Packing light is hard. But it’s totally worth it! Wherever you’re planning to go, you’ll need to choose luggage that is versatile, sturdy yet lightweight and big enough to hold all your essentials.
Once you force yourself to pack smarter and lighter, your life on the road becomes so much easier. A minimalist approach to packing will make you more comfortable and more mobile. By keeping things light, you can even save a lot of money by avoiding extra check-in fees.
Back when I first started traveling, I was a little clueless and maybe a little scared. And so I packed like a freaking doomsday prepper, filling my bag with completely unnecessary gear.
These days, I travel as light as possible. Intrigued by the minimalist one-bag approach? Then read on as I show exactly how I’m packing light, and share with you some of my packing tips & tricks and a list of my gear.
Sounds nice, but I know it’s still all too tempting to overpack. I went through different phases myself when planning multi-week photo adventures to places like Mongolia, Zambia, India, etc..
Finally you’ll feel like a bird, not packed like a mule.
In this hopefully helpful post are links to all of the gear that I use. If you do decide to buy something from Amazon feel free to use the highlighted links, as they earn me a small commission at absolutely no cost to you!
RULES FOR MINIMALIST TRAVEL
Pack light by following a few simple principles:
Pack the must-haves, not the nice-to-haves Lay out all your gear. Think long and hard about every item, then eliminate anything you don’t absolutely need. If it’s your first big trip, you might end up packing more things just because ‘more stuff’ feels somehow comforting and safe. But resist this urge to be over-prepared. Many first-time travellers wish they’d packed half as much. Don’t pack more than 1 week’s worth of clothing.
It’s simply much easier to do laundry than to carry weeks worth of clothing. Pick some versatile favorites with a simple color palette so that you can easily mix-and-match every item. Bring versatile instead of special-case items Focus on items that will be useful to you all the time (or have multiple uses), and think twice about anything you’ll use only on unique occasions. Keep in mind you can often rent gear locally, or find a cheap temporary fix instead of carrying something for a one-time use.
Remember that there are shops all over the world, even in seemingly remote places! If you forget something, you can usually still buy it there. Yes, they do have toothpaste on Mongolia.
That said, try not to pack at the last moment. Pack a week before. If you’re in too much of a hurry, you might stress out and stuff your bag too full.
One more good rule: try to keep a quarter of your bag empty. It makes loading and unloading easier, and can be used for storing souvenirs or gifts.
I use packing cubes mainly to store my socks and underwear. For a long time I just kept my stuff in plastic shopping bags, but I’m glad I saw the light and bought a 7-piece set of slim packing cubes. They cost only CHF20 and makes organizing clothes a lot easier. They fit perfectly and have little windows in them letting you see what’s inside.
If you’re- like me- a bit of an adventurer, you may want to invest in some merino wool clothing. Merino wool costs a bit more, but it provides warmth when it’s cold, keeps you cool when it’s hot, has the amazing ability to stay warm even when wet, and even dries much faster than cotton. Seriously though, this stuff is made of miracles. Merino wool socks (and shirts) can be used for days on end without getting stinky, making it perfect for trekking.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ITEMS TO STAY HEALTHY
Travel is tough on your health, and I say this after getting sick in on various trips. Whether you’re going somewhere without drinkable water or somewhere with really rich food, there are a few essential travel items you need to pack to keep yourself healthy. Because nothing ruins a trip more than getting violently ill …
Any prescription medications – with the pertinent information from the box cut out and kept with
the medication. This is mandatory for an international travel pack list.
Travel First Aid Kit: A travel first aid kit will usually contain band aids, antiseptic wipes, bandages, gauze, small scissors and tape/pins.
Paracetamol (for pain & fever relief)
Ibuprofen (Anti-inflammatory Medication for mild to moderate severe pain, reduction of fever and inflammatory diseases)
Multi-Purpose Hero Tiger Balm — aka "Jack of all Trades" as it helps against almost everything hen your muscles hurt after that hike or had days trekking (beats motion sickness, excellent for headaches, fights mosquito & bug bites, soothes muscle & joint pains or even freshens the air if needed)
Antihistamines/Allergy medication (when allergies are going to creep up on you while traveling, especially if you’re headed to another climate)
Motion sickness Tablets (if heading out on a cruise, boat trip or simply during a bumpy car ride or turbulent flight)
Traveler’s diarrhea: Even if you’re purifying every drop of water you drink or use to brush your teeth, your stomach may still rebel against something you eat – or you may swim in some funky water, like say, that India which made me super freakin’ sick. In any case, keep Imodium acute lingual with you at all times. Traveler’s belly isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous – dehydration is no joke!
VACCINATIONS & CARD Ok, getting vaccinations for travel is something you do before you leave home, but it’s still important to consider what you need. Lots of countries won’t let you in if you don’t have proof of your Yellow Fever vaccination, so make sure you do your research.
If something ever happens or if I need to check a vaccine (depending on the place that I’m going to), I have my international vaccination certificate with me that I can show to a doctor and they’ll know what I’ve been vaccinated for and for what I haven’t.
Region specific medication (ie. prophylactics/anti-malarials if traveling to an affected part of the world) Check the malaria risk of a region here
LET'S GET COMFORTABLE
If you’re going to be on the road – particularly for an extended period of time – you’re going to want to be comfortable on those long travel days.
The following travel accessories will keep you comfortable in every potential mode of transport and will help you grab the nap you’ve been craving.
Travel Pillow: If you haven’t heard of the Fosmon travel neck pillow, you are seriously missing out. I always struggle with traditional neck pillows as they don’t provide enough support for my giraffe like neck. Soft and Strong it is scientifically proven to provide incredible neck support and possibly be the best thing to ever happen to naps! Better still, if folds down to nothing and will take up way less space in your bag than the traditional neck wrap.
