Packing for Multi Sport Adventures

“I swear that packing for the mountain is harder than climbing it”


I’ve written suitcases full of advice and tips on packing but my favorite type of packing  is for a multi sport adventure. It takes planning, precision and pruning to get it right and arrive with everything you need….nothing you don’t…..and here’s the MOST important part…. WITHIN THE AIRLINE WEIGHT LIMITS!!


This week I am packing for a climbing, diving and safari extravaganza in Africa! So let’s take a look at how it’s done.


Begin with the Airline

Yep, start your packing process by finding the baggage weight restrictions on the MOST restrictive flight you will be on. For example, I will fly to Mt. Kilimanjaro with KLM on an Airbus A330-300, so no worries, 2 bags, 70 lbs since I am a frequent flier with Sky Team. Ah but wait! I will fly from Tanzania to Mozambique on Precision Airlines, restrictions… 1 bag 23 kilos. Excess baggage fees $3.00 per kilo. Now I have my parameters for the trip.

Pull out everything essential for each part of the trip

Since you already have a copy of my travel planning book (what? you don’t? Get one here!) you have made packing lists for previous diving or climbing trips, or whatever your sport of choice is. So pull out those lists and pull out all the kit. Keep the piles separate for each part of the trip. Now, take a look and be overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you take for a single sport adventure.

Start the pruning process

What things do you normally take for a single sport trip that can double. Unfortunately, climbing and diving require almost completely different gear. For the safari portion of the trip, this time we’ll be doing it the easy way, by car so not much gear is necessary. A pair of binoculars and a couple of guidebooks which can be bought on site, a few printed out bird and mammal checklists from the internet and we’re good to go. So…now I go back and see what is essential. And this is hard.

Normally for a dive trip I would have my back up mask, my “save a dive kit” my parachute and reel…. well you get the idea. So, for this trip I decided to take strictly essentials, regulator/computer, mask and wetsuit. I have ditched the 6lb fins, my 4.4lb BCD and all the extras. For a few dollars I can rent these things and not carry them all across Africa. I have my safety parachute and dive alert. My wetsuit to me is essential since I become cold very easily and won’t rely on a rental suit. Already I have “saved” about 15lbs of gear.

When you pack for a climb you are acutely aware of weight already since you will carry it all on your back. This means you don’t take 15 pairs of climbing shorts, you rotate two. So climbing gear is already honed down to the bare essentials. Important, DO NOT to skimp on your safety gear for any sport endeavor.

Packing Clothes for a Multi Sport Adventure

This one can be tough especially for women. We want to travel light and efficiently but we want to look good as well. We’ll be on the beach for a week diving so I want a couple of sexy sundresses and heels, cute strappy tops and shorts. And as most of you know, I simply CAN’T exist without 8-10 bathing suits. Here is where the tough decisions come in. For me, I forgo the heels for flip flops and maybe, at the end of the packing if there is room, throw in a little black dress. Most of my climbing shorts and tops are fine for the beach. I have a couple of pairs of good wicking undies that, while not Victoria’s Secret, are sexy enough thanks to Patagonia. And this time, two bathing suits are the max, OUCH! Hiking boots and flip flops will have to suffice for footwear. Pack clothes that can be used for multi purpose. Sport gear companies like Patagonia, again, are great for this type of clothing. You can use your wicking tops for climbing or the beach but your cotton t-shirts would be a disaster on the mountain not to mention their hefty weight. Leave those at home.


Now, remember that up until the end of the climbing portion, we will have arrived with luxurious baggage allowances. Therefore, I put all our consumables in a second checked bag (squashable duffel). That protein powder, powdered Gatorade, Snickers bars, vitamins, shampoo, etc….. will not be going onward to the restricted airlines. So I pack all my kit and then put the consumables in a separate bag. I know this stuff will be long gone before I hit the airline counter and I know the weight of my main bag will not change except for the few ounces of weight of my collapsable duffel.


If I were headed to a resort for a couple of weeks to lie on the beach, then I would take my favorite shampoo and conditioner, face creams and lotions and potions and perfumes and all of that. However, on a multi sport adventure, my sleeping bag is more important than my favorite shampoo. For a couple of bucks, go to Walmart and buy travel/trial sizes of deodorant, toothpaste and combo shampoo/conditioner. Your body won’t fall apart using these for a couple of weeks, trust me. Leave the big heavy bottles at home. And don’t ever trust those “travel bottles”. 99% of the time they will explode in your luggage and even if they are enclosed in ziplock bags, it will be a mess you don’t want. Remember, most hotels provide soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair dryers etc… even if it’s not your favorite brand. It’s not a pivotal point in history, trust me.


If you are traveling with a spouse or buddy, what can you share? My husband and I are not so different in size that we can’t share t-shirts. We do this all the time. And for a trip like this, we’ll share most of our toiletries.

Weigh Early and Often

So finally you have everything narrowed down to it’s lowest common denominator, great. Weigh it. And weigh it again before you leave, just in case. Here are a few additional tips for keeping weight out of your bags.

•Be sure you have removed all unnecessary packaging from new items. (Ladies, don’t take the BOX of tampons, get the pearl size and put them in a ziplock bag.)

•Always leave 2-3lbs of leeway to account for the last minute “throw in” and difference in scales.

•Leave a sweater or book or something at the top of your suitcase. If you find your bag is over the allowed weight once you get to the airport, you can easily pull out a sweater to tie around your neck or a book to carry in your hand to offset the difference.

•Plan in advance what you will wear on the plane and wear what’s heavy! While the flip flops may be the most comfortable, those hiking boots probably weigh 5lbs. You can always take them off on the plane and yes, it will be more of a pain at security but it’s really not a big deal.

•Weigh your bag empty. A normal rolling suitcase can weigh up to 10lbs!!!! Choose wisely here.

•Often I get away with a heavy carry on.  It’s a risk sometimes but often worth it.

Many of the best trips I have taken in my life were multi sport adventures. Don’t let the packing process and a load of gear become overwhelming. Follow these tips and you’ll soon learn that not only is it easy but it’s a fun challenge to pack for such great adventures.


To Your Adventures!




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