Review: One Backpack Challenge (aka The Great Northeastern Trek)

We did it. We took a seven day trip (Boston, MA; Portsmouth, NH;  Newport, RI; New Haven, CT;  NYC, Havre de Grace, MD; and Washington, DC) and each carried only one book bag + a small crossbody purse (not Chris, me). This trip came together in about a month.

The plan was to visit some major cities, try new restaurants, and reconnect with old friends. Since we weren’t going to drive the Mustang + were going to be in metropolitan areas, we wanted to travel as light as possible. Thus, the idea to limit ourselves to backpacks started making more and more sense. No need to check and pay for bags when flying and no rolling bags on the city sidewalks.

Chris already had a bag but I had to buy a new bag since one of my siblings has my old L.L. Bean backpack (ahem! ahem!). Quality straps and multiple compartments were a must.

REI had a nice North Face bag that fit the bill. I couldn’t believe that I got everything into a single bag. If you know me, you know that I like to be prepared (i.e. multiple pairs of shoes, handbags, outfit options etc.) Basically, I throw my entire closet into the car and hope for the best.


For the One Backpack Challenge….

  • Limited myself to 3 pairs of shoes (I needed a pair of dress shoes for a potential White House visit or I could have survived on two pairs)
  • Wore my heaviest shoes (a pair of MK slip-ons) the majority of the trip (perforated leather was a style choice but ended up being great for air flow)


  • Stocked up on travel sizes for my must have items
  • Ditched my Urban Decay palettes for a $3 Wet and Wild eye kit
  • Created a color-coded outfit Google Doc and only brought those clothes (plus two extra shirts)


  • Brought dry clean only dress clothes in the plastic from cleaners (travel tip I learned for cutting down on wrinkles)
  • Got ponchos instead of umbrellas for inclement weather
  • Researched places to stow bags for days in big cities (Rowe’s Water Taxi will store your bags in Boston and our hotel in NYC kept our bags after check out)

Basically, we were like Apollo 13 astronauts jettisoning the non-essentials. We traveled by plane, water taxi, rental car, Uber, Megabus, Amtrak, Metro, and the T train. I kept my DSLR in my purse along with a few essentials.

When we got home, there was no pile of things to unpack. It was wonderful! I walked in the house and did a single load of laundry. Traveling light was a lifesaver. It took some planning but worked out well. Apparently, a person can only wear one outfit at a time. Who knew? 

P.S. Confession-Chris did carry one dress and a pair of flats for me in his bag but that is because I didn’t want to stuff them in my bag.

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