How to Pack for Adventure Travel

Pack light, pack smart, and always give yourself some breathing room.

By: Liam McNally + Save to a List

A lot of my travel these days involves a long road trip, which has pros and cons in the packing department. On the one hand, it’s super easy to throw all the clothes and gear I might want during my trip into my truck without worrying about fees for checking extra bags or the other added hassles of flying with lots of luggage. However, this means I have to seriously switch gears when packing for a trip if I’m flying. Every trip is different of course, but I’ve learned a few lessons that have helped me kick my road trip packing habits when I’m getting ready to fly for an adventure.

1. Less Is More

When you’re traveling by plane, it’s always a good idea to save weight and space wherever you can. One way to do this is to pack items that can satisfy multiple use cases, like a single pair of boots that can work just as well hiking and camping, walking through a museum, or for a night on the town. I also like to keep my clothing options simple; pack a few t-shirts, an extra pair of pants, and a button down. Don’t bring a fresh outfit for each day (except maybe socks and underwear), plan to wear shirts a couple times and do laundry on the go if need be.

2. Pick the Right Pack

This is largely dependent on the type of trip you’re planning. If you’re planning to be on the move daily, covering a lot of ground by foot (like a backpacking trip through Europe), you’ll want a large backpacking pack with a supportive frame. For air travel and day trips around your destination, a duffel pack like Eagle Creek’s Migrate Duffel is a simple and surprisingly roomy solution and a go-to for our Explorer Jon Mattrisch (see his full review here).

3. Systems

Having your items organized in a systematic way can be a game-changer, especially for long-term trips. I like to use spare fabric bags (like from a climbing or biking helmet) to organize items by category within my pack but if you want to step up your game, try the ultra-light packing cubes from Eagle Creek. This also comes in handy to keep dirty clothing separate from clean clothes. Without a system like this, my pack quickly becomes a jumbled mess.

4. Rent and Borrow What You Can

If you’re traveling for an activity-heavy trip like climbing in Thailand or surfing in Nicaragua, find out what options you have for renting or borrowing gear when you get there. Say you’re on a ski trip to Banff and you’re flying from San Francisco, for example. Look into options to rent skis, boots, and poles at or near the resort and see if it’s more cost effective to rent gear vs. paying for the extra checked luggage. Or if you’re flying in for a mountain biking trip to Ventura to visit an old friend, see if she has access to a helmet and bike shoes you can borrow so you can save space in your pack.

5. Leave Room for Flexibility

Pack light, pack smart, and always give yourself some breathing room. You may come across a killer deal on a piece of gear or a souvenir from your trip that you just can’t pass up. If the friend you’re visiting has a jacket that he doesn’t use that happens to be just what you’re looking for, you don’t want to pass it up because you don’t have space in your bag.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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