Pack like a superhero
Step 6 – Making a functional backpack
If you have followed the exercises & tips in the previous chapters correctly, you have achieved the superhero qualities:
No fears and no excuses to travel the world
The right mindset to make traveling a priority in your life
Making a decision on the destination and planning the type and duration of the adventure
Being able to find a cheap flight
Being able to find great accommodation options
Getting organised with your travel documents: passport, visa and travel insurance
I am proud of you.
It’s time to pack your bag and go.
“How do I do that?”
First thing first.
Do not take everything you think you need. Literally.
You won’t need as much as you think.
In order to be able to properly pack your bag, you first need to get into the right mindset.
This is very important.
Read the following information carefully and use the simple instructions I created for you to learn the art of packing like a pro.
The backpack of a superhero
In order for you to start with the right mindset, I will share with you the backpack I already have.
It is my most beloved travel companion and it is designed for long journeys around the world. It has never let me down. A superhero needs a well-prepared utility belt!
It is extremely difficult to have a functional backpack that can be used in tropical areas as well as in very cold places. Having said that, I believe that each item will have been carefully selected using the same method I will teach you. This method has been proven effective in my last mission, when I travelled for 9 months for more than 45,000km from the hot deserts of Australia to the cold steppe of Siberia.
Here is a map of my last mission to give you an idea of where I have been.
The backpack content is derived from years of traveling experience and from trial & errors. Its objective: to serve me in most of the circumstances I encounter during my adventures.
Now it can serve you too, as inspiration for your next exercises and to learn how to travel light.
This will help you make more informed decisions and can be used as point of reference and as a guideline when you’ll pack your very own superhero backpack.
Without further ado, I present to you the Superjab’s backpack content:
Travel gear (the following are affiliate links)
Clothing (the following are affiliate links)
Electronics (the following are affiliate links)
57 items in total
As you can see there is plenty of items for whatever situation I might encounter, all of them allow me to travel anywhere in the world for very long periods of time. I also carry with me extra electronic equipment that might be unnecessary to you, just keep in mind that if you are only going to travel for a few weeks/months maybe you don’t need to take as much as I have.
Evaluate the superhero backpack.
Do you see how detailed it is?
Do you see how every item has been selected carefully?
Everything has a been logically selected for a specific purpose.
Remember, you want to be able to know every item that goes in your backpack. This will give you a clear overview of everything you have access to and will bring peace of mind and confidence to you in your travels.
Learning to let go of things
Before you make your own pack, let me tell you something.
You don’t like to give up things, nor make sacrifices. I don’t either.
You are used to get everything you want, whenever you want.
I can get rid of mangoes for example.
But now you can’t have everything. You can only have a few things in your bag.
Otherwise, it will be detrimental to you, your adventure and your back!
It is really hard to let go of things, especially if you’ve been collecting items all your life. Each one of them is attached to one of your fondest memories or maybe a special event.
These objects have an incredibly emotional value for you, because you feel they represent who you are.
You chose them, bought them, loved them, but you can’t get rid of them. It’s too difficult.
The problem is not the value of your things, or what they “represent”. It is the value you gave to them.
The problem is you.
You have attached human feelings to lifeless objects.
You have projected your insecurities, wishes, desires and aspirations to them.
And it’s fine. We all have done it.
But it’s time for you to recognize and change that.
The task ahead is about selecting only the necessary items and not choosing them because you simply care about them or you think you might want to use them.
What would Tyler Durden do?
When you look at your clothes, and all the objects around you, remember that:
They are not you
They are just things
They are meaningless and don’t matter
They are stopping you from being free
They create worries, anxiety and can control you
You don’t need them
Follow me on this, it is for your own benefit.
“The things you own end up owning you. “ – Tyler Durden
As soon as you feel too emotionally involved with the tasks ahead, stop, take a break and come back when you are calm again.
You need to learn to let go of things. It is your first step to freedom.
If you make your decisions based on how you “feel” towards an object, you can’t make a clear decision.
Let’s chill, like a cucumber, and then take that first step to your freedom.
Making the most functional backpack
Some people will need less items and some people will need more. There is really no right or wrong here. You have to make the calls.
In addition to that, I am not an expert when it comes to packing advice for women, so if you are a woman, you can still follow the exercises and those instructions apply to you too, but I also recommend you to make your own judgement on the items you need and to look for fellow women travelers’ advice on this topic.
Obviously, depending on what kind of adventure you go on, its duration and the weather conditions of the regions you plan on visiting, you will need different items.
