Minimalist travel — these two words sound a tad extreme, don’t they?
If they conjure up images of a sunburnt drifter hobbling down the sidewalk with ragged clothes and nothing to their name, I can’t blame you.
But, it’s not like that, I swear.
Minimalist travel is anything but an aimless struggle. It’s quite the opposite, actually.
Traveling with less means thinking deeply about what actually matters and leaving the rest behind. It means experiencing the world feeling light as a feather, unbothered by the burden of a bunch of unnecessary stuff.
So, let me share some of the minimalist travel wisdom I’ve gained over the years. I’ll give you the exact packing list I use to prepare for minimalist trips of a week or more, and analyze every single piece of gear I bring along.
Everything I need to travel, work full-time, and film/photograph my adventures fits into an ultralight 25-liter personal item-sized backpack.
Stay tuned, it’s time to lighten up.
Before we jump in, I’ll try my best to answer this tricky little question.
In my eyes, minimalist travel is the art of packing the minimum you need to explore your destination comfortably. Much like ultralight backpacking, the goal is to trim the fat and only pack the essentials.
But there are no set rules for minimalist travel. What’s essential to one person might be expendable for the next. The truth is that ‘minimalism’ has a different meaning depending on who you ask.
However you define it, minimalist travel is the most liberating way to move about the world. By packing less, we free up time, space, energy, and money to experience our journey without any dead weight holding us back.
Here’s the exact gear I use and my personal packing list for all my minimalist escapades.
Ultralight Daypack: Zpacks Bagger Ultra 25
In the world of minimalist travel, it all starts with a personal item-sized backpack. I’m over the moon with my ultralight Zpacks Bagger Ultra 25-liter pack, which is waterproof and weighs a ridiculous 10.7 ounces. Can’t afford to fork out 250 bucks? Check out the Matador Freerain28.
Copies of Passport/Visa
Do-it-All Cell Phone: iPhone 13 Pro
A quality smartphone should be a key cog of anyone’s travel packing list. My iPhone 13 Pro has a ton of storage (512 GB), a fast processor, an incredible camera, and a beautiful display. Yes, this is an expensive smartphone, but I got a huge discount buying refurbished.
Minimalist Wallet: Slimfold Soft Shell
There’s no room for gigantic, bulging wallets in minimalist travel, so keep it simple. The Slimfold Soft Shell wallet does everything you’ll ever ask of it while never being a bother. It’s RFID-blocking, waterproof, and super comfortable to carry.
Sweatshirt: American Giant
I almost always travel in a sweatshirt, even if I’m visiting a destination with a warmer climate. I just love the coziness it offers when I’m in airports, airplanes, trains, lounges, and other environments with heavy A/C. It’s a bit bulky, so it never goes in my backpack.
Merino Wool T-Shirt: Wool&Prince
If you bump into me while I’m traveling, chances are I’m wearing a Wool&Prince tee. These are soft, comfortable, odor-resistant, and fit me super well. These shirts stay smelling fresh even after several days of use in a row. Thanks, merino wool!
Do-it-All Travel Pants: Outlier Slim Dungarees
I only bring one pair of pants when I’m minimalist traveling, so they’d better be good. My drawers of choice are from a fabric-obsessed NYC-based brand called Outlier. In their words, “If you only own a single pair of pants, these are the ones.” They’re a splurge, but so worth it.
Versatile Shoes: GORUCK Ballistic Trainers
My style of travel — lots of hiking, exploring, and city strolling — calls for a durable and versatile set of shoes. To meet all of these needs, I chose the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers. These lightweight fitness shoes can handle the gym, backcountry, sidewalks, and everything in between.
Baseball Hat: Patagonia Funfarer
Like many minimalist travelers, I can’t be bothered with styling my hair every single day. For that reason, I always travel with a trusty baseball hat. The stylish and versatile Funfarer allows me to get up and go without needing to look into a mirror first.
Retro Sunglasses: Vallon Howlin’
I don’t own these shades yet — I’m waiting until I get back into the US to buy them — but I’m giddy to add them to my arsenal. They’ve got a sweet retro look, polarized lenses, and a detachable head strap. They should instantly elevate my minimalist travel swagger.
Breathable Underwear: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go
Antimicrobial underwear is oh so important in the world of minimalist travel, and that’s why the Give-N-Go’s have been my go-to boxer brief for nearly 10 years. They are exceptionally comfortable and wick away moisture while consistently keeping the stink of travel at bay.
Super-Comfortable Socks: Darn Tough Crew
I’m a sock snob, I’ll admit it. That’s why I’ll only buy Darn Tough brand socks, even if they cost $20 a pair. They’re expertly crafted from an ultra-comfortable merino wool blend and each pair comes with a lifetime guarantee, though they’re so durable you may never need to use it.
