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Packing for a solo trip

My packing is done—except for a few toiletries—and I’m ready to go! I leave on Tuesday for a month-long solo trip to Guadeloupe, Martinique, then to visit family in Connecticut, then to a TBEX conference in Spain. In June I’ll leave on another solo trip, this time for two months.

Besides the issues of solo travel that I’ve written about before, packing is a challenge for me. I tend to pack too many “just in case” things that I don’t wear. Or I pack things I’m sure I’ll wear but never do.

Packing light

This time, because I’m traveling alone, I realized that I have to be more concerned about the weight of what I take along than I usually do. Normally, if I can’t lift a suitcase up a flight of stairs to an Airbnb apartment, for example, my husband can help with it.

backpack

The bag in wheeled mode. The backpack straps fold out of that outer pocket.

This time I really have to be independent. So I bought myself a convertible trolley/backpack that only holds 35 liters. It’s an Eagle Creek Flip Switch Wheeled Backpack (And, no, I wasn’t paid to review it. I paid €235 for it, which was full price.) For comparison’s sake, the big backpacks often carried by long-term backpackers tend to be in the 60 to 70 liter range.

backpack

Here it is in backpack mode.

It seems a quality backpack so far, but of course I haven’t put it through its paces yet. A disadvantage I’ve already spotted is that the backpack straps don’t fold down very small, so they add a lot of bulk, folded into the outside pocket. On the other hand, some details seem well thought out. For example, the clips where the shoulder straps attach have been encased in a cover, with means they’re less likely to get snagged on conveyor belts in airports. I’ll write a more complete review after both of my solo trips this year.

close-up of shoulder strap clip

This is where a strap clicks in to hold one of the shoulder straps.

I figured that buying such a small bag would force me into packing more carefully. It worked! Fully packed, the bag weighs about 11 and a half kilos (about 25 pounds). If I have to use it as a backpack, at that weight I can lift it from the ground by myself and get it onto my back. And the rest of the time I can roll it.

I also have a smaller backpack which I’ll use as a day bag and a carry-on for the plane. At the moment it weighs about five kilos (11 pounds), but that’s including almost two kilos’ worth of a gift for my sister.

my daypack

my daypack

Packing easy

In order to make this work, I read lots of advice posts on-line and decided to go with the strategy of rolling everything and packing it vertically. The idea is that you can spot what you want without having to unpack the whole thing.

It sounds great to me in theory. I’m a little skeptical, though, whether rolling things up really prevents wrinkling. And what do I do with dirty clothes that I have to take with me? Roll them up the same way?

packing things vertically

This shows how it all looks rolled up and vertically-placed. There’s still room to add things on top.

For my passport, cards and other valuables, I’m wearing a SCOTTeVEST. I’ll write a review of this too at some point, since I also wore it last year on my trip to Israel and Jordan. It’s got lots of pockets, mostly on the inside, so I can carry my cards and passport and reading glasses and whatever else I want to take with me on a daily basis. Wearing it, I still have my hands free to walk comfortably and take pictures. (And, again, I was not paid to review it: I bought it at full price last year.)

full backpack interior

This is the bag fully packed. I’m bringing lots of shampoo and conditioner samples, so that will free up some room by the end of the trip.

We’ll see. After my trips, I’ll post about how this went, and write a proper advice article based on my experience: what to take, what not to take, how to pack it.

For now, I just need to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything …

15 Comments

  • Jeff Barrons

    April 6, 2015 at 12:40 am

    I just went and looked at the ScotteVest website, what a great idea. Kelly was ahead of her time though as she sewed inside pockets into the calves of my jeans for our trip home from Malawi. They worked great except for the one instance when I needed to access them in the Nairobi office of Aeroflot. That was an awkward moment. Have fun Rachel and I look forward to reading about your adventures.

    Reply
    • rachel75

      April 6, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Funny! I’ve had similar problems with money belts and such! I’ll write a full review of the Scottevest later, but I quite liked it in Israel and Jordan. It gets quite heavy, though, if you’re not careful, though it’s still better than a handbag! And in Israel and Jordan it was very hot to wear, seeing as the temperature most days was pushing 40C. I want to try it out in “normal” warm weather on this trip (more like 28-30C) before I write the review.

      Reply
  • Doreen Pendgracs

    April 8, 2015 at 2:05 am

    thx for this post, Rachel! I’d heard about rolling things in a suitcase, but I hadn’t thought about doing it vertically. That makes so much more sense! I’ll look forward to hearing more about your adventures.

    Reply
  • Chris

    April 10, 2015 at 3:03 am

    We’re a couple of those long term backpackers with 70L packs.

    In short, they’re too big!

    Best advice for anybody, even for long term travel would be to trim that down as you’ve done! 🙂

    Reply
    • rachel75

      April 10, 2015 at 11:43 am

      So will you downscale on your next trip? 😉 So far the only packing regret I have is the rain poncho, despite all the rain! It’s warm and humid enough that I just don’t fancy putting it on. I’d rather get wet or find shelter to wait a few minutes.

      Reply
    • rachel75

      April 10, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      I don’t think it particularly saves space, but it does make it easier to find things quickly! After I’ve tried it out on this trip, and then improved on it for my next trip in the summer, I’ll post a list of exactly what I included and why.

      Reply
  • Tracie Howe

    April 11, 2015 at 3:41 am

    I like the look of that pack! I was actually looking for a convertible suitcase like it. Not sure what I’ll choose but I’m anxious to find out what you think about it after some use. Have fun!

    Reply
  • Juergen | dare2go.com

    August 24, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    When I was backpacking I had one of 45 litres, which I managed to fill up to the allowed weight of 20 kilograms (on some charter flights) – anything bigger is overkill and leads to excess. A separate compartment for dirty clothes helps to keep the clean clothes smelling better for the entire trip.
    I find rolling suitcases don’t perform well on rough third-world footpaths, jungle tracks, or in sand. Don’t get me started about rain puddles after a downpour. They are for people who arrive in a courtesy bus at the front of their hotel entrance.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      August 24, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      True, though as it turned out I didn’t often have to carry it as a backpack. I also found on my next trip that I’d still overpacked! I ended up mailing some things home and got the bag down to under 10kg!

      Reply

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