How to pack light (Dreamstime)
Review Words : Phoebe Smith | 10 September 2019

17 of the best travel gear essentials for packing light

With hold luggage often chargeable and weights for hand luggage shrinking, every gram counts, so here are the best pieces to consider for your (increasingly small) bag...

1. Merrel Siren 3 Mid GTX (women) / MQM Flex Mid GTX (men)

Less hardcore, but still waterproof and breathable with ankle support, a good set of lugs underfoot and a tongue designed to keep dirt out – and all at just 624g/712g. 
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2. Sherpa Himali Scarf

 

 

Useless extra weight? Wrong – a scarf can be a little piece of 125g magic in your bag – from covering your head and shoulders for visits to sacred sites to a make-shift towel, blanket, sarong or even bag.
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3. Columbia Silver Ridge 2.0 Short Sleeve Shirt

 

A smart button-up is a travel staple, but get one you can also go hiking in. This looks the part but is made from wicking and UPF50 sun-protecting fabric and also hides venting for circulation.
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4. Kathmandu Litehaul Pack 12 litres

Slim enough to count as an additional ‘personal item’ on top of your hand luggage allowance, this looks like a laptop case but also features tuckaway straps that can transform it into a daypack. It’s just 540g unpacked.
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5. Paramo Grid Technic Baselayer

Owing to its special microgrid construction, this layer can both warm you up and cool you down. Wear it on its own in warmer conditions, or cover it with a waterproof when it’s cooler. The result? Fewer items to pack.
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6. Jack Wolfskin Journey Hat 

Find your inner ‘Man from Del Monte’ by rocking this 130g straw number that not only protects your head from the sun, but also hides a moisture-regulating fabric inside and can be rolled and stashed away.
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7. RAB Flashpoint 2 Jacket

Rain is always a possibility, and a lightweight waterproof jacket also comes in handy in windy conditions as it takes away the chill. This isn’t the lightest jacket on the market but it does o­ffer an amazing number of features while remaining lightweight (185g; size L). It’s waterproof and breathable (using three-layer Pertex – many lightweight o­fferings use less breathable 2.5 layer) with a roomy fit that lets you put it over other layers to give three-season use. It also has a large zipped pocket, a helmet-compatible hood with a structured brim for keeping it in shape (great for multi-activity trips), adjustable cu­ffs for warmth, and its own stuff­ sack.

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8. GoPro Hero7 White

Forget your big DSLR and lenses, stop worrying about getting your phone wet, and pick up this small and legendary action camera. The latest version offers much to recommend it – 10-megapixel photos (which are big enough to print across two pages in Wanderlust), full HD (1080p) video, image stabilisation, self-timer, touch screen zoom, 2x slo-mo setting and voice control. It’s fully waterproof to 10m without even requiring special underwater housing and there’s also a free downloadable app that lets you wirelessly send your photos and videos to social media or to your smartphone or tablet for editing. And at just 120g, it’s also so compact you won’t even know you’re carrying it. Finally, the fact that you can snap, share and not worry about damaging your equipment will also be a weight off your mind.
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9. Rohan Jeans Straight Leg

Made from Denim Plus and weighing 460g, these may look like normal jeans but offer a lot more: as well as being quick-drying and crease resistant, they feature UPF 40+ sun protection, sweat-wicking fabric and a zipped security pocket. Jean-ius.
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10. Toms Classics

 

While you can wear these easy-fit elastic and canvas shoes on the plane or take them in your bag for the evening knowing they’re just 450g a pair, you can also feel smug knowing that when you buy them another pair is donated to a child in need.
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11. Joby GorillaPod 3k Stand

Want to bring a tripod but worried about the weight? The answer is this 245g bendable number that not only takes a 3kg DSLR, but can be bent around lampposts, trees or rocks to ensure a solid surface anywhere. 
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12. Osprey Utralight Packing Cube Set 

 

Make packing – and finding – your items so much quicker. Made from ripstop fabric and featuring a wide zip opening for easy stuffing, this three-pack (a small, medium and large) weighs just 6g and is worth every one of them.

13. Arc’teryx Phase SL Brief/Boxer

 

These durable undergarments are made from a special – and supremely soft – fabric that quickly moves moisture away from your skin and dries fast. But a warning: they’re so featherweight (25g/65g), you may worry you’ve forgotten to put any underwear on at all...
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14. Mountain Warehouse 50 Dry Soap Leaves 

Don’t you hate it when you have to open a whole bar of hotel soap to only use it once or twice? These hypo-allergenic dry soap leaves for your hands, body and clothes mean less waste, which smells good to us. 
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15. Smartwool Hike Lite Crew

These merino wool/nylon blend socks don’t look so full-on that you couldn’t wear them with smart clothes, but are also naturally anti-smell, o­ffer light cushioning, flat seams and come in gender specific fits.
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16. Samsonite Cosmolite Spinner 69

The Cosmolite o­ffers hard-sided ruggedness at a soft-sided weight –2.35kg for 68L. The zip’s water resistant, there’s an inbuilt TSA lock, while four wheels make manoeuvring a dream.
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17. Lifestraw Flex with Collapsible Squeeze Bottle

There’s no doubt about it: single-use plastic is bad and we must stop relying on it. Enter the LifeStraw, which filters microplastics, parasites, bacteria, chlorine, lead and organic chemical matter out of even the most questionable of water sources. Better yet, this version packs down small and weighs just 90g.
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Lightening your luggage? Read this first...

(Dreamstime)

(Dreamstime)

  • ­Every gram saved will mean a feature lost. The idea is to look for the lightest of everything, right? Not necessarily. Gear manufacturers can’t just make things weigh less without a sacrifice somewhere. In terms of travel kit, it’s usually in features. A lighter jacket may be as a light as a feather, but it may lack pockets or an adjustable hood; lightweight luggage may not stand up to manhandling... ­

  • Comfort vs convenience. As well as losing out on features, going lightweight can also mean sacrificing comfort. Hiking boots might lack grams, but do they also lack a waterproof liner? Your insulated layers may take up barely any room in your bag, but will they keep you warm enough? ­

  • Yep, it’s personal. It’s always a balancing act to pack what’s right for you so don’t be swayed by other voices. We are all different – so decide what’s most important for you. ­

  • Some things are worth the weight. As the saying goes, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’. Travel should be an experience you remember for all the right reasons, so take the things that you’re going to be most comfortable in. 

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