon like that. I’d recommend getting a good case for it though, I have a lightweight but nicely padded neoprene one and have been travelling with it for 2.5 years with no problems.

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  44. I agree, most people can squeeze down to 30-40L packs pretty easy. The other reasons for the ‘carry on’ size is made obvious when trekking; in buses, taxis, tuk-tuks, on boats, in museums, ruins or crowded cities. Once I realized that my pack could also be my travel pack/daypack and camera bag combined my life changed.
    My camera gear has priority (I am down to a single DSLR, and three lenses) and it all fits into a removable foam liner. After that is a couple pounds of toiletries and clothes. All totaled about 15 pounds / 7kg including the weight of my Deuter ACT pack (my personal recommendation for harness comfort and the tropics). My wife has the same pack, but just a DSLR body and lens and her total weight is just under 11 pounds! Those are month long packs (and could go longer) in the tropics.
    Our packs are 40L, but my best guess is that mine is loaded to, perhaps, 27L and my wife’s is at 22L. This does allow us to pick up some things! We opted out of a computer and instead have a single Nexus 7 for reading, maps and internet contact. Lastly, remember that when you hit a major city you can always buy most anything AND you can ship stuff you have picked up home.
    Great lists – and keep inspiring people! Keeping it light is the key (easier to see when hosteling and trekking at 50).

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  49. Hi guys, leaving this year December, and your site is like the bible to me now ๐Ÿ™‚

    Just quick silly question, which compression bags did you buy? I’m looking for some too (OCD! Need everything organised to the point! Gonna be a hell of a ride for me hehe) I I keep checking amazon and ebay and sorts, its better to ask you guys already using it for travel, than to base my purchase on the reviews of the housemums that just use them for wardrobes.

    Also how did you find Belgium? I’m originally from there, but been living in UK for two years now.

    Thx for your help

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  51. How do you manage to fly with sewing needles?

    I thought these were not allowed in hand baggage.

    does it vary depending on the airline?

  52. Very nice. I find that hand washing everyday makes life so simple. I once went a whole summer with 3 undies, 3 shorts, 3 Ts. Wear one, wash one and one spare. Got sick of those clothes at the end of it though ๐Ÿ™‚

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  57. I think you guys have nailed “the travel light” bit perfectly. One of the main keys to this is, don’t keep putting in things “you might need”. These are the items that take up the extra space and you don’t need them!. When will I get that thru my thick skull!! Next time maybe! Great advice and great list.

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  60. Hey, I wondered if you know any good online file storage websites. Am taking a video camera and digital cam with me on my travels but don’t want to take loads of memory cards with me. Thanks.

  61. This is great Guys! I always thought I was pretty good at packing, but after reading this I think I need to work a bit more on my packing skills ๐Ÿ™‚
    How do you handle souvenirs etc? Don’t you buy them at all or do you post them home as soon as you buy them?

    • We don’t buy souvenirs anymore as travelling is a permanent state for us so we have nowhere to put them. On our previous year-long trip we let a few things build up and then sent a parcel home (usually in major shopping destinations like Kathmandu and Bali) . They all made it back OK.

  62. haha It’s because I read this quick as I was at work, you guys contribute to making work less painful as I plan my travels ๐Ÿ™‚

    Nice and pensive article you two!

  63. It also makes it easier to travel light when there are two of you. We are recent converts to the carry on after a trial run in Japan and I’m sold. You can share a lot of toiletries, power adaptors, books etc, and it is amazing how much is provided at a lot of hostels. I’m currently looking at good travel underwear that dries overnight to add to the travelling kit. I also think women need to get a little less precious about their beauty ‘needs’ – there’s no Glamazon in the Amazon!

    • That’s true being a couple does help because we share a lot of things. I could do with some travel socks that dry quickly – ours take forever. I definitely don’t worry about beauty these days! It was actually liberating to stop wearing makeup.

    • Try thongs. They dry real quick and take up practically no space. H&M have comfy and cheap cotton ones that don’t ride up. But I just did a 2 month trip around europe in a 30L bag without sacrificing glamour. I had my makeup and my entire skincare routine. I even brought heels and a party dress. Would have saved a lot of space without but it definitely can be done.

  64. This is so impressive, I’ve just bought a 65 litre backpack. What is the reason you do this? Security reasons maybe?

    I still remember the supreme panic in me when I got my first flight ever and Hanover Airport told me they had misplaced my stuff! I’ve been paranoid ever since.

  65. Wow thats impressive… its taken me ages to learn to pack light, and Im still using a 45L. When you guys stay in one place for a long time though, do you kind of hate wearing the same things over and over?

    • It depends how social we are being! I do feel more conscious of wearing the same thing when you are seeing the same people regularly. I could always pick up a few extra things when we are staying somewhere for a few months but I hate shopping so I haven’t done that yet.

  66. I am sooo jealous, we carry 60l and 50l plus a daybag – we already want to downsize but can’t afford to get rid of our expensive backpacks and invest in new ones. I read so many articles saying packing light is the way to go, but it wasn’t until I have to lug around my own stuff that it really rings true! When these packs wear out (which they shouldn’t do as they have life time guarantees) we’ll downsize ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You don’t necessarily need to get new bags, just get rid of some of the contents! If they aren’t filled up backpacks usually have straps so that you can make them smaller (to get onto planes).

