The minimalist travel industry and lifestyle has seen a significant spike in recent years as more and more travelers try to simplify their gear and journeys. Read on to see my current minimalist travel gear list including wish list items and items I’ve decide are unnecessary.
This is a guide to minimalist travel gear from my experience. I do not claim to be some travel expert, simply someone who has lived and traveled abroad a fair amount. What follows is the result of experience from overpacking, the goal of traveling with a single bag, and never wishing I had brought something that wasn’t with me. I am currently in Thailand and plan to travel for the next year throughout SE Asia ending in New Zealand and Australia. Here is my current gear list followed by my wish list and items I would leave behind next time.
Minimalist Travel Gear List:
This bag is a front loading 40 L pack, which makes packing and unpacking easy. You can access everything in the bag easily without having to pull everything out like most top loading bags. The main compartment is a single space with no other pockets or dividers. The Osprey far point features two tie down clips to compress the contents. The backpack has solid straps and a strong waist belt. The compartment on the flap holds your laptop and can fit charging cables and a notebook. The straps zip away into a dedicated pocket meaning you can check the bag or carry it like a suitcase or shoulder bag. Here is a link to a ridiculously cheap waterproof cover for rainy days.
Use packing cubes or simply roll your clothes and tie them down. Rather than throwing everything loose in the bag, I would recommend two large packing cubes large enough to fill the entire bag, ideally larger than 10″ by 14″.
- laptop pocket is located on the outside
- no dividers in main pocket
- no hip belt pockets
Bag on my wish list:
The Minaal is expensive, but I think the design effort makes it worthwhile. Also, I prefer to have the most expensive piece of gear I have (my macbook) on the inside of the pack by my back rather than the very front like my current Osprey.
This collapsible 20 liter day pack is perfect to carry everything you need on your daily outings. It has three pockets and a fourth inner pocket that doubles as a stuff sack and a place for your valuables. I also use a small s-biner to lock in all of the zippers when I’m on the move in sketchy places.
I went with black Eagle Creek cubes due to their simple, modern design. The set came with one large, one medium, and one small cube. I ordered a second large cube and the two large cubes are the only ones that see practical use. I find if you use the smaller cubes and fill them or partially fill them they tend to take up more space in your bag. Two large cubes, not fully filled, and stacked on top of each other has been the optimal use of space for me.
Recommended alternate: Basics 4-Piece Large Cubes
This 1 liter water bottle is the best I’ve found in terms of capacity, structure, and size. When not in use, the camelback like sidewall compresses down leaving the bottle around 2 inches in height. It is built to last and has a strong rubber carry handle. You can compress the bottle to save space in regards to how much water you carry.
Alternate recommendation: Fifty/Fifty 18oz vacuum sealed bottle, yes it holds about half the volume of the hydrapack and does not collapse, however, if you tend not to drink a lot of water and you like your water to stay cold without the bottle sweating in warm climates, this vacuum sealed bottle is the way to go.
The only truly viable neck pillow options for minimalist travel are the inflatable versions. Eagle Creek does a fine job with the Exhale travel pillow with easy inflation control and a durable stuff sack for st
This mask keeps out all light, leaves space in front of your eyes for blinking and features an adjustable strap.
Sarongs are some of the most versatile travel items as they can be used for a multitude of things. I use it mostly as a beach towel and sometimes as a gym or bath towel when nothing else is available. Occasionally I’ll wear it lounging around. With minimal space requirements, the versatility of sarongs makes them perfect for minimalist travellers.
Large enough to fit my daypack and then some on a tour involving water and or rain. Durable yet thin material allows this bag to collapse to almost nothing and means it weighs nothing too. Only wish it had a carry strap but you can’t complain for the space savings.
This wallet excels with its small size and can hold several cards and some cash. Not ideal if you are mainly doing cash transactions as the thin design doesn’t contain dozens of bills well without bulging.
I keep anything important in here including documents, copies of my passport, and extra cash. This organiser is cheap and does the job.
Bring a few of these to hold your toiletries and loose electronics. You can see what’s inside making grabbing things easy! The freezer bags tend to hold up better than traditional bags. These take up less space and weight than having a separate toiletry or electronics bag.
Think in 1’s and 2’s. You don’t really need more than 1 or 2 of anything. I packed more than this for my current trip and find I don’t really need them and should have left them behind. Lets start at the top.
I love this hat because you can cram it into your bag and not have to worry about the structure like you would a modern stiff front cap. The Obey Five Panel also has a clip that you can use to clip the hat to your pack or to a belt loop when you don’t need it. I also want to get a bucket hat, but haven’t yet found one with looks that I can stomach.
