How to travel light for two weeks in a carry-on [Packing tips and Cabin Zero backpack review]
I hate wandering through beautiful European streets, Asia’s packed markets or the concrete jungles of America while dragging around overloaded suitcases.
So on a recent trip to Japan we attempted to go for two weeks in just a carry-on with what we now believe is the BEST travel backpack. And it WORKED.
How to pack for a trip (and how most people actually do)
When space is limited and comfort is at a premium, a strategy is a must. No emotion here, just cold hard prioritisation. This is what I found helpful.
Break down what you need into categories:
- Underwear and socks
- Daily outfits (preferably using jeans/pants/skirt as a base with rotating shirts, etc)
- Sleeping gear (where possible save space, sleep in the nude, though not recommended for hostel dorm stays)
- Swimming gear
- Coats and cold-weather gear (wear these on the plane where possible)
- Shoes (as few as you need for the activities you need to do)
Rule number 1 – Folding is out, rolling is in.
Rolling your clothes reduces the overall footprint of the stack of clothes and when every millimetre counts, this can really pay dividends. This works particularly well for t-shirts, shorts, dresses but not so much for thick denim jeans, continue to lay these ones flat.
Rule number 2 – Using all available space
You would probably be surprised by how much extra you can fit inside you’re the little nooks and crannies when packing a bag. A tip we always use is to stuff socks, belts, etc into shoes within your bag. Also look to use the space in between your rolls – there will generally be decent space both above and below where the rolls will meet for you to stuff smaller items.
Rule number 3 – Bundle like items together
Taking shirts for example, they are all generally the same size, mostly the same shape, etc. So it makes sense to lay them out together, roll them up and pack them as one rather than rolling a mixture of jeans, skirts, shirts, and jackets. This will also make it easier when you need to get straight to something as you will know exactly where in which roll to find them.
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Choosing the right backpack for travel
How do you choose the best backpack for travel? Here are a few thoughts on the issue:
- Durability – If you’re going half way around the world, then you’ll want to make sure that the bag you trust with your belongings is tough enough to take the hits on the road. Ideally, I look for large zippers, strong handles and straps (look at the stitching for this), and materials that won’t mark too easily.
- Style – Because we are the millennial generation, ok?
- Space – Must be able to fit enough stuff but still be able to get through most airline carry-on size checks (more on this below)
- Wearability – Personally, I prefer to carry my bags on my back as it leaves my hand free and I hate, HATE carrying suitcases up or down staircases. Padded, adjustable shoulder straps are a must and I like travel backpacks that allow for some air to get to the small of your back as well.
When we got our hands on two of Cabin Zero’s most stylish travel bags, we decided to put them to test. We compared the Urban 42L and the Classic 44L styles during two weeks, 5 hotels, 4 flights, numerous trains and a bus trip through Japan.
THESE BAGS ARE THE BEST TRAVEL BACKPACKS THAT WE HAVE FOUND!
I used the Urban and Kim-Ling took the Classic for our trip. First up, they are beautiful but in very different ways.
See our quick-look comparison between the Urban and Classic below!
The Urban 42L
For me, the Urban was the perfect mix of stylish, harwearing, waterproof (it was absolutely fine in the rain) and really easy to carry around with both a small side handle, slign shoulder strap AND traditional back straps. I was able to fit all of my clothers for 2 weeks in Japan in the Urban, AS WELL AS my laptop bag with laptop and GoPros x 2. I can’t rate it highly enough and you wouldn’t look out of place strolling down the coolest avenues of the world, including Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Broadway in New York or Shinjuku in Tokyo.
The Classic 44L
For Kim-ling, she LOVED the Classic. Not only because it was super lightweight, but because it came in a range of bright colours, including her favourite – purple. We wore it all around Tokyo, on and off trains, etc and it worked perfectly. Easy to wear, nicely distributing the weight across the shoulders and with a really useful front pocket to store some of the essentials. The beauty of the Classic is that it is has many useful pockets and the interior compartment setup is a little better suited to travel in our opinion.
The key question that we had when they first arrived was: Will the CabinZero fit in carry on? My first impression was no, it just looked like a pretty big backpack and I have to admit, I had my doubts.
But the answer is yes, yes it will! We’ve done some digging, and from our own experience and that of other bloggers and travellers, the Classic 44L will fit into carry on with even the most obnoxious of airlines (you know who I’m talking about). We personally used it on ANA, Qantas and Jetstar without any problems whatsoever.
What is it like to travel for two weeks in a carry on?
To be honest, I loved it. I had just what I needed and literally nothing more. It made getting around Tokyo subway stations that much easier and quicker, particularly when running for trains (this happened often) or getting lost for an hour (only once).
It’s also great to have the peace of mind that IF you happen to misplace your Cabin Zero bag, they all have their unique Okoban identifier code that makes it easier to track down (provided you create an account and register your bag).
For us and our style of travel, these bags just worked so well and allowed us to travel through Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa for two weeks living out of just a carry on bag. The Urban is now my go to travel bag for anything longer than a few days, while Kim-Ling has used the Classic for everything from weekend trips to longer holidays.
If you’re looking for a versatile, roomy and stylish travel bag, we highly recommend the CabinZero Urban or Classic. Enjoy!
What are your best travel packing tips? Could you travel for up to two weeks with just a carry on?
Please leave a comment below!
A huge thanks to the guys at Cabin Zero for providing us with the Urban and Classic bags for our review. All views remain our own, of course.
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