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A Story on Packing Styles, Pros and Cons, and Oman

oman group packing issue

It all started in the international terminal’s departure gate destined first for Bangkok. The 6 lucky media people selected by Oman Tourism, and our tourism rep/guide, were meeting each other before what was about to be a very itinerary-intense and exhausting 10 days together.

One of the members, Dusk, makes it known to the group that she has terribly overpacked, and is over the baggage restrictions, with a 28kg checked bag.

I gasp! Twenty-eight kilos… that’s over 60 pounds… for a short 10-day trip!

Thinking I’m more in-line with what’s normal, I respond, “My checked bag was 7.9kg.”

To which every other person in the group gasps and wonders how in the heck I only packed a 17.5 pound bag for a long 10-day trip!

Ah… the very opposite ends of the spectrum in packing styles with me at one end, and all the other girls at the very other.

oman group packing issue
Notice the giant suitcases versus my small red backpack. Ben, the sole male of the group, packed quite well, however 🙂

Here’s what I learned about my packing style on that trip to Oman:

I am not your typical packer. I know that over the years I have surrounded myself with the advice and knowledge of other backpackers looking for the best, lightest and easiest packing list to carry on our backs… but when compared to other travelers, I’m a bit of a freak of nature. That’s OK. My back thanks me every day of travel because of it. So does my sanity.

I am not fashionable. So, I’m sure this makes it 100 times easier for me to pack light. I’m like this in my normal life, too. Have a look in my closet and you’ll be met with a handful of clothing items… period. I like to dress myself up with accessories – big rings, flashy earrings, scarves and bags.

bag wars amy vs brooke
Amy’s bag on the left. Brooke’s bag on the right.

The Pros of Packing Light:

I can carry what I pack. It’s part of the female travel manifesto our belief that you should bring what you can carry yourself. Why? Because it makes travel easier, less stressful, and helps you, a traveling female, be more in control of yourself and belongings.

When everyone else was loading their giant suitcases up on hotel trollies, marking their room numbers and then waiting in the room for said bag, I had already carried my own to the room, unpacked, and hopped in the shower… without needing to wait. I didn’t need to call ahead for a bellboy to collect my bag, and I definitely didn’t need to see those workers struggle up a flight of stairs with my 60 pound load.

I have no backpack space waste. Not a single thing was put in my bag that did not end up getting worn. That was a major win! Nothing worse that having to lug around items that never see the light of day.

Repacking my bag is simple. For the other girls, it became a chore — something dreaded the night before checking out of a hotel. It became a worry when bags at the airport were being weighed at check-in. Not for me… I only gained 2kg in weight for my trip home.

Dusk, overpacked.
Bags, bags, bags. Dusk was weighed down by her numerous bags, but she did also have extra clothes for fashion shoots and a nice, big camera.

The Cons of Packing Light:

I can feel underdressed at times. I shouldn’t have even worried about it… I mean, our itinerary said that jeans would be fine for our daily dinners and gave no indication really of needing something “dressy”. However, I was traveling with a few ladies that I think were a bit more into fashion and getting dressed up than normal. They were constantly changing clothes, constantly talking about what to wear, and one even blogs about fashion (enough said). That did have its way of making me second guess myself.

I might re-wear smelly clothes. When our itinerary got too busy, I didn’t have time to wash big clothing items like jeans and wait for them to dry. After sitting around a fire in the colder mountain area, my jeans and scarf sucked up that smoke smell that didn’t quite fade away completely. I did wear them again regardless. Meh.

brooke quad-biking in the desert of Oman
Long, flowy tops, loose pants, scarves to protect your neck from the sun. These are great things to pack… but probably not in black like I did!

Packing for Oman

Packing for Oman was my first experience in packing for the Middle East. The essential rules to note are that shoulders, knees, and cleavage should be covered, and heads should be covered when entering a mosque. I never realized how much I love tank-tops and meshy see-through layers until I was trying to pack for this trip. My favorite Exofficio Savvy Dress-up dress was out of the picture seeing how it was both sleeveless and too close to the knee to work. Instead, I brought loads of light layers, scarves and no bottoms shorter than capri pants. In addition, I brought a few key pieces of technical clothing — quick drying with sun protection — for those really hot days out in the desert. I’ll try and work out an official packing list in the near future.

