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How To Pack Under the 7 kg Limit for Carry-On Luggage

First of all, don’t even try to think about getting away with it if you’re flying out of Asia. Especially in Japan.

Flying budget seems to be the de facto theme no matter the airline. If carry-on baggage (a personal item) is allowed (ha!), there’s often a weight limit enforced. For many budget airlines around the world, that number hovers around 7 kilograms.

Skyscanner has a great reference chart1, ranging from 5 kilograms (Thomson Airways) to 12 kilograms(KLM). For the most part, the upper limit for carry-on luggage is around 7 to 10 kilograms.

Packing light pretty much revolves around how strong the personal packrat tendencies are, but let us leave this embedded deep in the brain: No matter what you think, it is always possible to do with far less than you think you can. People make do. It’s all about guidelines.

For those mathematically challenged, a kilogram is about 2.2 pounds. Seven kilograms roughly translates to 15.43 pounds.

Skip the suitcase, go backpack.

It’s a perpetual debate between the two but this is a clear case where a backpack wins hands down. Even the most lightweight suitcases clock in around 6 to 7 pounds, and that’s an important baseline because every pound matters. Every pound.

In stark contrast, backpacks often weigh much less. Significantly less.

Even though there’s a greater weight range with backpacks, they can weigh as little as 1 pound all the way up to 5 or 6 pounds. Compared to a “light, 6-pound suitcase,” the smallest backpack can free up 5 pounds. (Point being: That’s roughly 32% of the carry-on baggage allowance.)

The wildly popular Osprey Farpoint, for instance, weighs about 3 pounds, which is still 3 pounds less than the lightest suitcase.

To demonstrate how important the equipment is, we went record efficient packing in the Away bag, leaving 35% of the suitcase empty. The bag still weighed 18 pounds total at the airport, surpassing the limit despite our attempts to go minimalistic as possible.

How big is the personal item?

For women, I’m referring to a purse. For men, I’m referring to a man-purse. Or briefcase. Duffel. Not a man.

A personal carry-on is rarely, if ever, counted as carry-on luggage. So feel free to go extra large, with a duffel that has expandable sides.

By the way, the more a personal item looks like a (man)purse, the more likely it is to escape the attention of airline and airport staff. There have been legitimate times I’ve probably packed more in my O.M.G bag than I have my actual suitcase.

Pack the heavy stuff where it is least likely to be noticed.

Clothes, the white elephant.

The basic mantras apply, meaning pack half what’s actually needed, plan on washing clothes, rewearing and layering. Good rule of thumb is to shoot for four outfits (though how disciplined you’re able to be about this will matter).

Ladies, try to be functional in accessorizing as possible here.

For the love of God, please don’t bring that many shoes. That’s dead weight.

1 footnote

  1. Though we have no idea how often this is updated.

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