Luggage Tips

Almost ready! my backpack and sleeping bag are in. Trail shoes, tent poles, a tripod and a small toiletry bag get crammed in the remaining space.

Almost ready! my backpack and sleeping bag are in. Trail shoes, tent poles, a tripod and a small toiletry bag get crammed in the remaining space.

Hello and welcome back to my blog! I haven't written here in a while but this article will be the first of many coming soon.

I changed how I vacation in 2019. Previously, I did camping road trips from home in my own vehicle. This year I started three camping road trips with a flight and rented a car at my destination. This article explains what I brought to make these trips successful. In other articles, I will cover many topics on how I improve my travel experience - everything from rental cars and food to navigation and photography tips to smartphone apps.

When I went car camping, I just loaded my SUV with gear. I brought a huge first aid kit, extra tarps, a spare sleeping bag and almost every lens I own. If I might need it, I brought it! It's a mindset change to only bring what you will definitely need but that's what's necessary when you fly. You have two restrictions with luggage - weight and volume. Checked bags can typically weigh up to 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and I don't want more than one. How do I get all my gear for camping, hiking, photography, birding and Shad in one 50-pound bag? Keep reading!

I don't want to waste any weight on the luggage itself so my checked bag is a lightweight and durable MEC duffel bag. It can really take a beating! I’ve dragged it through Toronto's Union Station more times than I can remember. Inside is:

The top four bags fit into my backpack, which in turn fits in my duffel bag. The 7- and 9-liter stuff sacks have clothing. The small Orange dry Bag holds My tent and fly. The black bag is my sleeping pad. The large orange dry bag holds my sleeping bag.

The top four bags fit into my backpack, which in turn fits in my duffel bag. The 7- and 9-liter stuff sacks have clothing. The small Orange dry Bag holds My tent and fly. The black bag is my sleeping pad. The large orange dry bag holds my sleeping bag.

  • an Osprey Kestrel 38-litre backpack filled with:
    • two stuff sacks of clothing (9-litre and 7-litre)
    • a Woods Cascade 2-person tent compressed in a 9-litre dry bag
    • a Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus sleeping pad
    • one pair sweatpants (which can also be used as a pillow)
  • a MEC Centaurus sleeping bag compressed in a 35-litre dry bag
  • a tripod, hiking poles and tent poles all wrapped in a fleece sheet (sheet protects items during travel and can also be used as a pillow or for extra warmth)
  • one pair trail shoes stuffed with socks and foldable water bottles (I bring three one-litre bottles and a 500 mL bottle);
  • lightweight sandals (used when showering; can also be worn around camp)
  • Tent pegs (optional)
  • Tilley hat
  • Jetboil Flash backpacking stove filled with duct tape, one large garbage bag, a tiny flashlight, add-water towels MEC towel
  • a small toiletry bag

CLOTHING

The keys for everything when travelling are versatility and weight, but that's particularly important with clothing. I'm frugal but I'll pay for a lightweight piece that will last years. I can fit ten T-shirts and two pair shorts in a 7-litre stuff sack and rain pants, wind jacket, long-sleeved base layer, sweater and socks in a 9-litre stuff sack.

TIPS

  • Wear your heaviest footwear on the plane. This lowers the weight of your checked bag. For example, wear hiking boots in summer and winter boots in winter.
  • Don't bring books. Books are heavy so leave them at home. Much of what I used to bring in printed books is now on my phone (such as field guides for birding, audio books on Audible and offline maps on Google Maps).
  • Don't bring large bottles of toiletries. Toiletries can be surprisingly heavy. Bring hotel sizes to lessen the weight of your checked bag.
  • Don't bring laundry detergent or food. Buy them at your destination.
  • Put smaller delicate items in a laptop bag. For example, I put binoculars, spare camera batteries, camera flash, tablet, headphones, iPhone cables and extra eyeglasses.
  • Don't be afraid to fly with overweight carry-on bags. Flight attendants are much more likely to notice an oversize bag than an overweight one. I carry on two bags - a laptop bag and a GuraGear backpack filled with my camera gear and telescope. I have flown dozens of times when the latter is overweight and it has never been a problem.
  • Put a coat with many large pockets on top of a carry-on bag. I use a heavy-duty GoreTex rain jacket. If someone forces me to lower the weight of my carry-on bag, I'm ready! I will take the coat out, fill its pockets with gear, and wear it on the plane. The weight of items on your person doesn't count. I'll wear an eight-pound camera necklace if I have to!

What is one item you absolutely have to bring when you travel? Let me know!