Five secrets for packing light from a style pro

The best thing about packing light? You’ll have room to stash all the one-of-a-kind shopping finds you pick up on your trip.

A woman in a pink scarf with a small suitcase exits an airport.
  • Pilar Mitchell
  • November 2019

Minimalist travellers get everywhere faster. They don’t wait at the luggage carousel and their carry-on fits in the boot of any taxi. If you’ve ever jay-walked with locals in Saigon dragging a wheelie-suitcase, you’ll know compact is better.

We talked to fashion expert Donna Cameron from Fashion by Foot about how to pack light and stay chic when you’re travelling.

Plan a capsule wardrobe

The key to a good capsule wardrobe is to make sure each piece works in multiple outfits. A pair of wide-legged, high-waisted jeans? Yes. A printed dress that goes with nothing else in your suitcase? No.

It’s also key to bring twice as many tops as bottoms. “Tops require more washing and are more visible, so you’ll get tired of them more quickly,” she says.

“Packing according to a colour palette also helps. For example, choose three neutrals and two accent colours that coordinate well so that everything is interchangeable.”

An open suitcase filled with neutral-toned clothes
Choosing clothes that you can mix and match is key to packing light.

Choose versatile gym clothes

So your idea of a relaxing holiday includes working out. That doesn’t mean you need a ton of extra pieces. “Make sure any gym clothes are versatile enough to wear on other occasions too. Fine cotton leggings by Captain Robbo hardly weigh anything, they roll up small and work for every day and exercise,” she says.

“Consider a tank you can wear with a skirt, shorts or jeans. But if you must have something separate for the gym, try the Breeze Tank from Sweaty Betty. It weighs about as much as fairy floss!”

Pack a scarf

“A large cotton scarf is so versatile. You can use it as a wrap, a sarong, as a modesty cover for visiting religious buildings,” says Cameron. “It’s also good as a sun cover or even a towel if you get stuck.”

If you’re only a week into your trip and you already hate what you’ve packed, a scarf is a lifesaver. “A scarf adds a bit of interest to your outfits if you find they’re on repeat for too long.”

A flatlay of a scarf, camera, hat and passport.
A scarf is a versatile piece that will take you from beach to bar.

Roll and don’t over-stuff

It’s not just about what you bring, but how you bring it. Cameron recommends maximising space by rolling rather than folding clothes. “You’ll fit more in and emerge with fewer creases in your clothes at the other end.”

And while you’re rolling, remember not to stuff your suitcase. “Locally made fashion is so tempting when you’re bored of what you’re wearing or don’t have time for clothes washing. Always leave space to pick up something unique.”

A bag filled with rolled clothes.
Make sure to roll clothes to maximise your luggage space.

Choose warmth over bulk

Heading to a cold destination? That doesn’t mean you have to pack loads of bulky, heavy clothing. “A cashmere or possum merino jumper and a lightweight down-filled jacket are ideal for cold weather. They both compress to fit in your luggage, and they weigh very little,” Cameron says. Lightweight layers also help ward off the cold - think skivvies and thermals for a cosy base layer under your clothes.

Her favourite bonus hack? “A down jacket – ethically sourced, of course – also doubles up as a soft pillow during a long flight.”