Minimal Travel Gear

Tynan, who’s writing much aided and inspired our minimal travel gear gathering phase, said, “the less I travel with, the better my experience is,” and I tend to agree. That’s why Franklin and I decided to travel as minimally as we could, hence “20 Liter Life” (the size of my pack). When I’ve shown people how much I’m bringing for over two months, they’re usually surprised. “I could never do that!” they say. I think they could, and ought to. The less clutter in your bag, the less clutter in your mind, and the more you can focus on the experience, right?  A lot of people have expressed curiosity about what exactly we are bringing. So for those interested, here’s a detailed list of what I’m carrying with me for 2.5 months (…for now). With the right mix of a gear, it’s surprising how functional and comfortable one can be, while carrying a lot less than most people do.

Minimalist Packing ListWork Gear (L to R):

Minimalist Packing Gear

Seagate 1 TB Hard Drive: Memory is getting cheaper and cheaper, so I picked up a 1 TB drive, which is more than I need right now, for like $75. I’ll be taking lots of pictures and video, so it’s wise to backup everything while I’m traveling. I also have a few flash drives and a 32GB SD card.

iPhone: Although I will have the cellular receiver turned off, it’s good to have a smartphone for note taking, apps, maps, wifi, reminders, etc. We’ll see how much I actually use it, but it’s size-to-utility ratio made it an easy decision to throw in the bag.

Passport: We gettin staaaaaaaaamps playaaaaaaa.

Kindle Keyboard 3G: For obvious reasons, a kindle is a no-brainer for minimal travel (if you’re planning on reading, which I am… Voraciously). There’s no sense in bringing physical books. Additionally, I got this particular version of the kindle, because it’s the only one that comes with free 3G anywhere in the world (where there is 3G connection). This means that in a bind, without wifi, I can shoot off an e-mail. The browser is super stripped down, so you can’t do much on it, but it’s a nice option to have.

Sony RX100 Cybershot Camera (and mini tripod): I can’t say enough about this camera, and I’ve only had it for a month and still don’t know what the hell I’m doing with it. You pretty much can’t take a bad picture with it, and you can take really incredible ones if you’re decent with its settings. From all accounts this camera is groundbreaking technology; it’s taking DSLR quality pictures out of a pocket camera body. I wanted to take “once in a lifetime pictures” as my friend Anthony put it, so this was a serious investment I decided to make. The pictures on this site will be the proof on the putting green, as they say… So to speak…

Writer’s Blok Notebook: In theory this may be a superfluous item for the true minimal traveler; I could do all of my writing on a computer. But this was a gift from my brother Nick, and I love to have a space to jot things down and actually write with a pen in my hand; it creates a different kind of memory. This notebook is small, durable, and high quality, so as far as notebooks go, it’s a perfect fit.

Acer Aspire 1 Netbook: In regards to computers, everyone has slightly or drastically different needs. I wanted something small, reasonably powerful, and cheap. At $250 (I found a pretty good deal), this netbook isn’t a huge loss if it’s damaged or lost, and it allows me to upgrade computers more often without as much investment. A MacBook Air would be awesome, but it just wasn’t right for what I’m looking for at the moment (mostly cost-wise). With 8GB RAM, 1.4 Ghz processor, 300GB Hard Drive, and so on, I’ve got what I need to do what I need to do, and it’s a minimal investment.

Clothing (L to R)

Travel Clothing

Marmot Windbreaker: I’m having trouble finding the exact model, but I got this bad boy at Adventure 16. I’m mostly traveling in warm climates, but this jacket protects really well against wind and holds up pretty decently against rain. It has a fleece lining on the inside, so it provides more insulation than most minimal windbreakers/rain shells. Also, It packs up into a packing cube that’s the same size as my toiletries bag.

Ice Breaker Wool Boxer Briefs: Merino Wool clothing is fantastic; it’s comfortable, breathable, absorbs moisture, insulates really well and most importantly is anti-microbial, so you can wear it for multiple days in a row without smelling bad or feeling gross. That’s huge when you can only bring a limited amount of clothing items. I know I lose some people on this one, but trust me, this stuff is high quality (and the price reflects it… $30 underwear).

ExOfficio Give-and-Go Boxer Briefs: These are not merino wool, but they purport to accomplish the same thing and the reviews are great. ExOfficio is a good travel clothing brand, and these are half the price of Ice Breaker underwear, so I decided to give them a shot alongside the woolies. They are sweat-wicking, anti-microbial, quick dry, and comfortable.

Smart Wool Socks: Same wool, different body part. Fantastic. Comfortable, durable, anti-microbial, insulated. All around the ultimate sock, even if you aren’t traveling.

