BackpackingTrying to figure out how to save room in your backpack can be quite the task. When you continue to collect souvenirs throughout your trip you catch yourself at the end jumping up and down on your luggage, hitting it, and sitting on top of it.

Eventually, you end up throwing it across the room because you still can’t get the thing closed and are beyond frustrated.

So how can you make this seemingly endless amount of junk undergo metamorphosis and fit into your bag? The answer, my friends, just like in all other things travel is in flexibility. Think outside the box.  

Fold things, bend things, break them down and repackage them if you have to.  When it comes down to backpacking, any well-rehearsed backpacker knows that creativity is an important trait to have.

Thinking as hard as you can but still can’t seem to get all your stuff inside the backpack?  Well here are my top 10 packing tips to help you save room in your backpack.

Saving room in your backpack

1) Only pack what you need.

When packing for your big trip, you’re not going to need your 10 pairs of shoes.  You won’t need your television nor will you need to fit a small midget into your backpack for kicks and giggles.  What you should pack are the essentials.

Pack just what you need.  Socks, underwear & basic clothing.  One pair of shoes along with some cheap sandals.  And, if you’re a travel blogger, your basic electronics.  Just keep in mind as a rule of thumb that everything you can purchase overseas, you should just leave back home to gain more room in your backpack.  You’ve no clue what to pack?  Browse over my essential backpacking gear list.

2) Wrap fragile electronics in clothing.

Wrapping your fragile electronics like cameras, wires, external hard-drives & anything else will make it easier to pack those certain things wherever you need to inside your pack.  This will make the electronics a bit more durable against the normal wear and tear travel provides to all your equipment while on the road.

3) Use compression bags.

Compression bags are super useful as they can super-condense items that hold a lot of air.  Take clothing for example; push all the air out of it, press it tight and close it up.  You’ll gain more room and your backpack will be organized in tidy sections.

4) Lose your shoes, take your sandals.

I’ve seen numerous times where both guys and gals carry anywhere between 3-10 pairs of shoes.  Who in the hell would need that many?

My rule of thumb is to take 2 pairs of shoes max.  One for everyday hiking, walking, trekking and backpacking.  I recommend what I use, trail running shoes.  The second pair should be a cheap, $2-$3 dollars pair of sandals.

5) Pack your bulky items first.

Aside from your sleeping bag or hammock (that’s if you’re carrying a one), always pack your bulky items at the bottom of your backpack.  It will help form a base and, if there is any extra space in the small corners of your pack, you can use smaller items to fill it in.

6) Use undergarments & socks as fillers.

As I mentioned in tip number 5, use your smaller items such as your undergarments and socks to fill in those small spaces in the corners of your backpack.  You’ll be surprised exactly how much more room you can gain by simply filling in those numerous small spaces in the corners of your backpack.

7) Mix & match your outfits.

Carrying 5 or 10 sets of clothes doesn’t mean that you have to carry 5-10 sets of each article of clothing.  Mix and match your outfits so that you can turn 5 shirts, 2 pairs of pants & anything else into 10, 15 or 20 different outfits. 😉

8) Consolidate & repackage items. 

This comes in most handy when it’s concerning medications, vitamins or anything else that’s packaged into a bulky container.  Don’t be afraid to take new items out of their containers.  You’ll not only gain that much more room but earn the flexibility of moving that once bulky item into the forgotten external pockets of your backpack.

9) Roll your clothes instead of folding will save room and decrease wrinkles.

By rolling your clothes you can sometimes almost double the amount of space in your backpack.  Doing so squeezes all that unused air out from in between your shirts/pants creating a smaller surface area.  Not only that but by rolling your clothes properly you help decrease the number of wrinkles in your nice dress shirts!

10) Place medication & vitamins in zip-loc bags.

Taking it another level passed consolidating, empty your vitamins, medications & herbs out of their containers and place them in zip-loc bags.  You’ll have less weight to carry and smaller stuff to squeeze into those even smaller crevices in your backpack.

Bonus Tip #1: Don’t pack “just in case” things…you can get that stuff easily on the road.

Don’t take with you those “just in case” things that you might need while on the road.  You know, if you say “Well I might need this umbrella in case it rains” or “These books will be nice if it just so happens I get bored”.  Or even the “What if I want to go fishing while I’m down in Bocas, this fishing rod would be nice”.  Most of the time, you’ll never EVER use this stuff.  And if it just so happens you do need them, it’s all stuff you can purchase while traveling.  

Trust me, wherever it is that you may be going there will surely be umbrellas, books, sunglasses, soap or anything else you can think of.  You’ve already made the hard decision of deciding where to go, now just pack your bare essentials and get out there.  You can worry about the rest as you go!

Bonus Tip #2 – Have a system for packing your bag.

Having a system for packing your bag is another sure-fire way of saving space.  Although you won’t know what system works for you until you start using and getting rid of your stuff, by practicing back home a few times before you leave, you’ll familiarize yourself with what’s in your pack and what fits where.  Eventually, you’ll have your system down pat and know exactly where everything belongs, how much space you have to spare and be quick about packing your bag.

Well there you have it, 10 very useful tips to help you cram all of that extra junk you’ve acquired visiting the night markets of Thailand or anywhere else in the world into your backpack and back on the plane to home.

What do you do to save room while packing your backpack?