A fanny pack is the only travel bag you need

by Сашка

The upside of embracing minimalism is making new connections in your destination

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“That’s all you packed?” my fellow hiker asked, looking at me in disbelief.

We were just about to start a four-day, 50-mile hike along the Jordan Trail into Petra. And I had carried only a single fanny pack across the Atlantic Ocean for my first week in the Middle East.

At 10 liters, my Bergans “hip” or “waist” pack is the biggest money can buy. But it’s still only half the size of a small backpack. How is it possible to travel so far with so few possessions? And why on earth would anyone do that?

If you’re incredulous, understand that most expert travelers pack way lighter than the average jet-setter. Picture captains and flight attendants zipping through security with their tiny rollaboards. Packing light saves hours in airport lines and conserves precious energy. It also forces us to build connections with the locals, especially shop owners, that help us on our way.

In the most famous example, Rick Steves travels to Europe every summer with only a backpack. “Slim your suitcase by doing laundry in your room every few days,” he advises.

If you don’t mind doing sink laundry every so often, you can travel anywhere in the world with only two tops, two bottoms, and two pairs of socks and underwear, plus a packable puffer coat. In addition to a hyperlight sleeping bag and pad, two water bottles and a small zip-top of toiletries, that’s all I took to Jordan — minus a ball cap that I wore or strapped to my pack.

This strategy depends on an increasingly developed world that has a lot more infrastructure, shopping and “Western conveniences” than you might assume. Even rural and remote wilderness areas boast shopping, cafes, campsites with working showers and survival essentials that didn’t exist 10 to 20 years ago. The idea that, “If I don’t bring it, they might not have it,” has been outdated for decades. After 10 years of travel reporting to all seven continents, I’ve never failed to procure a basic necessity.

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Jordan wasn’t the first time I traveled overseas with only a fanny pack. Many years ago, I hiked Patagonia with one. And I’ve taken similar trips to Europe and the East Coast with only a bumbag, as the Brits say.

Why do I do this when international carriers allow two free checked bags? Because traveling with only a fanny pack is proof that minimalism works just as well as, if not better than, carrying lots of baggage.

I save an hour each way at the airport by never checking a bag. I’m always the first from my flight to exit the airport, because I don’t have to wait for my luggage to hit the carousel before passing through customs. I never have to worry about stowing or fitting my bag on planes, trains and automobiles. And I’m never mentally or physically bogged down by excessive luggage, especially on 50-mile hikes.

Fashionistas will hate this advice. I get it. But it’s a wonderful feeling to pack extremely light, trusting that “team human” will take care of the rest.

Blake Snow is a writer based in Provo, Utah.

More travel tips

Vacation planning: Start with a strategy to maximize days off by taking PTO around holidays. Experts recommend taking multiple short trips for peak happiness. Want to take an ambitious trip? Here are 12 destinations to try this year — without crowds.

Cheap flights: Follow our best advice for scoring low airfare, including setting flight price alerts and subscribing to deal newsletters. If you’re set on an expensive getaway, here’s a plan to save up without straining your credit limit.

Airport chaos: We’ve got advice for every scenario, from canceled flights to lost luggage. Stuck at the rental car counter? These tips can speed up the process. And following these 52 rules of flying should make the experience better for everyone.

Expert advice: Our By The Way Concierge solves readers’ dilemmas, including whether it’s okay to ditch a partner at security, or what happens if you get caught flying with weed. Submit your question here. Or you could look to the gurus: Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.

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