By Josh Hunt, Program Facilitator.
All the build-up and work that you have done is nearly at an end. The hours of work, fundraising and meetings has all been for this moment, it’s time to leave. But wait! You still have one last task to complete. That big pile of gear you have been collecting over the year now needs to fit into that ‘tiny’ bag, and you have just realised that you have completely forgotten about that tent and the group gear. Panic begins to set in…
But as it says in one of my favourite travel books of all time, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”: DON’T PANIC!
I have a few tips and tricks onto how to pack efficiently. You’ll save space in your backpack and travel lighter!
- When you take your gear into the pre-departure check it is likely you will be in school uniform and therefore your boots will be in your pack. When you travel wear your boots on the plane as they take up a large amount of space.
- Don’t forget your day pack. This goes onto the plane with you as hand luggage but it is unlikely you will have too much in this bag so add some spare clothes or bulkier heavy items and share the load.
- When it comes to packing clothes, fold then roll – this is the most efficient way to pack.
- If you have compression or dry bags they work very well for packing down your clothes into a smaller size. (Large zip lock bags will do this job as well but not so effectively, they can also tear so take extras)
- Fold your clothes
- Roll your folded clothes
- Neatly place them in your compression/dry/zip lock bag
- Ensure the opening is not blocked off
- Kneel on the bag to squash all the air out
- Repeat a couple of times
- Close the bag without letting air get back inside
- Most sleeping bags come with a compression bag. The straps on the outside of the bag are for squashing the bag so it is smaller.
- Stuff your sleeping bag into its bag (do not roll it is harder to squash).
- Once inside close the bag and ensure the compression straps are neat.
- Kneel on the bag to get it as small as possible.
- Tighten the straps gradually in a circular motion (if you just tighten one strap as much as possible on one side it will bulge out the other). Be aware that some cheaper brands of sleeping bag do have weak straps on the compression bags so don’t tighten too much or they may break.
- If your bag does not have built in compression straps a pair of ropes crossed around the bag can have a similar effect.
- Waterproof everything. You will have a pack liner that will keep most of your items dry but consider additional waterproofing for your clothes and sleeping bag. A cheap effective means of waterproofing is using plastic or zip lock bags. Don’t forget to waterproof the top pocket on your bag (if it has one) as well as anything that may be on the outside of your pack such as sleeping mats.
- Medication and first aid kits do not need to be massive! Remove medications from their boxes to save space. For example: typically you will have multiple boxes of malaria tablets (if required) so save space and cram them into one box. Band aids don’t need to be carried in their boxes – a small plastic bag will suffice.
- When packing toiletries think about the size and practical use. At home you may use a body wash, soap, shampoo, face scrub and conditioner every shower but that could be nearly 1kg or more in weight! You can use a shampoo and conditioner two in one as a body wash as well condensing 3 items into 1.
- I recommend wrapping each liquid, gel or paste in its own small bag so that if it does leak it doesn’t ruin everything else it is packed with.
- Waterproof your money and passport in your money belt and carry a couple of extra zip locks for the group money you will get at the airport.
Hopefully these few tips and tricks will assist you in your packing. They are not the only tricks out there and many different leaders have many different ideas when it comes to gear so the last thing I recommend is that you practise at home a few times before you leave so that you will be a packing master!