How to Become a Minimalist Travel Packing Champion

“He who would travel happily must travel light.” — Antoine de St. Exupery

Seasoned vagabonds know that travelling light is travelling smart. But instead of heeding the wisdom of these intrepid adventurers, sporadic travellers often shove this tasty travel tip into the dustbin of passé travel advice.

Bad move.

If ever trotted around a foreign country with anvil-weighted luggage, you’ll know: travelling heavy is frustrating. You expend more energy and suck precious time out of your day; you’ll likely even damage a body part or two.

But I refuse to let that happen to you.

As your self-appointed minimalist travel planning trainer, I’m sharing the following top-secret tips that I’ve used to transform legions of maladroit over-packers to lean minimalist travel packing champions. (Okay, maybe not legions, but at least one or two.)

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1. Ditch the suitcase, slip into a backpack.

Do you want to be an unflinching independent traveller? First step: quit carting your luggage around on wheels. (Unless it happens to be one of these best wheeled backpacks for travel.)


The suitcase is the domain of business and luxury travellers. Independent travellers need to be agile, ready to jump at new opportunities, and with a bag-on-wheels, you slow yourself down.

Not only are backpacks convenient, they’re an excellent litmus test. If it’s too heavy to carry on your back comfortably, you’ve probably over-packed!

If you’re looking for your first minimalist backpack, I’d recommend the Osprey Porter 46 or Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack. Both are robust, well-made bags, and are small enough to pass for carry-on luggage. That means no more waiting for slow baggage handling. Just get through immigration and start exploring!

Looking for some other awesome luggage for your trip? Check out these recommendations for the best travel backpacks for men and women!

2. Minimize your clothing.

So, you’re heading to (insert next adventure here) for three weeks: you need three weeks of clothing, right? No!

Travelling isn’t about mimicking all of the comforts of home; it’s about the experience of life on road. Of all our ideal comforts, a daily freshly pressed shirt and pants should be the first to go.

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Bring only a few shirts, pants, and shorts, and rotate. Hanging up clothing at the end of the day and will allow them time to air out and keep your clothes fresh longer. Be sure to pack undergarments for at least a week and plan on doing some laundry in about 7 days (which can be as simple as washing clothing in the sink or bathtub with soap and air-drying).

3. Let your feet carry you, but don’t carry too much for your feet.

A simple rule: bring one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals (if needed). No more, no less.

Dress shoes are rarely, if ever, worn while travelling. Unless you have an insatiable lust for stately gatherings or blissful white nights at the opera, leave the formalwear in your closet.

For minimizing your shoe selection, I’d recommend the adidas Outdoor Men’s Terrex Swift R GTX or adidas Outdoor Women’s Terrex Swift R GTX. For a trail shoe, they’re fairly stylish, blend in well with most attire, and carry your feet through hiking trails or streets with ease and comfort.

4. Care about your shoulders not your hair.

Hair care products are notorious for adding dead weight to a backpack. Blow dryers, straighteners, shampoos, conditioners, styling products: what a way to fill up your luggage!

Are you a traveller or a model? If the answer is both, ignore my advice. Otherwise, leave your blow dryers and straighteners at home. Pack a shampoo/conditioner combo, a single, multi-purpose styling product, and a hat for those inevitable bad-hair days.

If you absolutely need a blow dryer and straightener for your trip, invest in travel-sized ones. Something like the Conair 1875-Watt Dual-Voltage Hair Dryer and BaByliss PRO Nano Titanium Mini Straightening Iron will save space over your bulky at-home hair accessories. Not only are both of these items small, they are dual-voltage, eliminating the need for a separate high-wattage voltage converter.

5. Experiment with a tech detox.

If you’re spending more and more of your time with your face buried in your mobile or the tender glow of a laptop, there’s no doubt you need it: a tech

Technology often gets the best of our attention, distracting us from all of the finer pleasures of life. And travellers are just as guilty as anyone with all of our DSLR cameras, travel drones, laptops, and smartphones.

I have to confess: I’m a bit of a hypocrite. As I’m offering up this advice, I’m sitting on a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, writing this article on a MacBook Pro with a bag full of gadgets at my feet.

But if I didn’t have a website to maintain, I’d hop on the first chance to unplug, lighten the load, and travel without distractions.

Even if a full tech detox is not in the cards, for leaner travel consider leaving behind heavy laptops and using mobile devices for wireless Internet access on the go.

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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