Bring less stuff!

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, February 16, 2020

Happy Reading Week! This week’s life tip is, for now, most relevant to those of you not from the Greater Toronto Area, if you happen to be going home for the week. Experience shows that it will apply to many of you in the next few years.

  • Tip: Bring less stuff!

There is often a skill versus stuff tradeoff. With more skill you can often improvise for having less stuff. A technical example is being able to use vim versus having to use a heavyweight editor that is tied to a particular operating system. And I say that as an emacs user. But vim works in resource-constrained environments over flaky connections (use mobile shell, mosh, for such connections).

When it comes to the physical world, carrying more stuff makes you less mobile (excepting assistive devices for mobility). You just can’t walk as far or as fast with a 15kg rollie bag compared to a 4kg backpack, and you’ll have trouble with stairs. You might be forced to take a car instead of walking or taking the bus. I keep my travel weight to 4kg (minimal clothing, laptop, camera) excepting gear specific to activities. If you aren’t sure whether you need something, there’s a good chance that you can buy or borrow it at your destination. I do acknowledge that you usually have to pay more for lighter stuff and it also may be less durable. It is also frustrating to buy something that you already have. But you probably don’t need it, and if you do, try to give it away.

Here’s a picture of me from 2008 with definitely too much stuff while trying to climb Mount Rainier. (We didn’t summit on that trip but did later). Less is more, even when you can’t reprovision, as on a mountain!

too much stuff