Stretchy Belt: Arcade Ranger
This is the most comfortable belt I’ve ever owned, hands down. It’s super stretchy, which works perfectly with my lifestyle. Unlike belts of the past, it never digs into my hips or needs to be adjusted. I can wear it to a coworking space, on the trail, or to a fancy dinner.
Button-Down Shirt: Everlane Japanese Oxford
Though I’m a t-shirt guy through and through, I always bring a button-down shirt for fancier occasions. This is my shirt of its kind in my at-home wardrobe, and thus has earned a spot in my backpack. It fits perfectly, looks great buttoned or unbuttoned, and has held up for years.
Merino Wool T-Shirt: Wool&Prince
Well, hello again, incredible Wool&Prince merino wool t-shirt! I usually pack an extra one of these when I’m traveling, so I can stay fresh and switch up my color schemes as needed. As I mentioned earlier, these rarely trap odor, so they can be worn for days on end without raising a stink.
Performance Tee: Bluffworks Threshold (2)
Though I love my Wool&Prince tees, I’d rather not beat them up when I’m working out, having a beach day, or going on a rigorous hike. That’s where my Bluffworks Tresholds come in. They’re made from polyester and elastane and are meant for high-intensity activities.
Versatile Athletic Shorts: Olivers All Over
When I’m washing my travel pants or need something to wear when I’m working out or swimming, I throw on my All Overs. They’re comfortable, can be worn out on the town, and take up barely any space in my bag. They make my minimalist wardrobe all the more versatile.
Breathable Underwear: ExOfficio Give-N-Go (2)
I’m a bit addicted to the Give-N-Gos; they’re the only underwear I’ll ever buy. When minimalist traveling, I cycle between three pairs of the Give ‘n’ Gos and wash them frequently. If needed, I can stretch their usage an extra day or two between washes.
Super-Comfortable Socks: Darn Tough No Show (2)
When I find a product I love, I sing its praises. That said, my Darn Toughs are so delightful — so utterly comfortable — that I’m going to give you some advice: buy these socks. When traveling, I bring one pair of crew socks and two no-shows. I, of course, wash them regularly.
Compression Packing Cube: SuitedNomad
In the world of extreme minimalist travel, real estate inside my bag is at a premium. To maximize the space, I use a big packing cube to store my clothing, and a small one for my socks, shorts, and undies. The cubes compress my clothing into the tightest space possible.
Lightweight Down Jacket: Arc’teryx Cerium LT
For cold-weather trips, a packable down jacket should be part of every minimalist traveler’s arsenal. I travel with my trusty Arc’teryx Cerium LT, which weighs 10 ounces and packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. It keeps me toasty warm into temperatures well below freezing.
Ultralight Rain Jacket: Montbell Versalite
If I plan on hiking on a given trip, a rain jacket is an essential part of my minimalist packing list. Weighing only 6.4 oz, the Montbell Versalite is incredibly lightweight and packable and has become my rain jacket of choice. It’ll always have a spot in my bag.
Long Underwear: Patagonia Capilene
If the weather on my upcoming trip is chilly enough to pack a down jacket, then I’m likely packing my long underwear, too. I bring the ultra-packable 4.7 oz Patagonia Capilene bottoms to insulate my lower half on my adventures to cold-weather destinations.
Multifunctional Headwear: Merino Wool Buff
Neck warmer, bandana, face mask, beanie – this Merino Wool Buff can transform into whatever type of headwear I need it to be. It takes up zero space in my pack and is far more versatile than a typical lightweight winter hat. It’s a minimalist traveler’s cold-weather dream.
Merino Wool Gloves: SmartWool Touchscreen Liner
Looking for warm set of minimalist gloves that’ll allow you to use your smartphone? These SmartWools are perfect for the job, and while I’ll admit they’re not the warmest gloves on the market, they’ll give your hands plenty of protection and functionality on your adventures.
Camera + Lens
Laptop: MacBook Pro 14
I know, a laptop is so not ultra-minimalist, but I’m a travel blogger, and I rely on my computer to make a living. For now, it’s an essential part of my weeklong minimalist travel packing list. I’ve considered switching it out for an iPad Pro but I’m not there yet.
Laptop Sleeve: ICON
I rely dearly on my laptop and I need to keep it protected at all costs. This sturdy, water-resistant sleeve shields my computer from the harsh rigors of travel and fits perfectly into the back mesh pocket on the outside of my Zpacks Bagger Ultra 25 backpack.
Laptop Stand: Roost
I’ve been dealing with a herniated disc in my lower back recently, and this super lightweight and portable laptop stand has been a godsend. It raises my computer to eye-level, eliminates hunching over while typing, fixes my posture, and takes strain off my back.
