Don't Leave Anything Behind

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What’s the hardest item to pack?

For most people, shoes are the hardest item to pack. They take up a lot of space, and shoes are too specialized to bring just one pair, even for short trips.

On my first backpacking trip to Europe, I carried around a pair of dress shoes. I had heard that you needed nice shoes for “going out” in Europe.

For two weeks I lugged around heavy, thick-soled dress shoes. I don’t think I ever wore them.

In retrospect, I was an idiot. Luckily, I was carrying around a giant hiking bag. I had plenty of room, but they were still a waste of space and weight. Never again.

I’ve learned a lot since then. In this post, I’ll share the shoe packing tactics I’ve learned from other travelers and through trial and error.

After reading this post, you’ll know which shoes to bring, where in your bag they go, and how to pack them.

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Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship

Today we are proud to announce the Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship.

Why a Scholarship?

Young people need to experience the world beyond their hometown and college campus. Now, together, we can help them do so.

When you buy a Tortuga Backpack, you will “pay it forward” by funding a scholarship for students to travel and study abroad.

Some companies donate a percentage of sales to charity, but we wanted to do something more tangible. TOMS Shoes’ and Warby Parker’s “Buy One, Give One” programs were a model for us. When you shop with us, your money isn’t just going to a charity, it’s going directly to a person who will be able to study abroad thanks to you.

Travel is transformative. A simple backpacking trip to Eastern Europe inspired Jeremy and me to start Tortuga Backpacks.

One of my biggest regrets is not studying abroad in college. My chance has passed, but we can help other college students experience the world.

How It Works

We will award two scholarships per year: one for the spring semester and one for the fall semester.

The first scholarship winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship and a Tortuga Backpack.

Applications for the Spring 2015 semester are now open.

Students interested in studying abroad can learn more about the scholarship here. Please share the page with any college students you know.

Do you work for a study abroad program or website? Can you help spread the word about the scholarship? If so, get in touch. We’re open to ideas about how to best share and expand the scholarship program.

Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to sharing the winning student’s story on the blog in the future.

Don't Leave Anything Behind

Perfect your packing with our free carry on packing list.

Join our mailing list below to get your packing checklist and weekly packing tips sent straight to your inbox.



Spam is the worst, so we won't send you any.

Everyone loves to share travel quotes on Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Even people who don’t travel.

As usual, packing is the essential, but unloved, part of travel.

We aren’t the only ones talking about packing though. Everyone from writers to poets to designers to the king of quotes himself, Oscar Wilde, has had something to say about what to bring or what not to bring.

The message as always: pack light.

He who would travel happily must travel light. -Antoine de Saint Exupery

He who would travel happily must travel light.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Tweet this quote

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I always carry a single packing cube. I pack it with underwear and socks and carry it at the bottom of my backpack. The cube consolidates these small items so that they take up less space and are all in one spot, not jammed into every nook and cranny of my bag.

The rest of my clothes are packed loosely outside of a cube.

Here at Tortuga, we get occasional questions about packing cubes. Mostly, “Should I use packing cubes?” and “Which ones?”

Many hardcore travelers packing everything they bring in packing cubes. But how common are they? What do people want in a packing cube? Most importantly, should we make packing cubes?

We weren’t convinced that the world needed more packing cubes. The existing cubes are commodities that compete on price. Being the cheapest product in a category (and the sub-standard quality that implies) isn’t our strength. That’s best left to big corporations operating at massive scale.

We could make a better packing cube… if anyone wanted one.

Rather than guess, we asked you. We polled Team Tortuga and received 371 responses. Not bad for an unglamorous product category.

Below we’ve broken down your responses. Your answers and the directive they gave us are very clear.

We combed through the data looking for the 20% of choices that accounted for 80% of the results. Since we can’t make a perfect product for everyone, we used the Pareto Principle to decide where to focus our efforts for the most leverage.

Rather than just copying what’s already out there, we wanted to know what really matters to you. Then we can double down on the most important features and ignore the rest.

Keep reading to find out what we learned.

Do you use packing cubes when you travel?

We started with the most important question. If only a small minority of travelers used packing cubes, we wouldn’t have any reason to make them.

That was not the case.

Do you use packing cubes when you travel?

69% of people use packing cubes when they travel.

We expect that number to be slightly biased by the nature of the survey. If you don’t know what packing cubes are or don’t use them, you probably didn’t open the email about the survey. However, the numbers were strong enough for us to continue digging.

Only people who answered yes to the first question were shown the rest of the survey.

Next, let’s learn more about how packing cube users travel.

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As long as everything fits in a carry on, you’re good. Right? Not necessarily.

Everyone knows about carry on size limits. But airlines have carry on weight limits too.

You can easily overstuff a carry-on-sized bag. The weight of a laptop, book, and an extra pair of shoes adds up quickly.

Airlines’ carry on weight rules vary even more than their size rules do. Air China allows carry on bags up to 11 lbs, while Frontier Airlines allows bags up to 35 lbs. Always check with your airline before flying.

The most common weight limits are 15 lbs (6.8 kg), 18 lbs (8 kg), or 22 lbs (10kg). Aim for 15 lbs. 

If you can pack light, do it.

Packing light is hard. Let’s discuss some of our favorite strategies for keeping the weight of your carry on within airline limits.

Get a Luggage Scale

Buy a scale so that you aren’t playing luggage roulette. Show up to the airport knowing exactly how much your luggage weighs. Don’t wait for the ticketing agent to tell you it’s overweight and must be checked.

With a luggage scale, you can weigh your bag as you’re packing so you know if you need to make any changes.

I use a $20 Balanzza digital luggage scale. This scale is more expensive but also more accurate than the cheap, analog scales.

Buying the scale is cheaper than checking a bag once. It will more than pay for itself every time you fly.

That is a great return on investment.

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