Travelling Light

I am away from home 2 or 3 nights a week. Mostly travelling from my home in the middle of the English countryside to London but once or twice a month, somewhere outside of the U.K. Travel is a wonderful opportunity to maximise every inch of operational effectiveness. I take great delight and genuine pleasure from getting every aspect of my trips honed to the n'th degree. Nowhere more so than in travelling as light as humanly possible.

I am obsessive about travelling light.

There is something remarkably freeing about being unencumbered by stuff when moving from place to place.  To be able to jump off a plane in New York with nothing more than a lightweight shoulder bag and head straight downtown without worrying about what to do with my bag feels super fantastic. My fantasy, complete list for a flight abroad would be:

  1. iPhone
  2. Creditcard
  3. Passport
  4. Bluetooth Earbuds

Whilst this isn't practical for an overnight stay, it is my ideal list for a day in London - to the extent that I have recently moved to an iPhone case that holds a credit card and three banknotes (Bellroy Phone Case) - this combined with Apple Pay means I can leave my wallet at home. Less stuff to carry, less stuff to worry about, less to distract your attention and concentration.

Obviously, when staying overnight you need more stuff but over each and every trip, I try and chip away at optimising my luggage and what I take with me, towards fewer, lighter things.

There are two absolutes for this approach. Firstly, you must always have a bag that is ready to go. It must contain a duplicate of everything that you need so that the only things you need to pack and unpack is your clean and dirty clothes. (Even those, I have been known to buy and dispose of en-route on certain trips). You need a complete duplicate of your toiletries, eye wear, headphones, gym kit, passport and technology, always in the bag so you are never looking for an item in the 60 seconds it should take to pack for a trip. 

Think really hard about your toiletries kit. Most folks have way too much weight in this. Years of mountain climbing have taught me the value of pairing back to only exactly what is essential - as full bottles of any liquid weigh too much, if you are carrying it up 4000 meters of ascent. Yes - I do cut my toothbrush handle in half.

The second absolute is that you must have a shoulder bag (mine is a Tumi Alpha 2 Tri Fold). This can carry everything you need, double as a brief case (back packs don't cut it in the boardroom), go as hand luggage on planes (as you know - checking luggage is a criminal offence - right?) and most importantly it leaves two hands free when you walk around with it. Your aim is to get this bag to a weight where you can quite happily carry it on your shoulder without a worry, or even really noticing it. Like a briefcase. If I get off the train in a foreign city and its a 25 minute walk to the hotel or office, I never want to be saying, 'Oh, I'd better get a cab as I have a bag with me.'

The pull along wheeled flight cases don't cut it for three reasons:

  1. You don't get both your hands free (always need to be able to drink a coffee, talk on the phone, use your Apple Watch as a contactless ticket on the tube and walk at the same time) 
  2. They are really not cool
  3. They get in other people's way. Normally mine and I'm really fussy.


Silk clothes are good, as they are light. Westin Hotels are good as they'll lend you a laundered gym kit and sneakers so you don't have to lug a gym kit around. But, most of the rest of the weight of your pack is going to come from your technology. iPad airs and the new MacBook have really helped in this department (pick one, not both) but the MacBook has helped particularly in one area which I think has been signifcantly under commented. And, that's charging.

I have a lot of stuff the needs charging. A phone, a laptop, an iPad, Bluetooth headphones, Apple Watch and now occasionally a bloody pencil. Whilst the stuff itself has got considerably lighter over time, the same can't be said about the chargers.

In just the same way that I used to carry around a PDA, a phone and an iPod dreaming of the day an iPhone would converge these devices - More recently, I have carried separate chargers for a laptop, a phone and other stuff dreaming that one day I could just have one charger.

Now with the Retina MacBook you can use your iOS charger.

The retina MacBook is the first apple laptop that will quite happily charge from a 2.1 amp USB charger that you'd normally use for your iOS devices. You need the cable below, it takes all night and it won't charge whilst you are using it but this suits me fine. It gets plugged in - in my hotel room at about 9.00pm and the next morning at 6.00 it's fully charged, ready to go as I leave the hotel in an annoyingly chirpy  - 'I'm an early morning type of person', mood.

This means I now need 4 USB charging outlets, one for my watch, one for my phone, one for my laptop or iPad (depending on which way I am going on that particular trip) and one for my headphones. I need 4 sockets, 2 of which need to be capable of 2.1 amps and a global plug solution so that no matter which country I travel to, I always have the right plug. It's been my brief to get this spec to the lightest smallest load. The solution I have now weights considerably less than the single Apple power brick I used to lug around just to charge my laptop.

My global, all device, charge kit

My global, all device, charge kit

The contents are:

1 Swordfish global plug adaptor which has two USB ports. I can plug this in every country with the selectable prongs and it has a socket on the back for ...

1 MU Duo dual USB charger - this is lighter than the swordfish above and plugs into it when I'm out of the U.K. It's the best smallest, lightest, 2.4 amp UK one I have found. If I didn't leave the UK, I'd just take two of these. It only delivers 1.2 amps per socket but if your watch is plugged into one of those sockets as soon as it stops drawing current it gives the full 2.4 amps to your remaining device.

2 x 1 metre Lighting cables (Phone and iPad) - note different colours to help identify what is plugged into what.

1 Apple Watch charger

1 10cm micro USB cord with a lightening adaptor on the end of it. - This allows you to charge a third iOS device or use the micro USB for Bluetooth headphones.

1 USB to USB C charging cord for the new MacBook 

This charging kit sits in my travel bag, always ready for wherever` I get dispatched to in the world from Singapore to Toronto. And, it only weights 300g.

It's a matter of great Irony to me that at the moment when I finally have a unified charging solution for my MacBook and phone, that means I can leave behind the massive power brick, I find that the evolution of the iPad means that on a number of journeys, it is edging out the Macbook as the technology that makes it into my travel bag. If the iPad Air 3 - rumoured to be out in Mid March has the pencil and and a pro style Keyboard, it might have reached the tipping point. But at the moment, I spend more time deciding which device to take than I do packing my travel bag.