Packing light for a trip has a steep learning curve if you’re used to traveling with multiple bags. And even us seasoned packers on the Knack team sometimes have to fight the inclination to overpack - anticipating everything you’ll need for every situation is challenging, after all.
Even so, traveling light is extremely rewarding. Minimalist packing for travel makes your trip better because:
. You save money on airline fees. When you don’t pack a lot of stuff, you don’t need as big of a bag. And when you don’t need a big bag, you can carry it right onto the plane.
. You get to spend less time worrying about your stuff. Have you ever gone on a vacation, only to find yourself spending way too much time shuffling through overstuffed bags, worrying that you’ve lost an important document, and folding and refolding clothes? When you pack light for travel, all of your stuff is easily accounted for, which means that you can get out the door faster and spend more time enjoying experiences.
In this article, we’re going to share tips that’ll help even chronic over-packers enjoy the freedom of minimalist travel.
Two rules of thumb for minimalist packing
. Be realistic about your trip. Are you really going to do a sweaty workout on vacation? Or read the novel that’s sat on your bedside table for over a year? Overestimating all the things that you’re going to do on your trip is kryptonite for minimalist packing. Be realistic, and remember that you can almost always buy whatever you need at the destination.
. Don’t pack for more than four days. Even when your trip is a week or a month long, you can always wash your clothes at a laundromat (or in the hotel sink). Four days’s worth of clothing can get you a long way, without being cumbersome to carry.
Without further ado, here’s exactly how to pack for your trip like a minimalist.
Choose the right minimalist travel backpack
We’ve emphasized the backpack, because backpacks are inherently more suited for minimalist travel than suitcases and duffel bags - which generally have large, pocketless compartments that lend themselves to disorganization and less-mindful packing.
What makes a great minimalist travel backpack:
. It has an efficient use of space - A good minimalist travel backpack will have lots of very thoughtfully designed pockets that both keep your stuff organized, and that help you make the most of the space in your backpack. By the way, Knack’s expandable suitcase compartment adds up to 16 liters of carrying space, and compresses when you don’t need it. Now that’s an efficient use of space.
. It works as a carry-on - You don’t want to pack like a minimalist, only to not be able to bring your bag onto the plane. Most airlines will accept bags of up to 50 liters, but always check with your airline. Better yet, find out if you can fit your backpack under the seat in front of you as a personal item, so that you have easy access to all of your stuff on the flight.
. It’s lightweight - Your backpack shouldn’t add a significant amount of weight to your load, even if it’s durable. These days, there are lots of strong and lightweight materials on the market; even the largest Knack Pack weighs less than 4 pounds and is load tested to hold up to 40 pounds.
. It looks good - Most travel backpacks make you look like a hiker or a tourist, which makes it difficult to blend in... and to feel comfortable carrying your backpack into nice coffee shops. Since Knack Packs are travel bags and work bags in one, you can use them as a sleek everyday carry backpack.
How to choose and pack clothes for light travel
Clothes are definitely one of the hardest things to decide on when you’re packing like a minimalist. But an easy first step is to pack the right clothes. You can’t just throw any fabrics and colors into your bag- you need to choose clothes very strategically.
Go for clothes made of travel-friendly fabrics that are lightweight, quick-drying, stain-resistant, wrinkle-free, and breathable.
This may sound like a lot of boxes to check, but there are lots of fabrics out there that meet these requirements. One of our favorites is Merino wool. Merino wool is warm but breathable, so it’s excellent for layering. Plus, it’s naturally odor-and-stain-resistant. It’s used to make everything from sweaters to socks. Other great travel fabrics are typically hybrids. For example, Exofficio makes amazingly lightweight and quick-drying travel underwear and t-shirts out of of nylon and spandex.
FYI, we like to pack a single pair of jeans in our minimalist travel backpack. Although jeans aren’t necessarily lightweight, you can wear them a few times over without needing a wash. They pair with almost anything and look good in most situations.
