FAQs, Q&As and a few As
A landing page for all the questions you may be asking yourself in regards to minimalist travel.
What IS minimalist travel? There's the philosophical answer, What IS Minimalist Travel?, and a more practical, "real-life" answer, detailing how and what I pack.. aptly named How and What I Pack; you may also want to check out The Bare Essentials (Opinion Piece) for an opinion piece on the bare minimum required to travel (hint: it's not a lot).
Why minimalist travel? What's the point? What are the benefits? Check out The Benefits of Minimalist Travel for the long-winded answer, and Why It Matters for a shorter, story-filled version.
What are the drawbacks of minimalist travel? How can I determine if minimalist travel is right for me? Check out Is Minimalist Travel Right For You? and Laundry Every Day, arguably the biggest hurdle to potential minimalist travelers.
Clothes / Comfort (How to Pack, What to Pack)
How do you minimize what you pack for clothes? There are three key ingredients to minimizing the clothes you pack.. 1) You need to accept the concept of doing laundry every one or two days, check out Laundry Every Day for a pros and cons list and arguments for giving it a try, 2) You need to be careful with the clothes you pack and, if possible, stick to quick-dry clothing for everything; check out Travel Clothes (What To Look For) for recommendations in this department, 3) You have to be okay with looking like a tourist and wearing the same one or two sets of clothes every day; check out No One Cares (Except Maybe You) for my take on why it doesn't matter, and lastly.. 4) In a perfect world, you stick to warm/moderate climates, which instantly and massively reduces your pack; check out Fair Weather Travel for my arguments for warm-weather travel.
Okay, clothes I could handle, but HOW do I pack all the SHOES I need..?? Check out Oh My God, Shoes! for suggestions and answers to this age-old question.
You pack so little, how do you deal with cold weather? Aside from the obvious answer of sticking to warm climates (see Fair Weather Travel).. there are a few things to consider for keeping your pack small.. 1) If it's truly cold, you won’t be sweating the way you would normally, so yes, you could easily get away with one pair of thermal long-johns and wear them for 3-4 days before washing, especially if you're wearing underwear and/or an undershirt under the long johns.. 2) if you can fit it, pack a puffer jacket.. 3) buy your accessories while traveling, then donate (link to donate article about hostel donations) them when you’re leaving for warmer climates, (including long socks, scarves, hats, gloves, etc) bakalav??? Mail them home when you’re done if you love them.. (good time to wrap and send gifs as well… 4) consider hand warmers and feet warmers for extended outdoor activities, 5) consider usb powered gloves and socks if you know you’ll be traveling in the cold long-term, 6) layer! This should maybe be number 2 and I think of it as obvious coming from a cold state (MN link) in many ways, cold minimalist travel is easier than warm-weather minimalist travel, because you simply don’t get sweaty // check out my clothing/temp guide here 7) consider sock sacks (don’t exist yet - the same thing I recommend for wet seasons) // see the future in cold weather tech // consider international shipping
How do you look professional for work calls? IF I'm working (I try not to), I wear the same button down dress shirt (link here) for every work call... no one seems to notice or care.. or it becomes a running joke.. but in any case, I throw it on for video calls and take it off immediately after, so it rarely needs to be washed.
What clothes or travel brands do you recommend for minimalist travel? More to come here, stay tuned..
Are antisweat products really antisweat? What does moisture-wicking really get you?
What is the most comfortable material to wear long-term?
Washing Clothes / Laundry
What's the best method for doing laundry on the road? I go into lots of detail on washing and drying clothes on the road in my posts Laundry on the Road Part I (Washing) and Laundry on the Road Part II (Drying), along with
How often do I need to wash my clothes? Do I need to do laundry every day? Yes and no, for the stuff touching your skin.. i.e. absorbing sweat.. you'll likely want a freshly cleaned pair of sox/underwear every day... (depending on weather, how much you move/sweat, etc.).. but for the bigger items (shirts, shorts, pants, etc).. I've found that I can easily go 2-3 days without washing (shorts may be a bit obvious, but yes, even shirts don't need to be washed every day.. )..