$10 polarised glasses! Yes only $10, if I loose them or step on them I won’t feel the pain of doing that to a $200 pair of sunglasses. You do get a blue tint depending on the angle of the sun’s reflection that takes some getting used to. These also have very thin lenses that make them lightweight. I managed to break the hinge after 2 months of daily use and abuse and decided to re-order.
My main shirts are made by Woolly Clothing. They are 150 GSM weight, which is great for warm climates and they are 100% merino wool. Merino wool has great wicking properties and is naturally antimicrobial meaning they will not smell after normal wear. Wear one for a week of strenuous activity and you might be able to get a good whiff if you shove the underarm of the shirt against your nose. I have a grey crew neck and a light blue v-neck. Make sure you buy the 150 GSM, not the 190 GSM.
I also have an Icebreaker shirt with a graphic on the front. These shirts are top of the line when it comes to merino but can cost as much as double what the Woolly shirts cost. You can get a graphic tee with a little less itch than the Woolly if its in your budget. I prefer the Woolly mainly for the consistently low price point.
This is a newer line that offers super thin, breathable, affordable, and anti-odor shirts, tanks and boxer briefs. The line is designed as innerwear but functions fine as normal clothing. The fabric is a mesh, similar to ex-officio boxers but much thinner. If you buy a tank make sure to buy one size up as they tend to run small. I have tried the t-shirts from the Airism line but the odor control was disappointing.
Tanks are a great lightweight option. I am less picky on fabric choice here as they are not directly in your underarm. Cotton is a decent choice as it does not tend to smell quickly, however it does hold excess moisture. I would avoid athletic materials like polyester, elastane and the like as they tend to smell after a single workout. Less smell, less wash, less clothes to carry around.
It runs a bit large but is lightweight and waterproof. This jacket stood up to a Thailand monsoon downpour and I stayed totally dry.
I found this 100% merino lightweight hooded, zipped, sweatshirt perfect for an additional layer. I like the color and the breathability. While it is a thinner sweatshirt, it is the heaviest item of clothing in my bag. If weight is an issue, I would look at Uniqlo for a light shell.
The REI shorts have all the zippered pockets you could ask for without excess bulge or the safari look. You can easily keep your wallet, passport, and phone securely in these shorts without worrying about theft or something falling out. I tend to wear these on travel days or while exploring a city.
Look for hybrid board shorts that can get wet and are quick drying. The more functions one item has, the less you have to carry.
None yet, but I am hunting for a pair.
Ideally you should find shorts that fit great without needing a belt to hold them up. However if this is not the case, ditch the leather belt and get a canvas belt with a one piece buckle. Mine happens to have a beer opener if I ever find myself in a pinch. Because the buckle is graphite, you can also get through most airport security without removing it.
These are the best I’ve found for odor control thanks to the natural properties of merino. They can be a bit warm in hot climates compared to Uniqlo Airism Boxer Briefs. I also have Ex-Officio’s and tend to switch between all three.
All you need is two pairs of these, they will never smell so you have to remember to wash them along with your other clothes. They are thin and breathable and lightweight. I tried the Darn Tough ankle socks which are also wool, but are rather thick and hot. However, the lifetime warranty they offer on socks is something to think about, especially if you are traveling to a cooler climate.
Yes, I am breaking my own rule here to think in 1’s and 2’s. If I do downsize I would probably drop the Xero Shoes, and would still have a whopping three pairs!
The best traditional training shoe I have come across. I used to go with Nikes but have found the New Balance to be a much better shoe with the vibram sole and have yet to smell like my Nike’s would. Lightweight and breathable, they look quite nice in all black. These double as my “dress” shoe if the occasion arises.
This is my first pair of barefoot shoes. These are great for getting back into running and learning a different technique. I would only recommend using these for short distances and softer surfaces. If you are going to walk around a city all day, wear your trainers.
These shoes are extremely lightweight with a decent amount of fusion, sporting more than even the Merrell barefoot. I am still getting used to the look, but wearing them feels great.
These are solid flip flops with a soft faux-leather straps that will never irritate your feet.
This section will vary greatly based on personal preference and if you have equipment necessities for your work. Below you’ll find my current set up which meets my employment needs as well as my entertainment desires.
Before I knew I would be traveling out of a backpack, I purchased a 15″ Retina Macbook Pro, which weighs over 4 pounds including the charger. It is a great computer and can easily be accommodated in the Osprey pack and many other packs. However, if I was starting fresh I would likely go with a 13″ Retina Macbook Pro. I think the ideal technology set up would be the 13″ Retina Pro with high specs and a iPhone 6s Plus that can also be used as decent sized e-reader.
Having an unlocked phone is key as it is nice to stay connected and be able to get around without having to ask the locals everytime you are looking for something. I paid $15 for a 4.5GB phone plan with unlimited text and 80 minutes of talk time. More than I really need since I have wifi everywhere I stay. I also purchased a Solememo Battery Case, which I consider best in class for its sleekness, capacity and lighting cable compatibility. Say goodbye to an extra battery brick as this will more than double your battery life in a sleek package.