I’m curious: What end of the packing spectrum do you fall on? Minimal like me, or go-big-or-go-home like the other ladies on my trip?

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm producing episodes of The UnPacking List or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

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Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


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Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Ali says

    I would’ve been more in line with your packing style. I probably would’ve attempted carry-on only even. The thought of lugging those giant suitcases around makes me cringe! I certainly wear things multiple times even if they get smelly, and I’m not one to change outfits throughout the day either. Pack light for less stress, best way to go.

    • Brooke says

      Go us! 🙂 After I checked in, I was like, “Doh, why did I even check that bag?!” I’m just used to getting on local flights where there is a 7kg carry-on limit. Did not need that for this major airline, international flight.

  2. Isabelle says

    After my first trip to Hawaii I vowed after hauling heavy bags to never be weighed down again! In ANY circumstance. Local travels, hiking, camping. Although on a daily basis this rule does not apply to my purse. I LOVE having what I need when I need it. I have a big ol’ Rickshaw bag filled with all my pursey goodies. Need floss? Got it. Need asprin, benadryl, pepcid? Got it. A partridge in a pear tree? Done.
    Packing is my favorite part of a trip and it’s always a fun challenge to pack as light as possible. My secret weapon? Scarves. They pack down tight and can be used in a million different ways. I DO have to stop myself from packing unecessary items, I always get a late case of the what-ifs!

  3. Rebecca says

    I probably fall in the middle. While I definitely live by the mantra, if you can’t carry it in one trip, you don’t need it, I HATE washing my clothes in the sink (and wearing certain things more then once), so I usually pack enough for my entire trip (esp. if it’s under 2 weeks) which results in a lot of stuff, but everything gets used. I don’t care about how I look at all, I just count out everything based on the days I’ll be away (plus 1 or two extra, just in case), zip and go.

  4. Gemma says

    Haha. As much as I love the idea of minimal clothing etc, I fear I need a lot more practice is needed. I’m shortly off to Australia for a couple of weeks and I’ve been trying so hard not to overpack. And I challenged my mum to see who can take the least. If I remember I’ll let you know wins 🙂

    • Gemma says

      I won 🙂 13kg vs 17kg on way out and 14kg vs 19 kg on way back. That’s packing light for me and there were several items I didn’t wear at all and a few others I wore once so will be left out for my next trip. Mum also learnt a thing or two about travelling light and says she’ll pack less next time. 🙂

  5. Kate - CanuckiwiKate says

    I have evolved – 4 years ago, I left Canada with TWO bags – a backpack, and a rolly suitcase, both filled to the brim with EVERYTHING I owned, clothing-wise. I’m not even sure I have any clothes back at my parents house. Those were the days, travelling with two checked bags.

    These days, thought I’m not certain I’m a 7.9kg kinda girl just yet, I’m training myself mentally to go for “less is more”. Afterall, things like “I’m not fashionable” and “I re-wear smelly clothes” describe me perfectly!

    On my way back to Canada in 2 weeks, and I’ve already begun mentally packing a whole lot less!

  6. Margaret says

    Wow! I really appreciate your insight on this. I’m typically an overpacking when it comes to packing for in state travel or airplane US travel. but when it comes to international travel, I try to be more of a minimalist. I would say I’m in the middle of the spectrum because I do want to pack light, efficiently and practically — and yet, I do like to be fashionable and have what I need for the different things we’re doing.
    I’m headed to Turkey in a few weeks for two weeks. The travel person said we could bring a suitcase but I think having a backpacking backpack is a better plan. This way I can be in control and…it helps me not overpack. I appreciated your insight around how important it is for us to be in control as women! Thanks!

  7. Dianne says

    Rule #1, don’t pack jeans. They take up too much space, are heavy, and (as you point out) are practically impossible to wash while traveling. Instead, invest in pants and capris from REI, ExOfficio, Royal Robbins, Lucy, Eddie Bauer and similar. This year Eddie Bauer has done a really good job with their Travex line, excellent quick-dry mix & match items including modest-length skirts appropriate for Asia.

    I don’t like washing in a sink either, but have done it many many times. I won’t sent underwear out to a laundry, ever. But in many places you can find local laundries that cater to travelers (Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Bali, etc.) and have your laundry done in one day for about 25 to 50 cents per item.

    I have no affiliation with any of the brands mentioned above, I’m just a very experienced traveler with a good collection of lightweight layers.

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