Last Updated on October 19, 2021
Ultra minimalist travel — these three 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.
Ultra-minimalist travel is anything but an aimless struggle. It’s quite the opposite, actually.
Traveling with way 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 ultra-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 I’ll analyze every single piece of gear I bring along with me.
Stay tuned, it’s time to lighten up.
ULTRA MINIMALIST PACKING LIST:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. What is Ultra Minimalist Travel?
2. Ultra Minimalist Packing List for a Week
3. Minimalist Travel Bags
4. Must-Bring Travel Essentials
5. In-Transit Travel Clothing
6. Minimalist Travel Wardrobe
7. Cold-Weather Travel Clothing
8. Connectivity & Organization Gear
9. Minimalist Travel Toiletries Kit
10. Everything Else
11. Final Thoughts: Ultra Minimalist Travel
12. More Travel & Hiking Packing Lists
Before we jump in, I’ll try my best to answer this tricky little question.
In my eyes, ultra-minimalist travel is the art of packing the absolute 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 ultra-minimalist travel. What’s essential to one person might be expendable for the next. The truth is that ‘ultra minimalism’ has a different meaning depending on who you ask.
However you define it, ultra-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.
Ready to travel with way less?
Great, because I’m going to give you the exact packing list I use for ultra-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.
Fully-Loaded (Four Season)
Weight of Backpack: 10.6 lb | 4.8 kg
Volume of Setup: 30 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, including cold-weather clothing. I can travel in chilly climates, take professional quality photos, and work on my blog full-time with this setup.
Fully-Loaded (Warm Weather)
Weight of Backpack: 9.2 lb | 4.2 kg
Volume of Setup: 25 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, except for my cold-weather clothing. I can travel in mild to warm climates, take professional quality photos, and work on my blog full-time with this setup.
No Laptop (Four Season)
Weight of Backpack: 6.5 lb | 2.9 kg
Volume of Setup: 24 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, except for my laptop and carrying case. I can travel in cold climates and take professional quality photos with this setup.
No Laptop (Warm Weather)
Weight of Backpack: 5.2 lb | 2.4 kg
Volume of Setup: 19 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, except for my laptop, carrying case, and cold-weather clothing. I can travel in mild-to-warm climates and take professional quality photos with this setup.
No Camera (Four Season)
Weight of Backpack: 9.1 lb | 4.1 kg
Volume of Setup: 27 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, except for my camera equipment. I can travel in cold climates and work on my blog full-time with this setup.
No Camera (Warm Weather)
Weight of Backpack: 7.7 lb | 3.5 kg
Volume of Setup: 22 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, except for my camera equipment and cold-weather clothing. I can travel in mild-to-warm-weather and work on my blog full-time with this setup.
Bare Bones (Four Season)
Weight of Backpack: 5.1 lb | 2.3 kg
Volume of Setup: 21 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, except for my laptop, carrying case, charger, and camera equipment. I use this setup for cold-weather adventures when I won’t need my computer or camera.
Bare Bones (Warm Weather)
Weight of Backpack: 3.6 lb | 1.63 kg
Volume of Setup: 16 liters
This setup includes everything on my minimalist packing list for a week, except for my cold-weather clothing, laptop, case, charger, and camera equipment. I use this setup for mild-to-warm-weather adventures when I won’t need my computer or camera.
Remember this as you look over my packing list: What works for me might not work for you.
Don’t feel like washing your own laundry as you go? Want to bring along your favorite pair of sandals? Do you think hip packs dorky and unnecessary? 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.
Ultralight Daypack: Matador Freerain32
In the world of ultra-minimalist travel, it all starts with your backpack. I’m smitten with my completely waterproof Matador Freerain 32 liter pack, which weighs a ridiculous 10 ounces. Don’t need that much space? Check out the super affordable 4Monster 24 Liter.
Is the Freerain32 not quite your style? Check out 2021’s best minimalist travel backpacks to find the pack that best suits you.
Waterproof Hip Pack: Ultralightsacks Fanny Pack
When I want to explore, but don’t feel like taking my backpack along, I’ll strap on my trusty hip pack. I use it to stash snacks, sunglasses, extra camera lenses – you name it. It’s made of completely waterproof DCF material, so I stash electronics inside without worry.
ID Card/Drivers License
Copies of Passport/Visa
Versatile Cell Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
A quality smartphone doesn’t have to cost as much as your laptop. My Xiaomi Mi 9 Lite has a ton of storage (128 GB), a fast processor, an impressive camera, and a beautiful display all for a fraction of the price of the exorbitant higher-end phones.
