Minimalist backpacking is an art that once learned, you’ll embrace and love.

Packing properly is hard, packing light is even harder. But when you do it, you will unlock the full potential of minimalist travel.

Your life on the road, at the airport and at your destination, will simply become much easier and pleasant.

In this post, we are going to show you how to easily become a minimalist backpacker and upgrade your travel experiences. No more extra fees, or struggles on what to pack, what to wear, move around, etc.

minimalist backpacking tips

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How do you travel minimalist?2020-06-07T10:54:47+02:00
  1. Use A Small Backpack.

  2. Take Versatile Items.

  3. Pack Only Must-Have Items

  4. Stick To A Single Color Palette.

  5. Pack For A Maximum Of A Week

  6. Use Packing Cubes

  7. Dress In The Bulkiest Stuff When Traveling

  8. Invest In Good Clothes (Merino Wool)
What is minimalist backpacking?2020-06-06T17:03:20+02:00

Minimalist backpacking is a way of traveling and a mindset, where the traveler only packs what is strictly needed. For a minimalist traveler there are no nice to have, but only must-haves and things that can be used in multiple ways.

The purpose for minimalist travel is to travel light only with the necessary.

How do you pack lighting for backpacking?

Not everybody can be a minimalist packer. In order to succeed, you should be comfortable taking only what is really needed.

Even though we have learned a lot about packing with the years, the truth is that we have always been really light packers. This has always been driven because we love adventures and we spend a lot of time on the outside. Doing some hikes, taking pictures, exploring, etc. So when you think and plan ahead what you want to do, you certainly want to pack efficiently and avoid carrying a lot of weight with you all the time. This is great to commit to what you need to bring with you.

So in order to backpacking lighting, think ahead what kind of trip are you intending to do and pack accordingly. Do not take anything you might need, just what you know you’ll need.

You can see in this post what we packed for a year to travel the world. It was all in a 38L, that is minimalist packing I’d say!

Minimalist Backpacking Tips

#1. Use A Small Backpack.

The truth is, no matter the size of your bag you will end up filling it. So to avoid that, the best thing to do is to use a smaller bag to start with.

Also, you will hardly use the same backpack for a long weekend than if you are traveling for a month. So it is important to plan ahead what are you really going to need. For instance, if you are traveling during winter it is likely you’ll need a bigger backpack since winter clothes are normally bulkier. Although we’ll teach a few tips to minimize this later.

For trips over a week, we use the Peak Design travel backpack 45L  because it compresses from 45L to 35L and complies with carrying on measures.

To choose the right bag for backpacking light, check the best travel backpacks in 2020

#2. Take Versatile Items.

Take only versatile items that you can use during most of your trip.

For example, in a destination where it might be cold, I would bring merino wool underwear pants. I could use these pants not only under my trousers if it gets cold outside, but also can be used as a pajama, eliminating the need of one.

This is even more important with bulky stuff like shoes. Try to pack the more versatile pair of shoes you have for your trip instead of bringing 2 pairs. For instance, if I go to a warm destination, I will bring with me my lighter sneakers so I can use them for exercising, day to day walk, or even at the beach. Whereas if I travel in winter I am most likely to pack just very comfortable hiking shoes.

The trick is to think about what you intend to do in your destination. That way you should be able to select just one item of what you really need.

#3. Pack Only Must-Have Items.

The easiest way to pack only must-haves is putting together all the things you think you might need for your trip.

Then think one by one for each of those items and remove everything which is just “nice to have”. This is about what you know you’ll need for certain, like shoes, t-shirts, underwear, etc.

Remember that if you really need something, the most likely is that they will have it at your destination. Even in the most remote areas, they have access to basic stuff. So do not overthink and do not worry about what you don’t have.

#4. Stick To A Single Color Palette.

color palette

By sticking to a single color palette, it will be easier to combine your clothes and also to wash them

You might want to take into account those colors though pending on where you travel and climate. For instance, if you are traveling to warm places where there can be mosquitoes, a long sleeve shirt in a light color is what you’ll need. The reason is that dark colors attract heath but also mosquitoes!

So you need to consider all the factors of the destination you intend to visit to make sure you select your color palette properly.

#5. Pack For A Maximum Of A Week

When you are traveling for a few days only, normally it is easy to know what to pack since you don’t have time for wearing much.

But what should I pack for a 2 weeks-trip? The answer is that you should never pack for more than a week. It does not matter if you are traveling for 2 weeks, one month, or a year.

The trick is to think about what you really need for a whole week and that’s all you need for any trip over that time. You’ll just need to do the laundry more often, but that is not an issue since you can either do it yourself or find a place where they do it for you. Which is pretty easy worldwide.

