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Last Updated on 23/12/2020

Packing for your trip can be stressful

high angle view of shoes

Absolutely nothing was going to get tangled on my watch.

Now that I only have a few days before I depart for New Zealand I thought it was about time I started the packing. I was feeling pretty confident about it to tell you the truth. I had done my research. I had spent (and this is no exaggeration) literally weeks trawling through YouTube videos and blog posts researching packing techniques and reading countdowns of the best packing cubes on the market. I studied articles on the best type of rucksack until I was armed to the teeth with the knowledge to find my perfect match. If you could graduate in packing theory, then I certainly would have qualified.

So, I ordered a set of packing cubes safe in the knowledge that my packing was going to be a breeze and that the contents of my luggage were going to be orderly and neat. In my mind, all those previous jet-setting says of cramming everything into unidentifiable bags (it didn’t matter where it all went it had to just all fit IN) was over. No more would I have to endure the chaotic nightmare of my careless making as the contents swilled around in a tighter and tighter mess as the holiday progressed. The worst part of it all was that the dirty clothes would mingle with clean ones and you didn’t know where one pair of legging began and another ended. You end up wearing the same outfit every day by the end of your trip because you just can’t face the festering heap that becomes your suitcase.

Not this time, I thought. This time everything will be in its properly labelled and intended space. I was going to conquer this backpacking lark. I couldn’t wait to feel smug about it.

Finding the rucksack of my dreams

orange and gray hiking backpack on the floor

The right rucksack is a traveller’s best friend

It began just as any backpacker would hope. After trying on just about every different rucksack size and sending the poor shop assistant I’d cornered on a merry song and dance digging out various styles and shapes from the storage, unpacking them and strapping them up, I was starting to give up. The rucksacks were an impressive bunch, but I couldn’t seem to find one that fit just right. They would tower above my head and turn me into a walking high-rise (I could’ve rented them out and they would’ve still been roomier than some of the properties advertised in London).

But then, at last, I found it hanging from a hook looking nondescript and deflated. I tried it on with every finger crossed but not particularly hopeful.

It fit! In all the right places, not too snug and not too loose. It was perfect!

Packing or Tetris? (Otherwise known as *The Big Mistake*)


You would think packing cubes would solve this problem…But they don’t.

So, there I was merrily putting my clothes and toiletries in different sized packing cubes. I was just loving my new organised life. It felt great!

Until I tried to squeeze them into my rucksack.

Now, I was careful to choose a rucksack that wasn’t too large that I was tempted to shove just one more thing, and maybe just another thing, and oh no I never wear this but I might want to…and a dozen books, until the intense weight causes me to become less backpacker and more bench-sitter. I also didn’t want to choose a matchbox of a rucksack because let’s be honest there wasn’t even the smallest chance that I was just going to morph into one of those people who can just pack four interchangeable outfits and a pair of socks and be done with it, not for a New Zealand winter that’s for sure. So, I honestly thought 40 litres for a rucksack was more than enough.

I zipped up my final packing cube, surveyed my rucksack and formed a battle plan. I picked up the biggest cube and attempted to push it down the opening, but it just wouldn’t budge. Feeling betrayed I found myself engaging in a frantic reverse tug of war against the rucksack. At last, after a fair amount of shoves, the cube slid sluggishly to the bottom. Done.

Except it took up half the space in the bag and I still had three more cubes to fit in. Groaning, I yanked it out and thus ensued the rigmarole of squeezing the contents into smaller packing cubes, pushing the contents of two packing cubes into one, shoving them all back in the bag but still to no avail. A moisturiser exploded in the chaos, a very fitting image of my packing success…

There was just no way around it, the bag was just too small, or I had somehow packed too much stuff. I had failed at backpacking before I had even begun. It was a crushing blow to my confidence.

affection board broken broken hearted

I had failed the packing exam.

UPDATE: I have now solved the problem (just) with a set of vacuum bags. It was a mad afternoon playing a sort of bizarre oversized travel Tetris but at long last, I managed to shut the bag without it looking like it was warming up for an explosion. It goes to show that no matter how much research you put in there’s always going to be a challenge throwing a spanner in the works. When it comes to packing keep persisting, there IS space. You’ve just got to try a different way.