Updated: Jan 30
My version of minimalist travel is packing only the bare essentials; 2-3 days worth of clothes, a small hiking backpack and a few "must-have" items... your version may be completely different, check out What YOU Should Pack for a list of questions to ask yourself while packing and The Bare Essentials for my take on the absolute minimum necessary for minimalist traveling.
Everything I pack fits into this 21L Mystery Ranch Backpack - small, comfortable and light enough to hike with; and the convenience of a butterfly-opening.
Note: I've found "comfortable enough to hike with" to be the best determining factor for selecting a minimalist backpack.
You can see what I've experimented with here.
What I Pack
I pack just three sets of clothes (with some variations), one pair of generic hiking/trail-running shoes, one pair of barefoot sandals, and a few essential "must-have" items.
For clothes, I pack one pair of convertible hiking pants; two pairs of pocketed, multi-use, gym, swim and lounge-wear shorts, three quick-dry t-shirts, four pairs of boxers and four pairs of socks.
If I'm traveling long-term or unsure of the climate, I'll add a pair of thermal underwear, a quick-drying, long-sleeve shirt (women's here) and a micro-puff jacket (women's here).
And, of course, I'm wearing some of these clothes at any given time - hopefully.
My essential items include a hanging toiletry bag, a universal travel adapter (or this), two portable wash bags* (one small, one large), a waterproof dry-sack, a portable charger, a floating/waterproof phone case, a water-resistant, shoulder-strap sling bag, and of course, my phone.
Lastly, if I'm traveling indefinitely (as I was prior to Covid), I'll bring my 13in laptop.
I wash one set of clothes every day, usually just a shirt and one or two pairs of socks and underwear.
Every morning when I shower, I fill up my portable wash bag and let my clothes soak for ~15 minutes (or longer, if you want).. and when they're ready, I'll rinse them in the sink and hang them up to dry. It's an extremely quick process, taking less than 15 minutes a day, and for the benefit of a much smaller pack, definitely worth it.
I go into excruciating detail in my post Laundry on the Road Part I (Washing), if you're interesting in learning more.
When it's hot, you'll barely touch most of the clothes listed - hopefully you're strolling on a beach somewhere without a care in the world.
When it's chilly, simply add layers; thermal underwear plus short-sleeve shirt plus long-sleeve shirt plus micro-puff jacket = more warmth than you might imagine; and if it's really chilly, you can find inexpensive hats, gloves, scarves, thick socks and just about anything you could possible want, wherever you are in the world.
How I pack
I call it The Minimalists Method (M²).. for no reason other than I felt like it needed a name.. :D
I use the same portable wash-bag to compress my clothes when packing, it's better than compression bags because it has an air/water release valve that allows you to push all the air out prior to packing.
I use two of them, a normal sized one and a Mini Ultra-Compact option for socks and underwear. While not completely necessary, you'll find it super helpful to have two options for washing clothes - and both bags can pull quadruple-duty as wash bags, dirty clothes bags, compressions bags and/or waterproof bags for your sensitive items.
I also recommend a SeaToSummit dry sack - dry sacks are thinner, lighter, more flexible and far more versatile, versus laptop specific cases like the AquaQuest Storm - although this is one of the best options on the market, if you go that route.
I prefer dry sacks because, as with the portable wash-bags, they can serve multiple purposes and give you the most flexibility for your buck.
What I don't pack
It's maybe worth nothing what I don't pack as well..
I don't pack a towel, they take up a lot of space and are almost always available for rent at the hostel, at the beach, or are provided freely if I'm pampering myself at a hotel.
If you do decide to pack a towel, I'd actually steer clear of the ubiquitous, micro-fiber towels; despite their compact size, I find them very uncomfortable and not great at giving you that "dry" feeling after a shower.
I don't pack more than 3-4 days worth of clothes, for reasons listed above, and the fact that you can purchase anything you might need on the road, if it becomes necessary.
I don't pack a clothes line, or any variation of compact hanging lines; in all my travels, it's almost never been convenient to hang a line in the limited spaces provided by hostels; you're better off bringing a small bit of paracord in the rare cases you can use it.
Of course, no two people will ever pack the same, but hopefully this gives some insight into what and how you can pack to save space and maximize flexibility.
Please feel free to comment or share your own packing list, I'd love to hear what methods people are using to keep their pack small, and what items are considered essential for your travels!
Laundry on the Road - Different methods for doing laundry on the road, and the pros and cons of each