In line with my hiking-boot fetish confession of last time, I have yet another dark secret: I am a chronic overpacker.
A straw poll of Australian Traveller staff tells me I am not alone. More than half of us (therefore, presumably, roughly half of you) admit to being incurable overpackers.
The clean-clothes formula (the difference between clothes taken and clothes used) is a fine litmus test to see if you are one of ‘us’. But you will probably already know, someone would have pointed it out long ago.
There are some benefits to overpacking. When was the last time you suffered from the dreaded ‘oh-my-God I’ve left something at home’ 90 seconds before a flight? Not often, I bet; not because you are anal-retentive about packing, but because you would have packed pretty much every item in your dresser and wardrobe.
Can it be a problem? Yes, especially if you have to lock horns with airline staff every time you fly, trying to convince them that being a few kilograms over the limit does not constitute excess baggage. If you wear multiple layers of clothes to the airport because they won’t actually fit into your suitcase then, yes, you may have a real issue.
Next week I am going away for a six-day break (somewhere warm) so I thought I would dabble in a little self-help experiment: to see if there is an app that can cure my overpack. There is a multitude of pack-your-bag style mobile apps; I picked ‘Pack The Bag’ (PTB) – four-and-a-half (out of five) stars and free (with ads or 99 cents without).
PTB does not claim be an overpacking remedy, only a simple solution to compiling a packing list. My reasoning: If I think more logically about packing, I should be more logical in my actions.
PTB requires you to pre-select baggage categories (on-off options) which include business travel, beach/sun, travelling with children and a custom-list facility. In theory, you will then have a list that can be checked off as you stuff items into your bag, with a pre-set reminder as a final resort.
For those who already make packing lists on paper, this may not seem revolutionary, but I found it a very astute lesson in the advantages of being anal-retentive.
For my week’s holiday, PTB and I decided I would need 48 items from its pre-determined lists (some physical items, others suggested actions).
Some of the item options seem downright ridiculous and others vague; who takes badminton gear and a parasol with them on holidays? And just what the hell are jelly shoes? But for a free app, designed for a mass audience, I can forgive strange categories if the overall goal is reached.
Navigation is easy, even if there are no instructions on where to go or what you will achieve initially.
PTB’s strength is it makes you think about your packing, with little helpful hints that force you to consider things such as making copies of your passport. But PTB relies on the user’s whims, a mere reflection of your packing mentality. It certainly doesn’t make packing decisions for you.
For example, it lists types of clothes needed, but not the number that I would need for a certain number of days, meaning inputting the length of my holiday was effectively a pointless exercise. So while I’ll certainly remember to switch off the coffee machine (if I had one) and remember my vaccinations (as long as I think of them beforehand), I will probably still pack 14 pairs of underpants for 6 days, because that’s what I have always done. In short, PTB needs an overpacker alert.
As a list-making app, it certainly is fit for purpose. I would recommend it for frequent business travellers in particular, where you could custom make categories and set reminders to bring specific items on specific trips.
Has it cured my tendency my overpack? No, but I have a feeling that my bag is a little lighter than last time.