This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link to a product and purchase it, I receive a small percentage of the sale. This allows me to pay for web hosting without resorting to ads. Products that I link to never influence my blog's content. Read my affiliate notice for full details.
(If you want to jump right to the list, click here.)
I'm fascinated with minimalism: emphasizing quality over quantity and learning to live with less. Since 2014, I've significantly cut down the number of possessions I own, and I've become careful about any purchase I make. It improves your quality of life when you realize that you have less tying you down.
Even if you're not a minimalist, traveling with a single, small bag (<= 45 liters) is extremely valuable. It eliminates some things that suck about traveling, especially when flying:
- You don't have bulky luggage to haul around between cars, taxis, airports, bus stations, etc.
- You don't have to pay baggage fees.
- You don't have to do the awkward wait at the airport baggage claim.
And you can easily carry all of your stuff around your destination if you have no place to secure it.
Minimal travel increases flexibility.
You need very little to travel comfortably, and you'll realize that everything you pack has a good purpose.
If you've stumbled upon this page, you probably already know this stuff and like the philosophy, so I'll jump right in with what I'm bringing on my two month, summer Eurotrip. Hopefully you find some inspiration.
I'll update this page after my trip with any remarks about things I did or didn't need. I've already found some room for improvement, and I've barely started my trip.
Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30
Before my two-week Thailand trip, I spent time searching travel bags. I wanted something minimal, lightweight, lifetime durable, and suitable for all types of travel. And something that wasn't a backpack.
This one fits the bill perfectly with the added bonus that it forces me to pack minimally; it's only 30 liters in volume. For Europe, it's fantastic; it was designed to be within the allowable carry-on size for all European budget airlines. (Meeting the weight requirement is up to you.)
The bag is organized as a main compartment with two side pockets. The side pocket space can be added to the main compartment with internal zippers. Backpack straps are hidden in a back pocket.
It's built like a tank.
I recommend it, but you don't need something this fancy. Anything decently well designed and organized will get you far. Backpacks from REI will work just fine. In fact, I would have opted for that had I known I was going to do more long-term travel.
Tom Bihn Aether Packing Cubes
I'll admit that the first time I heard of packing cubes, I thought of this.
But they're actually a game-changer because you don't have to dig through all your shit and mess up your packing just to find one item in your bag. Tom Bihn sells packing cubes that fit their own bags perfectly, but these AmazonBasics cubes will work at a fraction of the cost.
You can have one for shirts, one for pants, one for toiletries, etc.
They'll seem silly to you until you try them, but you'll never want to go back.
Icebreaker Marino T-Shirt (x2) - Marino wool is a natural fabric that wicks sweat and resists microbes better than any other natural or synthetic fabric. This means that I can wear them for a few days without becoming the guy that no one wants to sit next to at Starbucks. For real. The only downside is the price tag.
Update (8/11): I can't recommend this anymore. My dark blue shirt already has a hole in the back of it.
Plain Old Cotton T-Shirt (x4) - Everyone has a few of these lying around.
Polo - Nice if I want to look slightly upscale.
Linen Shirt - Linen is a great fabric for summer. Merino wool is pretty good, but nothing beats linen's breathability. It packs like shit though.
Dress Shirt - Nice for going out, but nothing really fancy. This one's a cheap TJ Maxx shirt that fits really well.
You may want to skip some t-shirts and opt for more button downs. I'm young, so I can still get away with more t's.
Aviator Summer-Weight Travel Jeans - These are really trendy right now, and for a good reason: they have hidden zipper pockets for your valuables. I opted for the summer-weight style 'cause it's gonna be hot.
Uniqlo Easy Shorts (x2) - They look nice, fit well, don't wrinkle much, don't require a belt, and take up no room in my luggage.
The only thing missing here is a nicer pair of pants. You could pack slacks or khakis or just go for a dark wash jean to stay extremely minimal.
Socks, Underwear, Bathing Suit, Towel
Icebreaker Anitomica Boxers - I have these for the same reason as the t-shirts. It sounds gross, but you can rewear these a few times with absolutely no stink (just verify with the sniff test every morning).
Uniqlo Airism Boxer Briefs (x4) - Lightweight and stay dry, but you absolutely can't rewear these.
Swim Suit - Any will do.
PackTowl - Towels are large and heavy. Travel towels fix this. They don't dry you off nearly as well, but there are tradeoffs to everything. Useful to have when a hostel doesn't provide towels or for use as a small beach towel.
Socks (x6) - Nothing special. Short socks and long socks.
It's crucial to minimize the number of shoes that you pack because they take up lots of space and add a lot of weight to your luggage, especially if you have large feet.
