Backpacking Light & Functional

4 minute read

As always I enjoy playing around with my travel set up, trying to perfect it I decided to write a new post on my current gear. On my last trip away, 3 months across parts of Asia I changed my kit list so that my main bag was below 7kg (in order to meet typical flight carry-on allowance). My other bag was just a small camera shoulder bag that contained my dSLR. There were a few things I didn't like though, so I decided to change them. Firstly, instead of trying to beat the 7kg limit, I decided to step around it. Having noticed so many people (especially women) with hand bags, and given how useful I found my SLR bag as a handbag (of sorts), I decided to invest in a shoulder bag/satchel (to compliment my main carry-on bag) small enough that it won't bother an airline, but big enough so that it can carry plenty of bits (namely some of the heavy stuff, ie electronics). This can reduce the weight of my main bag by (2-3kg).

What's gone?

What's new?

Why the changes?

Arcteryx Cierzo 35

  • + Lightweight
  • - Toploader
  • - No pockets (difficult to organise)

Miltec Molle 50L

  • - Heavy (800g extra over the Arcteryx)
  • + Clam-shell opening design
  • + Plenty of pockets and compartments
  • + Compression straps that work properly
  • + Molle webbing
  • + £28, great value

Alpkit Gourdon 20

While it's a great bag, it's too big for a day bag for me. Instead an Alpkit 8L dry bag (with carry strap) is lighter (by 400g), smaller and still offers the same waterproof protection.

dSLR carry bag

I used this largely as a small satchel, so decided to switch to an actual satchel as there are more pockets. It carries my tablet, phone, headphones, compact camera, water bottle, sunblock, sunglasses, and jacket/top. A perfect day bag!


It offers superior quality in photos over a compact. But given the weight, size, value and awkwardness I think I prefer taking a compact. It's easier to "sneak" photo shots and far better for social occasions. It saves me around 1.5-2.0kg of daily weight. I now use a Samsung P310.

How my kit list looks now...

The Miltec bag is the big change in my set up. It can fully unzip which makes accessing all my gear far easier than a toploader (where I usually have to take most things out). It holds its shape, and the compression straps work very well. There are plenty of pockets and meshes for organising all my stuff rather than having it in one large bag space. The below is how I pack my kit when taking a flight:


  • Jacket (100g) - I have a featherlite 100g jacket, which with an umbrella works pretty well. If I need a heavier jacket, I have a 250g goretex jacket.
  • Merino Top (250g) - Howies as always. Expensive initially but they pay off over time as they last for years and years without degrading.
  • Polo Shirt (200g) - poly-cotton 40/60 mix. I don't like 100% polyester as it gets a stench after a while that even washes can't remove.
  • Trousers (320g) - travelling, zip-off trousers with two zip pockets.
  • Casual Shoes (350g) - either a pair of Sketcher's Go Walk shoes or some lightweight leather travel shoes.

Miltec Molle Bag (1400g)

  • Dry Bag (120g, Alpkit 8L Xtra Lock) - it folds up small, and can be used for keeping my gear dry in rainy weather, or on the beach, or while on a boat etc...
  • Flip Flops (320g, Havaianas) -
  • 3x short sleeve tops (500g) – 1 polo shirt, 1 t-shirt, 1 shirt
  • 2x shorts (550g) – boardies and swimming trunks that pass as shorts
  • 5x underwear (250g) – all merino
  • 5x socks – 1x long, 4x ankle
  • Towel + face towel
  • Wash bag - shower puff, sun block (SPF 30), moisturiser, insect repellent, zambuck balm
  • Washing powder - a 75ml juice bottle filled up with washing powder. So I can hand wash clothes, or not have to pay for powder when in hostels.

Troop Travel Shoulder Bag (500g)

Obviously I don't carry all of the below at all times when out-and-about, but for flights it's a good way of spreading the weight out of the main bag.

  • Umbrella (350g)
  • Tablet (380g, Google Nexus 7) - as mentioned before, a decent substitute to a laptop and in some cases better/more suitable.
  • Phone (140g, Nexus 4) - on one trip I didn't take an Android phone (opted for a more basic Nokia) and really regretted it. Not always used for calls, but usually for videos, music, maps, web (wifi/3G) etc... all accessible from my pocket.
  • Camera (300g, Nikon P310) - including a neoprene case. Excellent value, good size and an f1.8 lens. It's no SLR but it's a fairly good alternative.
  • Sunblock (200g) - usually 150ml worth of sunblock (a 100ml bottle and 50ml face bottle).

The above changes give me a very versatile set up. The Molle bag can be taken on as a carry-on bag and I can easily access all my clothes etc inside it. The satchel gives me an additional bag to carry personal and smaller heavy items (when flying). It also works perfectly as a day bag. The Alpkit dry bag is light for what it is, and works well as a beach/pool bag, or as an additional bag to compliment my satchel should I need to carry a few extra items.