Considering weight constraints, should I put books in carry-on or checked luggage?

To clarify, in order to keep my checked luggage as light as possible, should I stuff it with books or clothes?

EDIT: I'm basically asking which is denser (more weight per volume occupied): books or clothes?

  • 4
    A lot depends on what the airline's weight limit is and how big the books are. Personally I would put them in checked bags because I hate lugging heavy luggage on and off airplanes.
    – user13044
    Aug 10, 2015 at 6:39
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    @gberger The thing is: It depends on your clothes and your books. Some clothes are rather heavy, while others are light. Also, some cheap books are printed on very light papers (like the brownish paper that is used in the US for cheap books), so they are lighther. In my personal experience, the weight density of books tends to be higher than clothes in the packed-into-the-luggage state. But it is best to try it out. Also, when mixing books and clothes, watch out for the corners of heavy'n'thick hardcover books - they can damage your clothes.
    – DCTLib
    Aug 10, 2015 at 8:19
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    As an incurable bookworm myself, I suggest you get an e-reader. I generally need a book a day on holiday, and for a transatlantic flight I might get through 2 or 3. E-books don't cost more than dead-tree books. Some can be borrowed, many classics are even free! A Kindle costs slightly more than the excess luggage fee, weighs less than one book, and you can fit 2000 books in one. 2000 books in your hand!
    – RedSonja
    Aug 10, 2015 at 14:02
  • 6
    If you ever moved and had to carry a box of books, you know.
    – njzk2
    Aug 10, 2015 at 14:34
  • 3
    2 upvotes for the guy who asked "I'm basically asking which is denser: books or clothes?" on a website about traveling.... I do not believe the OP can read and not answer this Q himself.
    – Alec Teal
    Aug 10, 2015 at 23:43

4 Answers 4


Books are heavier, period.

Your typical cheap-ass perfect-bound B&W 300-page airport paperback detective/romance novel weighs around 441 grams. A nice hardback or a big chunky guidebook will be more: Lonely Planet India is over 1 kg, and a 500-page ream of A4 printing paper is well over 2 kg!

A T-shirt occupies roughly the same volume as that paperback, but even a nice heavy cotton American Apparel T-shirt will only top the scales around 250 grams. (Note that T-shirt weights are per square meter, and you need >1.5m2 for a short-sleeved shirt.)

Now I'm sure you can construct a pathological case where a suitcase stuffed full of steel-toed Doc Martens and studded denim weighs more than a suitcase filled with the airiest pulp novels known to man, but in general, if you're looking to lose weight, chuck the books first — and get e-books instead. International M-Bags are also a surprisingly cheap way of shipping printed material around the planet.


I often buy multiple books on trips and carry them home. For the outward bound trip, the suitcase is 10-15 lbs (4.5–7 kg) or more below the maximum weight limit. That way I know I have some room for souvenirs and books. I've also taken older clothes that I'm willing to toss out at the end of a trip.

If I think there's a chance that a bag is overweight, I may put one or two of the heaviest books in my backpack.

I usually carry on a backpack, not a suitcase, so I have space constraints. I'd much rather make it as light as possible, so I pack the suitcase to be checked as heavy as I can.

If you're taking a suitcase on board that won't fit under the seat, remember that you're going to have to lift it up in the overhead bin.


If you plan on reading on the flight then keeping them with you is probably ideal.

I guess it also might depend on which is more replaceable - the clothes or the books. Checked luggage sometimes gets mis-routed between flights and can be stolen while at the luggage carousel.

  • I'm talking about ~15 books. I'll certainly have one with me, but the others could be checked in. I'm not too worried about stolen/lost luggage, but more about weight limits.
    – gberger
    Aug 10, 2015 at 5:48
  • If you are not worried about stolen/lost luggage, then the books are not valuable. It will probably be cheaper to sell/donate/throw them away and buy them again at your destination than to pay overweight fees.
    – emory
    Aug 11, 2015 at 10:07

Clothes are far lighter (and no-one weighs your take on even if there is a limit). Put your books in your take-on.

A Kindle at 180g (6 oz) is far lighter than 15 books though and perhaps more convenient.

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