“I know I put that charging cord in this bag somewhere!” Sound familiar? Dumping out the contents of a big travel bag to find a small item can be frustrating, especially if you’re in a rush, in an airport security line, or in an unfamiliar transit station.
If you’ve read our blog in the past, you know we’re big proponents of packing light. When we’re traveling by air, it’s carry-ons only: with them, we never get separated from our gear in transit and we are much more mobile once we arrive at our destination. Last summer, that meant packing for a six-week trip to Asia in one carry-on and small backpack each. Not to mention, our gear included snorkels, prescription masks, and binoculars — items that we didn’t want to have to pack and unpack every single day!
We knew it might be tricky, but we were committed — to packing light and to keeping our clothing and travel gear organized. The good news is that it doesn’t take more luggage to keep your gear highly organized while traveling. With some planning and a few great luggage organizers (see below!), we were able to keep our clothes and all of our travel gear highly organized while still packing light!
Clothes would obviously take up most of our luggage space, so our planning started there. Erin had previously done a 10 x 10 wardrobe challenge, so used that idea as a starting point. Based on the challenge, she chose only ten items of clothing to wear interchangeably over ten … er … 42 days! She ended up with two skorts, two pairs of capri pants, one sleeveless top, three short sleeve shirts, and one long-sleeve sun shirt. She also had a jacket that she wore only once — a chilly morning on Myanmar’s Inle Lake — but was so glad to have!
Jeff is very fair-skinned, so he wanted sun protective clothing … but the temperatures in Asia in summer are searing, so they also had to be breathable. Several lightweight, long-sleeve, sun protective shirts were the perfect solution. One pair of manpris, a pair of cargo shorts, some zip-off travel pants, and a light cotton/linen type pair of pants did the trick. He also brought a light jacket — well worth it on that same chilly morning!
We each packed several pairs of ExOfficio underwear, which is wicked expensive but well worth it: it wears well, is comfortable in humid climates, and is very lightweight. (And it’s really handy when you are hoping that the underwear you just washed in a tropical hotel sink will be dry by morning!) We each wore a pair of hiking shoes and packed a pair of sandals. We also picked up some free, comfy slippers at our first hotel in Beijing that we made room for, too!
Keeping the contents of our suitcases organized for six weeks was important, too. When you’re on the road for so long, it can get a bit frustrating having to dig through, unpack, and repack your suitcase repeatedly. (Where is that charging cord?!?) Since there can be enough other challenges when traveling, this shouldn’t be one.
Cue the heavenly music: enter packing cubes! Packing cubes are small, zippered compartments of varying sizes that can keep items organized inside larger pieces of luggage. We organized our clothes, swimsuits, toiletries, and underwear into separate packing cubes — and even used one just for charging cords and batteries! We’d similarly used small drawstring bags in the past, but the different sizes of cubes maximized organization and visibility in our larger bags while making packing — and unpacking — easier. About the only things that we didn’t pack in the cubes were our sandals, binoculars, and snorkel gear. Although packing cubes aren’t like compression bags, they did seem to help everything fit a bit better, and every bit helps.
Packing cubes made it easy to pull everything out of our bags without really unpacking, and their outer mesh gave us a peek inside without opening or unpacking them. Our suitcases stayed very tidy, which made unpacking & repacking quicker and easier (a nice bonus, considering that we moved around a lot on that trip!). Couples or larger groups sharing a suitcase could use differently colored or labeled packing cubes: presto, everyone’s things are easily kept separate!
Another great organizational option is Oregami Luggage’s new product, OregamiFit. We’ve written about Oregami’s creative luggage solutions before, and now they’ve added a new product: fold-out organizers that fit right in your existing luggage. We’re big fans of their luggage, and we’re big fans of these, too. They take the packing cube concept to a different level. Packing cubes plus, you could say!
The OregamiFit’s three-compartment design makes organizing the contents of a standard carry-on rollerboard bag simple, and the mesh exterior of each compartment makes contents visible. No need to dig through — or unpack — the entire bag to find one item: the compartments zip together and unfold from the bag. For longer stays, unzip the compartments from each other and use each one like a dresser drawer. Staying somewhere with dresser drawers? Simply put each compartment in a separate drawer, and you’re already unpacked. Repacking is just as easy. A brilliant design — we are big fans!
While it may seem counterintuitive, it really is possible to keep your travel gear highly organized and still pack light! Luggage organizers eliminate the need to use more bags in an attempt to stay organized. Whatever you pack your clothes and travel gear in, keeping groups of items organized inside your bag saves time and reduces headaches while traveling.
Do you have any space-saving packing tips, or would you like a copy of our travel-tested packing list? Leave us a comment below.
Enjoy your next lightly-packed travel adventure, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!
Disclosure: Oregami Luggage provided us with an OregamiFit organizer in exchange for a review of the product. All opinions are our own.