ExOfficio Insect Shield Bandana: I wanted a bandana because… Bandanas are awesome? This one has insect repellent in the fabric, which, in parts of the world where insects are bothersome, seems like a good idea. The jury is out on this one. Also should probably look into the Chernobyl-like effects that this fabric may have on human beings. But it looks pretty cool!

ExOfficio Nomad Shorts: I was looking for shorts that were really functional (lightweight, quick dry, good pockets) but weren’t completely dorky or prohibitively bulky. You’d be surprised how hard that is to find, but ExOfficio nailed it with these. Two zipper pockets, five total pockets, pretty not-dorky looking, and functional material. Great find.

H&M Slacks: Nothing about these is particularly special. They are plain, cheap, grey khaki-like pants that I’ve had for a while. I figured I’d want something to wear if I didn’t want to look like a total dork Indiana jones wannabe. They pack pretty small.

Ice Breaker / Smartwool T-Shirts: Same as the boxers and socks, these T-Shirts are all you need to stay comfortable and clean without bringing too many items of clothing. At $65 a piece (you can find them cheaper sometimes), they better be damn good pieces of fabric.

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove Shoes: Most of you have probably seen the Vibram 5-Finger shoes that look like your foot is wearing a weird glove. Those are cool and I like all of the benefits of reverting to a more barefoot style of footwear (muscle development, natural arch, back health, etc.). But they are pretty funny looking and aren’t really practical for everyday, everywhere use. These Merrell’s have a Vibram sole, and accomplish a similar style of “barefoot” style footwear, while being a little bit more of an actual shoe. And unlike the Vibram 5-Fingers, you don’t have to have a 15 minute conversation about your footwear with everyone you come across.

Utility Gear (L to R)

Minimal travel utilities

Kikkerland Universal Power Adapter: This little thing claims to adapt virtually every power source to every power outlet. Most devices accept a range of voltage, so conversion isn’t necessary.

QMadix 3-in-1 USB Charging/Sync cable: This is awesome: it has an iPhone charger, mini-USB charger, and micro-USB charger all in one, that connects to USB on the other end. It also retracts it’s cable into a little coil. All of my chargers… In the palm of my hand…. That’s… Innovation… (I should do a commercial).

Master Lock Padlock: This will come in handy for hostel lockers. That’s basically it. I also got two luggage locks (not pictured) so I can lock the zippers of my backpack if I feel like I need to.

Whistle: Ever been lost in the middle of the jungle in Thailand with nobody in site and NO whistle to blow? Me either… And I don’t plan on it.

Swiss+Tech Utili-key Multi Tool: This key sized multi tool packs some nice utility for it’s size:  flat screwdriver, a Phillips screwdriver, a micro-sized screwdriver, wire cutter, wire stripper, bottle opener, a nail file and nail cleaner. But most importantly – you can bring it on planes. I’d love to have a nice Leatherman with me at all times, but when you aren’t checking luggage you have to be mindful of airline regulations.

Bucky 40 Ultralight Eyemask: Nothing too special here, but I think for planes, trains, and hostels, a sleep mask is a damn fine item to bring on the road.  I also got some Hearos Extreme Protection ear plugs (not pictured) for the same reasons. Both cheap on Amazon and take up relatively no space.

REI Clothesline: This was my mom’s idea when we went to REI together and I think it’s a great one. With so few clothes, I’ll be washing them on the reg. Wool clothing should be hang-dried, so this will be super helpful to dry my clothes on the go; it has suction cups and Velcro straps so you can hang it just about anywhere.

Eagle Creek Wallet: Didn’t want to bring a bulky, leather wallet. Stripped down to the bare essentials and got a smaller, more durable little wallet.

Black Diamond Headlamp: This was an unintentionally perfect Christmas gift from my grandfather (I don’t think he knew about my trip at that point). For flashlight snobs this might not be powerful enough, but it’s plenty bright for me and it straps around your head which is fantastic/hilarious.  A flashlight is a must, so this just happened to work out perfectly.

Platypus Water Bottle: It folds/rolls up to fit just about anywhere when it’s empty. Some places we’re going won’t have drinkable faucet water so it’ll be good to be able to carry some extra drinkable water wherever we go.

Miscellaneous (L to R)

Minimal Travel pack

REI Travel Sleep Sack: We both discovered these at REI and they were exactly what we needed. Most sleeping bags are too big to make any sense with a backpack as small as ours. This sleep sack is only rated at 55 degrees which isn’t much against real cold climates. But even in warm climates, when you’re staying in hostels, camping, or napping in a wild boar den, it’s good to have something to sleep in. This fits in my backpack easily, it’s about the size of an American football.

REI Ultra-lite towel: Another no-brainer. It’s either one of these or no towel at all. These towels absorb tons more water than their own weight and dry impressively quickly.

