MINIMALIST PACKING LIST – HOW TO PACK LIGHT IN 6 STEPS

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A minimalist packing list is a simple concept. Only pack what is essential for your trip.

Packing light for a trip is a way to spend less time packing and unpacking or deciding what to wear and enjoy more important things like your destination, food, culture, and so on.

But since each person has their own needs, there is no exact list of what to pack.

However, the concept remains true whatever type of traveler you are and whichever destinations you will visit.

Remember these things whenever you’re packing:

start off with less storage space (backpack/luggage), only pack your needs and eliminate all of the wants, don’t pack any “just in case” items, extra layers instead of bulky clothes, a few days worth of outfits, and pack versatile to easily mix and match.

My rule to the minimalist packing list concept is simple. If I can easily walk 3 or 4km with all my travel essentials, then I’m good. If not, then I have over-packed and have unnecessary travel items.

A few travel items in my light packing list

LONG TERM MINIMALIST PACKING LIST

Unless you are going somewhere isolated, having enough clothes for a week is enough. Once you gather a few dirty items, send them for laundry. Or fill up a dry bag with water and soap and throw in the dirty clothes. Give the bag a good shake around before rinsing and hanging.

Whenever we travel there is one thing we travel without – travel insurance. I know, most times travel insurance is a waste of money because most times we don’t need it. But the truth is, you don’t know you need it until you do. So it’s always good to be covered at least for the most important things like medical or hospitalization where bills often run in 4 or 5 digits.

Right now we’re using one of the best medical travel insurance by Safetywing. And their coverage starts at less than $1.50 a day. I’m not sure I’m ready to risk it over the price of a cheap coffee!

CLICK HERE FOR A FULL RUNDOWN ON TRAVEL INSURANCE STARTING AT JUST $1.50

QUICK BREAKDOWN FOR LONG TERM PACKING

The list below is exactly what I pack whenever travel. And although many may see too few items, I can assure you there are more than enough outfits to get me by any length of trip.

Summer Minimalist Packing List

Winter minimalist packing list

  • 5 T-shirts
  • 2 casual linen shirts
  • 3 bottoms – shorts or pants
  • 1 casual shorts/pants
  • 1 zip up hoodie
  • 1 merino wool long sleeve top
  • 1 swimshorts
  • 1packable rain jacket
  • 7 pairs socks and underwear
  • 1 microfiber beach towel
  • 2 soap bars (also keeps everything smelling good in backpack)
  • 1 flip flops
  • 1 walking shoes/sneakers
  • 1 light casual slip on
  • 1 dry bag
  • 1 winter jacket
  • 3 t-shirt thermal vests
  • 2 long sleeve thermal vests
  • 2 tops/zip ups
  • 2 merino wool tops
  • 2 pants
  • 1 casual shirt
  • 1 casual pants
  • 1 packable rain jacket
  • 7 pairs thermal socks and underwear
  • 1 microfibre towel
  • 2 soap bars
  • 1 walking shoes, hiking shoes
  • 1 casual sneakers
  • 1 dry bag

Winter clothing is bulkier than summer outfits. And although everything on the winter list won’t fit in a 30L or 40 L backpack, about 20% of the clothes will be worn. And remember to always wear the bulkiest things when moving around like jackets and hiking boots because you’ll have more packing space for other important things.

Merino Wool Clothing

If you are looking for versatile clothing suitable for any destination and climate, be sure to have a look at merino wool clothing. Merino wool is a type of wool that keeps warm in cold climates and feels cool in hot temperatures. This wool is also moisture-wicking and won’t smell even after days of use even if doing high-intensity activities.

Long Term Minimalist Packing in 7 Steps

These 7 steps will help you create a minimal packing list versatile enough to suit your needs on your long term trips or vacations.

TipKeep these points in mind before you start packing: 

4 to 5 days worth of outfits, outfits versatile enough to mix and match, pack a smaller version when possible – soap bar over shower gel or sneakers over hiking boots if possible.

Here are 7 ways to keep your packing list minimal.

STEP 1. HAVE AN IDEA OF YOUR TRIP

Knowing the destinations you will visit, the different climates, and also what you love doing when traveling will determine what goes in your backpack.

Think of what your days will look like and what activities you will most likely be doing regularly. What you love doing most will be the focus of your packing list.

For instance, although we enjoy an occasional hike when we travel, we wouldn’t call ourselves hiking enthusiasts. So we don’t pack a bulky pair of hiking boots for an odd hike. But if you’ll be hiking a lot, yeah, a pair of hiking boots is a good idea.

Just focus on things you’ll be using a lot.

Do you plan to travel but just can’t figure out where? There are loads of factors to consider when choosing a destination but with the right approach choosing your destination will be easier than ever.

CLICK HERE TO READ A FULL BREAKDOWN ON HOW TO CHOOSE A DESTINATION

STEP 2. CREATE YOUR MINIMALIST PACKING LIST IN ADVANCE

Having the time to think about your long-term minimalist packing list is a great way to evaluate what you have packed.

