Whether you’re planning a 4 month trip or a 4 day trip...
minimalist packing is the key to a happy pack. Trust us, when long travel days happen you don’t want to be lugging around more than you need.
A light pack will allow you to travel more spontaneously, and keep you from getting as exhausted while traveling.
Who is this for?
This packing list has been designed for digital nomads and long term travelers to warm climates, obviously if you’re traveling in winter weather you’ll need to pack a bit differently, if you’re planning any extended trekking you’ll need to pack accordingly.
We’ve outlined the essential items you might forget, while leaving out unnecessary fluff. Nothing here is set in stone. We promise not to judge you if you bring extra items. Minimalism can mean different things to different people.
If you think of something and you’re wondering if perhaps we’ve forgotten to add it to the packing list, please leave us a comment and let us know! Maybe we’ve left it off for a reason 🙂
Minimalist Packing Tips
If you’re the type of person who packs 2 suitcases for the weekend then might we encourage you to stretch yourself a little?
Reduce the clutter. One of the main goals of minimalism is living an uncluttered life. You can start by getting rid of those little odds and ends you don't really need.
Don't pack for emergencies. Most things you might need “just in case...,” like a raincoat for instance, can be easily purchased anywhere. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Save water by washing clothes less frequently. Don’t be afraid to wear the same tee shirt 2 days in a row. Wash/fold services are cheap and aren’t that difficult to come by, if you’re into it you can always wash your own. Pack a couple of your favorite things to wear out. Be sure to leave some room in your pack so you can buy yourself some new things along the way.
+ Don’t get lost in your stuff. Obviously these are minimalist packing tips so, we’re suggesting you bring the least amount of stuff possible. For the health and wellbeing of your back, and your mind. If you have so much stuff that you can’t keep track of it, you’re going to end up feeling cluttered, and disorganized.
+ Know where everything goes. Have a place for it. And always put it back there. Knowing your way around your pack will make it much easier when you need to grab something out of it quickly.
+ Compress, Consolidate & Organize. Make sure things are in the smallest form they can be. Get rid of excess clothing, bags or packaging. Use packing cubes to compress your tops all together and all your bottoms together. Use plastic baggies or toiletries/cosmetics bags to organize the small items in your bag.
+Keep the revolving door open. You should definitely save some room in your pack for new purchases. But when you do gain a new item, get rid of an old one. By doing this you keep the balance of your pack.
+When in doubt, leave it out. Less is more.
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Organize Your Minimalist Wardrobe
When deciding what clothing to bring, limit yourself to 3 packing cubes.
(Think of it this like you’re creating a travel capsule wardrobe)
You’re going to build a small arsenal of multi-functional clothing that makes you look and feel great!
Underwear: Ultra minimalists will probably say you only need 4 pairs of underwear. Which, if you have the kind that you can easily wash by hand, that dry quickly, Sure.. 4 pairs. But it doesn’t take up much room, and it doesn’t hurt to have a couple extra pairs around, and definitely helps postpone laundry days. This is the one area, in our book, where a little excess is alright.
We have a couple pairs of those fast drying hand washable travel undies, and we really like them. I’m sure there are others but Ex Officio are the ones we wear.
Bras. can be looked at the same way. If you’re going to a hotter climate, you will also be sweating more. Consider what the most comfortable bras are for you. Bring some light weight bralettes, or comfy sports bras for days when you just want to be comfortable. .
Bathing Suit. 1 to 2 depending on climate. You never know when you’ll find a beach, or a pool or a hot tub. Even in cold weather
Pj’s & Lounge Wear. 1 to 2 pairs of pants or shorts as well as 1 “sleep” t-shirt or tank for ultimate relaxation. Whether you’re working from home or just relaxing at the end of the day. It’s important to feel comfortable.
Accessories. Hat, Sunglasses, a couple pieces of jewelry, a light scarf or sarong (any of these items can be purchased along the way too in most hot places)
Outerwear. Having one layer to protect you from the elements like a windbreaker that stuffs into a tiny sack, or having a sweater or warmer layer to keep you warm in the airport and on the plane, is something you may want to consider.
Think about your activities and the kinds of situations you'll need to dress for.
What do you wear when you go out to do your day to daily activities, going to the grocery store, or having lunch? What about during yoga or your work out? How do you like to dress when you’re working at the cafe or coworking space? Are you meeting with any clients, or having any networking meetups that you'll need to have 1 businessy outfit for. How do you like to look for fun nights out on the town, or parties and events, or even a date night? Do you plan on any extended trekking or outdoor adventuring? If so then you'll need to pack accordingly. Every square inch of your luggage is valuable real estate. Treat it as such.
All of your clothing pieces need to work together.
