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Only a Backpack Carry On: My First Experience (but not my last!)

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only a backpack carry on

UPDATE: This is the write-up of my very first experience of traveling with only a backpack carry on. What a packing journey I have been on ever since. Check out my first timer’s guide to traveling with only a carry-on over on Her Packing List for more carry-on only travel tips.


I’m feeling a bit anxious right now, and let me tell you why. I leave in an hour to get on a bus Chicago-bound. My flight is supposed to leave tonight, only I’m not so sure its going to make it. All summer, Illinois has been lacking in the rainfall category, and it just so happens that today would be the day Mother Nature decides to cut it some slack.

I’m looking out the window at the rain coming down. The radar is showing scattered thunderstorms all evening! The thought of being stuck in the airport all night is making me very anxious, let alone the fact that I haven’t been on a plane in over a year, and I haven’t flown internationally since 2004.

On top of this, the airline has some crazy carry-on WEIGHT restriction of 8kg, or 18 pounds!

How, I ask, is someone supposed to carry a laptop, DSLR with two lenses, kneepads, Chacos, dig clothes, non-dig clothes, and toiletries and weigh in under 18 pounds?!

Still, I’m determined to make it carry-on only since I have a crazy short plane switch in Copenhagen, and I do not want to be stuck without my stuff for a day in Barcelona. (On my way to the archaeological dig in Menorca.)

I called the airline a while back and they said you could have a piece of personal luggage as well, such as a purse or laptop. So, I have a separate messenger bag for my laptop/chargers, etc. which will hopefully keep me down in the weight department. I’m wearing two shirts, my heavy shoes, and jeans – and I’m carrying a jacket in which I’ve stuffed a bag of Euro coins and my glasses.

It may sound like I’m bringing a lot, but let me tell you, I am going pretty darn minimalistic. Instead of a book to read on the plane, I printed off a couple of crossword puzzles to work. Hopefully this works, but just in case, I have my stuffable daypack which I will fill if my bag is caught as over the limit and I have to check. Pray I don’t!!!!

Well, this is it kids. I’m off!


I traveled with the Kelty Redwing as my backpack carry on. You can see how I fared getting across the pond with only a carry on in this post, but also get a glimpse into my archaeological dig packing mistakes.

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