Ultralight Business Travel: Packing
OK, besides getting the right travel bag (analogous to getting the right backpack), what else can you do? Like ultralight camping, ultralight business travel consists of looking everywhere for an ounce here and an ounce there. Here’s an example of before and after when I think about packing for a say a 3 day trip. The main idea is to re-use as much as possible:
| Normal Packing | Ultralight Packing | Savings |
| 24″ Travelpro | 18″ Rolling Backpack | Beside being huge, the Travelpro weighs about 12lbs vs. a 7 lb bag |
| 14″ Laptop | 12″ Thin and Light plus Blackberry | For most trips, I either take a 3 lb notebook or just a Blackberry and a USB Flash Drive, going from 7 lb to 3lb or 6oz somtimes |
| Cell phone charger, PDA charger | USB Cable | With many new devices, they hook to a USB on your laptop so you only need one charger |
| Sneakers, Shorts, Sweats, T-shirt | Shorts | Just go down in your dress shoes and use a plain under shirt plus ultralight nylon pants. Goes from 3 lbs to 6 oz |
| Hardcover book, reports, magazines | paperback, magazines | Take a note from Steve Ballmer, bring all your junk reading in a Safeway plastic bag and throw it away as you go. Any confidential reports, read and ripup rather than carrying back. Read as much on your laptop or PDA as you can. Savings 5 lbs to 2 lbs |
| Toiletry bag, shaving kit | Nylon bag | If you really go through your stuff, do you need 10 lotions and the big heavy leather toiletry kit and yes you can cut your toothbrush in half if you want. 3 lbs to 1lb |
So, you can see that you can halve the weight of the sundries and that makes a big difference. What about clothing, well that’s more individual specific, I’ll just cover my case as a nerdy guy going on a 3-5 day business trip:
* Ties, Suits and Jackets. If you are going to different locations and visiting different people, no one will know you only have one suit. Most of the time, you are going to be going from hotel to hotel, so you don’t really need a medium jacket, a heavy jacket, a sweater, etc. So, one suit for the road or if business casual, one jacket. I normally take a backup set of pants in case of spills. Pick the lightest material you can get away with. Summer weight stuff is half the weight of the big heavy wool so can work 3-seasons. You actually shouldn’t normally wear this kind of clothes day after day, but if you don’t many trips a couple of times a year won’t hurt.
* Shoes and Belts. Take just one of each. Many folks I know have two belts and a casual shoe plus a workout sneaker plus dress shoes. Your dress shoes are fine for casual (just don’t wear socks, if you want to be as cool as Steve Jobs). As for workout sneakers, unless you are an ultramarathoner, 99% of workouts are in the hotel gym where you can easily pedal a bike barefooted or lift weights win your dress shoes. Yes, you look like a dork, but think about the 3 lbs you save.
* Socks, underwear and undershirts. Nope, I’m not going to say reuse, but don’t bring more than you need. One new set a day is all I bring for backups, I personally do the wash and hang to dry in the hotel room if I’m staying there overnight, but then again, I handwash all my biking stuff too, so call me hard core. The idea is that you don’t need to bring reserve sets since your hand washed stuff can serve as your reserve in case of spills as well
* Dress shirts. See above on socks and underwear. As I said, I normally don’t take casual plus dress, but use dress for the evening of casualwear slinking around hotel lobbies and such.
* Outerwear. Mentioned before, but I usually don’t take any outerwear on all trips except those in the dead of winter to Chicago. Most trips features moving from air conditioned hotel to air conditioned meeting room, so its not worth the weight. Same holds for rain. Think about it. You’re on a business trip and that’s what cabs are for.
So here’s the packing list for a 5-day trip I just did (out to Boston on Sunday, then Connecticut on Wednesday, NYC thru Friday). This was a business casual trip, but got it all in 20 lbs where 5 lbs was a way too heavy laptop:
* Ties, Suits and Jackets. Single jacket. Brought a single tie in reserve. Two pairs of casual pants both medium-weight cotton.
* Shoes and Belts. One pair of slip-on loafers (look good casual or in a suit) and a single black belt (works with any color scheme)
* Socks, underwear, etc. 5 pairs of socks, underwear and white t-shirts.
* Workout clothes. 3 oz nylon shorts which I used in the gym with white t-shirt and just the loafer to get me there.
* Dress shirts. No casual shirts, but did have 5 dress shirts. Whites for NYC, blues for Boston and Connecticutt since I find NYC to be a little more formal.
* Outerwear. None, it did rain in June and was sometimes cold and then very hot.