We’ve all been there, cramming our bags to the brim and sitting on top of it while a travel buddy desperately tries to close the zip, but there are a few ways to avoid this common scenario! Of course there are the usual tips of “don’t pack as much” and “roll your clothes, instead of folding them”, but we’ve got another three packing tips, which can be game changers! So without further ado, we give you our packing saviours (in no particular order).
You may have heard about packing cubes, and wondered what the fuss is about. Surely they don’t save that much space or make much of a difference to the organisation to your bag, but we’ve found that more and more travellers are using this packing accessory, and have found them pretty useful when it comes to packing for their trip. Packing cubes are great for disorganised travellers, as they allow you to split your luggage into separate ‘compartments’ and make things easier to find.
You could have a cube for t-shirts, a cube for a pair of shoes(also keeps their dirty soles off your clothes!) and even a cube for small accessories you don’t want to have to dig through your backpack to find. Now let’s think about how they can save you space. You’ll probably find that once you’ve packed your clothes in your bag, they begin to unfold and expand from their rolled or folded position, which takes up more space in your bag. When your clothing is contained in packing cubes, it confines it to the size of each cube and stops it expanding and taking up space. Simple.
Vacuum Compression Bags
Don’t be deceived by the name, you don’t require a vacuum in order to use these bags effectively. Vacuum compression bags are a popular packing accessory with many travellers, as they help compress your clothes and other soft items to keep them flat and save you space in your backpack. We’ve used the Trekmates vacuum compression bags to demonstrate how these types of bags work, simply fill with clothes, try and get out as much air as you can, seal the bag then roll the bag along to the end using both hands to push out as much air as possible. They’re also reusable, so you can use them when you’re packing to come home, too.
Compression Stuff Sacks
These little beauties have a plethora of uses, but we’re going to use the example of compressing a sleeping bag to help save space in your backpack. Of course there are sleeping bags on the market which are designed specifically for travelling, with a compact pack size and lightweight design, but if you want to buy a cheap 1 or 2 season sleeping bag to save yourself some cash, you can make it more compact and travel-sized by using a compression stuff sack. Not only are compression sacks great for shrinking your sleeping bag, but they can be used to compress clothing and other soft items. They’re also a good back up to have with you, in case you lose your original stuff bag or compression sack for your sleeping bag. They come in a range of sizes, too, so even if your sleeping bag is a little bulkier, you should be able to find a compression sack to accommodate it.
The sleeping bag we used in the images above, was a 1 season envelope sleeping bag with a pack size of 38 x 19cm, and using the compression sack, we got it down to 20 x 17cm. So you can see how handy these bags can be when it comes to saving you space in your luggage! The compression bag we used, was the Vango medium compression sack.
With these three packing gadgets in your possession, you can finally stop stressing over how you’re going to fit all your stuff into your bag and ensure you’re more organised for your trip. Of course, we do have more packing tips to impart before we sign off, so here are another 3 to give you some guidance…
1) Pack less, wash more – It probably seems like common sense, but in our experience, you can actually get by with a handful of t-shirts and a few pairs of shorts if you regularly wash your clothes during your trip. For those travelling to tropical climates, you’ll find your clothes dry in no time at all after you’ve hung them out to dry. You don’t always have to rely on draping them over the balcony (if you’ve even got one) either, as you can buy a handy little gadget called a travel washing line! Don’t worry, you don’t have to pack washing powder, you can either buy travel detergent or laundry soap leaves, which save space and last for ages.
2) Get ruthless – We can all get a little carried away when we pack for a trip, thinking of every eventuality, but when it comes to packing for your gap year – it’s time to get ruthless! Try laying out everything you would like to take with you in an ideal world…then start eliminating the luxury items and try stick to the basics. Do you really need 3 bikinis? We think not…see tip number 1!
3) Don’t pack your entire bathroom cabinet – Fair enough packing some essential items to get you through the first fews days, but unless you’re staying in remote villages or living in the jungle, you should be able to find most toiletries once you arrive. So put down that 6 month supply of shampoo…or you could invest in a shampoo bar from Lush, which will last a few months and save loads of space in your bag.
These are some of our top packing tips, but if you have any other helpful additions, please feel free to share!