Packing light: An art for every traveler


Meagan Chambers spontaneously decided to move from her home in Utah to Louisiana to attend college near her father last August. She had to decide last-minute how to fit all her possessions, mainly a laptop and a “far-too-large wardrobe,” on the airplane to avoid costs for large and heavy bags.

Samantha Acosta packs five cosmetic bags in her suitcase when she travels. Acosta says putting her cosmetics in a bag helps save space in her suitcase for other items. (Samantha Acosta)
Samantha Acosta packs five cosmetic bags in her suitcase when she travels. Acosta says putting her cosmetics in a bag helps save space in her suitcase for other items. (Samantha Acosta)

She wondered how she would look fashionable at school after her trip as she pictured how few clothes would fit in her backpack. Chambers realized, as she packed, how she could adapt her situation to her needs. Chambers fit all her things in her average-sized navy blue backpack by simplifying her needs and possessions.

“It wasn’t that hard,” Chambers said. “I learned to look at my wardrobe from the point of view of simplicity.”

Students and travelers can, like Chambers, reduce and simplify their possessions and learn to pack smartly, challenging themselves to creatively utilize their packing space.

Robert Lloyd is in his fourth year in the national guard. The army teaches recruits in basic training how to travel light. Lloyd has learned to consolidate his possessions as he packs by putting them inside other things.

“Whatever thing, like personal hygiene — toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant — we learn to put it in a bag like a sandwich bag,” Lloyd said. He then places that inside a shoe and repeats the process for the other shoe.

He can fit about five to seven pairs of socks in a shoe by putting a rubber band around the pairs of socks, depending on the kinds of socks he packs.

The army also teaches how to pack clothes using a ranger roll technique. People using this technique fold the bottom of an item, like a shirt, up some and then in half. After tightly rolling the item of clothing from the top, the folded part encloses the roll to keep it together. “Anything, really, to make something smaller is the best way to do it,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd said the best way to pack clothes also depends on the type of bag one uses. “The suitcase is more flat, so it’s good to go with the shape of the bag,” he said. “You don’t want to force something.”

Travelers can also use plastic bags to save space or waterproof their belongings. Vacuum bags save space, but the weights of the items stay the same. Online forums can give more insight on users’ experiences with vacuum bags.

BYU student Shanna Clayton said she packs smartly by planning each day’s outfit. “It makes it so that I don’t over-pack or under-pack, because by going through my itinerary and going through what I need, I make sure I get all my bases covered but also make sure I don’t pack stuff I won’t use,” she said.

Provo resident Samantha Acosta likes to use travel-sized items, but she also doesn’t pack things she can get at her destination. “So, toothpaste, for example, I wouldn’t pack because if I stay with someone, they probably have it, or even if you got to a hotel, most of the time they have complimentary items for the guests,” she said.

Chambers simplified her packing list by giving away clothes she decided weren’t as practical or fashionable as other items. “Eventually I was left with the wardrobe that took up the least space, looked stunning on me and worked with almost any other piece,” she said.

“If you do it right,” Chambers said, “you look fabulous.”

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