My trip to Madrid was a trial in how to pack and what to pack. I managed to cram a lot of things into my bag and only just fit everything in, but it has given me experience of just what I need to take with me and what I don’t. Here’s a list of how things have changed in my bag this time around.
The first thing that is out is a towel. I’d previously taken a small towel that was just big enough to fit around my waist, but I’d decided to no longer take this with me. Most places I go will have a towel and I can easily buy a cheap towel anywhere that doesn’t.
Power extension strip
I’m not entirely sure why I took this with me. My reasoning was that I would have several devices that needed plugging in and it would be better than having multiple power adapters, but in reality, I just have my laptop and a couple of USB chargers, so this is just pointless and took up a huge amount of room in my bag. I have replaced this with a simple three-way power adaptor, which takes up much less room.
I previously took my Pentax K200D DSLR camera to Madrid, but it didn’t leave my flat once, and I think the main reason for this is because it was just too big, heavy and cumbersome, especially with the second zoom lens adding extra weight. I couldn’t fit it into my pocket, and had to think about taking it with me, so it just didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t take it with me to the Maldives and I used the opportunity to just use the camera on my Nexus 4 phone, and while the photos were adequate, they were nothing special, and the camera is incredibly limited, with a fixed focal length and aperture.
As a result, I’ve since replaced my camera with a Sony RX100, which is marketed as a high end point and shoot camera and ideal for people who want something a little lighter and easier to use to compliment a DSLR so should fit into my pocket more, and provide much more functionality than the camera on my phone. It has been replaced by the more recent Sony RX100 ii model, which has a few improved features like wifi and higher ISO support for darker pictures, but they weren’t worth the price difference of around £200 and it meant that the original model was heavily discounted. Compared to the DSLR, it doesn’t quite have the same flexibility, with a slower, fixed lens, meaning less arty shallow depth of field shots and it can’t get quite as wide an angle as the DSLR, but the sensor has 5 years with of improvements and the zoom manages to beat the DSLR without changing lenses. I’ll do a more comprehensive comparison of the three cameras another time.
I’m not sure what I should make of the fact that it has a special “food” mode for taking great pictures of your lunch.
XShot Pocket camera extender
I’d read about the XShot Pocket camera extender over at Wandering Earl, where he extolled the virtues of this simple device that attaches to the bottom of your camera using the tripod mount and extends from 16cm to 77cm and allows you to take photos from angles that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to or to take a selfie when there’s no one around.
I replaced all of my socks and underwear over Christmas. Previously, I had thick cotton boxer shorts and above-the-ankle socks, which took up a large amount of room in my luggage. I have since replaced my underwear with thin cotton boxers and trainer socks, which stop below the ankle, and they now take up significantly less room. It takes a little while to get used to the feel of naked ankles while wearing jeans, especially in the cold English winter, but the space saving is definitely worth it.
For the last ten years, I’ve used a neoprene laptop case to protect my laptop on the move, but since I replaced my aging laptop, I’m not so sure it’s required. The day bag that’s part of my luggage contains a padded back compartment for laptops, and I don’t transport my laptop all that often, with it mostly remaining in the apartment, so the neoprene case is just wasting space.
These are possibly a little extravagant, but I spent a couple of quid each on two small HDMI adaptors, one for my laptop and one for my phone, which will allow me to use them to drive a TV, and is something I wished I had in Madrid, so I could watch the Daily Show or Netflix on the big TV rather than using my tablet or laptop. The space required is tiny, so these are a simple addition.
Photo Driving license
One thing I realised in Spain was that I only had my passport as government issued photo ID, which meant that I had to carry my passport with me most of the time, in case I needed to show ID, and it’s fairly common in Madrid to be asked for ID when using a credit or debit card. While I had my paper driving license with me in case I needed it, it wasn’t something I could use to identify myself. Now I have my UK photo diving license card, I can leave my passport at home.
When I went to Madrid, I took my external drive with me for backup purposes, but this was a 3.5″ drive with an external power supply and took up a surprisingly large amount of room. I replaced this with a 2.5" USB 3.0-powered 1TB drive, which takes up significantly less space and doesn’t require an external power supply. The addition of USB 3.0 makes it considerably quicker in use too.
All of these changes resulted in my checked-in luggage weighing only 5.5kg on my trip to the Maldives, and left me feeling like I’d left something behind. I’m hoping that this extra space will allow me to add some sports wear to my luggage, although trainers will possibly take up quite a bit of space.
It is tempting to take advantage of this reduced space to take everything into a carry-on bag, but I think I prefer to remain checking in items. I don’t travel very often, and I prefer being able to carry normal sized toiletry bottles with me, and not having the hassle of having a big bag with me in the airport. Plus the wait for luggage at arrivals isn’t that onerous. Maybe I’ll reconsider that decision if I start travelling more frequently.
As far as the bag itself goes, I’m pretty happy with the Osprey Farpoint 55 that I bought in October. I pretty much gave up wearing the main bag on my back almost immediately, and now just wear the day pack on my back, with all my electrical items in and carry the main pack by the side handle, especially as it’s not that heavy any more. The only issue I have really with the day pack is that the laptop compartment isn’t padded on the inside section, and that the inside pocket is not idea for keeping items, like your passport or boarding passed, that you require in a hurry.
Do you have any tips for travelling light? What do you take with you? What do you find you take, but never use? Let me know in the comments below.
Image Credits: An Australian Wintour