Minimalist Wallet: Herschel Charlie
There’s no room for gigantic, bulging wallets in minimalist travel, so keep it simple. The Herschel Charlie does everything you’ll ever ask of it while never being a bother. It has an RFID blocking layer as well, so nobody can skim your credit card info.
Breathable Long-Sleeve Shirt: Carhartt Force Extremes
If you check out my ultralight backpacking setup or my carry-on only packing list, you’ll notice that I’m completely in love with this shirt. It’s soft, comfortable, lightweight, and versatile enough for travel, backpacking, and everything in between.
Comfortable Travel Pants: prAna Stretch Zion
Travel pants are an extremely important part of an ultra-minimalist wardrobe, as I only recommend traveling with one pair. For me, those pants are the prAna Strech Zions – they’re durable, stylish, and intelligently designed for both travelers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Trail Running Shoes: Salomon XA Pro 3D
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 Salomon XA Pro 3Ds. These lightweight trail runners can handle backcountry, sidewalks, and everything in between.
Baseball Hat: Zpacks Classic Trucker
Like many ultra-minimalist travelers, I simply can’t be bothered with styling my hair every single day. For that reason, I always travel with my trusty mesh-back trucker hat. It’s lightweight, stylish, breathable, and allows me to get up and go without needing to look into a mirror.
Durable Sunglasses: Merry’s Vintage
Though I rarely lose things, I’ve can never seem to hold onto sunglasses longer than a year or two. Luckily, I discovered Merry’s – a durable, polarized, and stylish set of shades that costs less than $15. Now, next time I lose a pair, I’ll skip feeling sorry for myself and buy another set.
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 No Show
I’m a sock snob, I’ll admit it. That’s why I’ll only buy Darn Tough brand socks, even if they cost damn near $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.
Anti-Theft Travel Belt: Jasgood
It’s smart to have a secret place to hide your cash in the unfortunate event that your wallet gets lost or stolen, so wear an anti-theft belt to keep your money safe. Because no matter what happens, you’ll always have your secret stash of cash safe and secure.
Merino Wool T-Shirts: Montbell Plus Light
I love these Merino Wool t-shirts because they breathe well, fit perfectly, and don’t trap the inevitable odor of travel. They’re a 53% Merino Wool/47% polyester blend, which helps wick moisture away and keeps me cool on hot days. They’re a solid staple of my minimalist packing list.
Breathable Underwear: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go
I’m a bit addicted to the Give ‘n’ Gos’; they’re the only underwear I’ll ever buy. When ultra-minimalist traveling, I cycle between three pairs of the Give ‘n’ Gos and wash them as I go. If needed, I can stretch their usage an extra day or two between washes.
Super-Comfortable Socks: Darn Tough No Show
When I find a product I love, I’m not afraid to blatantly 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 damn socks. When traveling, I only pack two extra pairs and, of course, I wash them as needed.
Lightweight Athletic Shorts: Patagonia Nine Trails
When I’m washing my travel pants or need something to wear when I’m working out or swimming, I throw on my Nine Trails. They’re comfortable, have three zippered pockets, and take up barely any space in my bag, making my minimalist wardrobe all the more versatile.
Ultralight Rain Jacket: Montbell Versalite
I hike a lot when I travel, so I consider a rain jacket an essential part of my ultra-minimalist packing list. Weighing only 6.4 oz, the Montbell Versalite is incredibly lightweight and packable, my rain jacket of choice. It will always have a spot in my bag.
Compression Packing Cube: SuitedNomad
In the world of extreme minimalist travel, the space inside your bag is at a premium. To best maximize my space, I use a compression packing cube to store my clean clothing. The cube’s clever set of zippers smushes my clothes into the tightest space possible.
Laundry Bag: Outdoor Research CarryOut 5L Dry Bag
You may have noticed that there aren’t enough socks, underwear, and shirts on my minimalist packing list to stay fresh for a week. That’s where the dry bag comes in. When my clothes get dirty, I add them to this dry bag with water and a touch of Dr. Bronner’s soap and wash my laundry as needed.
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.
Thermal Top: TSLA Baselayer
In spring and fall climates, a down jacket can be a bit much, so I pack a thermal top instead. Layered with my travel shirt and my rain jacket, this handy thermal traps my body heat and keeps me comfortable when temperatures are chilly, but not downright freezing.
