Last week I wrote a post discussing a Minimalist Backpack, how to cut down on what you pack and carry in your bag – not to the bare essentials but instead to only carry what you really love and use rather than frantically packing everything you might need. I also talked about the KonMari method – a specific process of purging your belongings to be left only with what ‘sparks joy’. The founder of the method also speaks about how every single item you own should have a home – something I’ve taken on board when perfecting my packing strategy. Without much effort, I’ve settled into a very minimal, user-friendly method of packing my bag that I’d like to share as it’s made constantly moving and packing and unpacking so much easier. So here are some pointers that I hope will simplify organising your backpack to be stress free!
Small Rucksack / Carry on
Whether I’m moving country or hostel, this bag stays the same with only a few additions if flying. This bag is the base for my permanent kit which I talked about in the post last week.
1) Front Pocket
– Passport (if flying, otherwise kept in documents folder)
– Boarding pass (if flying)
2) Main Pocket
– Laptop + charger
– Cables + hardrive (squishy bag)
– Water bottle (empty if flying)
– Blogging notepad
– Small pencil case
If Flying I Add:
– Socks (if not already wearing)
– Cardigan (if not already wearing)
– Small pot of coconut oil for use as cream/lip balm
Organising Your Backpack
Large squishy bags – NOT packing cubes
The items in your backpack will forever be changing so I recommend grouping your items into practical, usable large squishy bags. I say large because you want some room to grow, to add an item or two into any given category without your squishy bag bursting at the seams. I say squishy so if there is extra space, it can obviously ‘squish’ down to only be the size of the items inside.
I’ve chosen not to invest in packing cubes for a few reasons;
1) They’re expensive for what they are.
2) I already had a small collection of old but pretty makeup bags that would do the trick just as well and in the spirit of minimalism and working towards producing less waste, why waste money when I could just reuse something else. This also means if I switch up my squishies and find I don’t need one, it’s easier to pass on because I haven’t spent a ton of money on a bag that I therefore feel I need to keep.
3) I choose to keep my clothes loose and rolled as I find it more convenient – I don’t own a lot and even as a messy person I never find it getting jumbled.
TOP TIP : If you’re already on the road and are in need of a few ‘cubes’ – hit up some charity shops for some cool mismatched squishies.
Toiletries + Jewellery
I choose to keep a larger bag that can hold all of my toiletries / cosmetics / etc rather than smaller separate ones. I used to have a bag for hair ties / clips, a bag for shower stuff and a bag for cosmetics/medication and found they all jumbled into one anyways and I could never find anything. It was the same amount of space but it was so much less convenient even though it was meant to keep me more organised. I also keep jewellery in here as I find if I keep it in my ‘later’ bag I never wear it. Having my medication in with my daily toiletries also reminds me to actually take it!
Everything camera is kept in here; DSLR, GoPro, spare batteries, cables, cleaning equipment. As I mentioned in my Minimalist Backpack post – I don’t use a standard camera bag but instead use a padded squishy bag a friend passed on to me for multiple reasons. I also choose to keep camera cables / chargers in here rather than my electronics bag.
This isn’t as relevant if you’re packing to fly but if you’re moving hostel to hostel, you will inevitably acquire some food items along the way. For this I use the canvas bag that I use for grocery shopping / a light tote. If you carry a food container, either pop some smaller food items in their to save on space or if I have none I actually find my underwear bag is the perfect size.
NOTE: If you’re travelling by car road trip style, it may be more convenient to purchase a cheap cooler bag that you can bung straight from the boot into the fridge.
Underwear + Socks
I keep these in a drawstring toiletry bag.
Bikinis + Bras
When first leaving for Australia, I couldn’t find a bag the right sort of shape/size for this so ended up making a simple one myself out of some material I had left over from past crafts.
While I never recommend travelling with items you don’t use frequently – there are always a few. Things such as a small first aid kit, back up razor blades, a lighter, tampons and spare prescription medication. I also keep a tiny tiny resealable plastic bag which holds spare jewellery for piercings – yes jewellery is sold everywhere here in Australia but tongue piercings close up fast and I’m forever loosing ear studs so I buy a multipack and replace them when lost.
I find it strange that some people spend so much time organising their clothes with packing cubes and then use only a plastic bag for their laundry! For this I have just a cheap drawstring bag.
Packing Your Backpack
All backpacks are different – I currently have the 50+10 Vango Contour which is a fairly classic style so I thought I would mention how I optimize its space. In this pack there is also an inner zip in the lid however I don’t use it and prefer to use an extra squishy bag as I like to be able to fully unpack if based somewhere for a while, however it could easily be used in place of an underwear or ‘later’ bag
If you have a suitcase or an alternatively shaped pack, my recommendation for packing order is the same.
1) Side Pocket x 2
My pack features two zipped side pockets where I can store two pairs of shoes. I recommend doing this first as it is easier to fit the shoes in when the pack is empty. If you’re worried about shoes changing shape or they simply don’t fit (I have small feet) – pop them in the bottom or front section.
2) Zipped Lid Pocket
I like to use this section exclusively for my towel as it’s the perfect size and if the towel is slightly damp it doesn’t get anything else wet. The accessibility of this also means you can easily take it out and hang it up if wet without having to unpack when you reach your next destination.
3) Bottom Section
The main section of my pack has a drawstring towards the bottom and an easy-access zip. I use this section for loose clothes that aren’t ‘pub’ (everyday) clothes. So in here I would keep work shirts, gym gear and a few ‘going out’ outfits that I keep in a resealable sandwich bag that can easily be pulled out. I also keep a rain jacket in here and my ‘later’ bag.
4) Top Section
To build this section I start with my camera bag as it’s fairly bulky and I can easily pack around it.
I then start with ‘pub’ clothes and any other more ‘indoor’ clothes I may have. I never like to spend much time building this section as I know it will be packed / unpacked / changed frequently but roughly I like to space similar items out – I have three pairs of shorts so I’ll put a pair of shorts at the bottom, the middle and the top just so it’s a little easier to grab something if I’m in a rush. As I say though, I wouldn’t recommend spending time thinking this through it’s just a habit I’ve made.
On top of clothes I pack my underwear / socks bag and my bikinis / bras bag and on top of that I slip in my laundry bag. I put laundry close to the top because even though I obviously wont be using the items inside, I like to make it easier for myself to put clothes in to it because I know I’m lazy and in a rush I’ll just chuck it in with the rest.
On the very top I keep my canvas bag with food items if I have any as this needs to go away ASAP when reaching my destination.
5) Front Pocket
Here I only keep my small cross-body bag and canvas bag if I have no food. I like to keep these accessible if I reach a place and want to head back out immediately without having to unpack everything, I can just transfer what I need out of my small rucksack and go.