As a hiker or backpacker, you know all about paring down your load to reduce weight. These same principles apply to lightweight travel. If you are ready to stop worrying about dragging around heavy luggage and paying expensive baggage fees, give these suggestions a try.


1. Bags

Just like when you’re carrying all your gear down the trail on your back, the right bag makes all the difference when you’re traveling. By packing light, you no longer need wheels and telescoping handles to transport your belongings, and as an alternative, a shoulder-carried backpack makes you more mobile and quick.

However, there is a difference between a backpacking pack and a backpack for travel. Also known as conversion packs, these streamline the bag with stowaway straps, use zippers rather than drawstrings, and have wide openings rather than a top-loading design. Check out the Osprey Porter Series or the EMS Boda Conversion Series. Typically, conversion packs under 45 liters meet carry-on restrictions, but you’ll want to check the dimensions. Also, don’t forget a rain cover if you will be out in the elements!

2. Organizers

Use stuff sacks and packing cubes to keep your bag organized and clothing compressed to save space. With the many sizes and shapes available, you can customize a system for your specific bag and travel needs. Take a picture with your phone when you finish packing, so you can easily put everything in its place for the trip home.

3. Tops

Hikers and backpackers use layered clothing to keep themselves comfortable, and that concept is just as applicable to traveling. As today’s performance clothing lends itself beautifully to traveling, start with a washable, wicking base layer, such as the Icebreaker Everyday Lightweight Crew, a mid-layer like a hoodie or fleece jacket, and a soft shell, like the EMS Techwick Active Hybrid Wind Jacket. For warmer weather, a lightweight T-shirt can be your base layer, with another layer or light jacket on top for cool mornings or evenings.

Because of their odor resistance, wool layers are ideal for multi-day wear, and lighter shirts will dry quickly when washed out mid-trip. Wear your heaviest layers while in transit, if possible: It’s always a little chilly in airports and on planes, and you’ll save room in your backpack.


4. Bottoms

Hiking pants make great travel clothes. They are lightweight and easily compressed, are hand-washable if necessary, and often have multiple pockets. Look for pants made of synthetic materials, such as the EMS Compass Line. In cold weather, consider adding a base layer below, such as midweight or heavyweight Techwick bottoms.

5. Underwear

Underwear can be a scary thing while you travel, so people tend to pack a lot of it. However, ExOfficio makes lightweight men’s and women’s styles that wash out easily in the sink or shower, so you won’t need to jam a ton into your backpack. You just need three pairs: One to wear, one to change into, and one drying after washing.

EMS - BIG SUR -014533-Mud_Hikers

6. Shoes

A good pair of sturdy lace-up hiking shoes will keep your feet comfortable all day, whether you are walking on cobblestone streets, doing some light hiking, or trekking across the airport. Merrell, Keen, and Oboz have dependable options. If you want a second pair, sport sandals, such as those offered by Merrill, Teva, and Keen, are great for warmer days or if you are near the water, and won’t take up too much room. Wear the heavier pair when traveling, and place the other in a lightweight stuff sack or plastic bag to keep your other items clean.

7. Socks

Traveling is not a time to skimp on socks, and with their breathability and odor resistance, wool styles from Smartwool, EMS, and Darn Tough can be worn for several days at a time. Wool socks are comfortable for adventures year-round and come in a variety of weights and lengths.

8. Outerwear

The options for packable outerwear have really exploded over the past few years, and they’re all ideal for traveling. Many lightweight down jackets pack into their own pockets, while feature-rich rain jackets do double duty as both a rain coat and a windbreaker. As well, don’t forget a lightweight wool or fleece beanie and gloves for colder weather.

Courtesy: Adventure Medical Kits
Courtesy: Adventure Medical Kits

9. Odds and Ends

Before you pack up, look through your hiking and backpacking gear for practical items that work just as well for travel as they do in the woods. Your Sea to Summit Lite Line Clothesline is perfect for hanging up your underwear and other items after you wash them in the sink. Don’t forget your spork for quick takeout meals. Fold-up water bottles like the Hydrapak Stash help you avoid high prices for bottled water at the airport and collapse down when you don’t need them. Finally, your AMK Ultralight First Aid Kit comes in handy for those minor injuries.

The next time you head out for a trip, simply look first to your hiking and backpacking gear to lighten your load. Happy traveling!