My recommendation: Fosmon memory foam travel neck pillow
Ear Plugs: Slap on your eye mask. Put in your ear plugs. Block out the light, block out the sound and drift of to sleep.
My recommendation: OHROPAX Classic Earplugs - (made from moldable and skin-friendly wax material and fits any ear without pressure)
Foldable Water Bottle: My contribution to avoid single-use plastic: A foldable water bottles is perfect for filling up from the water fountains after airport security, or folding down and packing into your bag after you’ve finished a hike.
My recommendation: Kemier Collapsible Silicone Water Bottle 750 ml (BPA-free and weighs only 155 g)
Snorkeling Gear: For boat and snorkeling excursions, snorkeling equipment, including fins, is provided free of charge. But if you prefer to use your own for hygienic reasons, I can't blame you.
So if you like snorkeling a lot, I can recommend you to buy your own snorkeling equipment.
My recommendation: Cressi Advanced Snorkel Combo
Sleeping Bag: The microfibre mountain hut sleeping bag is also soft to the touch and has an extra pillow compartment so you can fall asleep relaxed at any time. Thanks to its weight of only 300 grams and small pack size, it fits easily even in smaller daily backpacks. That makes it an ideal companion for all hikes, outdoor adventures and backpacking trips.
My recommendation: Bahidora Microfibre Sheet Sleeping Bag
FULL LIST OF ALL MY GEAR
I’ve traveled hundreds of kilometres, using both roller suitcases and travel backpacks.
Traveling with a piece of luggage with a broken wheel, handle, or zipper is the absolute worst.
Here we go:
PACKING AND ORGANIZATION
Duffel Bag – Simple, Lightweight and Durable, it’s just like carrying a sports bag! They’re also great to have as a ‘extra bag option’ as they generally fold up quite small and can be used for the ‘extra stuff’ and souvenirs you may acquire on your travels. My recommendation: Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Duffel – 60-liter
Travel Backpack - You know you’re a traveler once you have bought a backpack. (I resisted for years!) But now my backpack is practically part of me, and perfect for traveling in Asia, South and Central America and Africa. My recommendation: F-stop Sukha - incl. Pro XL ICU - Main 70-liter backpack
Daypack (Carry on luggage)– This one requires incredible discipline and prevents the risk of ever over-packing. But if you can get away with traveling with only a carry on pack you will save time at airports, save on checked baggage fees, never run the risk of the airline losing your bag and won’t do too much damage to your back from carrying a heavy pack during long term travel! My recommendation: F-Stop Loka - incl. M ICU – 37- liter Daypack and camera bag
F-stop has raised the bar in camera bags for those who enjoy the outdoors. I’ve tested many great camera bags and just when I thought I had seen it all, the f-stop Satori EXP was a big and pleasant surprise. I’ve worn this backpack during two adventure trips to the outback of Mongolia under extreme conditions; and and it felt like an extension of my body and remains comfortable.”
Unpack, re-sort, re-fold, and re-pack, only to end up with the same jumbled mess a few days later? Rummaging through t-shirts, socks, underwear and shoes to find your travel diary isn’t the adventure you had in mind, is it?
Let's get organized:
Premium Compression Garment Bags (6 Piece Space-Saving Packing Bags with Compression Effect Travel Pack Cube Set
Exped waterproof dry bag set (3l, 5l, 8l and 13l)
MISC: TRAVEL GEAR, IMPORTANT TRAVEL DOCUMENTS, CASH, AND CREDIT CARDS
Start by collecting all of your important documents in a travel by bringing all your important information together, this will help ensure you have everything you need to get from one place to the next.
Not sure what you need? Here’s your international travel checklist, document-wise:
Passport/visa(s) (not sure if you need a travel visa? Check here.)
Cash and credit card(s) (call your credit card companies before you travel to inform them of your travel,otherwise they might turn them off to prevent perceived fraud. Also consider a Travel Cash Prepaid Mastercard to avoid charging you an extra xy% “foreign transaction fee”
Health insurance cards/document(s)
Travel insurance information
Reservations and itineraries (print them and save them electronically for easy access)
Hotel and/or tour contact information
Transportation tickets (plane, train, bus, car, etc.)
Emergency contacts and important addresses
Copies of all these things in case you lose your wallet
Number padlock (TSA approved)
Wire lock for fixing my daypack to a pole or bar
LED Petzl Actik Core Headlamp (450 Lumen with multiple brightness levels & red setting)
to be continued and updated
TECH & CAMERA
As photographer I definitely have more tech and photo equipment with us than clothes.
GoPro Hero8 (Action Camera) - to do crazy things on your travels like go waterfall rappelling, white-water rafting or snorkeling and you want to document your adventurousness
Sandisk SSD Portable SSD external hard drive (external hard drive for backup your photos and videos on the go
Power plug (travel) adapter (Worldwide Power: Enjoy your electrical devices in 150 countries, whether a smartphone, camera, tablet or laptop: the adapter plug makes it possible! The adapter universally usable in many countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, America and South America as well as Australia)
Canon Eos 5D Mark IV
Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II
Canon EF 100mm Macro f/2.8L IS USM
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM
Canon Akku LP-E6N (Rechargeable battery Charger Canon
Various filter (Zeiss Pol circular, Hoya)
I hope this post has been helpful! Packing is a pretty personal thing so everyone does it differently, but maybe my example has given you a few ideas. Any specific products mentioned are simply ones I like to use, there’s no influencer marketing or sponsoring here (yet).
Explore. Dream. Discover.
....to be continued and updated