Have you ever been travelling or away on holiday, and you’ve seen some miserable backpackers, hauling around monstrous bags on their backs that makes it look like it’s difficult to walk? They’re sweating and swearing and vowing that they’ll never pack that much stuff again! Many people find out the hard way that minimalist packing is one of the more underrated travel essentials, and can make the difference between being able to walk or not! I have been one of those people and – trust me – you do not want to find out the hard way!
That’s what this minimalist packing guide is for!
Life becomes much easier when you pack correctly, by taking only what you need, and leaving the rest at home! It’s more comfortable, first and foremost. You’re a lot more mobile so it’s easier to get around, not to mention, you’ll also save yourself a fair bit of money as sticking to carry-on luggage will mean you avoid the sneaky extra fees airlines charge for check-in baggage.
All in all, it’s better to travel with just one bag! Here are a few of the benefits to doing this:
- Less time wasted at airports, waiting for your luggage, or (worst-case scenario) trying to track it down if it gets lost!
- Like I mentioned before, you save money on flights.
- You’ll have less back and shoulder pain. You’ll just have more energy overall which means more energy for exploring!
- It’s easier to travel on busses, trains and other forms of domestic transportation.
Minimalist packing is all about eliminating the non-essentials. Before setting off, practice packing at home. Lay out all of the stuff you plan to take with you, and get rid of the things that are not essential for the trip. Be as brutally honest with yourself as possible at this stage. You’ll thank yourself later!
What will help you the most during this process is your mindset towards it. Undergoing a mindset shift is what made it easier for me to leave the things behind that I didn’t really need. For example, I thought I needed to bring my razor to shave, but since I adjusted my mindset, I realised I can just let my beard grow. It’s not the end of the world!
This article is aimed, mainly at long-term travel but I’m sure you could use these same minimalist packing ideas for smaller holidays as well!
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Minimalist Packing Rules
- Stick to the essentials. This must be the underlying mindset you have when it comes to all aspects of the minimalist packing process. Always ask yourself the question, “Do I really need this?”. You don’t need to plan for every possible event. Just stick to the “needs”, not the “wants” or the “what if I needs”.
- Less weight, more effectiveness. This is an example of the “less is more” mindset. Just because you’re packing less, doesn’t mean you’re less prepared or that the stuff you do bring isn’t as useful. Bring multi-purpose items wherever possible, like a universal adaptor, for example – instead of a different adaptor for every country you plan on visiting.
- Pack enough clothes to last a week. It doesn’t matter how long you plan to travel for, this will be enough in terms of clothing. If you don’t believe me, give it a go and you’ll realise that it’s more than enough! It’s never too difficult to find laundry services and these are often pretty cheap. Washing your clothes once a week is better than bringing another week’s worth of clothes!
- Don’t fill your bag. Now, obviously if you’re bringing one relatively small bag with you, you may have to fill it up, but don’t just fill it for the sake of using up space. If you’ve packed all the essentials and there’s still a quarter of the space free, don’t fill it up. This could prove useful on the trip. If you need/want to buy something while you’re away, there will be space for it. It can never hurt to have a little extra space!
Minimalist Travel Backpack
Choosing the right backpack is an essential part of this minimalist packing process. The size of the bag you pick largely depends on what kind of traveller you are, but for minimalist travellers, 40 litres is pretty standard.
This will usually be accepted as carry-on luggage (although I would advise checking the airline guidelines before heading to the airport).
Having a backpack of this size will also make it far easier to travel around your destination, whether you are walking or if you need to stow it away on a bus or a train (or a tuk tuk in places like Thailand). If you’re about to miss your bus or train, it will also be possible for you to run to catch it. I guarantee you the “heavy backpackers” would destroy their spine and crumple to the floor in a heap of defeat if they tried this!
When I travel, I usually need a little extra packing space for the equipment I need for blogging. It’s up to you whether you bring a laptop or not. You could always substitute a laptop for a tablet, or don’t bring either! Travel can actually be a great opportunity to get away from the internet and just relax and de-stress.
If you’re looking for a bag to get started with, the “Mountaintop 40L” is a pretty good option. It’s the appropriate size and has a compartment to store laptops or tablets. It has four compression straps which are very important when it comes to comfort. Another great feature is that it’s water-resistant! Probably the best part about this (and most other 40 litre backpacks) is the fact that it will be accepted as hand luggage on most flights!
