You know those stories of minimalists quitting their jobs, selling their homes and living with just their backpacks? Well, that’s not us, though we are big fans of minimalism and try to pack our travel bags in a minimalist way. Packing like a minimalist for your upcoming trip, doesn’t mean you can’t bring a second pair of shoes or anything beyond the most essential travel stuff. It means you pack your bags without bringing half of it home unused and without dragging around too much weight on your travels. We’ll give you the best tips to start packing like a minimalist, including the best minimalist travel backpack and travel gear.
From bringing everything I own to packing like a minimalist
When I was a kid, we would pretty much pack our entire house for our family vacations. We used to go on camping trips with our family caravan, creating more than enough space to pack as much as one could possibly need. There was a coffee machine, small kitchen, television, oven and much more. My aunt even had a bathroom and washing machine in her caravan to bring with her.
You can guess how big my suitcase was on my first solo trip. I had never traveled outside of Europe but decided spontaneously to visit a friend during her internship in Thailand. I borrowed the largest suitcase possible from my parents and dragged it with me to the other side of the world. The suitcase was packed with everything I thought I could possibly need, but of which at least half I never used. I even did my laundry during my Thailand trip, as in the end you always wear the same things on your trip.
Packing my bags now is quite the opposite. I use a regular size backpack, Nike or any other brand – not too big, as neither am I and I’ll have to carry it around the whole time – and I try to take as little as possible with me. Just less stuff to worry about. Things you don’t bring with you, can’t get stolen or broken. Bringing fewer clothes simply means less choice stress when getting dressed in the morning. And that kind of simplifying my daily life is exactly what traveling is to me.
I didn’t even realize that I was packing more and more like a minimalist, until I went on a trip with my mother again. When traveling to Russia a few years ago, I found out she packed a hairdryer, an electric kettle, tea and mugs in her enormous suitcase (really, no joke). She actually had tried to pack her bag in caravan-style, bringing much more than she needed and would eventually use.
It was a reminder of how impossible it seems to many people to travel light. Or even travel with hand luggage only for a couple of months! Would you be able to bring just one hand luggage item with you?
5 tips to travel light
1. What do I really need?
You probably pack your suitcase or backpack the same way every trip. How about thinking this over the next time and rethink your old packing list. What do you usually wear on your trips? Do you really need three pairs of shoes, if you always end up wearing on your flip-flops every day? And which clothes and products do you usually bring back home unused? We try to evaluate this each time when returning home after a trip, as that’s the best moment to see what you didn’t use. Make a mental note or adjust your packing list for your next trip.
2. Have your laundry done
When traveling for three weeks, you don’t need to bring clothes for three weeks. Decide how often you want to have your laundry done and only bring enough to wear for in between these washes. We usually bring clothes for about 1.5 weeks. As a result, we noticed that on our short 11-day trip to Jordan, we actually didn’t take much less with us than on a 2-month trip!
Extra tip: discuss with your travel buddy how much underwear and socks to bring. It’s much easier to have the same washing rhythm. This way you avoid having to wash your stuff after only two weeks, while your travel buddy has to look for washing facilities every other week. We try to coordinate this.
3. Leave your stock supply at home
If you travel for six months, you’ll probably be using more than just one item deodorant and shower gel. That doesn’t mean you have to bring it from home though. People use soap and shampoo abroad too. You can buy it there as well. And it’s probably even cheaper.
Oh, and some items like sunscreen usually are more expensive, we noticed. But is the price difference worth carrying all those bottles of shampoo, deodorant, etc. around with you?
4. Invest in minimalist travel gear
Though traveling light usually means bringing less stuff with you, we would actually recommend bringing some extra travel essentials.
My e-reader for example is my best friend when traveling. I usually read dozens of books during our trips. Can you imagine how much weight I would have to bring, if I would actually carry all those books with me? I could try to exchange books with other travelers or buy (English-language) novels on the road. But I prefer to read the books that are high on my reading wish list and my e-reader is the light-weight travel essential that will allow me to do exactly that.
So we recommend you to think carefully of the things you really need and might even pack a lot of with you. An e-reader can replace your books. A hamman towel can be used as a regular towel, beach towel and blanket. Some other items can be replaced be a smaller or more light-weight option, like a camera or laptop.
5. Use a smaller bag or backpack
You might have experienced how bigger houses and bigger closest almost seem to fill themself with stuff without you noticing. It works the same for your travel bag or backpack. Traveling like a minimalist is much easier with a smaller-sized minimalist travel backpack. It’s easy to try this out once. You’ll probably experience how it forces you to make smarter choices, bring less stuff and pack smarter. And if you really want to do the minimalist thing, why don’t you even try to bring hand luggage only?
Best minimalist travel backpack: the Millican day pack
After The Orange Backpack was robbed in Mexico, we went out trying to find a perfect new carry-on daypack. We had a few important requirements.
- It has to fit general airline hand luggage requirements.
- We prefer storage compartments to organize our travel stuff.
- It needs a good compartment for our camera gear.
- It should be strong and, of course, it has to look great, preferably orange.
After comparing many options we opted for the Marsden Daypack from Millican and even teamed up with Millican to use it as our new The Orange Backpack logo. We’re still extremely happy with it until this day. We use it on both smaller and bigger trips. It has enough space for both of our stuff, making it easy for us to travel with one bag packing like a minimalist.