The one secret to packing carry-on only

Traveling with just a carry-on is amazing. I try to not brag about it too much when I’m on the road, because I know it pisses off some people (the ones with big bags-cough), but here I’m bound to say the truth : it’s the best.

Here’s why :

1 – You don’t have to pay anything extra on your flights.

2 – You get in and out of the airport faster.

3 – You’re free. No need to think about where to store your things, or how to get them from point A to B, you can just go. I once rented a bike to tour the north of the Netherlands, how could I have done that with a backpack that I couldn’t take with me?

4 – Your back will thank you. A thousand times.

5 – Taking only the essentials will make you appreciate a minimalist lifestyle. It makes everything so much simpler.

6 – It’s just practical! You should have seen the people with suitcases trying to make it to a cab at the arrival bus station in Iceland in 40 centimeters of snow, while I simply walked the twenty minutes to town.

7 – When you arrive in a new city, you can enjoy it rather than having your main focus on finding accommodation so you can put your bags down.

8 – It’s always cheaper.

Honestly, the freedom is the best part. Just try it once, and you’ll see what I mean.

So, now that I’ve convinced you, there’s still the main problem to solve, which is to answer the “but I need ALL these things”.

I used to think so too. On my first trip I left with a suitcase, a backpack and a tent. I was so intent on not being that ridiculous again, that I found the one secret to traveling carry-on only.

Are you ready for it? It’s pretty revolutionary.

Okay, the one secret to traveling carry-on only is to … drumroll … buy a small backpack!

I’m not kidding! Buy a small backpack, and you’ll see that you’ll just have to keep thinking until you manage to fit the essentials in there. That’s how I did it, and now I always travel, no matter how long I leave for, with my Osprey Sirrus 36L backpack and less than 8 kilos to carry around.


Some advice on how to choose your carry-on :

1 – If you’re a woman, look for one specifically made for women. The structure is not the same.

2 – Find one with a rain cover, or buy it separately, it’s useful in case of rain (duh), but also to make it less accessible to wandering hands in a crowd.

3 – Consider if you want a top or side loading backpack (mine is both, it’s the best).

4 – Look for straps to attach a tent or sleeping bag to. Could be useful if you want to go on an impromptu trek or camping trip.

5 – Don’t buy a backpack in a bright color. You want it to be as discreet as possible.

6 – Mine has a feature I really love : the mesh back system, which means that there’s a space between my back and the backpack itself, which means that I never end up with the typical backpacker sweaty back.

7 – My last advice would be to make this purchase an important one. Try the bag, don’t buy anything too low-cost. This is something that can last you your whole life, and that you’re going to spend a lot of time carrying around!

For your Pinterest board!

For your Pinterest board!

If you have a carry-on backpack to recommend, comment below, I’d love to know about it!

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6 Comments on The one secret to packing carry-on only

  1. These are all great tips! My first big trip abroad, I bought a 60L top loader from Walmart and it was just TOO MUCH. Plus, if I wanted to get to anything that wasn’t right on top, I had to basically unpack and repack it every time. It was only $40, and worth even less – the zippers busted within a month and the seams were wearing down after six. Once, I accepted an offer to take an afternoon booze cruise and liked an island so much I stayed for 4 days–only to come back to the mainland and the hostel I’d been at to pay for those 4 nights of my giant backpack lounging luxuriously on my unused bed waiting for me. It hit me then, if I’d had a small bag, I could’ve just checked out and brought everything with me. So on my next trip, I did just that. I did 9 months of travel with just a kid’s size school backpack. It was amazing! I have a 45L top & side loader now…and even though logically it’s probably just the right size…it’s definitely been an adjustment getting used to having a “big” back again. I’ll check out your recommendation, 36 might be the way to go!
    Lol, doesn’t it make you feel like Goldilocks sometimes?

    • Haha yeah, “this backpack is too big!”. Well same thing you first have to make the mistake to understand how great carry-on is 🙂

  2. Omg! Great advice! Maybe one day I’ll be able to travel with just a backpack haha I really wish I could sometimes.

    Feel free to take a look at our blog 🙂

  3. Have you ever had any issues using the Sirrus as a carry on? This is the pack I’ve had my eye on, and that is my main hesitation — I don’t want to end up randomly having to check it and exposing the straps/pack itself to that abuse.

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