Bluetooth Keyboard: Apple Magic Keyboard 2
Since I use a stand to elevate my laptop, I need a bluetooth keyboard so I don’t have to reach up to my computer to type. Though there are more compact options on the market, my Magic Keyboard is essentially a comfortable clone of my MacBook’s keyboard.
Bluetooth Mouse: Keychron M3
I could have gone all-out Apple and sprung for one of their mouses, but I went for a lighter and more affordable option recommended to me by a tech nerd that I trust. This mouse has been excellent for me so far, and has stood up well to life on the road.
Lightweight Travel Camera + Lens: Fujifilm X-T5
A camera isn’t necessary for most minimalist travelers since most cell phones take great photos. That said, I’m about to dive into YouTube soon (gulp), and I’ll purchase this kit when I get back to the States. Expensive? Yes. The best mirrorless camera kit at its price point? Also yes.
Mini Tripod: PEDCO Ultrapod 3
What good is a fancy vlogging camera if you don’t have something to hold it steady? Though it’s a bit diminutive, this is the tripod I’ll be packing with me when I start earning my chops as a videographer. It only weighs a few ounces and will stash away easily in my pack.
Mini Microphone: Rode VideoMicro
A badass camera deserves a worthy microphone. Though this compact little fella won’t capture audio as well as some of the higher-end options on the market, it has done a respectful job for me in the past. It only weighs a few ounces and packs away unnoticed.
Power Bank/Camera Lighting: Nitecore SCL10
Minimalist travelers love items that serve multiple purposes, which is why I’m ecstatic I found the Nitecore SCL10. It’s both a 10,000 mAh power bank and a high-CRI lighting unit in a compact package. It’ll charge my gadgets while in transit and provide lighting when I’m filming.
Ultralight Camera Case: HMG Camera Pod
It’s not easy to find a lightweight yet protective camera case, yet here we are. As an ultralight backpacking gear nerd, I’m familiar with Hyperlite Mountain Gear and their super-light and innovative products. I recently stumbled upon this space-age camera case that weighs only a few ounces. Yes, please.
Minimalist Camera Clip: Peak Design Capture V3
If you’re a minimalist traveling with a camera, and this clip isn’t part of your packing list, you’re doing it wrong. This ergonomic and lightweight clip allows you to stash your camera safely on your belt, backpack strap, or any other number of convenient places. It’s incredible, plain and simple.
Lightweight Earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro
I used to travel with cheap $10 Panasonic headphones until I tried out my friends AirPods Pros. Now, I can never go back. These little beasts pump out the best sound of any headphones I’ve ever owned and have three different settings to control the amount of external sound that comes in.
Compact Bluetooth Speaker: JBL Go 3
As much as I adore my AirPods, I always pack a speaker to play tunes when I’m in my Airbnb, hotel room, or at the park. My compact little JBL Go 3 is waterproof, has a solid battery life, and can get surprisingly loud. This is the biggest “luxury” item that I travel with.
Charging Cable: Apple
No, this isn’t the most exciting item on my packing list, but it is one of the most necessary. It helps keep my precious iPhone and AirPods charged and I’ll never take it for granted. To charge my camera, light, and speaker, I use this tiny 6-inch USB-C cable.
Charger/International Adapter: Aukey
As far as I know, this is about the lightest international charger/adapter on the market. It’s far smaller than anything I’ve used in the past and has come in super handy during my domestic and international travels. It has one micro-USB port, one USB-C port, and two type-A ports.
Toiletries Bag: UltraLite Sacks
No, this ditty bag (Regular size) isn’t advertised as a toiletries kit, but it works perfectly for my current travel hygiene needs. It’s lightweight, durable, waterproof, and fits like a glove inside my pack. I use an ultralight trail wallet and a small zippered pouch for extra organization inside.
Biodegradable Liquid Soap: Dr. Bronner’s
Dr. Bronner’s is the perfect minimalist travel soap, hands down. Why is it so special? For starters, it’s a liquid soap, which makes it extremely easy to travel with. It’s highly potent and has 18 different uses: body wash, dishwashing liquid, and laundry soap, to name a few.
Bamboo Toothbrush: SeaTurtle
I’ll admit it: this isn’t the exact bamboo toothbrush I use, but life goes on. So, why do I use a bamboo toothbrush when I travel? For starters, it’s a far more environmentally responsible choice than a using traditional plastic toothbrush. It works just as well and is completely biodegradable.
Travel-Sized Toothpaste: Dr. Bronner’s
The Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap I mentioned earlier can be used to brush your teeth, but I’ve tried that before and I’m just not feeling it. That said, the company does make actual toothpaste that is full of high-quality ingredients that are good for your body and the environment.
