How To Pack Carry-on Style for a Backpacking Trip

by Alexandra Jimenez

Earlier this year I wrote a post on how to travel with one carry-on. By carry-on, I am referring to a rolling bag, not a backpack, which could also be carried on. I’m a “carry-on” kind of girl. However, realizing that not everyone is, I am pleased to post this article written by Alexandra Jimenez of the blog, Travel Fashion Girl.

As a long term backpacker, I didn’t think it was possible to travel for extended periods of time using a carry-on size bag. However, due to airline restrictions, weight, and comfort, I decided I was ready for a challenge. The result: I absolutely love my new compact travel style!

I found that because I wanted to downsize my backpack, my packing had to be more strategic. To maximize the space within your bag, here are a few tips that will help you keep organized and pack light.

Choose Appropriate Clothing

Many times travelers are stumped when traveling to varying climates. It’s hard to pack efficiently when your travels take you from the snow, then to the beach. If your destinations are drastically different in weather, pack for the first season upon departure and then switch out clothing when you arrive at the region with different weather. You can usually buy anything you need locally, including bathing suits or winter jackets. When transitioning between weather systems you can layer (or unlayer) your clothing as needed.

Packing tip: if you’re going to a hot climate first and then a cold climate, leave space in your backpack for additional warm clothing you may need to buy.

Plan Outfits in Advance

Minimalist packing requires extra planning including laying out your travel outfits in advance. When you challenge yourself to pack fewer items you’ll find that as long as you pack the right things, you won’t miss unnecessary clutter. By sticking to quality fabrics in basic, classic cuts; you can easily maintain a stylish and even sophisticated look by investing in key pieces.

If you pack ultra-light and take only a handful of items, they need to work well together and share the same color palette. If you pack ten clothing pieces (which is a good average for many backpackers) mix and match at home to see what works and what doesn’t.

By reviewing your clothing choices prior to departure, you’ll avoid packing things you can’t use and you’ll also realize how little you really need to make a variety of creative travel outfits.

Organizational Tools

Just as with suitcases there are methods and tools that help simplify your life living out of a backpack. One of the most essential items is the backpack itself. Most carry on size backpacks can range between 35L and 50L. Avoid top loader bags and select a backpack that unzips fully open – like a suitcase. The open space allows you to choose the best “Tetris” strategy to pack your belongings.

Make the most of your space with packing cubes and organizers. Depending on the shape, size, and weight of your clothes you may prefer clothing sleeves or stuff sacks instead of packing cubes.

Whether you travel for the weekend in a suitcase or a round the world trip with a backpack, with a little bit of effort, traveling carry on is easier than you think!

Author Bio
Originally from Los Angeles, Alex has been traveling around the world since 2008. Thirty-six countries and six continents later, she’s travelled as a tourist, a backpacker, and a vagabond. Learn how to travel stylishly and practically on her website Travel Fashion Girl. Twitter: @TravlFashnGirl

Osprey Backpack 1 - Travel Fashion Girl


Summer Travel Style – First Look

I have had numerous requests from friends and customers, asking to teach them how to pack for a one or two-week trip. The goal –  everything should fit into one carry-on bag. For the purposes of this story, I am going to focus on women’s wardrobe, and nothing else. If you follow the ideas and guidelines I’m suggesting, you’ll have everything you need, plus great wardrobe. Wardrobe you will actually wear.  Trust me. I’ve been doing this for years.

One of the biggest benefits, you won’t have to worry about lost luggage ever again. You’ll save money, as you won’t be paying for checked luggage. And most important in my opinion, you won’t be exhausted by dragging a heavy bag, or worse to many bags, from place to place.  If you are traveling in Europe, riding the trains and buses are more convenient and less expensive.  If your bag is too heavy, or you have more than a carry-on and a personal bag, it’s just not practical.

With the help of my friend, Rhonda Sargent Chambers, a professional model and spokesperson, I created this photo shoot, to illustrate exactly how to mix, match, and layer your clothes, so  you always look great, but travel light.  I asked Rhonda to keep the wardrobe choices classic and a little on the conservative side. I wanted to show pieces that could travel anywhere.

I arrived at Rhonda’s with my makeup kit, a bottle of prosecco and my camera. Rhonda supplied the wardrobe. I loved her choices and the color palette.

Choose a core neutral color like white, brown, grey or navy for summer. You can add one an accent color but it must coordinate with everything else. Scarves are a great way to add color and pattern. Pack one summer dress, and one top that can dress up a pair of pants for evening.

Hats are a must for summer travel. There are lots of great hats in modern fabrics that you can literally fold up, or stuff it into a hand bag.

When packing shoes, I never pack more than two pairs of shoes.  One comfortable and supportive pair for heavy walking and travel days, and one pair of sandals that can dress up an outfit for dinner, or a day at the museum. Resist the urge to pack your favorite high heels. It’s summer, think casual, comfortable, fresh.

First thing I like to do is lay everything out then edit.

This layered look is perfect for travel days. You can take off layers as needed. Rhonda’s wearing a tank, white button down, sweater, jacket and pant. You can get at least three more outfits out of just those pieces.

The tank with the jacket, pants and hat make a great walking outfit. Practical shoes are a must! Only pack shoes that you know for a fact you can walk a minimum of five hours in.

What’s summer without a great dress to wear out to dinner or a day at the museum? If you like to visit churches, a jacket over a tank or sleeveless dress, is more appropriate.

Here’s where you can change shoes. I repeat, only two pair, for two weeks. This has been my practice for six years.

Check back next week for more ideas on how to wear these same pieces. Yep. No more clothes required. Just a little rearranging. Look stylish and carry on one bag.