The Trouble With Excess Baggage

My 40L Pack

As a flight attendant, I see a lot of travellers. Well, duh! Mums with bubs, suited execs, and FIFO’s (Fly In, Fly Out workers travelling to and from numerous mines around Australia). Whatever their reason for boarding a tin can and hurtling through the sky, the one constant is their attachment to their bags.

Now, now, I’m not judging, merely observing.

And let’s get one thing straight, airline staff (especially hostesses of the sky such as myself) can be rude. I’m not one of them (unless you cross me after a 440am start), but I have experienced many surly faces and curt words in my travels, and that’s just from my colleagues! I, however, am polite. But if there’s one thing that gets people’s goat, it’s messing with their bags.

If it’s too big, or they’ve got too many, and it is suggested that they may have to part with them for the duration of the flight so that there’s room for all the people who may like to fit on the plane, they will look at you like you have just shot their dog, before reciting the following statement word for word;

I have travelled all over the world on every other airline with this bag, and you are the only person who has had a problem with it.


But I digress… And will balance this seemingly vicious attack on the poor travelling public by a jaded, glorified waitress (no arguments there), by confessing some of my own baggage blunders.

I travel with too much stuff! There! I said it. That feels better.

Several weeks ago, I revisited The Bibbulmun Track with my hiking buddy Craig, for a two-day, 37km hike. I took way too much food, and it was all the wrong type (I mean, cheese? Really?) and I suffered the consequences.

“Bruises and blisters, and blisters on blisters, these are a few of my un-favourite things…” (Best sung in a Julie Andrews-type voice).

Okay, here’s the kicker: In the interest of ‘packing light’ like the well-heeled traveller that I am (not), I took ONE pair of socks.

Personal hygiene? No, not me, I’m a real hiker! I like to take ONE pair of socks, the big, thick ones that get drenched in sweat, creating a soggy bacteria breeding-ground by the end of the first day.

21km to go? Don’t worry, my feet have this fabulous in-built cushioning system whereby fluid bursts forth into these handy sacks of skin, just like air bags in a car!

They do sting a bit though… Hummus anyone?

A pattern has emerged in my life that I only learn via a series of very painful mistakes. If it wasn’t for the worst blisters I have ever experienced (I still have the scars), I would have thought nothing wrong with a 65 Litre pack filled with cheese, middle-eastern dip and whole fruit, but no spare socks.

Lessons Learned From Killer Blisters, And Other Excess Baggage Blunders

1.Be ruthless! And then half it!

2. What are the priorities? Eg Hiking =  water, lightweight food, and some clean, dry socks perhaps?

3. A small pack. If I can fill 65L for a two days, then what hope do I have packing for an indefinite RTW journey?

4. Realise that there are, in fact, stores outside of Australia, that do sell things like soap and hand sanitizer. I don’t have to take a down jacket to Thailand because we might visit  Canada in 2013.

5.  Invest in good quality, lightweight, quick drying clothing that can be easily washed and dried. I might get sick of looking at myself in the same T-shirt, which is why I’m not taking a mirror! It’s a win-win!

The Challenge: Can I Recover From My Over-Packing Addiction?

Well, I’ll have to. We have just bought 40L packs.

Yes, that’s right. They’re lovely, and teeny, and we may even be able to take them on the plane with us!

I also have a pair of running-slash-hiking-slash-AWESOME shoes which I already love more than I should love a shoe with fluro-orange laces. But I do!

AND 3 pairs of quick-drying underwear (Don’t judge, I might get another pair).

And a black tank top made out of the same lightweight fabric.

And a pair of (yes, you’re seeing a pattern) light weight, quick drying trousers that roll up to 3/4 length.

We braved the surprisingly subdued boxing day sales today, spending most of the day in a travel gear shop, and it was SO MUCH FUN!

We also have these gorgeous little 15L day packs that fold up into a little pocket when not in use.

And we made a deal (even shook on it), that we would get the 40L packs, ensuring we travel as light and efficiently as possible. It’s a bit scary for a recovering over-packer like me, but tough love is the only way.

I just know that less baggage = more freedom when travelling. I don’t want to be weighed down by a whole heap of stuff I might need, but don’t use.

I can’t be trusted with a large pack, as my little hiking expedition taught me.

So when we board that plane, beware surly flight attendant, or I’ll pull out the big guns:

I’ve travelled all around the world with this bag…

Don't laugh- I love them!

Don’t laugh – I love them!



The Trouble With Excess Baggage — 10 Comments

  1. I want to see a picture of those shoes! I need some great running/hiking shoes… probably will take my trail runners but those aren’t great on the roads. What kind of shoes are they? PS, I love travel gear shopping!

    • I added one just for you Kim!!! They are not full on hiking shoes, but do have very good grip on the sole. I’m not much of a runner (Last year, I trained for six weeks to run a 14km race, ahem, jog, and that was the beginning and the end of my running career), but hey, I’ll keep my options open!

      They are Nike Pegasus 27 Trail, and have a ‘fitsole’ which makes them very comfy. I got them on sale for $50, so it’s not like I put a lot of thought into it! Think they’ll be good for what I need though. :)

  2. Less is definitely more. There are people whose trips have been completely ruined only because they were lugging too much crap around. Good point that you can buy what you need where you are. Also, it’ll probably be cheaper than in Australia. E.g. in Delhi I bought a winter jacket for my trip to Amsterdam, it cost a mere $6.

    • Fantastic! And so true… When we went trekking in Nepal a few years ago we bought down sleeping bags that would have cost hundreds of dollars back home for a fraction of the price! I just have to get my head around not taking everything I think I might need with me! I hope I can do it.

  3. I specifically bought a 40L backpack and a small 20L daypack so I could go carry-on only. It worked pretty well for about half the trip. Then I suddenly hit airlines being super strict about a crazy (in my opinion) 7kg carry-on limit. My 40L only weighed about 10.5 kg and the 20L was 8kg, pretty light for a RTW, but no good for a few airlines. I’m disappointed, but I guess there’s nothing I can do about it.

    • Hi Ali, yes I suppose there is that hurdle of weight. After thinking about it, I don’t mind checking in my pack on a flight if I have to, it will still be good travelling as light as possible. When we were in India for a month in Jan, I over packed, carrying a 65L and it made train travel, tuk tuks and walking all the more diffiicult! Glad you are traveling light too, makes me think I can pull it off :)

  4. After my study abroad in Spain when I was 19 where I took practically everything I owned (including my complete CD collection in 2 200-cd books), I decided I needed to rethink this packing thing. That was 12 years ago and I’ve grown since then. Now I’m a bit of an underpacker. In fact, 2 years after that when I did my backpacking trip, I was a little mad at myself for being such an underpacker and not looking at average temperatures in certain European cities in late spring. Got a little chilly at times. However, I survived.

    I like your shoes by the way. I have bright blue and orange training shoes, so I have no room to laugh.

    • Ha ha! Thank God for mp3 players hey Carmel?! It is impossible to get it 100% right with the packing thing hey? I figure if I underpack, at least I can buy what I need (hopefully!). And thanks for the props on the shoes :)

  5. I did 14 months in Latin America with 65L and it was far too big. I just downsized to 45L and now wish I could go smaller but I have too many electronics for blogging.