Amtrak, carry on, Chicago, lightweight travel tote pack, minimalist, minimalist travel, one bag, patagonia, personal item only travel, travel, ultra light, ultralight travel
I recently traveled to downstate Illinois for 10 days. This was a perfect opportunity to try out a new piece of luggage – the Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote Pack. The trip included airline flights, a transfer to light rail, walking to the train station, and finally a trip via regular rail to my destination. What better way to show off how minimalist travel makes it easy.
Ultralight Travel with the Patagonia 22 L lightweight travel tote pack (16 L actual)
This trip was fairly simple as far as packing goes. It was summertime, so I didn’t need any extra thermal clothing. The area was rural and most of the activities were casual. That meant I only needed a skirt and nice top for formal events. With that in mind, I decided to push the limits anyway. I decided that I would simulate a summer European trip. I took three pairs of shoes. I brought an extra power pack. I brought the bathing suit (rash guard). Could I still travel with a smaller bag? Yes!
The contents of my pack
I need to point out that while the Patagonia lightweight travel tote pack is advertised as 22 liters, the actual size of the main compartment is 16 liters. The bag dimensions are 16.5 in h x 10 in w x 6 in d. That comes in at 990 cu in, no matter how you do the math. I’m not sure where Patagonia gets the 1343 cu in that they claim. Maybe the rest of the bag is in an alternate universe. I’m calling Patagonia out on this one. It’s false advertising. I also noticed that they are now hiding the bag size in their descriptions. For shame! I expect more from such a great company. With that said, I bought the bag based on its dimensions, not the claimed volume. I have been looking for a smaller under seat bag and this one was near perfect.
I took 2 pairs of pants, a skirt, 5 tops, 2 camisoles, and a light weight sweater. This included what I wore on the plane.
I decided to use a 2nd shirt as my “sweater” for the airplane ride.
Now for the stuff you really care about – What I packed and how I did it! Here is a picture of everything that went into my pack.
And now for more painstaking boring detail…
- 4 pairs of underpants
- silk long john top
- 2 camisoles
- rash guard
- swim tights
- 1 pair socks
- pack towel
- 3 shirts
- power pack
- micro-USB synch cord
- Apple fire USB synch cord
- Fitbit synch cord
- dual port charger
- Conair mini-you 2-in-1 styler
- shrieker alarm
- hydrocortizone cream (allergic reactions)
- night cream
- day cream
- liquid CC cream in a contacts case
- contact lens case with contacts
- eye drops
- contact lens solution
Rolling my clothing resulted in wrinkles and bulk. I decided to bundle wrap my clothing instead. I folded up my purse and put it in the bottom of the bag. This was followed by the packing cubes and shoes. There was just enough room to put the electronics along the side of the cubes. I jammed makeup, jewelry, and the sling bag into the corners. I added my toiletry kit on top of that. I put my comfort kit and scarf near the top of the bag where I could get to them if needed. I stuffed my raincoat into the back part of the bag where the backpack straps were stored. I put my liquids into the front pocket, and my wallet, glasses, and phone into the internal pocket near the top of the bag. The water bottle went in the side pocket.
This is what I looked like on travel day. The bag material is translucent so you can see the liquids peeking through the front of the bag.
Due to the train schedules, I had extra time in Chicago while I was heading home. My pack was so light I decided to visit some tourist sites before heading to the airport.
What I would change
It was several degrees cooler than I expected. I found out I don’t like using a shirt as a jacket. I’m a sweater gal. I bought a 2nd, heavier sweater because my ultra-light sweater wasn’t enough. I had extra room in my pack so there was no problem taking it home.
I didn’t like taking things in the two smaller half-cubes. Clothes ended up wrinkled and squished. I think next time I’d take a single full size packing cube and pack the bag differently.
So there you have it! A summer trip with a small bag.
Impressed with your packing! You managed to pack quite a bit in this bag. What fabrics are your garments?
Cindy Heazlit said:
The coral shirt was linen. The green shirt light cotton. The flowered shirt viscose. The sweater was linen. The Capri was “discovery fabric” from Royal Robbins. The skirt was a poly/rayon blend. The skirt was the heaviest item by far. The Capri and pants were the only travel clothing I took. Everything else was normal.
