Ecuador Packing Run-Through: Some Tips on Ultra-Light Packing

As many of you know, I’ve been on the struggle bus. I’ve had the Year of Eight Terrible Things. ┬áNot to dwell, but here’s my year in a nutshell:

  1. Our dog Rooster Died.
  2. I was diagnosed with severe chondral defects in my knee (so painful) and was told I would never run again.
  3. Our Dog Penny Died.
  4. My Cousin Ali Died.
  5. John & I were flattened by flu.
  6. John was in the hospital for a cardiac event.
  7. Our puppy Nutmeg was diagnosed with a terminal birth defect.
  8. I was in the hospital for meningitis.

So I’d like to turn this ship around. Literally.

In less than two weeks we are departing for a trip of a lifetime. We will spend a week in the Andes of Ecuador, hiking Cotopaxi, Quilotoa, and exploring the market in Otovalo, the Mindo cloud forest, and the historical center of Quito.

Then we will take a flight to the Galapagos Islands, where in a span of eight days we will visit six islands for hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and the most amazing wildlife viewing in the entire world. I can’t wait to see the place where Charles Darwin formulated many of his ideas about evolution. If you haven’t read On the Origin of Species in a while, please pick it up again. It’s hauntingly prescient. But also very sweet and smart.

So life is seriously looking up!

Except! For the fact that I did my first packing run-through, and I couldn’t get my items to fit. I’ve been traveling “ultra-light” for our past four trips with just a personal item and a carry-on roller, and though I am following all of my rules, I still had a large packing cube’s worth I could not stuff into my bags.

Internet to the rescue! I traded in my 21 inch with 4 roller wheels for a 22 inch with in-line wheels. This was enough to allow me to fit all my gear, including the massive DSLR with long lens. I was going to try to shoot on my iPhone, but I did several tests with each and could not recreate the clarity of my 200 mm lens. I am determined to get a great shot of a blue-footed booby!

Here are my top five rules for ultra-light packing:

  1. Leave the Vanity at Home: I travel with no makeup or jewelry. No fancy shoes or dresses or clothes. I take a “Travel Uniform.”
  2. Pack Leave-Behinds: I take items that need to be replaced anyhow, then shed as I go. I’ll be taking a pair of runners that will stay, a hat I don’t want any more, and clothing that has seen better days. That way I can donate my items, and fill my suitcase with goodies and gifts on the way home.
  3. Packing Cubes Are Clutch: Not only do they help you keep it organized, they also help compress your clothing and gear so that it fit in your bags.
  4. Remove Redundancy: No need for two pairs of black pants or two bright blouses. And pictures only capture the tops, so repeat the bottoms.
  5. Pack for Half: We always do laundry so we can pack as if we were staying only a week. It’s easy to find facilities or even to wash out items in the sink.