It is one thing to pack for a 2 week trip to a tropical island. However, it is a completely different game when you start packing for a 4 month expedition to the Himalayas.
Choose items that suit your destination, its style, weather conditions and culture.
Making a list of the items you need is your first step.
It is better than opening up your closet and picking random things, because:
You have no distractions
You can think without pressure
You will only remember the most important things. The ones you don’t remember, are clearly not useful to you, therefore you don’t need them.
This is not a game of perfectionism. It s about evaluating each item in correlation to the other ones, making firm decisions and move on.
You can always use my superhero backpack as a reference on what you might need
The paradox of choices
American psychologist Barry Schwartz. In his book, The paradox of choices, argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.
In your case, it is up to you to reduce your anxiety and reduce the number of choices.
The object here is to make a functional bag, where every item works well with the other ones or it is connected to them in some way.
For example, let’s do a simple test:
If you are going to a wedding ceremony and you have already bought, a pair of underwear, a belt, a complete suit and a brand new shirt and now you can pick ONLY one last item from the following ones:
A pair of shoes
Which one will you choose?
I hope you said the pair of shoes, because what it is the point of taking a tie if you don’t even have shoes for the wedding.
In the same way, when you think about your items for your functional backpack, think about how they all work together as a whole and not as singular pieces.
if you write in your list:
1 plain gray t-shirt
1 black pair of jeans
1 dark gray sweater
Can those item work together as a whole?
The simple answer is, yes.
Those items can match each other well. Because the plain gray t-shirt can go well with the pair of jeans and if the weather gets colder you can wear the dark gray sweater on top of the gray t-shirt to make you warmer.
Think about layers. Having multiple layers of clothing can help you deal with most weather conditions.
If you bring a very heavy wool jumper, you can only use it when it is really cold. The rest of the time, it is a just extra weight and wasted space. I hate both of them.
Instead, take with you another sweater and wear both sweaters on top of the shirt and you have fixed the cold temperature problem, plus you have an extra outfit for milder weather conditions.
Try to create those combinations and matches with a small number of items. This will still create a variety of options and at the same time keep the weight of the backpack very small.
The more combinations you can create, the better it will be, so I always recommend to bring clothes that are easily matchable and have similar colors.
Blacks, grays, browns work very well. Also they don’t stand out too much, making you blend with the place and its people. Unless you are going to a Carnival!
That pink leather jacket you think is awesome…. Well, leave it at home.
Speaking of which…
Things you should never pack
There are items that should always be off your list.
Some of them are the following:
Your favorite things
Bulky or frivolous items
One off items
Famous clothing brands
Eccentric and colorful outfits
Heavy items and accessories
All the above either draw too much attention, or are simply useless. They will make you an easy target for pickpockets and scam artists, and if you lose them you’ll be angrier.
Don’t take your favorite clothes, because you are too attached to them and if something bad happens, you will be very upset. It is much better to lose a shirt that has ZERO value for you than your favorite polo shirt that your dad gave you for your birthday.
When you travel, you want comfortable, easy to replace, nameless pieces of matchable clothes. That’s it.
It is about choices. Some of them will be tougher than others, but it is, once again, a matter of perspective.
Instead of thinking…
“Damn, I love my new jacket, I don’t want to leave it behind. What if I go out to an expensive restaurant? I need that jacket!”
For every item I don’t take with me I will:
Be less tired
Be less worried
Be more carefree
Be more energetic
Be closer to my freedom
If you think about it this way, it will not be a matter of leaving something behind, which is a negative feeling.
It will be a matter of gaining more freedom. A positive feeling.
The difference appears to be simple, but the benefits will be incredible.
Are you ready to get started?
1 – Relax
Go to a quiet place
Go there on your own, preferably away from your possessions.
You must make objective and logical decisions, and you should do that by yourself.
If you start involving other people in this phase, they might project their emotions and insecurities on you as well.
2 – The list
Make a complete list of items for your travel
I am not saying make a list of what you want, but what you absolutely think you need, the more detailed the better.
2 pair of shoes (1 black-walking, 1 brown-hiking)
8 pair of socks (4 black, 4 gray)
1 warm jacket (dark, waterproof, with hood)
1 hat (wool, for skiing)
And so on…
As you can see I am not saying:
My 2 favorite shoes, the cool black ones and the ones I bought when I went to Madrid
8 pair of “name of the brand” socks
The super comfy jacket grandma made for me
My pinky hat from school
My “name of the brand” camera
And so on…
I am simply listing items, as if they weren’t mine.
They are generic, but specific as well.
