Systems: Universal Packing List

In a lot of ways, I’ve grown up to be just like my mother. One way is our common love of systems. We both believe, somewhere deep in our hearts, that there is a perfect list for everything life throws at you. The schedules I draw for my kids, the chore and shopping lists I make, even my glorious but not-yet-complete bid to have a 365-day meal plan, are all rooted in the lists I saw my mother making as a kid.

So of course, when I stumbled across OneBag.com a few years back, I was hooked. Calling itself “a non-commercial Web site that teaches — in exhaustive (exhausting?) detail — the art and science of travelling light,” it has a wealth of information on the best kind of bag to get, what to put in it, and how to make sure it’s the only bag you bring on your trip. And while I certainly can’t claim I managed (or even wanted!) to make eight weeks’ worth of Georgia travel necessities fit in one bag, I do adore the universal packing list philosophy espoused on the site.

Basically, the idea is that you have a packing list that you pull out every time you go on a trip, and on that list is every single thing you might need to take. You don’t take everything that’s on the list, but you don’t take anything that isn’t on the list. And it works! Aside from the odd very trip-specific item (like, say, skis if you’re going on a ski trip), everything you’re going to need is on this list. I packed for a family of four’s eight-week work trip, and the only thing that we need that didn’t come with us is a DVD whose case I packed without checking whether it was still in the DVD player.

The site encourages you to personalise your own version of the list, and tweak it over time. So I did. And I’m including it here in the hopes that some of you might find it useful. I’ve made two versions, a PDF checklist which, if you’re a real keener, can be printed double-sided, laminated, and used with a dry-erase marker. (I won’t judge if you’re a keener; I’m the girl who read the whole OneBag.com website to make this for you!) The second version is a Word document, which you could download if you’d like to edit and personalise your own version of the universal packing list.

OneBag.com has an extensive justification, as well as suggested brands, for every item on their list, and it’s worth a read-through if you have a boatload of time on your hands (as I once did, before I had kids). If you’re a little more pressed for time, though, you can always just check in on items of interest. After all, you may never need the kind of travel that requires you to have a compass, or paracord, or hot glue, and the point here is to find a list that makes things simple for you.

Do you have any go-to travel gurus or tips? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. I’m always looking for new and better life hacks.

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