how I packed for a year of travel in a 35L backpack

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I love clothes. Love them. Think about them, stress about them, dream about them all the time. It’s an obsession.

So when I told my friends and family I was packing for my year of travel in one backpack only, they were agog. Even more so when I got a little 35 liter Tortuga Outbreaker backpack.

That iPad is for size reference… this bag is not big.

Yes I got this to zip after I took this!

How did I do it?

How did lil clotheshorse me fit enough clothes into my lil bag? A couple of things helped:

  • Packing cubes are the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s gift to all travelers. They keep you super organized, which my neurotic heart loves. Also if you roll your clothes and pop them in a cube, you can fit lots more in.
  • This video on how to pack light from the very fashionable Be My Travel Muse, who also travels carry-on only on her long trips.
  • Use loads of multi-purpose things, and buy all the packable coats Uniqlo sells.
  • Do laundry all the time, everywhere, every day.

Also the biggest way this works for me: I have almost no fucking clothes. Here’s the full current packing list:

  • Two black pairs of leggings (pants are the devil and I won’t put them on my body)
  • One black sleeveless dress
  • One grey skirt
  • One grey linen top and one white linen cardigan (from Eileen Fisher who I love because I am old at heart)
  • One silk tank top
  • Three black merino sweaters: one short sleeved, one long sleeved, one cardigan
  • One bright blue cashmere sweater
  • One Uniqlo ultra-compact down jacket and one Cole Haan long packable raincoat (both black)
  • One pair of grey sneakers and a pair of black booties
  • A thin silk bathrobe and slippers, because I’m still a civilized human
  • One linen scarf
  • My prized possession, a vintage Fendi silk scarf

As you can see from my pictures, I wear a variation of the same outfit every single day. #glamour (peep the Fendi!)

Why did I do it?

I am already terribly, terribly bored of my clothes *dramatic sigh*. Especially being in Paris during fashion week, where the whole city is a glamorous catwalk and I’m sitting in the Ritz in a second-hand Athleta sweater (at least it’s cashmere!). Yes, I packed a few of my insecurities too.

But this trip isn’t about what I’m wearing. It’s about having the freedom as a solo traveler to do whatever I want, whenever I want to.

Minimal stuff, maximal freedom

Traveling this light saves me baggage fees, backaches, and those awkward moments where you can’t stuff your bag in the overhead compartment on a plane and the flight attendant glares at you like you’re going to single-handedly bring the whole thing down mid-flight.

And having more stuff just weighs you down on the road. Every time I haul my tired, sweaty body with all my possessions strapped to it onto a small bus in rural Ireland or a packed train in Paris, I am so happy to have so little.

4 Replies to “how I packed for a year of travel in a 35L backpack”

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