Let’s start with an example from one of my previous trips to set the bar:
Once I traveled 3 weeks throughout Europe with a 17-inch suitcase-designed backpack (Osprey Daylite 26+6). Totaling 32 liters in volume.
And I’m gonna share with you my exact packing list for that trip as well (including the total weight). But let’s just take a step back first.
Most 20-inch suitcases, also known as carry-on-sized luggage range between 38-45 liters. For some, this would be suitable for a 2-day weekend trip. And for others, it would be more than enough for a 1-year trip across the globe or even a lifetime of traveling.
So the amount you can fit in a 20-inch suitcase depends.
The biggest factors I’ve found to determine this are usually:
- The weather of your destinations
- The activities you’re gonna participate in
- Whether you’re planning on working on your trip or not
- And of course your personal preferences
So let me show you a real-life example from one of my trips, to give you a better idea about what’s possible.
Table of Contents
Example: My 17-Inch Luggage Packing List (36 Liters)
I’ve spent countless hours researching for my trips throughout time, including making packing lists.
In the beginning, I used various to-do lists or note apps to make them. But today – not so much.
My to-go packing tool has since then evolved into Google Sheets (Excel), where columns and formulas containing numbers have found their place.
By doing this I know exactly how much my luggage weighs. Not only from the beginning of the trip but also during various situations such as with or without food when hiking. Or after shipping or donating certain items I don’t need anymore on longer trips across different continents.
What I’ve learned from the art of packing over the years is that you can often pack much more than you think, as long as you know how. Both in terms of weight and volume.
And I’m gonna give you all my tips on how to pack as efficiently as possible in a second. But let me first share with you the example of one of my packing lists.
3-Week Eurotrip Packing List During Summer
|Items||Weight (ounces)||Weight (grams)|
|Beard trimmer + charger||11.46||325|
|Cap (wearing it)||0||0|
|Charger for phone and cable||Waist bag**||Waist bag**|
|Earplugs (6 x pcs)||0.18||5|
|First-aid bag (empty)||0.35||10|
|Fleece (wearing it)||0||0|
|Hand sanitizer (50 ml.)||Waist bag**||Waist bag**|
|Headset (in-ear)||Waist bag**||Waist bag**|
|Iodine + cotton swabs||1.76||50|
|Jeans (wearing it)||0||0|
|Lock for hostel lockers||4.94||140|
|Lock with long cable||3.17||90|
|Lock for backpack zippers (2 x pcs)||4.41||125|
|Perfume (30 ml)||4.23||120|
|Shirts – short sleeve (4 x pcs)||21.16||600|
|Shorts (2 x pcs)||16.93||480|
|Sneakers (wearing it)||0||0|
|Socks – long (5 x pcs)||10.58||300|
|Socks – long (wearing it)||0||0|
|Socks – short (9 x pcs)||6.35||180|
|Sunglasses||Waist bag**||Waist bag**|
|T-shirts (3 x pcs)||15.87||450|
|T-shirt (wearing it)||0||0|
|Toilet bags (empty – 2 x pcs)||8.47||240|
|Toilet paper (1/2 roll)||2.12||60|
|Underwear (7 x pcs)||19.75||560|
|Underwear (wearing it)||0||0|
|*Total weight =||17.86 lb||8,2 kg|
**I’ve excluded items in my waist bag (I’ll go more in-depth on this in a second)
This packing list was made for warmer weather during summer. And one of the activities included a 2-day hike in the Central Balkan National Park in Bulgaria, where we stayed in guesthouses.
If I would have traveled during winter, I’d have needed more space for more clothes.
The Waist Bag Hack
As you might notice the weight has been switched out for “Waist bag” on the above list.
What it’s referring to is my largest waist pack of 4-liter (Fjällräven Ulvö Hip Pack – Large), and it’s super comfortable.
With my backpack, it adds up to 36 liters (4 + 32), which is still within the typical range of 20-inch suitcases (38-45 liters).
I’ve never had any comments on it during checking-in or boarding either, resulting in some “free” volume and weight.
Only once or twice I’ve been told to put it in the overhead department. Which makes it rare.
As seen in the photo, it also allows me to wrap my fleece on it, saving a fair amount of space in the luggage.
Besides that it’s super practical – you don’t even have to wear it around your hips, though no judgment if that’s what you fancy 😉
I should add though, that I’m 6’4″ (194 cm) tall and usually weigh around 210 lbs (95 kg) before Christmas. My point is if you’re shorter, a smaller waist bag is maybe handier as well.
How to Efficiently Save Weight and Volume When Packing
While this is an art itself, I’ve done my fair part of trial and error within this field.
Maybe not enough to dress up an ultra-runner taking that prefers removing clothing labels for maximum efficiency. But enough to only travel with a “personal item” on longer trips (in warmer weather).
What I refer to as a “personal item” is when you’re traveling with a small bag that theoretically can fit under the front passenger seat.
With that said I’ve never experienced not being allowed to use the overhead department despite not paying for hand luggage (or check-in luggage).
But I’ve heard rumors that airlines are starting to take this more seriously – so don’t take my word for it.
Now that you hopefully got a better idea of how much you can fit in your suitcase, let me recommend another article of mine:
I made this article based on trial and error from literally hundreds of trips.
Everything from traveling with only a personal item as just mentioned. To max out the allowance of checked-in luggage on Muay Thai retreats to Thailand with all my bulky gear and supplements.
So hopefully there’s a thing or two you can benefit from through my experience.