What I packed in my 38L Bellroy Transit Backpack for 16 days
The title of this blog post is way too “clickbaity” and “content creator” for my liking, but I digress. 😆 On our recent trip to New Zealand I took my new 38L backpack, and that was my only piece of luggage. In years gone by, some people have expressed interest in knowing how I pack my luggage. Although this is the first time I am using a backpack, I travel light all the time with just one cabin-sized piece of luggage, and really try to avoid checking anything in.
I must admit that on this occasion (and maybe one other occasion in the past—I can’t quite remember) we ended up having to check in Nick’s cabin-sized suitcase because of weight restrictions, and I had palm some of my stuff to him because I was over the 7kg limit. I know some airlines are not so strict with this, while others are. It wasn’t a matter of whether the items fit in the bag or not, it was about the weight. I know some people aren’t aware of this, but: the weight restriction is important because of overhead storage weight restrictions and not overall weight of items on the plane—which is why they have no problem with you wearing extra clothes on your person, or having a separate bag as a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you, even if it happens to weigh quite a bit.
Details of our trip that helped with planning what to pack
Our trip lasted 16 days, and on our trip covering a wide area of New Zealand, we were expecting cold (but not too cold) weather, potential rain, very hot weather, and comfortable temperatures in the mid-20s (ºC—that would be in the 70s for ºF). After all, it was summer.
However… if you’ve read some of my recent blog posts then you’ll know we ended up with nasty weather in Auckland and too much rain in Rotorua, and intense river rapids due to floods. You can’t plan for these things, but you can at least be as prepared as you can.
We also planned to have access to laundry facilities in our Airbnbs, although—and this is a topic for another day—I think it’s worth considering bringing your own soap/laundry liquid to hand wash your clothes especially if you want to pack light. It’s also worth noting that unless you sweat/smell profusely, it’s usually OK to wear the same clothes a few times without washing. It’s also better for the environment.
We had quite a few outdoor activities planned, including a bunch of hikes. Although swimming wasn’t planned, white water rafting required swimmers/bathers under the wetsuits we would be hiring. We didn’t have any special events that had a dress code or anything like that.
Some important miscellaneous items we brought included sunscreen, ponchos (light and easy to fold), collapsible water bottles, and an umbrella. The collapsible water bottles do take up far less space than a regular bottle. My umbrella was very small, but I chose to bring it anyway.
Based on these plans, bringing our hiking shoes was imperative. I chose one activewear outfit that would be appropriate for hiking and be comfortable for other outdoor activities. As it included a pair of leggings, I opted not to bring a pair of jeans because it would be heavy and I didn’t see myself wearing them especially if I had a more comfortable option.
I actually did a rough run-down of how many days required what kind of outfit. I wrote out that I’d probably be wearing my set of activewear on at least 3 different days. That meant I would need outfits for 13 days of the trip. Given my style and the way I dress, I don’t often choose or wear one-piece items like jumpsuits or dresses. On holidays I actually find more versatility in separate tops and bottoms. For the remaining 13 days, I decided that I would choose 4 tops and 3 bottoms which give 12 total combinations of outfits. I chose tops and bottoms that were interchangeable, but to be honest with you, there were some combinations I didn’t wear at all simply because I didn’t like them, and I let myself repeat some outfits. If most of your wardrobe is duplicates or you have the same colours of things, you definitely won’t be having trouble here.
The following are photos that show all 10 clothes I brought with me on my trip, and two pairs of shoes. I also packed one swimsuit. You can imagine that I mixed and matched a handful of these clothes to create different looks.
I think that outfit planning, even though it’s not to a T, has made it a lot easier for me to pack. I know and can visualise the different outfits I’ll wear. It prevents me from overpacking since I know what choices I have available. Now, I could definitely have gone with one less bottom and one less top, and have 2 × 3 = 6 outfits, and repeat each of them at least once, getting more wear out of each item—but I think that was pushing it just a little bit, and I wanted some of my tops to serve as a layering piece for hiking.
