by Bob Bestor
The more I travel the more realize that, when packing, less is more. I always feel like it’s a small victory to fit everything for any trip, even those over three weeks long, into a 22 x 14 x 9 inch maximum carry-on bag. And I always get home and realize that there were a couple of items, whether shirts, pants or whatever, that I lugged halfway around the world and carried for three weeks, yet never used. So recently I decided to see just how little I could get away with.
The goal was to travel eight days in the sultry, tropical climate of Belize; sunning, swimming, snorkeling, boating, and hiking, with everything – every stitch of clothing, every electronic device, all my toiletries, all my reading material and more – in a single daypack.
I chose the Cicada 22L ($120) from Eagle Creek for the job. The Cicada is a classic daypack size, 12 x 18.5 x 7 inches. It’s a bit smaller than the daypacks my high school kids carry, with a volume of 1350 cubic inches (22 liters). The Cicaca offers both a waterproof bottom panel (great if sitting the backpack in a puddle) and a waterproof and lockable “split wing” cover that pulls over the pack, making it great for rainy days and wet boats.
When traveling light it’s all about versatility, organization and efficiency, and the Cicada features an array of pockets and compartments that allow for excellent organization and very efficient packing.
My favorite pocket (and the one that really made this all-in-a-daypack adventure possible) is the Cicada’s very handy, and it turns out nicely versatile, built-in padded laptop sleeve. While this compartment is perfect for a 15” laptop, I found that it is also perfect for an Eagle Creek Pack-It 15 clothing folder. I neatly folded six shirts (a long sleeved swim shirt, two sun protective shirts, two cotton tee’s and one nicer button-up shirt) into the Pack-It 15 and conveniently slipped it into the “laptop” sleeve. This was a very efficient use of space and the folder kept my shirts neat, tidy and wrinkle-free no matter how often I pawed through my bag or pulled them out and slid them back in.
That left the “roomy” main compartment available for the rest of my gear. In an Eagle Creek Half Cube I crammed two pairs of Smartwool Socks, three pairs of Ex Officio quick-dry travel briefs, a microfiber towel, a DreamSack sleep sack and two pairs of nylon athletic shorts that did double duty as both casual wear and swim trunks. Yes, the athletic shorts are very casual but the locals all wear similar shorts, so I fit right in, at least as much as any white guy in a Central American country can fit in.
I stuffed the Half Cube into the bottom of the main compartment and on top of it packed three books (one guidebook and two for reading by the pool) and then packed my toiletries in yet another Eagle Creek product (are you sensing a theme here?), the Pack-It Sac Small.
In the Cicada’s smaller interior and exterior pockets (some of which are fleece-lined for extra protection) I stored my iPod, my point-and-shoot camera, my sunglasses case, ear-bud style headphones and all the necessary cables, cords and such for my electronic devices. I also stuffed my Keen sandals in the expandable side water-bottle pockets and lashed my Vapur collapsible water bottle to the pack with a carabiner.
And I still wasn’t completely full. I had room for an extra hat, the zip-off legs from my zip-off pants, and the souvenir t-shirt and two cd’s I purchased on the island of Caye Caulker. I could have stuffed a few more similar items had it been necessary.
On the plane both ways I wore my zip-off pants, Lowa hiking shoes, a button-up shirt over a cotton tee (all said and done, I probably ended up taking two too many shirts!), a ball cap and a windbreaker.
So there you have it. It can be done. I didn’t lack for anything and the only thing I ran out of and had to purchase was more sunscreen.
Obviously the warm weather and casual setting of Belize made it easier to travel light. But other than a warmer jacket, and maybe a hat and gloves, I think I could do it for a colder trip as well. The only thing I’d be sacrificing is a larger wardrobe selection. My wife, unwilling to sacrifice as much as I in the wardrobe department, took the slightly larger Cicada 28L ($150), measuring 12 x 20.5 x 7 inches, with a capacity of 1700 cubic inches. She was equally happy with her bag.