One Bag Packing 

My wife and I each used an eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible backpack ( ) on our recent 3 week trip to Europe. Our trip included traveling around Italy by train for 10 days followed by a cruise from Venice to Athens, a total of 20 nights.

We took everything for the trip in our backpacks which we carried on the plane. (We did not check any bags.) Even though we are in our mid-60s, we had no trouble carrying our backpacks and really enjoyed traveling so light. By carefully planning what we brought and doing laundry a few times, we had plenty of clothes for the trip, including what we needed for “Informal” nights on our Silversea cruise. (I packed a navy blue travel blazer and my wife packed several nice outfits for dinners.) We got so accustomed to traveling this way, that I actually starting wondering how we could have filled up as much luggage as most other people we spoke with brought along. Boarding trains and walking to/from our hotels in Sorrento, Florence, Monterosso, and Venice was so much easier for us than it was for the people we saw with large roller bags. My wife is not very big and at first she had trouble getting her backpack on, but after only a few times, she was able to easily get it on by setting it on a chair or table. 

The biggest challenge in not checking bags was figuring out our liquids. By using some bottles even smaller than 3 ounces, I was able to get everything I needed into a 1-quart bag. 

I used all of the backpacks compartments including the organizer pockets inside the large front zip compartment, and packed my clothes using a combination of military rolls (for underwear, socks, and non-collared shirts), and folds for shirts and blazer. My wife just folded her stuff and stuffed it into her pack any way it would fit. She did not use the small organizer pockets because she put all of her small stuff in a fanny-pack she used as a purse. She also took her laptop in the backpack, but did not bring a hairdryer. (Everywhere we stayed had good hairdryers.) 

The backpacks themselves were comfortable to wear for the relatively short distances we walked while wearing them. We talked with a young couple with frame-type packs. They were serious backcountry backpackers, but they said they had the wrong type of packs for the kind of traveling we both were doing. They liked our packs.

We found the water bottle holders to be too “floppy” to use. I may rig up some way to hold the bottle tight to the pack. 

My wife needed to use the waist belt. It irritated me to have it flopping around when I was not using it so I took it off. 

Several people on our cruise simply could not believe we had packed so efficiently. One woman said she admired us, but there was no way she would ever just take one bag. 

Our backpacks held up very well and we plan to use them again and again! 


Here’s how my pack was packed: 

Small compartment at top of pack:

  • One quart clear zippered pouch with liquids 

Large Front Zip Compartment: 

  • Clear pouch with phone charger, 2-Type C power adapters, Apple wired headset, emergency phone battery with cable
  • One quart clear zippered pouch with non-liquid bath items (razor, toothbrush, comb, nail clippers, solid deodorant, etc.) 
  • Small clear pouch with toenail clipper and file 
  • Clear plastic pouch with sink stopper, misc. clips 
  • 8 1/2 x 11 folder with itinerary, hotel and pre-booked tour information, and maps 
  • Clear pouch with medications and first aid items
  • House keys on clip
  • Cruise Travel Log booklet
  • 1 extra pair of prescription glasses* 
  • 1 pair prescription sunglasses 
  • 1 pair of sunglasses that fit over regular glasses 
  • 1 Selfie-stick 

In organizer pockets inside Front Zip Compartment: 

  • Ziplock bag with copies of passports, emergency information etc. 
  • Cruise ticket 
  • Pencil, pen and eraser
  • Chapstick, sticky notes*
  • Travel wallet 

In zippered front slash pocket: 

  • Reserved for putting away items quickly (items at security screening, boarding passes etc.) 

Main Compartment: 

  • 1 Microfiber wash cloth 
  • 4 travel underwear briefs (Non-cotton) 
  • 4 pair compression socks (fast drying, some with Murano wool) 
  • 1 Pair boxers (Non-cotton, for sleeping) 
  • 2 Short-sleeve undershirts (Non-cotton) 
  • 1 Long-sleeve rash guard (Doubled as warm weather shirt and layer for cooler weather) 
  • 1 Long-sleeve Murano wool pull over shirt (Doubled as shirt and layer) 
  • 3 Long-sleeve collared travel shirts 
  • 1 Short-sleeve polo shirt 
  • 2 pair travel pants with hidden zip pockets, gray and Navy blue 
  • 1 Tilley Outback waxed cotton hat, packed upside down with clothing inside 
  • 1 Swim suit*
  • 1 Pair black Rockport shoes in plastic grocery bags with clothing inside 
  • 1 North Face rain jacket with hood 
  • 1 REI pull-over synthetic sweater for layering 
  • 1 Day Pack (carried separately on some trains for water, snacks, and small purchases)
  • 1 Tie
  • 2 Empty one-gallon zip lock bags* 
  • On the return trip there was enough room for several bars of soap that we purchased in Greece. 

Zippered mesh pocket inside Main Compartment: 

  • Navy Blue Travel Blazer
  • Extra plastic grocery bags for dirty clothes 

Rear lap-top compartment: 

  • Empty. I did use this compartment to quickly get rid of receipts and other paper items that came our way. 

Rear compartment for straps:

  • Backpack waist belt 

I rolled the wash cloth, socks, underwear, and non-collared shirts military style. Pants and other shirts were folded. Weight was about 22 pounds. 

We did not use packing cubes. With a hat and shoes in the bag, there really is not much room for cubes. Plus there is not that much to put in cubes after filling the shoes and hat with rolled clothes.

For the flight over I wore:

  • Long sleeve polo shirt
  • Travel underwear & compression socks
  • Light weight cargo pants with zip-off legs
  • Running/hiking shoes

My wife used the same backpack and had her laptop in the rear pocket. Her bag weighed slightly less. 

*Not used on the trip. 



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