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Frequently I make a trip to a near by city that takes 6/7 hours by public transport. This includes the ferry so there is some rest time. The trip is usually for 3-6 days so it's not very long. Since the travel time is so long, and the stay is relatively short, I'm looking for tips to make my bags as lite and easily carryable as possible.

The trip involves one or two buses, then a ferry, then a bus, then a subway.

I have a small backpack, large backpack, duffel bag with wheels, and a laptop case. I normally bring one or two of these and I've been experimenting with what the best combination is. Any suggestions? I find the duffel bag wheels are too small and falls over when I take my hand off the handle.

Also, since I use most of these bags for other things, they aren't exactly the cleanest. Do people normally pack there clothes into other bags before putting them in the main one? For example I use grocery bags for my clothes and then put them into the main one.

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In my experience your best approach is to buy a set of packing cubes. These are just mesh bags that don't look like they do anything:

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They aren't airtight and you don't squish down on them as you pack or anything like that. But still, they let you take far more and stay organized and clean. Say you take the medium cube, and you put into it two folded shirts. It looks full, but you put a third shirt on top and it fits. Strange. So you put a fourth shirt and it also fits. And a fifth. You're not deliberately compressing but stuff just fits.

Then you take a smaller cube and you put your socks, underwear and such in it. The same thing happens, it seems you can always fit more. The advantages of the cubes are:

  • it's easy to unpack at the other end. Just put the "underwear cube" on a shelf or in a drawer, the "shirts cube" the same (if you don't hang up your shirts) and so on.
  • the clothes are protected from any dirt in the bag from other uses
  • it's easy to find things since you're not rooting around in the whole bag
  • and most importantly, you can fit far more in the same bag than you could without the cubes.

You may find you can fit 6 days worth into the small backpack. I fit 5 weeks worth into a bag that is small enough to be an airplane carryon.(It wasn't 35 outfits though, I did laundry on the trip.) In the same bag I also have done a 9 day trip with business and casual clothes, so 11 outfits plus swimsuit, sunhat and warm sweater. The cubes made the difference.

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I recently read and viewed some videos about ranger roll, which I found somewhat fascinating. In the really extreme example for a day or two trip you could do:

  • Lay down an extra t-shirt on a table, fold in the sleeves and a little bit of the side of the shirt in towards the middle
  • Add an extra pair of underwear in the middle
  • Put an extra pair of socks close to the neck of the t-shirt:
    • Take the left sock and put the toe close to the right side, so that the top extends out on the left side
    • Take the right sock and the toe close to the left side, so that the top extends out on the right side
  • If so inclined, add a tooth brush into the bundle
  • Roll it up, and you should have a roll approximate the width of a leg
  • Wrap both socks back onto the roll

The above procedure is not exactly a ranger roll, but it makes a neat little bundle you can throw into your back pack, and you'll have most of what you need for a day or two.

The proper ranger roll use the garment itself to wrap around the roll, and can be described as the following:

  • Lay down your t-shirt on the table
  • Make a lip/fold/crease on the bottom part, that is turn it inside out all around the bottom part for a 5-6 cm (a few inches)
  • Fold in the left side towards the center (optionally fold the sleeve back again over the center), and repeat for the right side
  • Starting rolling tightly from the neck/collar all the way down to the bottom
  • Wrap the lip around the roll, and this should hold the entire thing together neatly

Sorry, if my explanation is not clear enough, but the gist of the idea is to roll the garments into rolls which self-lock (either by using a sock as in the first example, or the garment it self doing a proper ranger roll). You now have a few rolls, which you easily can fit into whatever back pack you choose to use.

Regarding back pack, I would go as small as possible, and I had one with a laptop compartment in the back, and a few large rooms in front of that. That way I could have the laptop in the back, all clothes in the first large room, and then all the tidbits (music player, wallet, keys, a little food, and so on) in the front compartment.

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