5 Ways To Pack Less

Harsh rules to consider. Try some or all of this to help pack less. 

Use It Or Lose It – if it’s not in the show, you don’t bring it.

We all have stuff in our prop cases, trunks, and backpacks that we sometimes (or more likely never) use. On my last trip I packed a shuttlecock, a rhythmic gymnastics ball, three pins, and a hoody. I barely touched any of them. They are all for tricks I am learning or intend to learn but they just took up way too much space. Get rid of it all. If there is something you really want to work on, put it in your backpack. Just keep it separate from your show stuff. 

The 4 Minute Rule – if the prop(s) doesn’t give you at least 4 minutes of material, you don’t bring it.

We all have shorter routines and throw away gags. If you really are interested at making your show pack smaller this is the number one place to start. I have a three ball routine that is about ten minutes. I always followed it with a short five ball routine. The five ball routine lasted a little less than two minutes. For a long time I always clumped the two together. I thought of it as my “ball juggling routine”. When I started thinking about how each prop contributed to the show and I realized that 2/5 of the balls were not pulling their weight, I re-examined that. I decided that I would judge them each separately and cut the five ball routine from the show. It’s the harshest rule to follow but it makes the largest impact on your prop load. 

Think Locally – if you can source it at the gig, you don’t bring it. 

 I use a bottle of San Pelligrino in the show. It takes up a lot of space, sometimes causes problems at customs, and is readily available most everywhere in the world. I was packing one for a while, to save money and because I enjoyed making a tick mark on the bottle every time I performed the routine dropless. Eventually I decided it was worth more to have that much less to pack. Sometimes it’s also cheaper to buy a large prop like a ladder, leaf blower, or whatever at the gig rather than paying for excess/oversize/overweight baggage. It’s also gig dependent: I know on cruises that I don’t have to pack ping pong balls because they will have them on board. 

Leave Basecamp – imagine you have to hike your show up a mountain. 

 Look for inventive and creative ways to reduce size and weight. An aluminum pole can be smaller and lighter weight than a wooden dowel without sacrificing any strength. Instead of those heavy Renegade 105mm Fatheads you could switch to the super light weight, flexible, and cheap Play Primas (only 200 grams each!). Maybe downgrade a size of stageball or switch to beanbags which can compress more. I found that when I started packing individual routines into their own containers I suddenly had way more space. Things that are loose tend to take up space. We’ve all learned to take our diablos apart and stick them inside the rolla bolla tube or to stuff socks into our shoes but challenge yourself to take it to the next level. 

One Of These Things Is Quite Like The Other if one of your routines is very similar to another, don’t bring it. 

Use the Juggling Trick Taxonomy  and see if you have any two routines that are very similar. Do you have a club juggling routine with jokes and a ball juggling routine with jokes, and later do you juggle torches while telling jokes? That stuff is all pretty similar. Cutting one of those routines will be tough but finding a different routine that packs small and hits a different part of the taxonomy is a win/win for you. 

4 thoughts on “5 Ways To Pack Less

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  1. We disagree on much of this. Mainly because it’s written as rules and not just suggestions to consider. I loved having little toys in my prop box that would come out with inspiration, new props that I would experiment with if the show was going the right way. I used to keep a puppet in my straitjacket for moments like this.

    4 minutes! I would get 10 seconds out of my ring opening and it was very important for the show. And I have the rather heavy ring carrier to keep them flat so it was a heavy prop.

    I never liked relying on getting stuff at the source either. I did apples on ships to fill time, the apples on the boat sucked so I would bring big green ones from home so I’d have what I want in my show. Interesting side note, it’s not legal to bring apples to Mexico 😉


    1. It’s all about choice. These aren’t tips for a good show, they are tips for packing less. They all come down to the same thing: examine everything you are bringing and ask yourself do I need this? Can this do more for me? Is there a better/smaller/lighter way to pack this?


  2. When I was working with John Park, we travelled with so much gear (2 tall unis, a bowling ball, drums, boxes, torches, knives, clubs … sorry pins, along with two funny hats to put on volunteer’s heads plus a bunch of other stuff I’m not remembering) that adding a VCR just to watch Hill Street Blues on the road seemed reasonable.

    Yes, VCR. Hill Street Blues. Funny hats. I’m really old.


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