In a few days time, I am taking off on a trip that will take me from the Rocky Mountains to New England, and then to Africa. This trip will span about 3 weeks, and take me from lavish hotels to open-air tree houses in the wild bush of Africa. To top it off, I am going to a wedding during this trip, so I need the ability to look downright fine. Oh, and by the way, I am packing for this whole trip in a small gym duffle bag.

Packing really isn't that difficult, once you get rid of your silly worry and understand what's most important in travel. You need to be able to understand that a lot of comforts we typically assume as a necessity are really just fluff. By realizing what you truly need to have no matter what, you can pick and choose the remaining fillers for your bag, and be on your way in no time. I haven't checked a  bag in years; here is how.

packing light


The following is the list of absolute essentials, i.e. you're screwed without them.

  • Passport

  • Cash/Credit/Debit Cards

  • Essential Medications (malaria pills in Africa, prescription meds for personal health)

  • Glasses/Contacts (if prescribed)

  • Phone (hey man, it's 2019, phones are a lifeline)

  • The Clothes On Your Back

Looking at that list, you would be good in a Ziploc bag. Obviously, you want to take more than these bare essentials but the point is anything else you could buy on location if need be. Things like toiletries, a warmer jacket, or an extra t-shirt or pair of pants can almost always be bought on location if forgotten or needed. 

That being said, the rest of what is packed should be the essentials for a location that you already own. 

packing light

The following is a list of essentials, not to be confused with absolute essentials. You want them, will use them but can replace on site if needed.

  • Underwear

  • Socks

  • Pants

  • T-shirt

  • Jacket/pullover

  • Comfortable closed toe shoe (should ideally be on you already)

For each of the above list, pack 2-3 changes for each of these. You don't need to pack a whole closet. I am going to Africa, which is a rather wild place, and we still found places to be able to do laundry and replenish the clothing supply. If you are going most places in the world, a place to do laundry won't be far away. 

toiletries light packing

Finally, if you have room in your carry on at this point, think about packing the following.

The following is the list of non-essentials, aka pack if there's room but don't over pack for their sake:

  • Toiletries

  • Electronics (camera aside from phone, laptop)

  • Extra layers

  • Fancy clothes for "going out"

  • Food/snacks

These things are all nice to have, but aren't necessary if there is no room. You can buy a toothbrush elsewhere, you can pick up food elsewhere, it isn't the end of the world. Packing for a trip isn't crazy if you know what you're doing. Follow these guidelines, and really just ask yourself if you would be screwed without the object in question. Chances are you won't be, and you don't need that item!