If you intend to travel carry-on-only with just a backpack (as we recommend), you will want to pack so that you utilize your limited space, keep everything organized, and ensure that you have a bag that is comfortable to carry. It is possible to accomplish all three with a little bit of planning.
This article will help you understand what to pack where and how to make the most of your backpack, regardless of whether you have just ditched your suitcase or are a seasoned traveller.
Choose the Right Travel Backpack
The first thing we need is the right kind of backpack before we can discuss how to pack. You will not see most travelers carrying hiking backpacks, but rather travel backpacks.
What is the difference between the two?
Travel backpacks are carry-on-sized and open from the front, similar to suitcases, making them easier to organize. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need a travel backpack. A hiking bag is not the right tool for the job. Their size makes it impossible to transport them on an airplane and they are top-loaded, making them a disorganized mess.
The purpose of a travel backpack is to serve as luggage and to be carried comfortably throughout the world.
Besides being carry-on-sized, you should choose a bag that is designed to facilitate organization. Your backpack should be able to open from the front, allowing you to easily access all of your belongings. Hiking bags fall short of this requirement.
Organizing your bag will also require separate compartments and pockets. Later in this article, we will discuss what you should pack in each compartment and pocket. Just ensure that you have one or two main compartments for your clothes, a separate laptop compartment, and additional pockets so that you can access them quickly.
All of these features are included in the Outbreaker Backpack. It is a carry-on-sized bag that opens from the front and features several compartments and pockets that will allow you to organize your belongings.
Furthermore, the front pockets provide additional space for all the small items that you wish to keep at hand during travel.
Next, we will discuss how you should pack everything in your travel backpack.
How to Pack a Backpack for Air Travel
Where things go
We will discuss what to pack where now that you have the right bag. Here, we will cover the basics before moving on to specifics.
Start with the general Carry-on Packing List and then check your destination’s specific packing list if you’re not sure what to pack.
- Clothing: Your clothes will go in the main compartment of your bag. An additional layer can be stored in a separate personal item for the flight.
- Towelries: Your one quart toiletry bag can either go in your bag’s main compartment or in the front pocket. If you are going through airport security, it is best to place it in the front pocket. If you have TSA PreCheck, you can leave your toiletries in the main compartment.
- Computer: Your laptop (and tablet if you’re carrying one) should be stored in the laptop compartment next to your back.
- Water Bottle: Place your water bottle into one of the stretchy pockets on the side of your backpack.
- Everything else: should go in your bag or personal item, such as a Kindle or snacks. Items such as tickets or paperwork can be stored in the hip belt pockets of your bag so that they are always at hand as you travel through the airport.
The Distribution of Weight
One of the most common packing mistakes is failing to manage the weight of your backpack. When you pack specific items in your pack, you need to make sure the weight is evenly distributed and that it is comfortable to carry.
Do you think it makes more sense to pack your computer as close to your body as possible or as far away from it as possible? Obviously next to your body. This argument applies to everything else as well.
Your bag’s weight should be as close to your body as possible. By doing so, the center of gravity stays next to your body instead of 9 inches away. The benefit of this method is twofold. You can manage your load better since it’s closer to your body. It will make you more aware of the size and weight of your bag and you will bump into fewer people and objects. Secondly, your bag will be more comfortable to carry. Your backpack would feel heavier and pull more on your shoulders if it were farther away from your body.
- Put your heaviest items in the vertical middle of your pack and as close to your body as possible. If you’re wearing a backpack, you shouldn’t put heavy items at the top or bottom. You might carry your heaviest items in shoes or in your laptop. Next to your body, there should be a compartment or sleeve for the latter.
- The medium-weight items should be at the top of your pack.
- The lightest items, usually clothes, go at the bottom of your backpack.
How to Pack Clothes
Let’s talk about packing clothes with the advice from the last section in mind.
On the plane, you should wear your bulkiest shoes and clothes. If you still have something heavy to pack, such as thick jeans or a second pair of shoes, place them as close to your body as possible in the vertical middle of your bag.
It is possible to wear mid-weight clothes above (vertically) heavy clothing. Your backpack can be filled with lightweight clothes, like t-shirts and underwear. Be sure to pack them tightly to prevent them from collapsing under the heavier stuff above them.
Even if that means packing it in a less optimal place in your bag for weight distribution, make sure your toiletry bag is easy to access at airport security.
Rolling vs. Folding
What about how to pack? We’ve covered where to pack, but what about how to pack?
The benefits of rolling clothes over folding include more efficient packing and fewer wrinkles. In fact, we recommend a hybrid approach to packing that includes rolling and folding.
Consider adding a set of packing cubes to your organization to add more modular packing.
Cubes for packing
One large cube and two small cubes make up the Outbreaker Packing Cubes. They fit perfectly into the Outbreaker Backpack.
When traveling over two weeks and traveling through multiple climates, divide your wardrobe into packing cubes according to the weather.
Summer clothes can be packed in one packing cube (swimsuit, tank top, breezy tops, shorts). The second packing cube contains your winter clothing (sweaters and long sleeve shirts).
Assign a third packing cube to your underwear and socks as an “Essentials Packing Cube.”
How to Pack for International Travel
Packing will be easier if you opt for a real travel backpack. Good backpacks are designed so that you pack well by default. Store your computer and heavy items as close to your body as possible. Keep your clothes organized and easy to reach by rolling most of your clothes and packing cubes.