Light travel, cheap travel, and easy travel have one thing in common, and that's how much stuff you bring with you. I'm a big believer in traveling with carry-on luggage only because it makes everything much easier.
The last time I went on a backpacking trip was in 2019, and that was for 10 months, all with one bag. And yes, that bag was just carry on, no check-ins here.
You might be thinking "Well that's crazy, I've got way too much stuff!" and I don't blame you, we're so accustomed to bringing a small house worth of things with us that having one small bag is so foreign.
But I can guarantee that if I can do it, you can do it too. We've got a whole article on how to travel with carry on luggage only; from what bag to get, to how to pack. You can find that one below.
But in this one, we're going to go over what I have in my bag, so you get an idea on the minimalist style I, and many other backpackers will opt to travel with. I'll go over why I've packed them as well, to give you an idea of my thinking behind it.
Although I'm preaching minimalism here, and only the essential items. You'll notice a bunch of things in the picture below that you could easily cut out of your one bag setup. All the more proof that if I could do it with all this stuff, you can as well 😎
And don't worry about the big situational things that you need. If you're working on the go and need a laptop, that's OK. If you're a photographer, and you need a big bulky camera, that's OK too. Just make sure everything else is in order - because you can't have it all and do this.
What's in My Bag | Quick List
Here's the quick list but I've got explanations below on why I picked certain items over others, and why I brought what I did. Each item was well thought out and bought with intention. Highly recommend going down and seeing the details.
|7 x Shirts||1 x Slim Laptop||1 x Book|
|7 x Underwear||1 x Point & Shoot Camera||1 x Foldable Day Back|
|3 x Sleeveless||1 x Power Bank||1 x Toiletry Bag|
|2 x Shorts||1 x Beard Trimmer||-|
|2 x Pants||1 x Universal Power Adapter||-|
|1 x Jacket||-||-|
|1 x Thermal Base Layer Set||-||-|
|1 x Gym Shorts||-||-|
|1 x All Black Runners||-||-|
I was able to fit all of that in the Osprey Farpoint 40, which was my chosen carry on backpack. I've done a full review that's linked below. If you want more details go there, because we're just talking about what's in the bag in this post.
We'll start here, because these will be the heavier items that can get out of control, and here's the deal: If you can, the only electronic thing you should bring is your phone.
Phones can do everything you need these days; fantastic videos & photos, light writing, editing, browsing the internet, social media - they have it all. So if you can turn your phone into your main 'everything' machine. You're going to have a great time.
That being said, a lot of the time, we're not only traveling but we're doing something else like working, creating content, doing activities with special gear - so some people need to bring some bulky electronics or other things. I'm one of those people.
1 x Laptop
Asus ZenBook 13" - Perfectly thin and light, solid specs, enough dedicated graphics to edit video easily on the go, and enough battery to last a solid half day of work - also extremely cheap for what it is.
This laptop was bought with the intention of my previous backpacking trip. You want something thin and powerful if you're looking to get work done while being abroad, and are planning on going carry on only. Absolutely recommend this, I'll do a full review soon.
Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/2vfzpIA
1 x Video Camera
Canon G7X Mark II - Hands down the best all-round video camera at the moment for quick point and shoot action - especially if you're a Vlogger and need that front facing pop-up screen. Either this or the Sony RX100 series.
The camera has everything you need to produce great quality video (except a mic input) but the best part is that it's small. I can easily hold this in my hand or put it in my pocket before weigh ins at any airport and get it through without it counting towards my luggage - it's perfect. Expect a full review on this too.
Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/39obW70
1 x Beard Trimmer
Wahl Stainless Steel Beard Trimmer - This one's relatively heavy, but it's very compact and a life saver when it comes to grooming on the road. It's solid, feels good in the hand, and its cordless which is nice - but it's one of those things you could leave behind if you're a clean shaven kind of guy and opt for razors.
Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/31Kj1Mn
1 x Portable Battery
Xiaomi Powerbank 10,000 mAh - Charges a regular phone 2.5x over, perfect for when you don't have access to a power point, which coincidentally happens when you most need it. This one has fast charging too, and is slim for easy packing.
Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/2QXWAj9
1 x Universal Power Adapter
You can get these anywhere and they'll save you a lot of headaches. Some backpackers opt to get them as needed, and give them away after they're done. I found this worked initially but there were multiple instance where I needed them again - getting a universal one is the best option.
Clothes will be taking up most of your space. Using packing cubes and folding your clothes well goes a long way. But what you bring makes a big difference as well.
This list is based on bringing multi use case attire, that's thin, quick dry, and can handle situations you find yourself in during travel.
7 x Casual Shirts
Shirts get dirty quick, from spilled delicious local eats to general dust, so you want to bring around 6 to 9 shirts so you've got a good supply for a week.
I suggest getting quick dry or athletic style shirts because they're comfortable, don't get dirty/smelly as quick as others, and clean easily. Another perk of these types of shirts is that you can fold them to be very compact.
7 x Underwear
Again, like shirts, you don't want to be re-using underwear constantly as it gets dirty fast - bring at least one pair for each day.
In terms of type, just go with whats comfortable for you. I've seen a lot of sports styles with micro fabric but ignore it and go with what works.
3 x Casual Singlets/Tank tops
Especially in warmer climates, these are a life saver. Not only will you likely pick some up during your trip because they're sold everywhere, or given as a part of a pub crawl etc. but because they're sleeveless, they have great airflow and you can get a few days in without downgrading them to dirty clothes.
2 x Shorts | 2 x Pants | 1 x Gym shorts
For shorts I had 2 cotton blends, for pants I had 1 pair of chinos, and 1 pair of jeans. This was fine, but I'd make a few changes.
There are shorts out there that are made to look like casual shorts but are in fact micro fabric or quick dry material. You could workout or swim in them, and yet when they dry, you look like you're ready for an evening out - I'd get these.
Quicksilver or Kathmandu brands from Australia do a great job with these short designs. Amazon link here - https://amzn.to/2UEVgUC
Because I didn't have these, and I wanted to limit my clothes, I would swim with my gym shorts - which turned out to be completely fine. So that's another option.
1 x Jacket
I left with no Jacket and figured I would buy one when I needed it, and surely enough in Hanoi, Vietnam, when it got cold I bought a fake North Face jacket that turned out to be great.
Having 1 good jacket is great for colder climates. You don't need to stuff it into your bag, but you can strap it on your backpack when you're not using it, or even wear it when you're going through airport weigh ins.
1 x Thermal Base Layer Set
I wasn't predominantly going through cold climates, so I didn't bring a lot of winter gear. Bringing winter gear can get really bulky so I recommend that you go for thin merino wool jumpers and thermal base layers - they're super thin and can block the cold very well.
1 x All Black Runners
Nike Zoom Winflo 5's - These are a running shoe, that I purposefully got in all black so I could dress them up or down, for whatever I needed.
I could run, work out, walk, hike, dance, get into clubs, and do anything else in them. Having one pair of shoes for everything stops you from needing to pack another and take up space. Full review below.
These are miscellaneous items that make life easier, my bag more organized, or down time more enjoyable. I pack them for every trip.
1 x Book
A cool practice is to bring 1 book, read it, and then exchange it with, or gift it to, another traveler. This way you limit the amount of books you have on you, and you get to read many books.
You can definitely avoid bringing any books and just read the small collections you come across when traveling (like the ones in hostels), or of course you could buy a kindle to save space - but all of that is up to you.
Here's a great travel book if you're looking for one.
1 x Foldable Day Pack
If you're truly backpacking in a minimalist style, you're going carry on luggage only, which means you have 1 backpack. This can be a problem when you're at a destination and you're exploring, hiking, at the beach or whatever it might be - you don't want to be lugging all your stuff.
This is where the foldable day pack comes in. You can get these anywhere, and they're perfect. When folded down, they can fit in a palm or pocket, they're light weight, and you only use them when you need to. So you've got an extra 15-20 liters of space when you want it.
Amazon link here to one: https://amzn.to/2YzC0HK
1 x Toiletry Bag
Use anything for this, as you want to separate your toiletries from the rest of your things for hygiene.
Having clear zip lock bags help with fast security check in at airports too, as you can put all your liquid containers in one and it's easier to take it out and get it through.
I hope seeing what's in my bag has helped you inch a little closer to your one bag journey. If you've got any recommendations, definitely comment below and share them.