It's worth noting that nature's way of cleaning is via sunlight and air.. yes.. it's that simple.. the UV-light from sunshine can kill germs in ~6 hours (according to Google), just by being outside.. so the "shadow" parts of your clothes.. (underwear, armpits of shirts, socks, etc.).. are what really need to be cleaned.. but if you remove your shirt at night (as I'd imagine most do).. and hang it in a window.. you'll be amazing at how it much it doesn't smell the next day..
How annoying is it do laundry every day? It sounds like a burden... but in reality.. it's not annoying at all.. in fact, it's somewhat therapeutic.. like brushing your teeth or shaving. Every time I go to the shower (usually/hopefully, daily).. I'll bring my "dirty" socks, underwear and t-shirt, and wash them in the sink or shower.. then hang them up to dry.. and every 2-3 weeks, when it's convenient, I'll take all my clothes to a typical laundromat and give them a "deep" clean.
Do I need to wash my clothes with soap, or could I just rinse them with water? Again, the answer is nuanced, and can depend on the material/stains/dirt, etc. If you just wore your clothes and had a normal day, i.e. not a lot of sweating, no coffee/beer stains, etc.. then washing them with water is okay for a couple times, but after 2-3 water-only washes, you'll likely find yourself wanting that "freshly washed" result that can only come from using soap, soaking your clothes and scrubbing the parts that get the most... "use."
If I'm using a wash bin, wash bag or sink, how long do I need to soak my clothes before they're considered "clean?" The answer here is interesting, the soaking process is what allows water molecules to slowly break/dislodge dirt, grim and yes, germs, from your clothes.. this happens over time.. but after 10-15 minutes, any additional time can actually be bad for cleaning clothes, especially if the country you're in doesn't have the cleanest water.. I've had a number of experiences where I let my clothes soak, with soap, for a full day.. and they come out smelly musky and gross.. immediately prompting me to re-wash them.. Your best bet is to soak your clothes for 15-20 minutes in soapy water, then scrub/shake/rub each item, rinse and hang them to dry.. the abrasion is what actually removes dirt/oil/grim etc. from your clothes, so it's an important part of the process.
It may be worth noting that if you're handwashing your clothes with soap and running water, you likely don't need to soak your clothes AT ALL... the abrasion from your soapy hands and the running water from the sink or shower will effectively loosen/remove any dirt, germs, bacteria, etc. in the moment. Your clothes will likely be MORE clean than even a modern washing machine (assuming you're targeting the "problem" areas). And if you're skeptical.. compare it to hand-washing dishes in the sink.. are those dishes less clean than washing them in a dishwasher?
Do anti-bacterial / anti-sweat clothes really work? Do stain-proof clothes really work? Coming soon (see below)!
Does this stain-preventers really prevent stains? Sort of... I've done a number or tests and will share the results as soon as humanly feasible.
Are there alternative methods for minimizing how often you do laundry? TBD TBH.. I've been testing "stain-proofing" sprays (namely Nanoman) and "stain-proof" clothes (namely Ably).. along with anti-sweat, sweat-proof, anti-bacterial, quick-dry, <insert your favorite marketing tag-line here> products for awhile now, and they DO help with minimizing stains and sweat, which can reduce how often you need to wash your clothes, but I feel the need to do a deeper dive and more testing to say yay or nay to any particular product.
It's worth noting that on my last (six week) trip, I sprayed all my clothes with Nanoman Fabric Protector and legitimately noticed when a wayward beer from an extremely drunk patron just rolled off my shirt.. and I found I could wear my shirts 2-3 days easily before washing them.. what I don't know is if that was because they're anti-sweat/anti-bacterial, or if that's from the Nanoman protective coating.. I hope to have a better answer to this soon.
What's the best method for drying clothes on the road? Check out Laundry on the Road Part II (Drying)
How fast can I expect my clothes to dry? This depends on a million factors.. material, thickness, size of garment, air temperature, humidity, sunlight exposure, heat exposure, air exposure, air speed, elevation (yes, even elevation) and level of wetness at the start of the dry cycle... it's incredibly difficult to predict "how fast" something will dry without a super computer.. (and now you know why it's so hard to predict the weather).. BUT..
