How to Pack Efficiently for International Travel

Let’s face it: packing is a pain. There are a million more exciting things to do than to figure out how to get all of your gear packed up for an overseas adventure. Take the stress off your next trip and pack light on your next overseas adventure.

Select a Pack with Great Access

The key to keeping yourself organized on an overseas trip is to have the right pack. Select a bag that has great access from multiple points. Choose a bag that allows you to open the back as much as possible, enabling you to see everything at once.

Ideally, you want a bag that will work as a carry-on, allowing you to not worry about checked luggage. The pack should be around 35 to 40 liters and compress easily to fit in overheads. Check with low-cost carriers to see their dimensional requirements for a carryon and stick with a pack that meets those requirements.

pack light overseas

Keep Clothing Versatile

If you are headed outdoors during your trip, chances are you will have some technical clothing. Pack layers to allow your clothing to function for multiple conditions, just like you would when you hike. Try to keep an active, “dirty” pair of clothes for activities, and a “cleaner” pair for downtime.

Select clothing pieces that would be great for both around town and out in the wild, such as a lightweight, odor-resistant button up shirt. Packing odor resistant clothing allows you to wear the same thing more than once. You can even wear underwear inside out and get double the use out of it. It’s ok, I won’t tell anyone.

Remember What You Can and Can’t Carry on

If you plan on only using a carry-on bag, great. However, make sure you leave the following out of your carry-on bag.

  • Stove fuel. In fact, you cannot take this on a plane at all, so stock up if you need it at your destination.
  • Sharp tools such as ice tools, ice axes, knives, tent stakes, or any other sharp object aside from a razor for shaving.
  • Personal Locator Beacons. Depending on your model you may or may not be allowed to have one of these on an aircraft. Check with your specific model and with the airline you are flying to make sure it is ok to take with you.

Lithium-ion batteries are another interesting item. As of January 2018, TSA requires you to carry on any loose lithium-ion batteries. These items cannot be checked and must be placed in clear storage baggies.

pack efficiently for overseas travel

Don’t Fold. Tuck and Roll Instead

Do exactly the opposite as your mother told you, do not fold your clothes. Instead, roll your clothes. This keeps clothing tightly bundled, enabling you to pack more in a tight space. It helps to wrap up items such as socks and underwear for added efficiency. You could choose to roll up outfits, clothing type, or individual items.

Pack Smart for Transit

Nothing beats you down quite like a long-haul flight across the globe. Be sure to keep essentials for your transit time in an easily accessible location. Items such as headphones, a book, toiletries, even a change of clothes are all great to keep handy while in transit. Use the same, lightweight toiletry system you use for backpacking to save weight and keep clutter to a minimum.

lightweight travel tips

Next time you step into an overseas adventure, travel with ease utilizing these handy lightweight packing tips. Adventure on my friends!


About the Author


Meg Atteberry

Meg ditched the 9-5 world as an architect in pursuit of adventure. Now a freelance writer for the outdoor industry, she’s made it her life’s work to inspire others to say “yes” to adventure. From the remote wilderness areas of Colorado, to exploring a foreign country, Meg specializes in off-beat destinations for the intrepid soul. You can find her in the backcountry searching for the perfect camp spot in her home of Colorado.