When you remove the words “my”, “favorite” and any other type of emotional descriptions, you will psychologically begin to remove the emotional attachments you have towards those things.
After all, they are only objects in a list.
Nothing more and nothing less.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Once you have completed your list, go to the next step.
3 – Counting
Count how many items you have in total
If, let’s say you have 200 items in your list, cut that number in half.
You now have 100 items.
This is painful, but it’s also necessary.
I am saying cutting your list in half, because if you haven’t organized an adventure before you are probably too scared to leave important things behind.
Therefore, your mind is playing tricks on you making you believe that you need to be ready for every possible scenario.
“Sudden storm? I need to take my umbrella with me? “
“What if it’s too hot? I better pack two sunscreen creams.”
The truth is, you are overpacking.
You are afraid and you are trying to compensate by taking more things.
“I’ll take this, just in case I need it…”
You won’t need it, and even if you will, you can get it afterwards. You can trade it for some of your items while you travel. You will be fine.
4 – The first pile
Pick up ONLY the items left on your list
Select them from your closet & drawers and put them all on the floor.
Burn them… just kidding! :)
You are way ahead of the average Joe who is taking his wooden world globe with him, just in case he doesn’t have access to the internet and he gets lost!
The trick was to make you do all the difficult choices before you even touched an item.
Writing the list and analyzing it carefully was an effective way for you to make difficult choices and to avoid getting emotional.
Now we have the 2 last tasks that will take you closer to create the most functional backpack you can.
5 – Make 2 piles
Divide the items in two smaller groups
If you have 100 items on the floor, you should divide them into two groups of 50 items each.
The reason to divide them again into smaller groups comes from the idea that if you have a big problem, you want to divide it into smaller ones and then even smaller ones. If you successfully do that, it will be much easier to solve the smaller problems than the big one. The beauty of this system is that when you solve all the small ones, you will have solved the big one too.
In your case, we have a problem to solve.
The problem is that there are still enemies in your piles.
They are there and they are trying to blend with the other ones so you won’t mind carrying them with you.
You know, that extra thing you took, because you were in doubt. Well you don’t need it.
You know that little item sitting there, the one that doesn’t really take too much space…
Well, when you add it to the other ones it will make everything heavier.
You need to get rid of those enemies.
6 – One in, one out
Select one, remove another one
You now have to evaluate each item one by one. Pick one item from one group and put it on the side, this will go in your backpack. For every item that you chose to put in your backpack, you must get rid of another one of the other group. Continue this process until you don’t have any more items left.
I am serious, I know it is hard, but you must do it.
If done correctly, this task is super powerful, because it will help you evaluate even more each item in correlation with the other ones, and it will make you prioritize what you must bring with you.
You will understand the difference between, an item you absolutely need, and a nice-to-have kind of item.
The nice-to-have kind of item belongs to the pile that stays at home. Again, you don’t need it.
Once you have completed this exercise you should have a handful of items. It will feel scary and it will bring you doubts and worries, but it is just your brain’s inability to deal with this kind of situation. You probably haven’t experienced this feeling before, but you will be OK.
If you start to feel this way, switch your attention to the positive side. Focus on how much joy it will be to carry this small number of items. Think how easy it will be to take care of those few things and travel light. Think about how much freedom you have gained and celebrate your hard work.
7 – Evaluate your backpack
Do a quick review of your choices
You can compare your backpack with mine and make adjustments.
Are you satisfied with your choices?
8 – Roll it, don’t fold it
Well done, you now have a backpack ready for your adventure.
If you are not happy with the final result, spend more time and do the steps once again. Your backpack will follow you everywhere you go, so you need to make sure it is balanced, light and useful.
One word of advice. Once you have selected your final items, don’t rush back and pick something else you forgot or you think you need again, it is just a trick to get back into that…
“I need this or I will die” kind of mode.
Now it is time to pack these items in the most clever and logical way so you will be able to access each one of them and use them for every kind of situation.
I have collected a series of videos that teach you how to make the most of your backpack space. Check them out and you will learn a lot.
Another piece of advice is to think about accessibility.
Put the heavier items at the bottom of the backpack and the lighter ones on top, also use all the external compartments to store the items you need the most so you can rapidly access them without messing up with all your things.
Packing – video tutorials
Check out the videos below that will teach you how to make the most of your space:
Exercise 08: Pack your backpack
Follow the steps outlined in this chapter to select your items for your backpack
Buy the items you need to take with you
Pack your backpack using the video tutorials
Objective: The purpose of this exercise is to create the most functional backpack for your adventure. Keep it light and functional.
The next chapter is about advice on traveling.