In this post, you can see what we packed for a year.

#6. Use Packing Cubes.

packing cube

Packing cubes are a wonderful way to stay organized efficiently.

Not only for organizing your stuff, but also to compress it. Although we have tried many packing cubes, Peak Design packing cubes are unlike any others. They are more flexible and durable, they easily compress your clothes and have different sizes to match the backpack you will use.

Although you can find cheaper packing cubes on Amazon, remember that you get what you pay for. The quality of most of the packing cubes I bought earlier was not the best. I was trying to save some money, but after a few trips, either the zippers break easily or the nylon does. So take that into consideration. It is better a quality lasting product than a cheap one you’ll likely have to replace several times.

#7. Dress In The Bulkiest Stuff When Traveling.

If you think about it, it makes sense to dress in the bulkiest clothes when traveling.

This won’t only relief the weight in your back, but it will also make easier the packing.

For example, if you are taking trekking shoes and trainers for your trip, travel with the trekking shoes on. That way, you can accommodate the trainers easily in your bag and there will be more space.

Same with jumpers and jackets. It is better to travel with a t-shirt and the jacket only, than with a t-shirt and 2 other thinner layers than a bulky jacket.

#8. Invest In Good Clothes

Personally, my best-spent money is my technical clothes.

By investing in quality clothes, you can get more durable, breathable, lighter, and dry-fast clothes. If you think about all these qualities together, you can bring the weight down and improve your minimalist backpacking considerably.

Normally, merino wool clothes are the best and the ones with those features.

Minimalist backpacking gear

In the lists below, you can find out the travel gear Patricia and I used for our trip around the world for a year. Backpacking for this trip was not easy, since we jumped from the ice-cold Annapurna in Nepal, to the warm beaches of Zanzibar.

So we needed to think about all kinds of weather and situations. Yet, we did manage to fit all that in a 38L Osprey. And I am kidding you not.

We suggest you read how to make the perfect backpacking list.

For Patricia


For Sergio

The list above might not be the same for every destination but is almost always like that.

How To Pack Lightly For A Week? (Or Even A Month)

In this section, we’ll share how minimalist backpacking can be done step by step.

You will see how we pack our 45L travel backpack when we go out for more than a week.

As we mentioned before, it will depend on how long you are going to travel and the climate at your destination. But you can get a good idea with this example for any destination.

Hidden Content

Main Compartment.

We use the main compartment to put all the main stuff.

We both use a different configuration, although exactly the same method. The only difference is the packing cubes we used, which is explained further below.

Is also worth mentioning, that we have now invested in better clothes. They are lighter and dry faster, thus we need to take less, and weight is also less.

Below, we are going to sample the hardest option. This is packing when 3/4 of your bag is packed with photography gadgets. So you’ll have very little room for clothes and have to choose wisely. Note this is only for photographers or people traveling with a lot of gadgets. Which means, if you manage to pack a 45L like this, there is nothing you cannot do.

If you use the configuration Patri uses (2 clothes packing cubes), you’ll have more than enough room for everything, so do not worry!

So let’s start on how Sergio will pack for an average trip.

First, roll-over all the clothes you plan on taking. That way it takes less space and also reduces shrinks.

clothes rolled over

Then, put them into the packing cubes. There are different kind and sizes of packing cubes. We both use a medium packing cube and a small one, the only difference being the packing cube for Sergio is a camera cube. It is the same size, only the distribution is designed for camera gear.

Another amazing thing about the packing cubes, is that are design to compress even more your clothes. But the packing cubes of Peak Design have extra functionality. You can easily separate clean from dirty clothes, preventing you from needing an extra laundry bag.

small packing cube

Note there is a zip to compress it even more once is cube is closed.

Secondly, organize your medium camera/cube pack. Again, always taking only what is needed.

Once you have both cubes organized and closed, just put them both into the backpack. It should look like below.

There should be a small space left, big enough for either a pair of shoes or your toiletries. In this example, we have included our toiletries bag.

The space missing in my camera cube is from the camera I took the picture with as you can imagine :D

Camera cube into backpack
packing the main compartment

Now the main compartment is all tidy and compact, let’s move to the front compartment

Front Compartment.

The front compartment is ideal for shirts or jackets. If you have something too big or which is eating most of the space in your packing cubes, this would be the place where to put it.

Here we have packed a fleece and a jacket.

packing front compartment

There is plenty of room in the pockets of the front compartment also.

We use it to put chargers, cables, camera filters, and small stuff.