I won’t be addressing style specifically, but know this: I have my own personal style (even though it took me years to get to this point) and I travel practically, which means I simply don’t have the time of day to kick up a fuss about wearing the same outfit several times in a row. When you’re travelling and seeing sights, it’s unlikely you will see the same people, and the bottom line is, they don’t care what you’re wearing. I might look like I put in a lot of effort when I travel, but it’s because it is my style and I own a lot of clothes that are both stylish and comfortable enough to travel in. I myself repeat outfits constantly while travelling.
The various things I packed
This was my first time with a backpack and I really didn’t want to bother with purchasing packing cubes. They seem a bit gimmicky to me. I also watched a YouTube video where the couple didn’t like packing cubes because they keep their shape and sometimes you want to squash them a bit or press them down to make more room, so they’re not quite what they’re cracked up to be. They actually recommended packing sacks or bags, slightly cylindrical, softer and less structured, and with a drawstring. I know packing cubes are gorgeous, blah blah, but after watching their video, I decided packing cubes were also a bit of a glorified pouch, so I took to my bathroom to find some old cosmetics pouches of varying sizes that I could use to organise my items.
My Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus also came with two drawstring bags, which I appreciated, and did end up using. I used one for clean clothes and I filled the other one with dirty clothes as our trip progressed, so that they were separated from my other clothes.
I didn’t have a day bag, because the only time I envisaged using one was when we were hiking. Nick carried a backpack in his luggage when in transit, and it was one that could fold up easily and held our two ponchos. (It could just as easily have fit in my travel backpack, though. 😉) However, I did want to bring a small handbag or shoulder bag of some sort, so I brought my white rectangular shoulder bag. I didn’t want to carry this separately to my whole backpack—although I did on a couple of the flights due to weight restrictions—so I removed the detachable strap and folded it up, and put it inside the bag along with some of my tops. Then I put it in my backpack. It served as another pouch to organise stuff in my backpack. I also brought a foldable tote bag, just in case it would come in handy.
I won’t go into details about the various compartments in my backpack, but there was a special slot for my laptop, and in the same section there was a zippered pocket for cables and such. Later, I found out that I’d taken my work MacBook Pro charger, which weighed a full 300 grams, and I could have taken my smaller one for my MacBook Air instead, and saved some weight. My power pack (which I borrowed from Nick) also weighed quite a bit. It was at Wellington Airport, en route to Christchurch, that I realised exactly how much some of my stuff weighed. I’ll write more about that shortly.
I think how much underwear you need to bring depends, but since I’m pretty sure some people would want to know—I brought 7 pairs of underpants, a few less pairs of socks, and only two bras (one of which was a sports bra). Your mileage may vary. Socks and underpants are definitely the items I try to hand wash if I’m short on time or don’t have a washer available. As they’re relatively small they can dry quickly. They are also important. 😉
Items I wore on my person were my sneakers, jacket, and hat. The sneakers were the only other pair of shoes I brought apart from my hiking shoes, but I sometimes wore my hiking shoes casually on our travels because they were comfortable. I get it, they’re sometimes too casual and “daggy”, but you have to make some sacrifices when you travel. My long white denim oversized jacket was the only jacket I brought, because jackets can be heavy. I figured I’d just layer up. I did get somewhat cold during parts of the trip because we had weather we didn’t expect, but I layered up as much as I could using the clothes I had brought. I was very close to purchasing a nice merino wool scarf… that’s the other thing that’s lovely about travel. You can purchase clothes while you are travelling, if you need them, and you might end up with a nice piece of clothing that will remind you of where you’ve been. About the sneakers, I sure as hell know it’s “not good” to wear the same pair of shoes for days in a row, but I think we can live with breaking that rule when we travel.
I brought my hat with me because I wanted to have some sun protection and wear it on some of our hikes. Also, style and fashion. 😂 I know some would think I’m out of my mind to bring a white hat and a white jacket, but I’ve gone through many phases of having white clothing and it’s just a fact of life that they collect dirt. I did get a stain on the bottom of my jacket that I couldn’t quite get out, but it doesn’t bother me. I like when clothes are a bit lived-in—also life is too short to worry so much about keeping white clothes pure white. I enjoyed wearing my hat, and after removing it inside and not knowing where to put it (I had a hat clip attached to my bag, but it didn’t work so well), I decided that the easiest thing to do was to keep it on inside. I just had to remove it to go through airport security, but otherwise, no one was offended by it.
