Before placing an article in your luggage ask yourself:
What function will the item serve? – Utility
How much space will it use? – Footprint
Can it be used for more than one purpose? – Versatility
When determining an item’s usefulness make a judgement call on whether it’s a necessity or luxury. Obviously, the more luggage you take along the more luxury items you can pack. If space is limited then luxury will have to step aside and necessities will become priority. Similar to a multiple choice exam, there may be several answers that appear to make sense, but there is only one ‘best answer’. As you make these decisions, don’t forget to consider the color factor. There is no doubt that darker clothes have more uses than whites or bright colors. Obviously white is a poor choice for traveling as it shows dirt very easily. Delving further into the discussion of colors, I noticed during my world travels that the overwhelming majority of locals opted for darker colored attire. Following in line with these local trends will have two positive side effects; they will serve to maximize your clothing usefulness/utility as well as help you blend in - the benefits of blending in to be discussed in a future blog!
After determining an items utility, weigh (literally and figuratively) its benefits relative to the space it will occupy. Two footprint factors to consider are weight and volume. Remember that the extra weight will be with you every step of the journey and space will only become reduced as you pick items up along the way. Again, before you start discarding any articles, do an analysis of the available packing area. If space is limited, the down jacket you’re considering might be warm but its size will likely outweigh the benefits. Instead, opt for a jacket that’s has a smaller footprint and might allow for layering underneath. The layers of long and short sleeve shirts can then be used on other occasions. This line of thinking brings us to the last point, ‘Versatility’.
With utility and footprint in the back of your mind, determine the versatility of an article. Look for items that have multiple uses and can be applied to more than one situation. In regards to clothing, packing an item you are eager to show off but will only wear once might not be the best idea. Instead take something that will look great but be useful on numerous occasions. For example, do you have pair of shorts that will double as hiking attire and swimming trunks? Can those shoes be used for exploring the city, a casual dinner, and hiking in the mountains? The best clothing investment I made was a pair of North Face hiking pants. The pants were neutral in color, season adaptable (could convert to shorts), lightweight and stylish for social outings. In this case all three categories were neatly checked off as the pants were useful, had a small footprint, and provided numerous uses. See if you can find items that check off all three classifications as the last thing you want is to carry unnecessary items half way across the world.
Bonus Plane Tip: If you are tight on space or baggage weight limitations, wear your bulkiest clothing and heaviest shoes on the plane. The extra clothing will be handy as a blanket or pillow (planes are known for being cold) and once you sit down those shoes can come off for the duration of the flight.
* Note that for this blog, an ‘article’ or ‘item’ encompasses anything from clothing, to accessories (jewelry/belts/shoes), to electronic devices. In essence everything you pack for the journey.