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My new MEI backpack next to a partial pile of stuff to bring. Can I pack it light enough?

When my trip was still in the distant planning stages I imagined myself fitting everything I need into my Eagle Creek carry-on rolling suitcase that converts into a backpack. After all, this is exactly the type of trip I envisioned when I purchased it several years ago.


But, even when I embark on a week-long journey I always struggle with how to fit my life needs into that little bag. Invariably it’s bursting at the seams, as is the knapsack I also carry onto the plane filled with snacks, reading material, my laptop and the necessary quart-sized liquids ziploc .

But I manage and that bag has served me well on those shorter trips. Rolling it through airports, train stations and down city streets is usually a breeze.

For this trip I know it’s even more crucial to travel light, after all I’ll be hauling my stuff on and off many different buses, trains, and who knows how many miles down roads or trails to get to my various destinations. And fortunately, since I’ll be in warm climes, I don’t need to bring bulky clothes.

But, what about all the other stuff: shoes, preventative medicines, lotion, cream, books, vitamins, electronics, a towel, etc. etc etc?? It probably won’t be too easy to find my favorite face cream or echinacea tincture in Bali or Thailand. And do I really want to travel for two months without taking any vitamins? It all adds up – and fast.

When I started to seriously think about my packing list I realized that despite extra fees I’ll need to to check a bag if I want to bring things like nail scissors, a Swiss Army knife, and more than 3 oz. of my favorite shampoo. Okay, I thought, I’ll just check my carry-on size bag and bring the little backpack and maybe a large purse on the plane.

Then I started procrastinating by surfing the web for tips and tricks for packing light. Sites like onebag.com and Backpacking Bex inspired me to stick with the idea of traveling as light as possible. But, I discovered through that research that my beloved rolling suitcase/backpack was actually the worst sort of bag to use for a long trip. The wheels take up about a third of the available space as well as add more than a pound of unnecessary weight. And if I do have to wear the thing as a backpack for any length of time I’ll be miserable.

Thus began my search for the perfect convertible travel pack. A bag without excessive outside pockets, that could be worn comfortably as a backpack, but whose straps could be zipped away when necessary. The question was:  should I go with carry-on size, or size up a bit since I have to check the bag anyway?

Humboldt has very few options for finding such equipment. After excessively browsing REI online and googling for far too long, I finally decided to go ahead and order the bag recommended over at OneBag – the MEI Voyageur.

But once I finally figured out how to find that bag on the web (at Genuine Gear, but you have to actually call them to place an order), I realized the company made some other bags – more decision-making dithering. The Silver Streak seemed to fit my needs perfectly. Basically just like the Voyageur, but with an expandable compartment (for all that extra stuff I shouldn’t bring!) and a zip-off knapsack. So I had my carry-on bag (lighter and a little smaller than the one I usually bring for computer etc) and a big bag that could go either carry-on (unexpanded) or check through.

I began gnawing on my fingernails when the bag still hadn’t arrived by Thursday and I remembered that Monday’s a holiday. To my delight, UPS dropped it on my front step first thing Friday morning. What remains to be seen is if all the stuff I’ve been piling up will actually fit in there.

I think I chose well though. This bag is not big enough for me to totally overdo it. And, without any wheels, I’d better be sure not to overload it. So each time I think, should I bring such and such, and maybe I should buy a thingamajig just in case, I repeat my new mantra: “Less Is More.”

So now it’s time to  follow that sage packing advice:  “Lay everything out that you think you absolutely need, then only pack half of it.” Maybe, just maybe, I can pull it off.