Flosser Sticks: Plackers Micro Mint
Traditional floss can get tangled, grimy, and messy during travel, so I bring along these handy flosser sticks instead. They’re washable, reusable, and make flossing your teeth quick and convenient. For a week of minimalist travel, two or three of these should be all you need on your packing list.
All-Natural Deodorant: Schmidt’s
My search for an all-natural deodorant that can stand up to the rigors of travel seemed hopeless until I came across Schmidt’s. This stuff keeps my B.O. at bay and smells great. It also comes in a compact .7-ounce travel-size, which frees up a lot of space in my toiletries kit.
Ear Cleaner: Mudder Ear Pick
Traveling with a ton of pesky q-tips is annoying, wasteful, and inefficient. That’s why a metal ear pick will always be a part of my minimalist packing list. It’s compact, easy to clean, and is healthier for ear hygiene than using traditional q-tips.
Noise-Deadening Ear Plugs: Howard Leight
Earplugs are one of the most underrated travel items that exist. They’re like a mute button for the constant annoyances of travel. Screaming baby on an airplane? Loud party outside of your hotel room? Someone snoring in the bed next to you? Pop these in and enjoy the silence.
Travel Journal: Moleskine Soft Cover
Whenever I travel without a journal, I feel naked and I’m a hell of a lot less productive. But when I do bring my journal, I use it to take notes, make to-do lists, and recap my days. When my memory fails me one day, at least I’ll have my Moleskines to pore over and relive my glory years.
Waterproof Pen: Fischer Space Bullet
A durable travel journal deserves a reliable pen that will get ink on the paper under any circumstances. For me, that pen is the Fischer Space Bullet, which can write underwater, in extreme temperatures, and at any angle. This pen is sleek, timeless, and minimalist.
Titanium Water Bottle: Snow Peak Aurora
Staying hydrated while traveling can be difficult, so I bring along an ultralight titanium water bottle everywhere I go. This isn’t my exact water bottle yet (I’m currently using this one), but I’m going to buy it as soon as I’m done traveling. It’s expensive, but I’m a gear nerd and can’t help myself.
Ready to travel with way less?
Great, because I’m going to give you the exact packing list I use for minimalist trips of a week or more. I don’t pack the same way for every single trip, though, so here’s a brief overview of my setup, and a few different variations depending on my type of trip.
Note: None of the following weights include the ‘in-transit clothing’ I wear while I’m traveling.
Remember this as you look over my packing list: What works for me might not work for you.
Want to bring along your favorite pair of sandals? Do you think Bluetooth speaker are completely unnecessary? Don’t want to bring your camera? Great! Bring what’s essential for you and leave everything else behind.
And if, after reading over this packing list, you’re convinced that minimalist travel will leave you cold, dirty, and underprepared, give it a try anyway. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how little you actually need.
Minimalist travel doesn’t come naturally to most people, plain and simple. We rely on our possessions for comfort and familiarity when traveling, so packing next to nothing can make us feel a bit vulnerable. I get it.
But if Minimalist travel were too extreme, I’d never have written this article.
Because choosing to pack only what adds value (and nothing more) is a liberating and eye-opening experience. Less is more, in the world of travel, and all it takes is one perfectly-packed minimalist trip to understand why.
So, before your next trip — whether it’s a day, a week, or a year — I challenge you to give this Minimalist packing list a chance. You’ll experience the world light on your feet, with a clear mind and a heavy weight off your shoulders.
Want more help planning your next journey? Here are a couple more personal packing lists that I’ve used to travel and backpack throughout the world.
Carry-On Travel Packing List
For those of you that still aren’t ready to give ultralight travel a chance, I’ve got just the packing list for you. This carry-on-only travel packing list is more luxurious while still being lightweight and portable. It comes in at just about 25 pounds and is carry-on friendly.
Though I no longer travel with this much gear, I’ve used this exact packing list for several unforgettable trips in my past: a spontaneous motorbike adventure through Vietnam, a wild five-day jaunt through Hong Kong, and an exhilarating trip to Mexico City and its infamous black market.
Ultralight Backpacking Gear List
In addition to being an extreme minimalist traveler, I’m a hiking and ultralight backpacking junkie. I keep my ultralight backpacking gear setup as simple and lightweight as possible. My base weight — everything besides food, water, fuel, and consumables — is just under 9 pounds.
My gear holds up to nasty weather and has allowed me to hike for a week without resupply. With this setup, I’ve hiked the life-changing ‘O’ Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park, solo trekked into the Atacama Desert, and traversed over glaciers on the Huemul Circuit.
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Last Updated on August 28, 2023