How many times do you get to the end of a holiday only to find that you have half a suitcase or rucksack of unworn clothes? Here we reveal the art of lighter packing when setting off for a walking holiday. The benefits of reduced packing for a walking holiday include the possibility of cutting down on your luggage costs on flights and the delights of easier, lighter weight travelling. If you are planning to backpack, and carry all your own clothing and kit with you as you walk, it is even more important that you pack light and take only the essentials for a hiking tour.
18 great tips for lighter packing
Keep it small: If you are flying, choose to limit the size of your rucksack or suitcase. If it is practical to do so, you could pack a rucksack or suitcase that can be included as hand luggage only on a flight. If your case is small then you can only pack what you can fit into the space.
Make a list: Write a list of all the essentials for your walking holiday. Then pack these one by one and do not be tempted to add in extra items just because…
The "pack and halve" rule: If you have gone “off-list” when packing take a good hard look at what you have actually packed. Many people find that they can pack once, then halve the amount of items when they pack a second time. Think about exactly what you will need, rather than what you might need.
Wash while away: You can cut the amount of clothes that you take by packing several small sachets of travel wash. It might take a bit of time while on holiday to wash a few clothes but it seriously saves on weight when packing. See our blog about drying clothes while on holiday. An alternative is to seek out laundry services in hotels or towns as you travel.
Double up: Pack “versatile” or “dual-purpose” clothing. For example, zip-off walking trousers can be shorts for walking in during the day and zipped back together for evening wear trousers. Other similar items include jackets that zip off to become gilets and windproof jackets that can be worn as outer layers on dry and cooler days or as a mid-layer on a colder, wetter day.
Layer up: If you are unsure about what the weather will throw up while walking, the key to lighter packing is to think about layering up. Take several lighter baselayers and keep heavier outer layers to a minimum. You will find that layering up is a more efficient way to stay warm because each layer traps warm air. If you find yourself too warm you simply take off a layer.
Merino magic: Instead of taking half a dozen baselayers (short and long-sleeved) made of polyester or similar pack one or two merino wool layers. Yak wool is a good alternative. Merino wool can be worn for many days without becoming whiffy and if you choose lightweight merino wool/lycra mix tops they pack into a very small space. Trust us on this. We have tested merino wool baselayers on walking and skiing holidays and found that one top can last a full week!
Something smarter: Many walking baselayers are good looking enough to wear out for a meal in the evening. Reserve a smart baselayer for wearing after showering each evening out – and keep in mind that you can also wear this top for walking if the need arises.
Even smarter for women: If you will be dining out somewhere smarter add a small necklace or a pretty scarf to dress up your evening outfit.
Lightweight and insulated: A key clothing item for lighter packing is an ultra-lightweight jacket. Many outdoors clothing brands have introduced these super lightweight jackets to their ranges. The jackets offer amazing warmth yet pack into small and lightweight stuff bags. For ideas see our blog about ultra lightweight insulated jackets.
Waterproof jackets and trousers: If it’s a summer walking holiday you can pack the lightest weight jackets and trousers. These will be ideal for keeping out light rain and wind on less clement days or when walking at higher altitude where it can become chillier.
No jeans: Jeans tend to be made of heavier weight fabrics and do not pack down into a small space. Instead, choose lightweight fabric walking trousers.
Your smalls: Choose lightweight, wicking and comfortable pants and bras and pack only a few of each. Wash these as you travel.
Feet first: Limit yourself to two pairs of shoes only. One pair will be for walking while the other pair will be for the evenings. If you are going somewhere warm you could pack a pair of lightweight flipflops, sandals or plimsolls as your second pair. If you really want to go lightweight, choose walking boots or shoes that can double up for walking and evening wear. Many summer walking shoes and boots look good enough to wear out for a meal in the evening.
Socks sense: Make sure you wear merino wool socks to prevent smelly feet and footwear! Merino wool is very good at wicking away sweat and takes many, many days of wear before it starts to whiff.
Space bags: These are also called compressions bags or stuff bags. Pack items in these bags so that all excess air is squeezed out before being stowed in your rucksack or suitcase.
Space savers: Examples include telescopic walking poles, jackets that stuff into their own pocket, lightweight stoves, cooking pots and bowls that fit inside each other and travel-specific toiletry bags. If you have a rucksack with multiple pockets you can find a space for packing every single item.
Learn every time: At the end of each holiday take a look at what you have most worn and what you haven’t worn. Try to keep a note of these items for future reference when packing.
The essential walking trip kit list
All paperwork including hotel confirmations, flight information, passport, travel insurance information and bank cards.
Macs Adventure guides and info Global plugin adapter eReader – Kindle, iPad or your smartphone.
A smartphone with everything loaded on to it makes a lot of sense if you plan to travel super light.
Camera or use your smartphone.
Prescription medication and a small first aid kit Small toiletry items. If you are taking only hand luggage and travelling through UK airports you must comply with these rules:
- Containers must hold no more than 100ml
- Containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm
- Contents must fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed
- The bag must not be knotted or tied at the top
- You’re limited to one plastic bag per person
Lightweight microfibre towel such as PackTowl.
Shoes – two pairs maximum.
Merino socks – Pack two pairs. One for wearing and one that can be drying after being washed. You can wear one pair for many days because they will stay sweet smelling even after many days of walking and will keep your feet dry and blister free. See How to avoid blisters on a walking holiday.
Smalls – Three items of pants/bras.
Tops – Two short-sleeved baselayers and one long-sleeved base layer. Choose merino wool or merino wool mix if you can. Adjust the number of tops if you are going somewhere that you know will be chilly.
Mid-layer – One mid-layer jacket. Ideally this will be a lightweight insulated jacket and preferably made with synthetic filling or a hydro down.
Waterproof jacket – Choose a jacket to suit the climate. Many lighter weight walking jackets (and trousers) will pack down very small in a stuff bag or even into their own pocket.
Zip-off trousers – As a minimum, pack one pair of zip-off walking trousers. You could add a lightweight skirt and leggings (for women) or a second pair of lightweight trousers if you know you’ll need to dress up a little in the evenings.
Headwear – A buff works well in all kinds of situations.
A sun hat will also be useful.
If you are guiding yourself you will also need a map, compass and a GPS app loaded on to your phone.