How I packed the bag
Again, I won’t go into the details of the pockets and whatnot—the tech stuff went in the pocket closest to my back, there was a spot for the umbrella on the inside side of the bag, and initially I laid out the items in the bag so that the hiking shoes and some of my shorts were at the bottom of the bag, and then the bag of clothes, another little bag of underwear, and towards the top of the bag I put my white handbag. It’s not rocket science, obviously.
Later in the trip after we spoke to our canopy tour guides at Rotorua, I learned that it was probably better to balance the bag by putting the heaviest stuff in the middle, instead of at the bottom, so I ended up shuffling things around so that the hiking shoes were in the middle of the bag.
I didn’t go into detail about toiletries, but, I had them all in a zip-locked clear plastic bag so that they could easily be separated from my bag when going through airport security. I would usually just shove them in my bag in the main compartment, as there were too many bottles and stuff to fit in the front zippered pocket.
Dealing with the 7kg weight restriction
Unfortunately I didn’t weigh my bag before I left home, so I didn’t actually have any idea how much it weighed until we’d gone to Auckland, travelled down the North Island, and were at Wellington airport deciding to make sure our bags weren’t overweight in case they became strict. It was in the back of our minds when we left Sydney but they didn’t check. Nick decided to check his bag in regardless, because without me adding a couple of things to his bag, it was already 9kg+.
I ended up getting my bag down to exactly 7kg, but my toiletries had actually weighed a whole kilogram… 🤦🏻♀️ and all my cables, power pack, and MacBook charger were about 0.5kg. The MacBook charger took up at least 50% of that, too. What I ended up doing was giving Nick all my toiletries to make it easier, since it was all in one bag, and I took my white handbag out and put all my cables and power pack in it (my charger wouldn’t fit—I put it in my jacket pocket, lol), and that small handbag became my personal item while my bag weighed 7kg.
In analysing all my toiletries/liquids I could have done better. They were all 100 millilitres or less, and many of them were in tiny containers, but others were in larger ones that also had some weight to them. I could have simplified my skincare routine a little bit, but at the time I was packing, I was unwilling. I only use a cleanser, toner, eye cream, and moisturiser, so I’m not sure how much further I could simplify that. I’ll have to think about it. 😛
Obviously I made a mistake bringing the heavier MacBook Pro charger but I know that for next time. If weight restrictions are really strict, and it’s not the space in the bag that’s an issue, it is also possible that I could take a personal item/bag that fits my zip-locked bag and cables and chargers, and carry it separately.
I love the backpack 🎒
I really enjoyed using the backpack on our trip. It was very exciting for me to begin with, because I’d been thinking about using a backpack over a rolling suitcase for some time. Using the backpack was very freeing and I liked that I could put it on my back easily once I picked it up. There wasn’t any need to worry about pulling it behind me, and my hands were free. I think it helped that I chose to wear a jacket and chose clothes that had pockets with easy access so that I could grab important items without having to remove my backpack. The backpack does have a hidden pocket that I think is supposed to be accessible from the side without you taking the backpack off, but I think it doesn’t work well for me because I am a short person. 😅
My brother believed I would look like a dork in such a big bag, but I don’t think so! I think it has a slim shape and its size and shape doesn’t really sit on me weirdly even though I am below average height. Actually carrying the backpack was no problem, as it wasn’t too heavy. I didn’t even realise there was a hip belt that helped with distributing the weight until just before our flight back home. 😂
I am excited to pack light again and use the backpack for another trip, whether it’s shorter or longer than two weeks. 🤩 Let me know if you have any other questions about how I packed my bag!
I think the bag looks fine on you. 🙂
I’ve never traveled myself so I never knew about a lot of this stuff. Something to keep in mind if I ever decide to.