Minimalist travel is a method of packing only the absolute essentials and nothing more. This type of lifestyle has allowed long-term travelers to live on the road for months at a time with only a backpack. Even more extreme, some travelers are daring to take on the No Baggage Challenge, which started in 2010 with travel writer Rolf Potts. This challenge encourages people to travel across the world with only the clothes on their backs — plus anything they can fit in their pockets — making it the ultimate minimalist travel packing list you’ll want to follow.
If you’re interested in taking this approach on your next trip, check our favored minimalist travel packing list below.
You don’t need to bring a ton of clothes on your trip. The best way to preserve luggage space is to limit your packing to the essentials and nothing else. Consider where you’re going and the type of weather you’ll encounter before deciding whether to bring long pants versus shorts. You should also consider the culture of your destination and which styles of clothes are most appropriate.
At most, you should have two or three outfits to pack, including something to sleep in. Choose clothes that are comfortable and that you can re-wear on multiple days. Once you reach your destination, you can typically do laundry with coin-op machines or pay a small fee for the hotel or hostel to clean your clothes.
The essentials are things you absolutely cannot live without during the time you are away. That doesn’t mean a pack of gum because you love to chew. Instead, it means things like a roll of toilet paper, a toothbrush or bar of soap — all items that serve a purpose.
Other essentials every traveler should pack, including minimalists, include:
Many packers fail to realize they can usually buy many of the day-to-day items, including stuff like soap and deodorant, for a similar price at their destination. Consider packing just enough for a night or two, giving yourself time to find a market or store to restock.
You may think packing a towel is silly when you’re trying to cut down on luggage, but towels are a traveler’s No. 1 asset. You can use your towel to dry off after a shower, as well as to clean up a mess, keep you warm if the electricity goes out or create a makeshift curtain on an overnight train.
You only have to go on one trip where the hotel does not provide a towel to realize the vital importance of adding a towel to your minimalist travel packing list. Plus, trying to find a towel in a foreign country is much harder than tracking down soap. If you pack a towel, opt for a fabric that can absorb liquid without being big and bulky, such as microfiber.
Many people get excited before a big trip, packing several books, a laptop or even a bulky video camera. They forget that, once they arrive in a new destination, they’ll be too busy and subsequently exhausted to use any devices. The same goes for more modern tech as well, such as tablets, smartwatches and cell phones.
Before packing any gadget, ask yourself if it’s worth the necessary space and weight. After all, you’ll be the one lugging your bags around. Can you opt for a smaller or lighter alternative? For example, instead of bringing along five books for the plane ride, condense space with a slim e-reader, which can hold thousands of books at once.
While you can pack the right items, minimalist travel all starts with the mindset: knowing your trip is about the experience and not the material items you bring along. By leaving behind all the extra stuff, you can fully immerse yourself in something new and exciting. But to enjoy your trip, you need to know what to expect ahead of time.
You’ll have to wear the same outfit over and over or wash your clothes in the sink. You may have to make frequent trips to the corner market to pick up shampoo or a razor. You’ll have to go out of your comfort zone to ask questions and talk to people who may not understand a word you say. But by doing so, you’re offering yourself the opportunity to learn about a culture that’s different from your own. You might even learn a little more about yourself.
Once you have the proper luggage and right attitude, you’re ready for the ideal minimalist vacation. Remember to keep an open mind about what’s to come, which will help you learn to tackle solutions in stressful and confusing environments. And for any trip, remember the ultimate goal is to value experiences over material things — to relax, have a good time and immerse yourself in an entirely new culture.