How To Actually Pack
The first tip is to get some packing cubes – an awesome tool for minimalist travellers! These are so useful when it come to organising all your stuff. They protect your clothes from potential stains or wrinkles, and – to top it all off – they’re not that expensive! Before putting your clothes into the packing cubes, it’s a good idea to roll them instead of folding them as this is more space efficient.
Roll not fold, people!
Minimalist Packing List (for a hot climate) Example
- 1 pair of shoes (which I keep in a separate plastic bag)
- 5 t-shirts/shirts
- 2 pairs of shorts (+ swimming shorts)
- 1 pair of trousers/pants
- 1 hoodie/long-sleeved top
- 5 pairs of underwear – some people go as low as 3 but I would rather bring a couple extra and save myself the extra laundry.
- 1 or 2 pairs of socks – if you’re travelling to a hot climate, you’ll be wearing flip-flops or sandals most of the time so you’ll rarely need socks.
- 1 pair of flip-flops/sandlals
- Toiletries bag
- Bug spray (for most hot and humid climates)
- Sun cream
- Deodorant (roller is better than spray)
You might have noticed that I didn’t put shampoo/shower gel as well as other toiletries on the list? Well, I often like to make use of the free toiletries you often receive when you stay in hotels. If you don’t want to go ultra minimalist/scavenger mode, feel free to bring little travel shampoos/shower gels etc.
Just make sure that any liquids you bring in your toiletries bag are less than 100ml, otherwise you might get them taken off you when you go through security at the airport.
To save yourself even more weight, wear your heaviest, bulkiest clothes on the flight. Planes can often get quite cold so you’re not likely to overheat, plus, it makes your bag even easier to carry around!
If you’re travelling to a cold climate (perhaps you’re going on an insane skiing adventure), your bag will be a bit heavier, due to the bulkier winter clothing, however, you can still wear the bulkier clothes on the flight.
If you’re travelling to a rainy climate, you can get a super-lightweight waterproof jacket that can fold up to an incredibly small size!
When it comes to separating your clean clothes and the clothes for the laundry, you have a couple of options.
Option number one is to bring a plastic bag of some kind with you and just throw all of your dirty stuff in there.
Option number two is something I learnt from the Minimalists. I’ll use underwear as an example for this one. If you have a bright, colourful set of underwear, you can use this to separate the clean from the dirty. This option is a little more extreme, but would save you extra space, instead of having a clumpy plastic bag to worry about.
The best towel for a traveller to bring with them is a microfiber travel towel. These are so light and they’re also incredibly good at absorbing water, plus, they dry in no time.
If you’re going to bring a towel, this is the best option by far!
If you choose to travel without one altogether, always make use of hotel towels when at all possible – it’s best to avoid smelling too bad!
I always bring a day pack with me. It’s great if you can find a backpack which has a day pack attached to it. I keep things like my camera (Canon EOS Rebel T5 – a little old school but this is a damn good camera!) and GoPro Hero 5 in this day pack as this is the stuff I will likely bring out with me during the day.
While in transit, I will also keep my passport, as well as any documents or cards I need in this bag.
Other Minimalist Packing Ideas
Having a travel organiser is very useful as this can hold all of your small items that you would likely lose otherwise. These could be things like ear plugs, SD cards or small cables/chargers.
A universal travel adaptor can be a life saver – especially when you’re travelling to multiple countries. One of the biggest hassles when travelling is getting the correct adaptor for your destination. This takes care of that.
If you want to keep all your stuff extra safe, a number padlock is a great thing to bring, especially if you’re staying in hostels. I can imagine it would be pretty s****y if all your stuff got stolen out of your bag! These number padlocks usually only work with zip rings.
It can be quite challenging, changing your mindset to that of a minimalist traveller, and no where will this mindset be required more than during the packing stage. Once you actually hit the road, you’ll realise how easy it is to do without the stuff you’d usually bring. Your mind is free. Free from worrying about the weight of your bag – and if your spine is going to hold. Free to focus on the travel, the new experiences, the ups and downs, unforgettable memories.
That’s what it’s really about! Are you interested in learning the ins and outs of this whole minimalist travel business? If this sounds like you – if you have dreams and aspirations to see the world – check out our free, weekly newsletter to get access to awesome bonus content that regular readers miss out on!
P.S. if you want to see an extreme (and I mean extreme!) approach to this minimalist packing business, check out this post! This could also be referred to as the “no baggage challenge”!
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