Let’s face it, packing is a skill. And today, I’m going to show you how to upgrade it.
Have you ever stared at your backpack and wondered, “Is this really the best way to pack my stuff?” I certainly have, but what you should be asking is: “Am I packing like Chuck Norris would pack? And if not, why not?”
Over the past few years, I’ve had to face the challenge of how to pack efficiently an innumerable number of times. And like any problem I’ve faced repeatedly, I’ve upgraded and refined my solution over the years. Today, I’m sharing my technique publicly for the first time, partially due to the encouragement of an Australian that I met earlier this year who asked me to demonstrate this method to him after he saw how I packed.
Simply put, in terms of spatial efficiency, the rolling technique I’m about to show you blows away all other packing techniques. And when done correctly, it even prevents wrinkles. I’ve even included step-by-step photos, so let’s begin:
The Super-Rolling Kung Fu Method
1. Start by laying your shirts directly on top of each other. The closer in size they are, the better the pile will prevent wrinkles. (Although, I wouldn’t let a pile exceed six shirts or so, and I usually just do four.)
2. Fold the whole thing in half, matching the left sleeves with the right sleeves. (I realize that this will create creases, but any portable packing method will produce at least some. The trick is that vertical creases are more aesthetically pleasing. Truth.)
3. Fold the top sleeves inward, exposing the bottom sleeves (for the right arm).
4. Fold the remaining sleeves over the top.
5. Begin rolling the whole bundle into a tight roll. (This creates a radius bend, which the fabric can recover from with just a bit of shaking out.)
6. Finish by completing the roll so that you have a perfect cylinder. (Wow, that looks rather zen-like, doesn’t it? I wasn’t expecting that.)
7. Bask in the glory of how little space your shirts now take up. (I would recommend you place this above the pants in your backpack since shirts are smaller.) In fact, let’s cover pants while we’re at it.
How to Pack Pants Super-Efficiently (brief version)
1. Fold the pants along the zipper, as shown below. Any cargo-type pockets should be flat in this configuration.
2. Begin the roll at the waist-end. (You can also roll multiple pants in one pile, but I wouldn’t recommend more than three.)
3. Complete the roll so that you have a cylinder shape, more or less. (Pants won’t line up as well as shirts, because most pant legs get narrower toward the bottom, but this is okay.)
Remember, if you have heavy items such as boots (or, god-forbid, paper guidebooks), be sure to put them at the very bottom of your bag. Because if the bag is top-heavy, it won’t sit well on baggage racks and you’ll be at risk for straining yourself when you carry your pack on your back.
If you find yourself with dirty clothes that you need to pack temporarily, just use a plastic bag and then try to press as much air out of the bag as possible. It won’t be quite as compacted, but that is the nature of travelling with a dirty shirt or two.
And if you happen to have any space left over after adding in bathroom supplies bag, deodorant, etc., then fill up the remaining gaps with something light (like socks). This will prevent your contents from shifting during movement.
Overall, this method reduces packing volume dramatically, as well as reducing wrinkles because of the radius bend I mentioned earlier. Any wrinkles are easily shaken out; and if you find yourself bothered by any minor creases left over, you could simply hang any of the shirts in the bathroom while showering and the steam from the shower will remove help the wrinkles.
I’ve used the Super-Rolling Kung Fu Method (pictured above) for around two years now, and people are continually amazed at how much I’m able to fit into my smaller pack (which about 24 liters). In fact, by dramatically shrinking the volume of my clothes, I’ve freed myself up to take the smaller pack with me on the majority of my trips now. And for some reason, using the smaller pack is even more freeing.
It’s a great feeling.