I take one small 19-liter backpack as my only bag no matter where I'm traveling or for how long. My three basic principles of minimalist or ultralight packing are: 1) eliminate any “what if” stuff (I can always buy extra toothpaste etc.), 2) wash my clothes often, if not every day, and 3) be prepared to spend on light, durable, high quality gear.
- Buy durable clothing that dries relatively quickly and has some level of odor-resistance so that it can be worn for days or even weeks at a time. Clothing made of synthetic materials or merino wool are usually best (although there is such a thing as quick-drying cotton). Synthetics typically dry slower and retain more odor than merino, but tend to be cheaper and wear out less quickly.
- Pack clothes by compressing, rolling, or squishing them. If compressing, I use a plastic Ziploc or LokSak bag to flatten my clothes and squeeze out the air. If rolling, a Packing Cube or mesh bag helps with organization. Eagle Creek offers compression Packing Cubes. Stuff and gear sacks can also help with squishing and pushing out air.
- Take two of everything critical and store them separately, like ID (e.g. passport and driver's license), credit cards with chips, banking cards with chips.
- Don't pack light on any medical or other necessary supplies you need that aren't available at your destination.
- Don't bother with fancy packable towels unless you need them for any reason other than drying yourself. Towels are available everywhere and are inexpensive to rent or buy.
- Multi-use clothing is rarely worth buying or packing. Instead, I try to find multiple uses for regular clothing.
- If packing more than 2 pairs of underwear, get different colors so you'll know what needs washing.
- Wear or buy a scarf, sun tan lotion, gloves, hat, etc. when necessary. Part of packing minimally is being able to adapt and use what's available.