I have a 10kg golden rule when it comes to packing. If my backpack comes in anywhere over this limit on the pre-departure weigh-in then something has to come out. Having done an 8 day hike with a 16kg backpack and then another where I kept my stuff down to 8kg I know which I prefer to carry.
Packing light at the start of a trip is completely within your control, requiring that bit of discipline where you take only what you know you will need. The weight of your bag in the final days and for your return flight home is also important; perhaps even more so as you will probably be tired and less inclined to carry it for any longer than is essential. Here are a few suggestions for coming home with the lightest backpack.
1. Take old clothes and shoes. By old I don’t mean that people will mistake you for a vagrant; dressing scruffily is seen as disrespectful in many societies and you will be treated in a way that will reflect this. But if you take the T-shirts or jeans that are just a little past their finest you can leave these behind at the end of a trip. I did this in Cambodia, leaving t-shirts and shorts by the side of the bin in our room; the maid took the clothes away and even thanked us. Presumably she gave them a second life with her family.
2. Take consumables – literally. I might moan to my wife about her insistence on packing the empty spaces in her bag with packets of British sweets, but her tactic pays off on the way home when the sweets are long gone (mostly eaten by me despite my earlier complaints).
3. Toiletries – people differ on how much they take of their own lotions and potions. For short trips I only take a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant and assume a hotel will have the rest, but accept that others (not just girls) might take a lot more. What you shouldn’t be doing however is coming back with a heavy toiletry bag. Work out what you need for your trip, buy as you go if necessary and you should be able to avoid bringing more than the bare minimum back with you.
4. Gifts – for some folk the great work of packing and travelling light is undone by buying presents for the folks back at home. No need to scrimp on gifts but if you insist on buying a replica Terracotta Army in China or marble chess set in India then have the sense to have these shipped home. I’m speaking from bitter first hand experience having carried the weight of both of these examples.
5. Heavy clothes- if you’re on a trip for several months you are probably going to pass through different climates and seasons. When May rolls round and you’re starting three months in SE Asia you’re probably done with that heavy coat you needed for Nepal. Ship it home and make the most of the lighter pack and extra space you’ve created.
What other tips have I missed for coming home with the bare minimum?