Extreme Packing Report

As reported in this space earlier, I engaged in “extreme packing” for my trip to San Francisco earlier this month.

The untold story behind this (and, to be honest, unrealized truth for me until I arrived there) is that when I was 14 and traveled around the U.S.A. with my father by Greyhound Bus, I overpacked, and was forced to lug way, way too much luggage around the country. For example, I carried not one, but two transistor radios with me. It was the latent memory of this lugging, I think, that got me on the extreme packing plan.

And, of course, there was no small amount of street cred establishing at stake, what given that I was traveling aside my young compatriots/landlords from upstairs.

My usual traveling kit is an American Tourister soft-sided briefcase that holds my laptop, assorted chargers and papers, passport, etc. along with a Jack Wolfskin pack that we purchased to go to Thailand that carries everything else.

For this extreme packing trip, I slimmed down to fit everything inside a smallish Targus knapsack/laptop case. Here’s what I did to shrink down:

  • In in addition to the clothes on my back, I carried only two additional changes of clothes, and arranged to do a laundry midway through the trip. I had clean clothes every day, but only needed to carry half as many as I usually do.
  • I took lightweight clothes, and I rolled them up tightly to pack them in the least amount of space.
  • Rather than carrying a complete toilet kit, filled with every possible toiletry need, I carried a small collection of essential items in the pockets of the knapsack.
  • I didn’t carry any bulky books, presents, or other space-sucking items.
  • I restricted my gift purchases to small items only.

As a result, I was able to handily fit everything inside the knapsack, which I carried on rather than checking.

While things were still perhaps 2-3 pounds heavier than I would have liked, the effect was rather dramatic: I felt much more mobile, much less tied to my luggage. While I did leave my knapsack at my hotel after checking out on the last day, I could have easily carried it with me.

Here’s a complete list of the contents of my knapsack:

  • Two each of shirts, socks, underwear.
  • One pair of pyjamas.
  • Toothbrush, mini-toothpaste, mini-deodorant, comb, electric shaver.
  • Apple iBook, with charger.
  • Canon PowerShot S100 digital camera, with charger.
  • Nokia 3285 cell phone, with charger.
  • 4 feet of telephone cord.
  • One copy of Harper’s, one copy of The New Yorker
  • Two pens.
  • Passport.

Compare this to what Tom Peters carries in his luggage, which includes an eighteen-pound bolt-cutter, and an Australian cricket ball but, oddly, only T-shirts and ball caps for clothing. Hmmmm.

I’m off again in April for another bizarre trip (Charlottetown — Montreal — New York — Boston — New Hampshire — Boston — Phoenix — Denver — Boston — Charlottetown), and I’m going to take another crack at this. Stay tuned.


Ann's picture
Ann on March 17, 2004 - 13:25 Permalink

I once had a friend who applied the same principle tro furnishing her house, on the premise that furniture interferred with the natural flow of life and was a hassle to keep clean and cared for.
She kept downsizing until she got to having no furniture at all in the living room. If you didn’t want to sit on the floor, you had to bring a chair from the kitchen or a pillow from the bedroom.
Let this be a warning to you.

Ken's picture
Ken on March 17, 2004 - 18:05 Permalink

It’s not like you are going to mars, just buy what you need there!

Bring only a 3cm x 5cm x 1mm plastic square

I suppose you might need a passport too.

Kelly's picture
Kelly on March 18, 2004 - 21:45 Permalink

Here’s some extreme packing for you. When my folks moved to PEI from Western Quebec 3 years ago they sold their country home lock, stock and barrel. All the (crappy) furniture, Dad’s handmade tables and lamps, plants, books, even enough groceries in the cupboard to feed the family of 6 that was moving in. The family didn’t have much and were greatful, and mom and dad were tired of all that crap anyway so they were glad to see it all go to a deserving family. They mailed me a few dozen parcels of kitchen stuff, personal affects, but really not much.

Then, they put the accordian, guitar, photoalbums and one suitcase each of clothes in the car, and off they went to PEI for good.

Much like how they came to Canada from Ireland in the 70’s — with $100 bucks, a Montreal address and a suitcase. I guess once you pack extreme, you don’t look back.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 18, 2004 - 23:54 Permalink

Brad or Bart or Bunky — he was young and hip and Belgian, but I can’t remember his name — from the Mozilla Foundation related a story at dinner in San Francisco of travelling to Belgium with a toothbrush and a book. He had closes waiting for him in Europe, though, so it’s not as an amazing feat as it might appear on first blush. But it’s still pretty extreme.