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Why I Carry Just 40L and You Should, Too

Why I Travel with Just 40L

The following story on carrying just 40L is brought to you by Georgina Young. Read about George’s Eurohike Hydro 35+5 backpack and her packing guide for hitchhiking Europe.

I arrive in Penang after a less then relaxing 24 hour overnight train, where the restaurant compartment detached halfway through and there was no chance of getting anything to eat. With 2 ringits to my name, a kindly South African lady concerned that I’ll never make it from Butterworth to Georgetown, offers to pay my way across on the ferry.

I have not booked my hostel yet, but I have more desperate concerns. I am hot, sweaty, tired, broke and most of all hungry. I go off around the town in search for an ATM, and somewhere to grab a bite. Georgetown has a distinct lack of ATMs, especially when you compare it to cities like Bangkok where you can barely move without tripping over one, and it is almost half an hour before I am able to sit down, grab something to eat and clear my head.

Half an hour in the heat, carrying all of my luggage. Luckily, that only weighs around 9kg.

Now I am not gloating, but not being burdened by my bags meant that I could keep a cool and clear head as I walked around town, that I wouldn’t be distracted by people offering high price for a night, just to get the weight off me. I remember walking around Sydney for an hour desperately looking for the right bus stop and just slamming my 70L to the floor and sitting on top of it in the street exhausted, not giving a damn about what anyone thinks.

Personally, I think that 5 is too many tops, my Nintendo DS which I have yet to use has been completely superfluous, a whole bog roll was a little much and although I have used my sleeping bag a number of times on this trip, I know that on others, it would be rendered quite useless. Even as I watch a heavy thunderstorm break out over Kuala Lumpur, I have only used my raincoat once, best after all not to be out in the storm if unnecessary.

I am not claiming I am the best packer in the world. But there are days when, I can happily lay all my things out right next to my bed, when I can quickly get to the item I desire, when I can pack up everything I own in about 30 seconds, that I am glad that I did not pack all that much.

That is not to mention the luxuries of being able to keep my entire luggage as carry on, when I can take my bag on the bus with me (away from prying fingers). I am always glad that my backpack never leaves my side. In fact I am always looking for things to throw away, things I’m not using, and I am constantly losing or breaking things (in 3 weeks my phone, leggings, sunglasses, hairbrush, headphones, pair of pants, padlock and most annoyingly my Japanese Residency card.) and I don’t know how I would cope with more.

>> Click here if you’re still wondering how much you can fit in a 40L backpack.

I am here to start a revolution. Buy a small backpack today and see about the choices you make. See that you can live with less. As for me? I must admit to eyeing up the Eurohike Pathfinder 25L. After all, carrying less is an addiction.

Written by Georgina

George is a 20-something hitchhiker, solo female traveller and cunning linguist, currently teaching in Kyushu, Japan. She circumnavigates the globe and teaches languages to all those in her wake. She has travelled Europe and Oz extensively, and has taught languages in 6 different countries and counting. Her blog is a mix of language learning, TEFL tips and general travel tales. Follow her journey at George on the Go or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Travel Resources

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Handbag Packing Masterclass – Learn to pack your lightest bag ever in this revolutionary packing class run by HPL founder, Brooke.

Creative Ways to Minimize Your Toiletry & Beauty Kit – Practical tips alongside DIY recipes designed to help you pack lighter, smaller & with fewer liquids. (Also included as a bonus to Handbag Packing Masterclass.)

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Reader Interactions


  1. Ingibjörg says

    I’m totally with you, I have a 35L and love it! I only fill it up halfway (unless going camping).

  2. Christine says

    Been looking into getting my first travel backpack for some small local trips as while saving for my big vagabond trip. I figured it would be good to get used to traveling that light ahead of time in more familiar territory. I have been debating between some Deuters that are 50-55 and an osprey that is 40… I think I might be leaning more towards the Ospery now.

  3. Lindsey says

    Haha I travel with a 46L and it’s brilliant. I physically cannot fit that much stuff in it – it’s perpetually light! I’m working on whittling it down 🙂

  4. George says

    The 25L pack is in the post. I usually carry. 2 x dresses 5 x tops 2 x shorts 1 x skirt 1 x leggings. Pac-a-mac 7 x underwear 2 x bra. Toilettries (all under 100ml) suntan cream, deo, shampoo bar, small amount of make up, moisturiser, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, hairbrush, diva cup, ibuprofen, imodium, pills. Gadgets – Bridge camera, DS (but wouldn’t again) netbook, kindle 3G keyboard (ESSENTIAL), travel pillow, sleeping bag global traveller card, passport, eco bag (as day pack) and I think that’s it. Reads like a lot, I could definitely cut down. But that’s not even a full 40L pack. You can definitely live on 40L.

    • George says

      Oh yea sorry hike shoes, and one other pair normally sports ballet pumps and sometimes I buy a pair of flip flops and chuck em when I don’t need them.

  5. Lynne Carter says

    You do not have to be young to travel light ! My husband and I are in our 50’s and have used 30 to 35 litre day packs for over 20 years. We took an 8 week round the world trip with 5 kilos of luggage each. We do get a lot of odd looks from other people when we turn up with small packs but who cares ? Traveling light is easy with the right gear and gives you a wonderful feeling of freedom. We would never go back to humping huge amounts of stuff about ! Best wishes on your travels.

  6. melissa says

    I have a 46L bag and I’m using it for my 1 year in Australia. I’m gotten so many comments on how small it is. Even when I was in Asia for 5.5 months with it, I got comments.

  7. Rachael says

    Just bought a 40L backpack for my 4 week trip to Vietnam on Monday – first time packing light, I CAN DO THIS! 😉

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