Since you want to be able to re-wear your clothes over and over, choose neutral colors that can pair and combine to make new outfits like black, gray, and white. But remember that darker colors tend to hide dirt better. Even though monochromatic tones are boring, they’re easy to dress up: don’t be afraid to throw in one accent piece for a pop of color.
Ideally, you can build out a capsule wardrobe, which is a small, strategic set of clothes that complement each other. Check out this post to learn how to build a capsule wardrobe.
Tips for packing your clothes
Packing your clothes is easy when they’re made of lightweight materials. But here are some tips for saving even more space:
. Use compression travel packing cubes. Packing cubes are great for organizing your stuff. Knack’s packing cubes have a compression function, so they’ll save you even more space. Dedicate cubes to different categories of clothes. For example, use one packing cube for underwear and lightweight T-shirts, and then another packing cubes for pants, long-sleeve shirts, and any accessories.
. Roll, don’t fold. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s true: rolling your clothes really lessens the volume that they take up in your bag. Roll everything that won’t wrinkle (which is hopefully all of it), and then fold and place the clothes that will wrinkle on top of the rolled clothes.
. Only bring one pair of shoes. Shoes are major space-eaters in your bag. Choose one pair of shoes that will work for a wide range of scenarios: with jeans an a t-shirt, or at a nice dinner. AllBirds make very lightweight shoes that can go with many different outfits, and they’re made out of Merino wool!
If you do have to bring more than one pair of shoes, wear the bulkier ones on the plane. And be sure to use a compression shoe bag for the pair that you pack - shoe bags save space and keep your dirty shoes away from the rest of your stuff.
How to pack tech for minimalist travel
If you work remotely, you probably need to bring a whole bunch of tech with you on your trip. Unfortunately, tech can get really heavy, and all the extra chargers and batteries can take up a sub-optimal amount of space. Here are some tips for slimming down your tech load:
. Skip the laptop if you can. Laptops are some of our heaviest tech. If you can get away with using a tablet, or even just an iPhone, you can potentially save a lot of space. That said, most remote workers can’t leave their laptop at home. Considering how vital laptops are for most of us, your travel backpack should have a dedicated laptop pocket.
Knack Packs have an independent padded side-access laptop pocket that keeps your laptop super-safe and easily accessible at all times.
. Simplify your chargers. Chargers too easily turn into a giant tangled mess. Opt to only bring one of each terminal that you’ll need. For example, get a multi-purpose cable bundle or dongle that has one USB, one USB-C, and one lightning terminal. Then, store your chargers in a tech pouch, or for super easy-access, in the Series 1’s cable garage.
. Get smaller headphones. As much as we love our big noise canceling headphones, they’re not a minimalist piece of equipment. When it comes to traveling, noise-cancelling earbuds - like AirPods - are far more sensible. The sound quality might not be as good, but they get the job done, and take up virtually no space.
. Don’t bring a big camera. You don’t need a fancy camera to capture all of the memories that you make on your trip. In most cases, an iPhone will suffice. If you do want to bring a camera, invest in something lightweight like the Sony RX.
. Bring an e-book, or don’t. Replace your books with an e-reader, unless, of course, you’re not really going to read. You can definitely leave your e-reader at home and download the Kindle app on your phone.
How to pack toiletries for minimalist travel
Toiletries don’t have to take up a lot of space if you know what to buy and bring. Here’s what and what not to pack in your minimalist travel backpack:
Don’t bring liquids
The major hindrance to minimalist packing when it comes to toiletries are the liquids: they’re heavy, they take up a lot of space, and it’s always a bummer when they get confiscated at TSA. And they spill. Instead, replace liquids with bar soaps, tablets and powders. These days, there are so many non-liquid alternatives to common toiletries, like this multipurpose body bar.
If you do bring liquids, bring multipurpose liquids like this 18-in-1 soap by Dr. Bronners. Just remember the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for carrying liquids onto the plane.
Replace big toiletries with smaller ones
Invest in travel sizes of all of your usual toiletries. For example, replace a normal toothbrush with a foldable one, bring a comb instead of a hairbrush, and if you really need it, bring a mini hair straightener instead of a full-size one.
How do you pack like a minimalist for travel? Let us know in the comments.