Phone on my Wish List:
I’d like the iPhone 7 Plus mainly for the larger screen size and the benefits of two separate lenses on the camera.
I used to buy low end in ear headphones with all the features of nicer headphones – flat wiring, good sound, and an inline mic. They would last six months to a year or more and then one headphone would start to fade in and out. I also wasn’t a fan of dealing with tangled cords. Before my latest trip I decided to pick up some quality headphones. I went with the Bose Soundlink OE because they have great sound and fold up into a reasonably sized case for travel. They are not noise cancelling and are not around the ear style which I would prefer, especially for hours on an airplane. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with my latest addition and their 15 hour battery life.
Headphones on my wish list:
These headphones are noise cancelling although at a larger size. Despite the added size, the over ear structure and noise cancelling features make these ideal. They are pricey but you will not regret the purchase on your next flight or when you need to focus in a loud environment.
I use this to watch news via Haystack, Netflix, Youtube, listen to Spotify using my phone as a remote. You can also mirror any tab or the entire desktop using the chrome browser all to your TV. As long as the TV has a USB port and HDMI port and a decent wifi connection it works. If you don’t want to carry around the long USB cable, pick up this handy 8 inch cable.
This water resistant bluetooth speaker keeps me entertained for hours. They have decent sound at three quarters volume and can be taken to the beach, or used in the bathroom. Battery life could be better but for the money I can’t complain. Is this something that I don’t really need or use enough to justify? Absolutely.
Full featured point and shoot camera with nice LCD and crisp picture quality. However it is also bulky and heavier than I had hoped. When I upgrade I will look at the Canon PowerShot G7 X that comes in a slimmer package and also check out Sony’s RX-100 line. The G16 won’t charge the battery through USB port, which means you have to take along the bulky plug charger and remove the battery from the camera.
I upgraded from a Hero2 for my latest trip for the reduced size and LCD on the back of the go pro. The LCD is nice so you can see what you’re taking a picture of and review photos on the camera itself. I also have the GoPro handle/selfie stick. Disappointed that the camera does not have a single or burst shot delay timer mode for taking shots from the end of the pool. This must be a ploy to get you to buy the wifi remote. I use burst mode at 1″ intervals which works fine, just end up deleting more photos than I would like to.
Used to hook up your computer to the TV to watch shows and movies when the internet is slow or the Chromecast is not ideal.
Rather than carry the plug charger that came with the shaver, I use this charger than I can plug into my laptop or a wall socket to recharge. Save space where you can, and a USB over plug charger is always a better option when looking to downsize.
Micro USB – to charge headphones
Mini USB – to charge go pro
External Battery/Travel Router
I have yet to use this piece of equipment and normally think of a battery bank as unnecessary, at least for me. Normally, I can charge from my Macbook which has yet to be insufficient. However, this piece of tech was recommended by Snarky Traveler as well and functions as a router. Great if for some reason you only have access to an ethernet cable and don’t want to be wired in or the router is outdated and performs poorly. This is the about the size of the converter block on a Macbook charger and is not overly heavy. Time will tell if I use it this trip or leave it behind in the future. Also if you find yourself without good internet or enough juice, head to your closest coffee shop. It is also available without the external battery in a smaller, lighter design.
In addition to the Transcend 128gb sd card expansion drive on my Macbook Pro w/ 256 gb solid state drive; I also have a 750gb Seagate Drive. I use this to backup my computer with time machine and store excess photos. However, ideally I would drop this tech, as it is a bit bulky and have a Sandisk 256gb micro sd card expansion drive to backup the files on my computer I need and store photos. Get an adapter like this to have it flush inside the Macbook.
Notebook and Pen
Nice to jot notes and thoughts down on paper once in while. These are the best option I’ve found so far.
Awesome little pen. Writes well and can be refilled.
Lightweight, lasts forever, and you’ll never be without toothpaste. I alternate between this and a small tube of normal toothpaste.
This stuff can be expensive in tropical destinations, if you are headed to the beach – this is a good idea. Fits in your carry on.
This is quality stuff. Also, cut a bar of your favorite soap in half. It’s great to have by the sink or in the shower and tend to last a long time.
Toiletries Wish list:
Unnecessary? Yes. Cool? Kind of.
Things I’ll Leave Behind
These items haven’t seen much if any use and are not essential.
Travel Router/External Battery
Ethernet Cable with Thunderbolt Adaptor
Based on weight, many would not consider my set up as minimalist travel gear. It currently weighs more than I like at around 27 lbs (~12 kilos). Getting rid of the items I listed above and a pair of shoes would get me closer to my desired weight of 22 lbs (10 kilos).
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