The short answer is that most standard cotton clothes WILL dry even in the coolest of temperatures in under 2 days.. (assuming they're not hanging in the rain); in wet/humid climates, it will likely take a full 24 hours, in hot/dry climates, it can take as little 30 minutes.. Your best bet is to 1) pack ALL quick-dry clothing, 2) use a rope-based hanger to hang your clothes in a window (if possible), and 3) stick to warm climates. :)
What's the fastest way to dry your clothes? See above... use quick-dry clothing, and lay claim to the sunniest real estate.
What is the fastest drying material? And how fast does it dry? Quick-dry synthetic fabrics are 100% worth it, I'll do a deeper dive on this topic in a later article!
Are there alternatives to air drying? Infrared light? Portable dyers? Yes, I'll expand on this in a future article!
What's the best bag/backpack for minimalist travel? Any bag will do.. sort of! Consider a multi-sized bag..
Do you use compression bags, are they necessary and/or useful?
Body Odor (It shouldn't be a concern, but just in case..)
What causes body odor? What causes smelly clothes? Do my clothes smell or do I smell? Does odor causing bacteria live on YOU or your clothes? Odor is the result of bacteria feeding off the (mostly) scentless sweat coming from your body.. interacting with it (i.e. eating it) and effectively pooping out the gases that we then inhale/smell.. (ewww).. that bacteria can live on both your body and your clothes, which is why we wash both with (hopefully) some regularity... MOST of the bacteria actually lives on YOUR skin, which is why you can wear the same clothes for multiple days in a row, IF YOU'RE SHOWERING.. before it starts to stink.. the bacteria on your clothes, once removed from their food source (i.e. your body).. actually just start to die by themselves.. no food, no smell.. fascinating right? So you can wear the same clothes multiple days in a row before the sweat
Can I smell my own body odor? Or can I tell if my clothes stink? I'd imagine we've all experienced this at some point.. yes you can smell your own BO up to a certain point, however, other people may smell it sooner and/or be more attuned to it (good or bad, actually).. so even if your shirt doesn't smell after 10 days of continuous wear, you may want to give it a wash just to be safe..
What is the fastest/easiest method of cleaning? Is water actually required? Water actually is NOT required to clean your clothes, as mentioned in previous Q&A posts, the main goal of cleaning clothes is to remove stains (dirt, grim, beer, wine, etc.).. to make them LOOK clean, and to kill germs (bacteria/viruses) so that they ARE clean i.e. don't smell.. We've all worn a favorite shirt that had a tiny stain that you hope no one notices.. did it ever feel "unclean".. no.. because stains by themselves are not "dirty".. (although it looks dirty).. So it's not hard to imagine that your socks (assuming you're wearing shoes) don't actually get stains.. and in that case, you can completely clean them just by a simple rinse (with or without soap*) and then letting them air dry (ideally in the sun)..
Are there other/better ways of washing your clothes? UV light for example? UV-light cleaners are all the rage these days, and yes they do work (although studies show that many/most are not effective (link here)).. but depending on where you're staying and what your living situation is, you can ideally rely on good old-fashioned sunlight to do the same work for free.
How quickly can odor causing germs be killed? You're actually better off just removing them, versus killing them..
This is all well and good, but is minimalist traveling only for guys? Excellent question... sadly, I can only speak to my experiences, and I know, but nature or nurture, minimalist travel is much easier for men.. but I can only speak to the male perspective, because that's all I have.. I would LOVE to have a female contributor providing feedback and insight into how to make minimalist travel more applicable/accessible to women, if you have any ideas or are interested in helping in this area, please let me know!
Are waterproof bags really waterproof? Are they worth it? YES..
I'm in a hot climate with lots of bugs, what's the best way to keep bugs away?
Are there alternatives to bug spray? What are some natural methods of keeping bugs away?
Do ultrasonic insect repellents really work?
Why do hammocks (lying outdoors in the sun, being used ALL the time by different people..).. do they get cleaned?
Am I a minimalist in my "normal" life?
IF you have other questions, please let me know!