Updated: Feb 7
These are the Top 10 ways to reduce your pack, specifically for long-term travel, although you short-timers may find a few useful tips as well!
Please note, this post is under construction, which will become super obvious when the list ends abruptly; it's either that, or I can't count to ten; but there are some useful links to start so I'm posting it anyway.. :) Check back later for more updates!
1) Consider Bringing Less Clothes, Like... Wayyyy Less..
This is the most obvious of travel hacks, but not exactly the easiest.. because taken to the extreme, it requires the willingness to wash your clothes on a fairly (i.e. very) regular basis; but even if that concept sounds extreme to you; you're still probably packing way more than you need.
Most people, at least when they first start traveling, are tempted to pack one or two weeks' worth of clothes, packing everything they can think of for every possible situation - and it's almost always overkill; even if you have zero interest in the minimalist approach to travel; you still only need, at most, one week's worth of clothes; or even less if you're sticking to warmer climates (#8).
I pack just one pair of pants, two pairs of shorts and three shirts; but I also do laundry every day and am fine with wearing the same clothes all the time - you can see my full packing list here.
If you're hesitant that you can get away with wearing just a few different outfits, check out No One Cares (Expect Maybe You) for my take on why it doesn't matter what you wear.
If you are okay with minimizing your wardrobe, you've already won half the battle, and you can massively reduce your pack by bringing just one or two pairs of convertible pants, two or three shirts and a few pairs of socks/underwear.
If you're not okay with wearing the same clothes every day, try to consolidate as much as you can.
Look in your closet and note the different "types" of clothes you have.
For example, I have gym clothes, hiking clothes, casual warm weather clothes (nice shorts and button-down, short-sleeves), casual cold weather clothes (jeans and button-down, long-sleeves), dressy work clothes (khakis and button-down shirts) and comfy, lounge-around-the-house wear (sweatpants, hoodies, etc.).
It's relatively easy to consolidate workout gear and hiking clothes, the same quick-dry shirts and shorts work for both, and if you're really careful, the same shorts and shirts can triple as lounge-wear; check out Shorts, Shirts and Trunks for my recommendations for consolidating gym, swim and hiking gear.
From there you can consolidate casual pants/long-sleeve shirts with dressy/work pants and shirts; a pair of stretchy chinos and the right button-down shirt can work great for both office-wear or when you're out on the town.
Lastly, ask yourself if you can consolidate your workout/hiking clothes with your casual "going out" shorts and shirts.. this one is a bit tougher, I've yet to find "nice" shorts that you can get sweaty in, or shirts that are hike-worthy and going-out-worthy, you may have to cave and bring a few different shirts.
Sticking to black or neutral colors will make it easy to mix'n'match your outfits, there's a term for it but I can't remember; but as an example, I pack black shoes, gray shorts/pants and black shirts, those are the only colors in my arsenal, and it makes looking decent extremely easy.
Once you've consolidated your wardrobe, decide how many outfits of each "type" you need; an easy rule of thumb for the minimalist traveler is be just one set of each "outfit"; one pair of workout/hiking clothes, one dressy shirt, one pair of dressy pants, one set of lounge-wear, etc.
Consider the true minimalist's approach of doing laundry every day, it's not as bad as you might think, and you may actually love the therapeutic nature of hand-washing your clothes.
Check my post Laundry EVERY Day to see how easy it is, and Laundry on the Road for a pros and cons list of different washing methods while traveling.
2) Bring the Right Clothes
Once you've figured out all the "outfits" you need, you can start getting smart about laundry, detergent, fabric-types and stain-resistant or stain-proof clothing.
There are hundreds of travel brands promoting travel-specific clothing, featuring anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, sweat-proof, stain-proof, stain-resistant, stain-fighting, quick-drying, 4-way stretch, 8-way stretch, 8791234897-way stretch.. or in other words, "the only shirt/pant/short you'll ever need.."
The truth is... 1) your clothes will wear out, 2) your clothes will get lost, 3) your clothes will get dirty, 4) your clothes will change (because you get sick of them), 5) you'll feel compelled to change your clothes (because style demands it), or 6) you'll want new clothes because new fabric types, smart fabrics and integrated technology will change the very definition of travel clothes.
In short, don't get too hung up (pun intended) on clothes.
That being said, if you're planning for a big trip today, you can reduce your pack by wearing the latest and greatest in travel-wear.
I've tested hundreds of travel-specific brands, fabric types, detergents and stain-proofing substances, (and will continue to do so), for the sake of science (and for minimizing my pack, and because I believe in Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime).
Check out Travel Clothes (What To Look For) for a high-level overview of what to pack; Material Sciences Primer for a deep-dive into fabric types, stretch and wear; The Wash Test for detergent options and detergent alternatives; Dry Times for a real-world comparison of fabric drying times; and Stain-Proof Clothing to see how well "stain-proof" clothing and "spray-on" stain-repellent really work.
3) Pack ONE Pair of Do-It-All Shoes
Check out Oh My God, Shoes! for thoughts on one-shoe travel.. (and kudos if you get the reference!)
4) Pack Using Portable Wash-Bags
I hit two birds with one stone by using the same portable wash-bag (Scrubba) to both wash and pack my clothes; it's not rocket science, and it's a million times better than using compression bags for reasons I detail in How and What I Pack.
You might also want to consider this vacuum bag from Nomatic, it does the same thing, only not technically designed for washing clothes (although I'm sure you could!), the only caveat for me personally is that their vacuum bag is too large for my backpack.
5) Consolidate Your Electronics (or leave them at home)
Check out Laptop Accessories and Alternatives for a review of the different options for staying productive while traveling, and check out But I NEED My Laptop for an alternative/futurist approach to working remotely (hint: it's early-stages and definitely not feasible for everyone, but it will get there!)
You may also want to check out Space Saving Electronics (coming soon!)
6) Consolidate Your Toiletries
Check out Space Saving Toiletries to help minimize your pamper pouch.
7) Consolidate The Things You Didn't Know Could Be Consolidated
Check out Space Saving Extras for a few travel-friendly versions of popular/useful items.
8) Follow the Seasons
If you're flexible with your travel plans, one of the easiest (and most enjoyable) ways to reduce your pack is to simply stick to warmer climates and summer seasons..
This may not be an option unless you're a long-term traveler, but if you've ever moved from northern Minnesota to the beaches of California, you'll understand the difference; you simply don't need nearly as much clothing in mild/warm climates.