Eagle Creek Toiletries w/ Go Toobs: This Eagle Creek thing is actually just a 1/4 packing cube, but I’m using it as a toiletries case (I have another one to pack my Marmot Windbreaker in). Go Toobs are great little leak/explosion-proof liquid containers. I’ve filled them with Dr. Bronner’s All Purpose Soap (for washing body, hair, clothes, and anything else).

Packed Up

Minimal travel pack

Ogio Backpack: This was given to me at work a while back and I decided to make it work. 20 Liter Life, right? I’d say somewhere between 19 and 25 Liters is a pretty solid goal for minimal travel. It had a really lame Harley Davidson logo on the front (it was a promotional item), so I got the California patch to represent the home land. The whole “Americans are hated” while traveling stigma is way over touted. Idiots are hated, worldwide. So don’t be an idiot, and it won’t matter where you’re from.

Wilson Pro Staff Tennis Racket: Obviously this makes no sense for traveling minimally. However, Franklin and I both love playing tennis and wanted to play on our trip. We reasoned that if we didn’t bring them, we might play a few times, but if we had to carry them  and see them every day, we’d make tennis more of a priority. Honestly, it’s pretty easy to carry around with the backpack, and the case even provides a little extra storage if needed.

Dorfman Pacific Adventure Hat: For those of us who are sensitive to the sun and it’s beautiful rays, a hat may be a wise, if not necessary, investment. Franklin’s is way more breathable and functional, but he looks way less like Indiana Jones than I do. You be the judge of who made the right decision (he did). I may eventually switch to something a bit lighter, more comfortable, etc.

Not pictured/not mentioned minimal travel gear: Sony earbud headphones, Invisalign case, laptop charger, flower-print button up shirt (wait for pictures), malaria pills, pens/pencil, bandaids.

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23 Reactions

  1. Regev

    Nice gear! I have a feeling you’ll throw away at least half of this stuff later down the road.

    P.S – love the simplistic design of the site. Keep rockin’!

    • Vince

      Hey Regev!

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve actually read your blog before, a long time ago! Consider yourself an inspiration for 20 Liter Life 🙂

      Out of curiosity, what do you think we’ll throw away and why?

      Vince

  2. Regev

    It’s an honor 🙂

    I may be wrong, but at least in my few years of experience I noticed that each of us tends to develop a pathway of habits over time, and your travel gear will naturally optimize according to these habits. You’ll probably ditch many items you’ll recognize you don’t use 90% of the time and aren’t worth carrying them. I stopped carrying the GoToobs, SPORK, the whistle, the towel and even the camera/notepad/diving-log/flashlight/etc which I just use the smartphone for. You can really travel with no backpack at all if you can manage to use your smartphone as a laptop 😉

    Of course, YMMV. This minimalism thingie became an obsession and I don’t like carrying even a backpack today, but you may be different. Still, I think everyone will notice his or her own habits over time and naturally optimize the efficiency of the gear accordingly.

    Keep exploring and maybe see ya one day on planet earth
    Reg

  3. MelD

    Most impressed!
    I still don’t understand the Kindle thing – if you have an iphone, use the Kindle app and save the space. Even if you’re not using the iphone for telephone or wifi connecting.
    Same with cameras – the iphone has such a good camera, use that…? (And the newest iphone’s camera is going to put the shoot-and-click industry out of business, anyhow, it’s that advanced!)
    I also don’t understand why you will buy merino clothing that is so expensive (and justified, I’m not arguing!) but not willing to pay for the smallest, lightest laptops (not necessarily Mac, I just saw an HP today that is equally small and only slightly heavier)? I don’t think they are that expensive and you have a particular aim in space and weight.
    I’m still impressed – as a woman, I’d be saving on the weight with the above-mentioned! But totally doable.
    BTW, I love the bandana – now that’s something I could really use!!

    • Vince

      Hi Mel,

      Thanks for the feedback! The Kindle is good for a few reasons: First of all, it has free 3G anywhere in the world. That means I can send an e-mail or look up an address even if I’m not on wifi. That came in handy quite a bit in India/Asia. Also, I find reading on an iPhone to be a little bit strenuous on the eyes; call me a Luddite I guess. It’s also very light and small so not much of an addition weight wise.

      I agree that mobile phone cameras are becoming increasingly high quality, and that’s awesome. But the Sony RX100 is on a whole different level. In the minimalism vein, this camera is an incredible space saver; it essentially takes DSLR level photographs in the body of a pocket camera. If you’re not seriously into photography, then I think you’re absolutely right that an iPhone (or other phone) is the way to go.

