Not packing your backpack or luggage to capacity is something we’ve talked about before, but the 80% rule isn’t only prudent for long-term travelers or large backpacks. Even on short trips there are many benefits to only packing your bags to 80% of their capacity – not least of which is saving you considerable time each time you open or shut your luggage.

number 80

Don’t Use Closet Mentality

Often when packing, we try to turn our bags into mini versions of our own closets. While variety in your fashion is sensible, don’t try to pack for every-single-possible-surprise-gala-that-won’t-happen. Your luggage should carry the clothes you’ll wear – don’t turn it into your closet – which probably has a few shirts or pants you haven’t worn in ages. Instinctively when putting your luggage together you likely have a sense of what’s needed. If you’re continually staring at your leopard-print pants undecided…well, best to leave them at home.

One trick is to count in sequences of 4 days. I tend to run just about everyday so that’s the interval I need before doing a full backpack’s worth of laundry. I select what goes in my bag with four days in mind.

closet doors

Remember, traveling for a longer period of time doesn’t mean a heavier bag! Packing for 2 weeks is no different than packing for 2 months.

hot air balloon from belowBeat The Airlines In A Battle They’re Hoping You’ll Lose

The airlines are well acquainted with heavy suitcases and bags – gleefully charging people for exceeding modest limits. They know for the most part that travelers are a like gases – they’ll expand to fill up the empty spaces of any luggage. Except you, of course, since you’re using the 80% rule. Visually chop off the top 20% of your bag which will not only make any bags you check lighter – but also make most carry on luggage look smaller. That can help you avoid the scrutiny of an airline clerk who wants to weigh your bags.

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Your clothes may betray you here but it’s your laptop that could get you caught paying a baggage fee; so best to give all of your bags a slim look. If you still get caught in a bind, you can use the Internet and 3,000 year old Chinese philosophy against the airlines, fees and all.

Build Laziness Into Everyday

Laziness is an intangible that isn’t easily quantified but a valuable benefit of the 80% rule. One of the best reasons to stick to 80% capacity is that after the first time you pack, it’s generally all downhill from there. You’ll be less efficient packing in tight hostel rooms, under the influence of jet lag, or on days you have to use the precision of a surgeon to fit your leopard pants into your bags.

  • stuffed bagThe 20% wiggle room you give yourself allows for less-than-perfect packing, or the well-known “I woke up late for my flight and have to stuff my bags” approach.

The additional room you give yourself also forgives your faulty memory (for example if you forget a pair of shorts) or when you simply might want to pick up a few souvenirs from, say, Iceland.

Reduce Stress – Including Yours

Packing your bags to or beyond capacity can stress your backpack, suitcase, or any other type of luggage wearing down seams and corners before their time. You also aren’t doing your back, legs, or arms any favors and as you age those aren’t as easy to replace. Walking out the door with your bags filled 100% gives you no room for error and sets you up to spend time packing and unpacking things you don’t even need to be carrying.

[photos by: Miikka Skaffari (number 80), dolmasaxlil (closet doors), HeartLover1717 (hot air balloon from below), brotherlywalks (stuffed bags)]