Choose pieces that apply to more than one situation. Make sure that each top goes with more than one bottom. Choose colors that you enjoy wearing but that also complement each other.
If it doesn’t fit you right now, don’t bring it.
There’s no sense carrying dead weight, you want to have clothing with you that is going to make you feel good.
You can always refresh your wardrobe along the way.
Tops (Tank tops, t-shirts, moisture wicking shirts, long sleeve shirt, dress shirt, etc.) Start with basic colors, that go with multiple outfits, and then choose a few tops that are more unique.
5 bottoms (Have 1 pair of long pants (whether that’s jeans, or some waterproof trekking pants, is up to you.)
(Dresses and Rompers can either substitute for tops or bottoms, or you can put them in their own category depending on how much you wear them)
2-3 pairs of shoes MAX. Adam would probably say that 3 is too many. We travel with 2 pairs each. 1 pair of sandals (Chacos to be exact…which we LOVE ) And 1 pair of closed toed shoes. Consider which shoes will be most comfortable for walking? Which ones go with the most outfits? Do you think you’ll wear heels often enough to carry them?
Don’t go crazy with the amount of toiletries you bring. You don’t need to pack enough shampoo to last you the whole year. That stuff can be purchased pretty much anywhere. Here’s a basic list of the stuff we keep in our packs.
- 1 bar of your favorite soap (in a soap dish)
- 1 tube of toothpaste (not tiny travel size)
- 1 toothbrush holder (each)
- 1-2 deodorant sticks (depending on how long you’re traveling, and where you’re going) Personally I travel with a Deodorant Crystal which lasts 1 whole year
- Nail Files
- Nail Clipper
- Mosquito Spray
- Sun Screen
- Scissors for trimming hair, beard, or mustache.
1: In most cases you should leave hair dryers, and straighteners behind. Your accommodation should be equipped with these, otherwise they can almost always be purchased in your next destination. Electricity is different in foreign countries, by using American devices you run the risk of blowing up your device or the outlet. The "box" on your computer cord prevents this from happening. This advice can also be applied to other electrical devices.
2: This one’s for the ladies… The most useful and most recently added item to my essentials list, is my menstrual cup. I cannot stress enough how perfect this is for ladies who travel. It takes up so much less space than tampons or pads, it’s reusable, ecofriendly, can be left in for 12 hours, and most importantly, it’s so much healthier for your body. Seriously, I cannot even dream of looking back.
3. Don’t risk it to take the liquid. Liquids are hard to travel with, period. We’re not saying you shouldn’t travel with ANY liquids, but the less you have, the less you have to worry about the contents of your luggage getting wet. Shampoos and body washes can all the found pretty much anywhere you go.
Technology is definitely the heaviest piece of the puzzle. How much is too much? Maybe all you need is your tablet, to stay connected to the digital world, which is fanfuckingtastic!
Are you rockin a computer that’s lighter than air or are you lugging around a dinosaur.
Decide how much you want your work to weigh you down. (literally, since you’ll be carrying it all with you. Definitely leave those extra large batteries behind and downsize your hard drive.
Cameras, and video gear are generally bulky and heavy, so decide what exactly you need.
Can you get away with taking pictures on your phone or GoPro? Or do you plan to capture your journey in HD? You’ll have to plan how to best carry your DSLR or your drone. Decide which lenses you absolutely need and which accessories you can do without.
If you’re going to be traveling long term in foreign lands, you’re going to want to have some comfort items. Things that will instantly make you feel at home in each new environment. You don’t need to go crazy with this either, we certainly don’t suggest you bring the quilt your grandma knitted for you....but maybe your favorite pillowcase, a physical photo of your family or bff. (just make sure you leave the picture frame home)
Some of the personal items I carry include a travel yoga mat, a yoga ball with a pump, and even a few art supplies so we can keep our creative juices flowing while we travel to new lands.
Adam travels with even less than I do, but what he does travel with is a double nest hammock, and straps. So we can ‘hang out’ anywhere we find 2 trees close enough.
(He also used to carry our tent gear. One of the benefits to traveling as a couple is splitting things like sharing the weight.)
Depending on how SERIOUSLY you intend to adventure, you’ll need to consider what the necessary items are. We used to travel with our tent and sleeping pads… Seriously, we spent 9 months traveling around the world with our 2 person tent, and sleeping pads. (which ended up only weighing a few pounds each, but they were all very bulky items, that took up a lot of space. We did use our sleeping pads more often than our tent, and we were happy to have them for spontaneous adventures. (like when we went camping in Paros, Greece)
Since then, we’ve downsized and left these items behind, because in all honesty, we can rent these things, when we need them.
Things like a headlamp, or your favorite climbing shoes (if you’re into that sort of thing) are things you should consider bringing.