      • Great tip! I’m planning on buying a 40L backpack/duffel bag from Mountain Equipment Coop in Canada, for a 12-month, every-continent trip… I am hoping to keep it below the 10kg weight limit that a lot of airlines have, so that means I’ll probably have to make sure it isn’t full. In your experience, how much does Simon’s 40L backpack usually weigh?

        • Simon’s is around 10kg. We rarely get our bags weighed by airlines though so you should be fine.

  67. Thank you for this extremely useful post! What about weight? Some airlines have ridiculous limits such as carry-on luggage can’t exceed 6 or 7 kilos in weight.

    • Glad you found it useful Marcin. The airlines we have flown on so far have had weight restrictions below the 8-10kg our backpacks are but they have never weighed our carry-on luggage so it hasn’t been a problem.

  68. you will love the kindles,we use them all the time. Did you opt for the 3G, we have saved cash and time using the free internet on them. The pages loads are slow but what’s the rush!

    Happy travelling, Rich & Leah

    • We did go for 3G as we don’t have phones and we thought it would be useful to have access to email etc when we don’t have wifi.

  69. Great tips – I’m inspired to keep travelling carry-on only, as it really has tons of advantages. I found that Ryanair really has a strict “one-piece policy”. When departing from Brussels South I had a small backpack and a really tiny shoulder bag for basically just my passport and my wallet, and they made me put the shoulder bag inside the backpack before I could get to security control.

    • So far we haven’t flown any of the European cheap airlines yet but I hear they are much stricter so we’ll probably have problems with the guitar there.

  70. Nice guide. I spent last weekend in Tokyo with a 25L bag, including my 13″ macbook pro, towel, umbrella, water bottle and clothing for 3 days (and separate camera bag for my SLR). Reduced my toiletries down too. Got along fine with it. I was also wearing jeans, and had a jacket with gloves and hat because it was cold.

    I have a friend in thailand now too with just a 30L bag, although he gave up his netbook and doesn’t have an SLR.

    I used to carry a small camera but it broke, so I’m getting a new phone with a better camera instead to cover small camera use (mostly indoor). This also covers alarms, mp3 player and notepad.

    I don’t carry books (except a small phrase book in camera bag) so don’t have an issue there.

    I find pretty much anything that was purchased in a travel shop (mosquito nets, big water bottles, penknife, sleeping bag, etc) to generally be the biggest waste of space. Ironic really.

    • 25L is good going Rob. I agree that it is easy to get carried away in travel shops and buy things that seem really useful but you don’t actually need.

    • We can’t wait to get our Kindle. I wasn’t interested in the iPad as I wanted a device with the eInk screen that doesn’t hurt your eyes and you can read in the sun.

  71. Aloha!

    Absolutely, first time we got off the plane and scooted past the luggage carousel we were converted! It’s hilarious to us now when we think of all we used to carry around. No we do not need 5 shirts in Alaska, Hawaii, South America, Malaysia or East Africa. You can wash, wear and repeat. Camera always makes the cut when choosing between more clothes and documenting the journey, though. Love your packs!

    • Aloha Gena! Yep, we prioritise laptops, camera and books over clothes, but everyone has to choose what’s most important to them. It certainly is easier in warm climates though as you need less and it dries so quickly.

  72. Great list… ! Although I just found out when purchasing our tickets to Colombia that Spirit Airlines even charge for carry-on’s… Eeek!
    I’m curious about that mooncup — gotta read more about it.

    • Wow that’s the first airline I’ve heard of charging for carry ons! The prices are really low though. The mooncup is great – so much better for the environment too.

  73. Going from a big backpack to a small one, well, the exact same 40 L north face one, was the best thing I ever did, travel wise.

    I move faster (when chased buy stray dogs or touts), shop only to swap, blend in easier, but most of all I feel school trip careless/carefree when it comes to the actually sweaty travel a to b stuff. Yup, traveling with small backpack makes me look at least ten years younger. Not bad at all.

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  75. Oh this is such a great post! I will be saving this and coming back to it when it is time for me to actually pack. Last night I did a mock pack and it went well. I was about to fit everything in my 40L backpack and my small daypack. It was very tight in my 40L so I will try to cut some stuff out next time I try to pack again.

    • Glad you found it useful Jaime. Doing a mock pack is a great idea – glad you managed to fit everything in. You could try compression bags to give you some spare space.

  76. This kind of post reminds me why I love your blog; practical, informative, helpful and well written. I absolutely agree that carry-on is the way to go, but I’m reluctant to replace paper books with something like a Kindle as it’s another piece of technology that can break, be stolen or lost. I’m quite a slow reader, though, and usually just carry one book with me at a time. However, I haven’t travelled anywhere for as long as you guys and haven’t travelled in South America where books in English are (seemingly) hard to come by. But perhaps I’ll change my tune once I leave forever!

    • Thank you Sam! I had the same concerns about the Kindle which is why we didn’t get one before we left. But I read so much and books are heavy and difficult to get here so I am converted. If you aren’t a big reader then it’s not as much of an issue.

    • hi, excellent site! just thought I would add that you can change a towel for a flannel – it takes up less space and dries quicker. Flannel down after a shower and either air dry or use an item of clothing to finish off!

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