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Many people are intimidated by packing. Getting your bags together and learning how to pack for travel can be unmanageable. As athletes, it can be even worse. How do you fit all the stuff you need for the trip AND all your training gear? On some of my first trips, I had no idea how to even begin to learn how to pack for travel. When I headed off to study abroad in Ecuador, I brought an obnoxious amount of stuff. I somehow managed to bring a checked bag that was well over 50 lbs. and carry-on luggage nearly as heavy. Needless to say, I didn’t use half of it. I threw out or gave away a lot of it so I could fit all the trinkets I wanted to bring back home.

I want you to avoid the mistakes I made and learn how to pack for travel right. Packing can be intimidating especially when you don’t travel often. Often newer travelers will bring more because they’re nervous about what could happen. I will show you how to pack properly and still bring everything you need for what will happen. For athletes, I will unveil my methods for bringing the gear you need!

Are You Going to Wear it or Use it More Than Once?

Before you pack something you need to ask yourself how many times I am going to really wear this? The best things to pack for travel are the ones that are you going to use multiple times. I would never bring a formal pair of shoes just in case I go to a nice dinner. In fact, shoes are a huge space suck in a bag. The more utility you can get out of a pair of shoes the better.


My multi use clothing in Vietnam

Ask yourself this question every time you plan on packing something. You want your clothes and the items you bring to have many purposes. For instance, I bring pants that are great for hiking, but still look good for a night out on the town. Be very judicious about what you decide to bring. If you can’t envision yourself using it more than once, forget it.

How to Pack Clothing for Travel

This is where most people fail in travel packing. They pack for travel like they need every piece of clothing for any kind of weather. The same rule applies as above! The best clothes to bring are the ones that you are going to get many uses out of. You should also remember that you can do laundry during your travels. I would not pack more than a week’s worth of clothing. You can always wash it or use the hostel sink like me.


Prepped for the Machu Picchu conditions!

There are some clothes that are much better for traveling. Merino wool is expensive but very worth it. You can wear it for many days and it never gets smelly. It also works very well in cold and hot weather. Smartwool has a great line of Merino wool shirts, but they can be quite expensive. I have found Wooly Clothing Co. to be the cheapest, yet still good quality. You can also check your local TJ Maxx. If you don’t want to shell out for Merino wool, synthetic shirts do a good job. They dry quickly but tend to get smelly. Make sure you wash them or throw them in some water.

How to Pack for Travel for Your Lower Half

Ex Officio has some great underwear. I travel with 3 pairs and I find that’s all I need. Keep them on while you shower and throw on your other pair afterwards. They are light weight and feel awesome. For pants, I highly recommend Bluff Works. I have 2 pairs of their pants and I have not found anything better. They fit the travel clothing requirements perfectly since they can be used for extended walking and they look formal. I can’t say enough about these pants. They’re stain resistant and they dry quickly. They also have secret pockets for your phone and money. Jeans are heavy and none of these things! You definitely need to pick up a pair!

For socks, I recommend Darn Tough or Smartwool. I have worn these socks in the hot and cold around the world. I find I can wear them many days in a row without the hint of a smell. Throwing them in the sink can be enough to clean them. They dry quickly making them optimal for any environment.


Motorbike and hiking clothes in Thailand

Shoes are key on the road. You want to have the right foot wear to handle any terrain, but you don’t want to over pack. Minimalist shoes are great for these purposes. You can cover terrain comfortably, while still being able to pack them easily. I love the Vivobarefoot line. I wear a pair of loafers that are so comfortable and compact to nothing. I also pack some minimalist sneakers. These are great for hiking, running, lifting, or even just walking. The New Balance Minimus has been my favorite. If you aren’t used to minimalist shoes, it may be difficult to get used to. Sandals are also key, especially in hot weather environments. Reef sandals have always been my go to.

Key Packing Techniques

Packing up your stuff correctly can make a huge difference to how much you can fit in your bag. I roll my clothes and use packing cubes to organize them. Packing cubes make it so much easier to put certain clothing types in one cube and other types in another. Packing cubes also compact your clothing which gives you more space. They also allow you to take something out without completely unpacking. This is huge. Try them out on your next trip.


My Farpoint 55 and I

My go to bag choice is a carry on sized backpack. I love the Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack. Travel backpacks are great because they let you pack everything in a backpack that still acts like a suitcase. Everything lays flat, so you don’t have to unpack everything to get at something. The Tortuga Backpack is also great if you want another option. Having a carry on sized bag makes travel so much easier. Avoid the wasted time when checking a bag and never lose your bag again in transport.

Pack your items in a smaller bag first. This will help you bring only what you need. You’ll also have room in your bag for trinkets to bring home!

Packing Tips for Athletes

I have found it difficult to pack when I need to train while traveling. There is a host of extra stuff to bring. It can add even more complexity to an already complex task. How do you fit all the stuff you need to train on top of what you already have? The golden rule for traveling applies again! Make your training gear multi use. I wear the same shirts for training and exploring the city. My sneakers allow me to walk around and run around a new city. Pack light shorts that you can run in as well. Zip off pants are great for this purpose.


Rocking the zip off pants in Australia

Don’t expect to bring everything you need. You can pick up a lot of what you need in country. This is especially true for supplements like protein. Reach out to local training groups to borrow some of their gear. They may even lend you a bike!

Don’t be Afraid of Packing!

When done right you can bring everything you want on a trip without bringing a 50 lb. bag. Take the stress out of packing and plan beforehand. Sometimes I will even lay out my gear a week before I leave. This helps me stay stress-free before I leave. Don’t leave packing to the last second. This is when you forget things! Stay judicious in your packing! Only bring something if you really need it. Continually ask yourself the multi use question. Is this something I will use more than once? To dominate your packing game and pack for travel right follow these steps:

  1. Don’t bring anything you’re going to use once
  2. Pack clothes that have multiple uses
  3. Follow my key packing tips
  4. Pack everything in a carry on using a smaller bag than your actual bag first
  5. Pack dual use athletic gear
  6. Plan ahead of time what you’ll need

Don’t let packing intimidate you. It can be a process, but one that can be much easier to manage when you do it right. Don’t end up like me throwing out half of your stuff when you get to your destination. Pack for travel right and enjoy your trip!


What packing tips do you have? Do you have any packing nightmare stories? How do you bring all the training gear you need on the road? Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Laura L McCall

    I tried this method before and it’s only fine for socks, underwear and syntethic t-shirts. For the rest, the saved space should to be used to get an iron with you as the cotton clothes have terrible wrinkles.

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