We travel light because it makes things easier and cheaper. While it requires more preparation and practice, it pays off in dividends with each trip. It's not only about the discipline of squeezing everything into a single pack, but it's also about the time and patience to vet the gear you bring. Everything we pack has to be versatile, durable, high-quality, and bring value, so I spend a lot of time researching reviews online before buying most products. And after being on the road for weeks on end, we've put a lot of our gear to the test against the abuses of weather and overuse.
After a lot of trial and error, here's a list to our favorite things to pack when traveling light.
Matador packable adventure bags - I LOVE THESE. This is a startup in Boulder, CO I found via an Instagram ad of all things. We have three different bags, all hyper-packable, water resistant/proof and highly durable... plus they actually look good. The Beast28 Technical Pack, a hiking day pack with a hip belt and pocket for a hydration bag, the Transit Tote, and the ultralight Daylite16 Backpack. One of the best features, however, is how they pack away so, so nicely when at home not in use—all three of these bags fit into a shoe box with room to spare. Check out their other hyper-packable gear like blankets, camera bag and towels, which we'll probably buy too.
Uniqlo packable down puffy jackets - Perfect middle layer under 30 degrees, or on their own in milder temps. These are just as good as a multi-hundred dollar name brand jackets, but for under $70, and usually on sale for even cheaper. They pack down so small and are WARM. They are available for men, women and kids, come with or without hoods, and have lots of nice color options. Note, these aren't water or wind resistant, but that's what shell jackets are for.
Osprey 40 Farpoint Backpack - I've used this pack for the past few years, so it's had a good 12 months of abuse—and it's still in perfect condition. It's the max size for carry-on compliancy, very comfortable, and comes in basic colors like solid black or blue (I don't like the weird, sporty details that some packs have).
A phone lanyard - This sounds touristy and lame, but hear me out. Sometimes I like to have my phone readily available for pics or navigation, and not worry about dropping it. Especially on trails. It's a few bucks on Amazon and proven to be infinitely helpful when you've been known to drop your phone :/
Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Packing Cube Set - Packing cubes. They keep us organized and save space, and invaluable to an efficient traveler. The key with cubes is their ability to compress, and subsequently stay zipped. Cheap cubes bust at the seams or the zipper sticks, so you get what you pay for. These double compression packing cubes are the best, and I've tried a few. These zip once to close, then a second time to hyper-compress. They're ultra light as well.
Smartwool Mid 250 Long Sleeve Crew Shirt - This is wool base layer shirt is available for men and women. It's fitted really well, super soft, has a nice medium weight, and due to its wool fabric it wicks away sweat and odor. You can wear it a few times without having to wash it and it keeps you warm, making it a high-performing wardrobe staple on the road.
Aquafor To-Go Tubes - This healing balm does it all, and does it better than anyone else. It's my #1 must-have toiletry whether at home or traveling. It's the best chapstick ever, and I use it on small scratches, dry skin, cuticles, scars, sunburns, etc. It is especially helpful in cold weather when everything gets chapped. It comes in mini to-go tubes which I keep in my bags and in the car.
UE Roll Compact Bluetooth Speaker - I always want music playing, so its great to have it in a hotel, at the park, or on a raft in the ocean. This bluetooth speaker by Ultimate Ears is super small and light (about the size of your hand), water/sand/everything-proof, and easily clips or hangs anywhere. Most importantly, the sounds is crazy good. There's a lot of cheap bluetooth speakers out there, and most of them are garbage. This is such a cool product, and also makes a great gift ($70 or less).
Portable Smart Projector - This is a fun one, certainly not critical. We use the ZTE SPRO 2 who's software is no longer supported (hence apps will stop being compatible), so I won't recommend this one for that reason. Regardless, it's worth mentioning so you can consider if it's a worthwhile device for you and research available options. This small movie projector is the size of an Apple TV, and has an Android OS with apps like Netflix and Hulu built in, and has an output for casting your phone or computer as well. It's a touchscreen device with a speaker and an impressive projector (high lumens for its size). We use it at home as out bedroom TV, but it works great at night on walls, sides of houses, or any flat surface in darkness. Watch a movie under the stars, or upgrade your hotel 40" TV to the entire wall. Sync it with the bluetooth speaker for big sound.
Less but better. We aim to bring less on trips, but what we choose to bring has to offer more value, utility and quality than other products. I've learned you definitely get what you pay for, so give yourself a little latitude to spend more on travel accessories and rest easy knowing you've got solid gear to make your trip better.