When it comes to packing, you have to be cruel to be kind. This is the thought that has to be top of mind whenever you’re thinking of going on a city break. Backpacking isn’t a hard thing in itself, as is the whole carrying thing. The key is not just to be able to make it fit inside the backpack, but being able to lift it from the ground afterwards.
But first things first. The essentials of backpacking say that the weight of your luggage should never be over 10 kg (22 pounds); most airlines limit your cabin bag at 10 kg, though some limit it even lower, at 7 or 8. Be sure to check that before checking in for the flight. But don’t fall for the trap of taking just the bare essentials with you – remember that whatever you forget to pack, you’ll have to buy or live without.
From my personal experience, before getting to the where goes what part, there’s another important step – getting everything you’d like to take with you out of the drawers (no exception). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be a lot of stuff. So besides the usual arranging into piles (pants to pants, shirts to shirts etc.), there are some categories that help me prioritize:
- have to take – passport or ID, health and travel insurance (if you have any), tickets, credit card, driver’s license, toothbrush, student card and a spare pair of contact lenses if you wear any (they’re really light and you can never know), toilet paper, phone charger etc.
- would love to take – big, fluffy towel, inflatable neck pillow and everything else you’d like to have, but you’re not sure if fits in the backpack. Toiletries are in this category as well (aside from the must have ones) – of course, it’s way easier if you’re a man. But in case you’re a woman, try not to take your entire make up collection for two days, but the necessary. A sun cream, a make-up remover with some cotton pads, the toothbrush and the day-by-day products. Just to make it clear, it’s not a good time to match your lip gloss with the outfit, anything would do.
- other stuff – like the photo camera, your hair straightener or the gadgets. Now, if you ask me, aside from the music player (which sometimes happens to coincide with the smartphone) and a charger, anything else kind of beats the point of city break. Eye mask and ear plugs are a must if you’re going to a very noisy hostel, otherwise you can do without.
There is one simple rule: pack according to your priorities. Along with the sleeping bag (which is only necessary if there are no linens at the hostel), what I’d advise you to put in here are the things you don’t regularly need but should be easily accessible just in case – this compartment is both handy if you’re in a hurry, but not very comfortable to unzip every five minutes. So if there’s something bulky that you’re going to need at some point (like the sleeping bag), this place will make it easy to access.
Also, the things you don’t need constantly are better tucked here and forgotten about until you use them. Besides, this solid layer forms a good firm base at the bottom of your backpack. What you have to remember when you start packing is not to leave the corners empty. As far-fetched as it may sound, they can make the difference between something you have to buy and something you have to just take out from the pack – they’re very roomy.
As about the T-shirts, I always try to pack them in a way that allows me to stuff things inside them. Fold the arms inside until you’ve made it look like a rectangle, then fold it in half across the middle and half again, then turn around the rectangle that you’ve obtained and roll tightly from one end to another. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with flat-packed T-shirts in case you’ve got nothing breakable to hide inside of them. Don’t forget to pack a rain coat or an umbrella, you can never know the weather is going to be. You won’t need more than two pair of trousers, 3-4 T-shirts, socks, underwear, a scarf and a sweater in case it gets chilly (depending on the season, you may need a lot more than this).
The area behind your back
If it’s your very first backpacking experience, here’s what you should know: even more important than how much your luggage weighs is the way it feels on your back. Strictly related, it’s vital to pack the things that you’re going to feel on your back correctly. If it’s harder than the cliffs you’re going to visit for your city break, maybe it’s time you thought again.
The top and the extras
The towel is what I usually put on the top of my pack, since it covers everything and it’s helpful when you’ve stuffed more things than you can remember (some of them really small), because they won’t poke out of your pack. Besides, if your towel’s still wet when you put it inside, the first thing you’ll do on your next stop is whipping it out immediately and without turning your luggage inside out.
The camera is something I can live without, not because it can be easily stolen (although this is a fact), but because it gives me the idea that it makes you enjoy the view more when there’s no actual record of it to help you remember the trip later on. However, if you’ve decided to take it with you, maybe you should just wear it around you neck – it’s visible, you can take photos instantly of anything that’s interesting on your way, and it’s also impossible to lose it like this.
Some useful things
Alcohol. It’s best if you buy your alcohol from a store before getting in the middle of nowhere where everything’s overpriced and a beer costs as if it was made with unicorn tears. Even if your hostel (or any type of other accommodation for that matter) has an associated bar, sometimes – especially in Neverland – you’re going to be overcharged for nothing. The best thing to be done is that even if you’ll buy the most expensive beer you’ve ever had, it never kills to have a small bottle of rum with you, for instance – which goes best folded in the T-shirts.
Since we’re here, never forget your slippers at home – sometimes you won’t be traveling in the most hygienic places and this is one of the totally worth it sanitary cautions.
Think colors. Especially if you’re a woman and especially if your city break is not specifically in the middle of nowhere. We do like to look decent at all times, and this means that instead of packing random clothes of distinct colors and textures, we’ll have to think outfits. I’ve come to realize that this is particularly important when your trip lasts more than two or three days – besides, the huge advantage is that we don’t have to change our entire outfit from a day to another, but just some elements.
You won’t believe how awful it is to see that you’ve only packed one orange sweater, when your purse is red, your shoes are green and your scarf is blue. This isn’t even something about taste, as it’s about common sense. It’s not hard to get the hang of it, it only takes 5 extra minutes when packing and it’s life-saving.