Long Underwear: Patagonia Capilene
If the weather on my upcoming trip is chilly enough to pack a down jacket, then I’m definitely packing my long underwear. 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 you need it to be. It will take up zero space in your 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 all the protection and functionality you need.
Laptop: MacBook Pro 13″
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, though I’m seriously considering switching it out for an iPad Pro.
Laptop Case: ProCase 12 – 12.9 Inch
I rely dearly on my laptop and I need to keep it protected at all costs. This sturdy, water-resistant case shields my computer from the harsh rigors of travel and fits perfectly into the back compartment of my backpack for easy access.
Lightweight Travel Camera: Olympus O-MD E-M10
Should you travel with a camera when your cellphone is perfectly capable of taking photos? That’s up to you. For my line of work, photography is essential, so I designed my packing list to fit my compact micro four-thirds camera, which is perfect for minimalist travel.
Extra Camera Battery: Powerextra
If I use my camera regularly — say 100+ photos a day — a fully-charged battery will last between 3-4 days. So, if I’m minimalist traveling for a week, I’ll include one extra camera battery on my packing list. If I’m traveling for longer than that, I’ll bring along my battery charger as well.
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: Panasonic ErgoFit
I tend to lose or break headphones on a regular basis, much like I do with sunglasses. For that reason, I opt for the ultra-budget-friendly and minimalist ErgoFit earbuds. They’re lightweight, comfortable, and pump out surprisingly quality sound, all for under $10.
Laptop/USB Charger: Icalla 60W
This tiny travel adapter charges my laptop and cell phone simultaneously and is half the size of my computer’s stock charger. Now, that’s efficiency travel gear nerds far and wide can appreciate. Looking for an international travel adapter? Check out the MingTong All-in-One.
USB Charging Cable: Cable Creation 6″
Yes, I’m aware this charging cable is extremely short, but being an ultra-minimalist traveler means packing the bare minimum. I can’t really use my phone while it’s charging unless I want to jam myself up next to the outlet and look ridiculous, and I’m entirely okay with that.
Lightweight Toiletries Bag: Sea to Summit Traveling Light
Ultra minimalist travelers don’t need to sacrifice hygiene in order to travel light. A compact and well-organized toiletries kit can hold everything you need to stay fresh, clean, and stink-free on the road. My 1.6 oz Sea to Summit 2L bag holds all of my hygienic staples with room to spare.
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 multiple uses – body wash, dishwashing liquid, and laundry soap to name a few.
Foldable Toothbrush: Lingito ‘On the Go’
Squeezing every single toiletry on your packing list into a tiny bag is like a game of minimalist Tetris: you’ll need all the right sized pieces to make it work. A compact foldable toothbrush is a perfect part of the kit, and will free up room for all your other micro-sized health products.
Travel-Sized Toothpaste: Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint
The Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap I mentioned earlier can be used to brush your teeth, but I’ve tried it 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, 2 or 3 of these should be all you need on your packing list.
All-Natural Deodorant: Sam’s Natural
My search for an all-natural deodorant that could stand up to the rigors of travel seemed hopeless until I came across Sam’s Natural. This stuff lasts all day long and smells incredible. It doesn’t come in travel-size, however, so I move mine into a smaller container that will fit seamlessly into my kit.
Ear Cleaner: Etereauty 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 the most underrated travel item that exists. 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 sweet sound of silence.
Ultra-Minimalist Travel Towel: Lightload Microfiber
Most hotels and hostels offer full-sized towels to customers, so it doesn’t make sense to lug around one of your own. I do, however, recommend packing a hand-sized Lightload travel towel instead. Weighing only half-an-ounce, they’re compact, convenient, and there when you need them.
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. Need I say more?
Collapsible Water Bottle: Sawyer 32 oz Pouch
Staying hydrated during travel can be difficult, so I pack a collapsible water bottle that comes with me everywhere I go. When not in use, this ultralight pouch rolls up and stashes away into my hip pack or back pocket. It’s not only perfect for travel but for hiking and backpacking as well.
Ultra-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 ultra-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 ultra-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 Only Travel Packing List
For those of you that still aren’t ready to give ultra-minimalist 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 20 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.
Is my ultra-minimalist packing list too extreme or not minimalist enough? What’s the least amount of belongings you’ve ever traveled with? Are you an over-packer or an under-packer? What piece of travel gear can you never leave behind? Leave me some feedback by leaving a comment below!