I take one small 19-liter backpack as my only bag no matter where I’m traveling or for how long. The three basic principles of minimalist or ultralight packing are: 1) eliminate any “what if” stuff (you can always buy extra toothpaste etc.), 2) wash your clothes often, if not every day, and 3) be prepared to spend on light, durable, high quality gear.
I carry Tom Bihn’s Synapse 19. Here’s how I pack it in video form, although I’ve changed a few things since this was made (see above animation):
- 1 rain jacket (Outdoor Research Aspire)
- 1 synthetic down jacket (REI Revelcloud) if necessary
Shirts or Tops
- 1 Merino wool Tech T Lite short-sleeve shirt from Icebreaker
- 1 Merino Everyday Cami from Icebreaker
- 1 Synthetic long-sleeve shirt if necessary
- 1 cashmere cardigan from Patagonia.
Pants or Bottoms
- 1 pair of Anatomie Skyler Skinny pants (synthetic)
Pajamas and Baselayer
- 1 pair synthetic leggings (merino wool might be a better choice)
- 3 pairs of synthetic underwear from Patagonia
- 2 bras, one synthetic and one merino wool
- 2 pairs of merino wool socks
- 1 pair Soft Star RunAmocs
- 1 pair Xero Shoes
- 1 2oz bottle of Dr. Bronner’s all-purpose soap
- 1 2oz bottle of mouthwash
- 1 travel toothbrush
- 1 bottle of tooth powder
- 1 floss
- 1 razor
- 1 deodorant
- 1 hairbrush
- 1 menstrual cup
- 1 shower cap
- 1 bar of solid shampoo
- 1 chapstick
- 1 phone with charger, headphones
- 1 netbook with charger
- 1 notebook and pen
- Wallet with necessary ID, credit card, bank card
- Money belt for storing extra cash, cards, and passport if necessary
- Day bag or purse
- Extra pair of glasses
- Reusable utensils
- Basic first-aid items like bandaids
- Water bottle and snacks, if applicable
- Make sure your clothing dries relatively quickly. Clothing made of synthetic materials or merino wool are usually your best bet (the less cotton the better).
- It’s also a good idea to take well-made, odor-resistant clothing (usually made of wool) that can be worn for days or even weeks at a time.
- Pack your clothes by compressing, rolling, or squishing them. If compressing, you can use a plastic Ziploc or LokSak bag to flatten your clothes and squeeze out the air. If rolling, a Packing Cube is good for organization. If squishing, you want some kind of stuff or gear sack that will also push out air.
- Take extra ID, like a driver’s license, so you don’t have to dig out your passport for ID deposits and age discounts.
- Estimate how much cash you need for the day and keep it handy. Put the rest in your money belt.
- You may want to pack cold medicine when traveling to countries that don’t have the kind you’re used to.
- You may need a universal adapter. I didn’t use mine in China, but it got plenty of use in Europe.
- Similarly, the need for a lock for hostel lockers varies by country. I’ve only really needed one in the US so far. Otherwise the hostel provided a lock or key in exchange for a deposit.
- I’ve been packing a mini PackTowl but I haven’t really used it as a towel since my trip to China. It makes a good handkerchief.
- Your list will change depending on the climate(s) you’re visiting. I wear a scarf, gloves, hat, etc. if I need them.