New Balance Fresh Foam Cruz v2 Knit Sneakers - NBs aren't the coolest looking sneakers around, but if you're like me and have wide, flat feet, they provide great support for walking, hiking, and running. And since these ones are fly-knit, they weight practically nothing, and they breathe like an athlete. I got them in gray for versatility.
Reef Phantom Flip-Flops - Light and comfortable without being junky. It's nice to have a pair of flip-flops for the beach, plus they double as shower shoes if I need them.
I didn't bother packing any formal shoes. Adding pair of chukka boots, Chelsea boots, or oxfords would complete the package.
Old Spice Deodorant (stick) - Kind of big, but they don't sell American stick deodorant everywhere in the world.
Nail Clippers - So I'm not a gross backpacker.
Condoms - So I don't put strain on European health care systems.
Comb - Maybe I'll use this.
Antacids - Because my stomach is a bitch lately.
Bandages - Better than bleeding on my clothes.
Common Meds - Aleve and Pepto placed in bags to pack flatter.
Antibiotic Cream - Safety first.
Toothbrush and a Small Toothpaste - Duh.
Neutrogina UltraSheer Sunscreen - Required for summer. I like this brand because it's not greasy.
Dior Sauvage Cologne (in a portable sprayer) - Got this as a gift. Smells generic to me, but girls tell me it's wonderful.
Beard Trimmer - Because scruff is the only way to go. (The bulky plug goes with it.)
I'm not bringing soap or shampoo because most hostels and all hotels provide these. The travel sizes are a rip-off at $2-4 too. You can always buy them when you arrive at one of your destinations.
Apple iPhone 8 - Not pictured (because I took these photos with it). Download travel apps like Uber, AirBnb, Couchsurfing, Google Maps, etc. Make sure it's unlocked so you can buy a SIM card at your destination.
Apple Macbook Pro (13-inch without the touch bar) and charger - So I can edit photos and write on the road. Maybe I'll even write some code.
USB-C male to USB-3 female adapter - If you have a newer Mac, you understand the need for this.
Fujifilm XT-20 with 35mm f1.4 Lens - Travel is a great opportunity to learn or improve photography skills since you're constantly exposing yourself to new and interesting sights. I figured that my photos would shine if I got a dedicated camera. After researching the hell out of cameras, I decided on this combo. It's a solid, lightweight, hobbyist camera with professional image quality. The lens is wonderful, but it's a prime (doesn't zoom). I wish I'd have gotten the version of the XT-20 that comes with a 18-55mm lens.
Kindle Paperwhite - For flights and downtime. If you've never used a Kindle, here's the main draw: it only reads e-books. It's impossible to get distracted.
Joby Gorillapod - A flexible tripod that can be bent around objects. The heaviest item in my bag, but lighter than a regular tripod.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphones - Another heavy item, but I've had these forever and headphones are a nice luxury in a hostel.
Camera Neck/Shoulder Strap - Unbranded so I don't look more like a tourist than I have to.
USB to Apple Lightning Cable - For phone charging.
USB to Micro-USB Cable (x2) - For camera and Kindle charging.
Retractable Camel Hair Brush - For brushing dust off my camera lens.
USB Wall Charger - With two ports.
Sandisk Extreme Pro SD Cards (x2) and SD card reader - For my camera.
Universal Plug Adapter - Other countries use different plug styles than we do, so this is a must. If your electronics don't support variable voltages, you'll need an adapter/converter.
Lightning to 3.5mm Adapter - Because my M50s aren't Bluetooth and my iPhone 8 doesn't have a headphone jack.
Anker Power Bank - Useful if my phone or camera needs a midday charge. Saved me plenty of times in Thailand when I couldn't get to an outlet. Don't underestimate the utility of this one. Just make sure you charge it every night.
Microfiber Cloth - For cleaning the camera lens and my laptop screen.
ApeCase 33 - Padding/protection for my camera. Fits in most bags.
Passport - Because I won't get far without it.
Sunglasses - Maybe two pairs in case you lose one.
Padlock - For hostel lockers.
PADI Dive Log - If I dive in Greece, it will be nice to record the dive sites.
Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack - This backpack is so lightweight and malleable that I can actually use it as a packing cube in my main bag. It's got enough support to actually function as a backpack too.
Blackout Sleep Mask - For sleeping on a plane/train or sleeping during the day.
Keys and Wallet - The usual.
Plastic Zip-Close Bags -- For waterproofing or organizing small items in a pinch.
Small Moleskine Notebook - Sometimes it's nice to handwrite notes and plans.
You may have noticed that I'm light on formal items. If I decide that I want to go out somewhere fancier, I can always pick stuff up at H&M or Primark.
That's all I'm bringing for two months. Let's see how it goes. Expect an update to this post in September.