I always pack 5 to 7 days in advance and leave my outfits and items somewhere I can see them every day. Usually, I realize there is something missing or that I probably don’t need.

Visualizing my packing items helps determine what I really need and what I don’t.

Pack your bag a month or two before your travel. And up until you travel live out of your backpack as you will do while traveling. Taking this approach will help you determine if you have packed any unnecessary items or if there is something you missed.

STEP 3. START WITH LESS PACKING SPACE

One of the main reasons we overpack is simply because there is available space. This is because our mind is telling us that as long as there is available space, it would be a waste not to use it. So what we is fill up that space, sometimes with things that we don’t actually need.

By replacing large luggage or a backpack with a smaller one, your mind will work around the amount of space you have available. Therefore if you replace a 65-liter backpack for one of 40 or even 30 liters, you are bound to start off with fewer items on your list.

STEP 4. IF IN DOUBT – DON’T PACK IT

When you start creating your packing list you will notice a recurring pattern. There will be certain outfits or travel gear that you won’t need to think twice about packing. It will be just like something natural and you will think to yourself, “I definitely need this”.

But then you will also have things which you will say “I MAY actually need this at some point”.

When “MAYBE I’ll need this” is the first thing that comes to mind, in most cases it won’t be something essential. And you will more than likely manage to get by without.

Don’t stress too much while creating a long-term travel packing list especially on clothes and outfits. If there is something you didn’t pack you can buy it once you arrive at your destination. That is unless your trip is through the middle of nowhere! 😀

STEP 5. THE LAUNDRY

Most hotels, hostels, resorts, or any other accommodation offer a laundry service.

So unless your trip is just a couple of days and you can pack an outfit for each day in 1 travel bag, ask your accommodation for their laundry service.

4 to 5 outfits will be enough and once you have 3 sets of dirty clothes send them to get cleaned.

Using a laundry service is the only way to keep your travel bag minimal if traveling for over a week or an extended amount of time.

TIP: If you travel on a budget and want to save on laundry costs, wash your own clothes. Bring a dry bag with you and place the dirty clothes with water and soap. Shake the bag around and give everything a good swirl before rinsing in the shower and hanging to dry. If your room has A/C everything should be dry in the morning.

STEP 6. USE ALTERNATIVES TO CREATE YOUR MINIMALIST PACKING LIST

For most items in your travel bag, there is probably a smaller version, something more versatile, or an alternative. Pack a smaller beach towel, light trousers over jeans or choose a soap bar instead of bottled shower gel.

  • Minimise your list of toiletries. There is no need to pack all your toiletries. Most accommodations offer shower gel and shampoo anyway. If you really need to pack toiletries, consider packing a soap bar and travel size shampoo and buy more along the way.
  • Cleansers and moisturizers. Buy travel-size versions of any cleansers or moisturizers that you really can’t do without. If the product you need doesn’t offer a travel size version, transfer enough for your trip into 100 ml travel bottles. If you run out, you can always purchase from your destination.

Long story short – Jacqueline once packed 2 huge face cleansers. These were supposed to last an entire year. But one time, after a flight where we checked in both our backpacks, Jacqueline’s backpack came out entirely soaked in guey liquid. Both the face cleanser had leaked or exploded or something and were completely empty. We then bought other smaller face cleansers and although not the exact brand she had, they still served their purpose.

  • Single-use travel gear. For certain activities, you may need certain gear like snorkelling, fins or hiking boots. However, if these items that you are packing don’t relate to an activity that you will do frequently, they won’t really make up for the space that they take. Most necessary travel gear like snorkels and mask, you can rent from the destination. And instead of hiking boots, sneakers will do in most cases.
  • Footwear. Think well and hard what footwear to pack since it is the largest and heaviest single item in your backpack. If you need a pair of bulky hiking boots for your trip, use them while travelling. And if you’re packing other shoes or footwear choose an alternative smaller version like a slip on over sneakers.

STEP 7. PACKING CLOTHES FOR TRAVEL

The clothes you pack will take up most of your available space. So pack wisely and only pack clothes that serve more than one purpose and that are versatile enough to mix and match.

A rule of thumb is to only pack neutral color like white, gray, beige, and black clothes. And although I agree that these colors can easily mix together, wearing pretty much the same colors for days on end does get dull eventually.

Today, my rule is to pack 70% neutral colors and 30% colored tops and bottoms. Although the combinations may be a bit less [because certain colored tops or bottoms may not go well together] than focusing only on neutral colors, it has worked for me. And at least I have a bit of life in what I wear.

If you don’t add any colors to your list of outfits, throw in a bright scarf. This will add some contrast to your outfit and can double as a way of keeping you warm on cooler nights or to cover your shoulders or knees while visiting places of worship.

And for the guys, a colored baseball cap and blue pair of pants, shorts, or shirt would also work great.

FINAL NOTE

This is the conclusion of this minimalist packing list guide for your long-term travels. But you could use it for any trip or holiday. After all packing light is a way of spending less time packing and unpacking or deciding what to wear out of loads of outfits, you bring along with you and enjoy more of your trip or holiday.

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