Do you want to avoid lugging around a heavy suitcase or backpack on your travels? It's time to learn how to pack light like a pro. 

Packing light is not just for backpackers or long-term travelers; it's also a great way to save time, money, and frustration from overstuffed luggage.

Today we’re sharing our tried-and-true tips for packing light–-from choosing the right bag to picking lightweight versions of your favorite items.  Read on and learn how to lighten your load for your next adventure.

Why Travel Light?

For most folks, it’s easier to break out the big suitcase and fill it to the brim. Doing so means you don't need to spend as much time thinking about what you're bringing, it's easier to dress for any occasion, and you can take the comforts of home (like electronics and toiletries) with you without a problem. But those who've traveled light know that having less items to account for can make the travel experience more enjoyable.

Some, like backpackers or long-term travelers, have no choice but to travel light, limiting their items based on the weight they can carry on their backs. Others want to avoid being weighed down by heavy, bulky suitcases or stuck waiting around at the checked baggage carousel after hours of travel. 

Regardless of the reason to pack light, it’s a fact that traveling light is also a money and time-saver for many air travelers, who can avoid the cost and time required to check a bag and use a carry-on instead.

Man and woman preparing for a trip while packing light

5 Tips for Packing Light

So, how can you go from a chronic over-packer to a lean, mean packing machine? These five tips are a great place to start.

Get organized

Packaging without a plan is the easiest way to overpack. That’s why tip number one is to get organized.

Making a list is a vital first step for any trip or expedition. If you’re unsure of what you should pack, do a bit of research to find out what the most comfortable apparel will be for your destination (ex. lightweight, breathable styles for a humid climate vs. insulated layers for cooler locations), or find a packing list that can assist you for your location-specific packing needs.

Another helpful strategy can involve mentally walking through your trip, thinking about your various activities and the outfits you'll need to do them. Remember toiletries, chargers, or any other equipment specific to your plans.

When packing light, it's important to be ruthless and realistic in your choices. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this second pair of shoes or this extra jacket?” Will you actually wear or use these things, or will they become extra weight you just end up having to  lug around? Reviewing your packing list with a critical eye will help ensure you only pack what you need.

Pick the right bag

A great deal of traveling light can come down not just to what you put in your bag but to your bag itself. First, think size-wise. Larger bags or backpacks will add weight and bulk to your travel, while a smaller bag or suitcase will force you to think critically about what goes in.

Once you've zeroed in on the right size, consider the type of bag or luggage. Backpackers will naturally want special packs designed to conveniently fit their items with the least additional weight possible. Other travelers may save some weight by opting for a duffle bag over a roller bag, thanks to the lack of wheels and internal bracing that add precious pounds to your setup.

The best lightweight travel bags use deliberate design features like multiple or strategically-placed pockets that allow you to carry everything you need without taking up extra space. We particularly like the Cotopaxi 42L Allpa Travel Pack (pictured below) for one-bag travel.

Cotopaxi 42L Allpa Travel Pack

Choose lightweight versions

When it comes to packing light, it’s essential to also consider clothing materials. Certain fabrics like denim or wool are noticeably heavier and bulkier than lighter-weight alternatives like linen or bamboo. Rather than everyday clothes, brands like Free Fly offer travel clothing for men and women designed for life on the go and all that comes with it. It may only seem like a few ounces here or there, but those ounces can add up to meaningful pounds, especially for backpackers or others who'll frequently be toting their gear around.

Versatility is king

Another secret to packing light is choosing items that can work in various outfits, keeping you comfortable no matter what the weather throws at you. In many cases, this can be accomplished with proper layering, allowing you to add or remove articles of clothing as temperature or conditions dictate. 

By this same token, the best travel clothes are part of a simple color palette that's easy to mix and match. That way, you'll be able to choose from several clothing combinations, all of which pair well together. Doing so can help you create several outfits out of only a handful of staple pieces.

Friends hanging out on the tailgate of a truck wearing lightweight clothing

Do laundry

Those heading out on a long trip for a week or more may feel overwhelmed about the amount of clothing they'll need for the journey. However, a quick load of laundry or two mid-journey can dramatically cut down your packing list. This should be easy if you're staying in a hotel or Airbnb with laundry machines in-house. But even those without easy access to laundry can try to find a  local  laundromat if things are getting dire.. 

Generally, most experts and experienced travelers recommend bringing a week's worth of clothes at most and planning ahead to make sure laundry opportunities are available.

Other steps can also reduce the need for extra clothes or time spent on laundry, like choosing versatile, travel-friendly fabrics. Apparel made from viscode from bamboo is lightweight, breathable, and odor-resistant, meaning you can wear them multiple times between washes without any issues and easily pack them away during long travel days.

Packing Light Is Easier Than Ever With Free Fly Apparel

Lovers of the outdoors looking to travel light have plenty of options. But none can top Free Fly's high-quality, lightweight, easy-to-clean apparel. With a few pieces of Free Fly men's or women's travel clothing, you'll find your entire packing list upended forever by these versatile items. Your back—and your bag—will thank you later.