Sarah Graham said:
Awesome post! Interesting that you came to the conclusion that you don’t like using a shirt as a jacket. I agree. I tend to find that ultralight merino cardigans are great for this reason. They are great for warming you up but not overwarming you (because they can be left open, and they are comfy enough to sleep in if you’re desperate. I can also roll up my merino cardigan super small.
Cindy Heazlit said:
I like merino. I brought a linen sweater but that was light for me. My cousin likes to keep the air conditioning on in the house and I get cold easily. I really wanted a cozy sweater for nighttime. Lesson learned.
Cindy – this is awesome. I really like the ‘painstaking boring detail’ of your packing list and so appreciate that you include them in your descriptions. Sometimes the extra bits is what makes the difference between using a particular bag. I really like the color scheme you chose, too. Thanks for answering the question about the fabric of your garments, this is helpful. And having the photos of how the bag is stowed in the various modes of transportation-priceless! This way of traveling is doable, thank you for the encouragement. Cheers!
The Other Kristen said:
Cindy, would you mind giving us a sense of your clothing size? I ask because I have just returned from six weeks abroad with a very modest wardrobe (NOT light travel because I brought back a ton — well, 35 lbs. — of materials for work) and yet thinking about the space that I would need for the same number/type/weight clothing that you packed, I cannot see how I would get the same items, sized for me, into the Patagonia bag. I am 5’11” and a fit US 12-14.
Thanks for your blog. I have shared it with a lot of overpackers!
Cindy Heazlit said:
I wear a size 6 or 8. A few years ago I was wearing size 14-16 (too much overtime). The size of the clothing matters less than the material of the clothing. Some knits are heavy and bulky. Jeans take up space. It’s really important to choose light weight compact clothing and wear the heavy items on the plane.
For my trip to Illinois I used Royal Robbins travel pants. These are thin and light. My polka dot shirt was a thin crepe. My sweater and tee shirts were fine linen. The weave is fine and the clothes light weight and compact. The skirt was a very light weight knit. I used Uniqlo camisoles, ExOfficio underpants, and Title Nine work to workout bras. My raincoat was an unlined Marmot trench. In short, these were thin materials that bundled up tightly.
I had room left over in the bag, so I suspect that you could have been OK if you had brought the same **types** of clothing. Material and weave are really critical for light weight compact travel.
It’s a process to get down that light. I still have a way to go…
solo woman traveller said:
Your post above is an eye opener! I don’t live in your country but am busy comparing features of your Patagonia bag with those available to make a similar selection. I have several bags accumulated over the years. Actually, a huge collection! Some are designer or awfully expensive. However, most don’t seem to fit my travel needs anymore. Few are too large & some don’t fit within airline baggage requirement. I need to seriously streamline my collection. Could you please help with a post on the bags you have, their features that you find make them indispensable and no of days & kind of trip that you use one for? Thanks
solo woman traveller said:
Sorry, I meant no of days and kind of trip that you use each bag for! Thanks
WOW! This is indeed an eye opener. I just got back from 3 days in the Netherlands, where I took a 22L backpack (Osprey Flare) AND a wheeled suitcase! Even worse, KLM made my check my suitcase even though it met hand luggage requirements :( I took fewer clothes than you but travelled with my laptop and a few revision guides – do you have any tips with regards to downsizing? I’d love to be able to take everything in just one bag next time or maybe I should get a laptop case with carry handles? BTW, I love your blog- it’s definitely changed the way in which I approach travelling abroad.
I just got the same Patagonia tote Lady Light reviews here. My laptop (a 13 in Mac Air) – without its neoprene sleeve – easily slides into the space where the backpack straps fit if you want to tuck them away. When I put my laptop into it’s sleeve, I can’t easily slide it into the back, though I might be able to force it. So, I’m thinking about getting a super thin hard shell cover instead for this reason.
Cindy Heazlit said:
I don’t use a case for my Acer. I just use the tote as the case.
It keeps things lighter and the Tote is small enough to be my briefcase of sorts if I go to a cafe. >