How to Downsize to Fit Your Life Into a Backpack

January 19, 2019

Some of us really struggle with leaving our material things behind. Those things may be clothes, shoes, cosmetics, electronics… it’s different for everyone. However, when you are set out to board a one-way flight across the globe with nothing but a massive backpack and your passport in hand, you’ll need to learn how to downsize. This is a skill that can be practiced and improved on and is pretty dang essential when it comes to packing. Follow these tips to help ease yourself into a minimalist lifestyle.

Practice

Practicing downsizing before your take-off date can be extremely beneficial. Try downsizing in phases! Gather together an original selection of the clothes and items you would ideally like to bring on your trip, then leave it for the day. Come back to it later, but with higher standards (such as the type of materials you’re willing to bring). Eliminate all articles which don’t meet this standard, then leave it for the day again. Repeat this process the next day, each time adding a new standard, and lessening your load.

Eventually, you will probably be close to a small enough selection that it is packable… at that point, it’s time to lay down the law, and pick what things are simply your favorites. What clothes do you wear most often? What do you feel the most confident wearing? What items will look the best when worn with your other clothes?

Pro tip: A good general rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in the past six months, leave it behind. You can adjust this qualifying factor by narrowing it broadening it as much as is necessary.

Don’t be sentimental

Okay, so you’ve had that shirt since freshman year of high school. It’s been there with you through everything, and you have specific memories of your life tied to each and every stain and tear on its fabric… but let’s be practical. It’s just unwise to take up space packing something totally weathered when you have a dozen perfectly presentable, intact shirts to bring. Don’t let emotions or sentimentality get in the way of rationality. Just because it was a gift, you’ve had it forever, or it’s from your favorite band’s concert, doesn’t mean it should come along with you on your trip.

If something is that important to you, storing things back in your home country isn’t off the table, but you’ll be kicking yourself with a 60 lb backpack if you decide to bring along everything you’ve ever felt attached to.

Turn your past into profits

Why bother sticking ten pairs of shoes in a storage box when you could sell them for enough money to pay for a week of lodging across the world? Consignment stores, eBay, and buy/sell apps, or even garage sales offer glorious ways to capitalize on your downsizing. If you still have some shopping to do before your trip, consignment stores will either buy your used items off of you for cash or give you an even higher amount of money in store credit.

Where is the bad news? Well, some consignment stores can be pretty selective about the types of things they’ll accept… which is when you turn to apps like LetGo, Poshmark, or Offerup, where you can list your things online for the world to see and purchase. Make a little extra travel money, take some weight off your shoulders, and extend the life of your belongings all in one go!

Strive for versatility

This is probably the best tip there is out there when it comes to downsizing. You don’t need one shirt for sleeping in, one shirt for working out in, two shirts for the day and another two shirts for evenings. That’s simply excessive, and i’ts a totally unstable way to live as a backpacker. Instead, pick one or two shirts you would be comfortable sleeping, working out, and walking around in during the day, and one more shirt that you could pull off at a bar or somewhat-upscale dinner restaurant.

If you can substitute three specific-use items for one versatile item, always, always do it! It’ll mean fewer things to carry around on your back every day, fewer things to worry about losing, and fewer things you’ll need to pay to have washed. Trust the experts. When it comes to downsizing, maintaining versatility is the way to go.

MORE: Check out our tips on how to choose the right hostel and how to pack for a long haul trip.