      In regards to the merino clothing vs. better computer. That’s a fair point, and it’s all a judgement call at a certain point. Our clothing, because we brought so few items, was very important to us. We wear those clothes every day, so they had to be quality and comfortable. The computer I have (ACER Netbook) was cheap, small, light, and performs exactly how I need it to, but isn’t a HUGE investment. Not only would it not be a terrible loss if it was broken or stolen, but it also allows me to upgrade my computer more often for the same amount of money as I would spend for say a Macbook Air.

      Hope this clarifies! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Vince

  4. Mica

    This is great; thanks for sharing! It would be awesome to get an update, see where you downsized (or ‘upsized’ as the case may be).

    +1 for the Kindle; I’d never travel without my Paperwhite. Way better for reading for long periods of time (even compared to my HTC One phone, which has a great screen), plus I only have to charge it like once a week.

    • Vince

      Hi Mica,

      Thanks for the feedback. We are planning on doing an updated gear post soon actually! So check back or subscribe by e-mail and you’ll see that within a few weeks. We actually did upsize our backpacks slightly, because the best backpack in the world happened to be 25 liters. Same philosophy applies though. We haven’t really upsized our gear by much though. Stay tuned…

  5. Sadie

    I travel quite a bit and am always looking for ways to save on weight and space — but
    I still pack too much. I never check luggage since mine was lost for 6 of the 8 days I was in Italy. Thanks for sharing your packing list. I appreciate quality too, and it does make one’s life less stressful to have a few really good quality items, especially for the feet!

    • Vince

      Hi Sadie,

      Glad this packing list was useful to you! I agree it’s always a challenge to really minimize but it sounds like you’re on the right track.

      Vince

  6. Annette

    Wow, I’m very envious. I travel a lot but I have not been able to scale it down as much as you have.
    Possibly someday.

  7. Sabrina

    I found this post really interesting. I am trying to downsize my life and my travel gear, and it’s good to read about what worked for you. Too many packing lists are just fantasy suggestions.
    I have one question. Is the gear listed everything you packed, or everything you took with you? Did you carry all the clothes or did you actually wear a set of them? I am not sure if I could travel that long with just one extra set of clothes, merino wool or not…

    • Vince

      Hi Sabrina,

      Sorry for the delayed response! Thanks for your comment. To answer your question: the gear shown here is just about everything I brought. I did list a few things at the end of the post that weren’t pictured. As far as clothing goes, only one light cotton button-up shirt was not pictured here.

      So in total I had:
      2 T shirts
      1 Button-up shirt
      1 Pair of pants
      1 Pair of shorts
      3 Pairs of underwear

      I actually picked up a few tank-tops along the way as souvenirs, but ended up wearing them sometimes. But overall I got along fine with that amount of clothes.

      Safe travels!

      Vince

  8. Tara Timmers

    I am impressed with the intelligence behind choosing minimalist travel gear. Light weight, compact and highly useful items in this pack. I am eager myself to combine travel and work that involves living in this fashion. I have started to downsize my small apartment and find joy in using less to function more in life. You’ve given me some incredible ideas for my future camping/travelling excursions. I’d like to live out of a backpack at some point. I am inspired fully by the careful thought you must have put behind deciding what was a true need and what would be an excessive travel kit. Each week, I let go of another item. I have learned that life meaning can be created from the imagination, connection to others and exploration of the world, not in the things I attain materialistically. Things have weight, on the mind and the pocket book. Making smarter choices can decrease the stuff and increase the enjoyment of life and others in our relationships. What really matters is people, learning and exploring, not consumption. The world has so much poverty and my goal is to make a difference in people’s lives through offering things of real value like: a listening ear, a helpful deed etc. Thanks.

  9. JimBlim

    Great site-totally impressed & inspired-I’m off to India for three months in a few weeks (visa pending) and this has helped me decide to stick with my trusty everyday 20 liter pack..or as we (don’t) say in merry old England,my 35.1 pint rucksack 😀
    Even though I’ve researched the bejaysis out of it I’ve still been dithering about what & what not to take & this has helped me make my mind up. Many thanks!

  10. Jack

    I’m assuming all of your items fill your bag almost completely, do you not buy souvenirs?

  11. Simon

    Love the list and the labeled photos. Thanks so much for sharing.

    How heavy did your bag weigh when fully packed?

    Did you have any problems fitting all the cables for the laptop etc??

  12. Christine

    This is great! Realistic and practical, which some packing lists aren`t always. I`ll be attempting to travel with a 20l bag next week to Lithuania ( where the weather is supposed to get quite cold ) and this has helped me believe I can. I travel with very little electronics, although my DSLR is right now my biggest challenge to pack, so I substitute that space with an extra sweater which will come in handy! This is pretty much the only post that has made me think it`s not a completely crazy idea so thank you!! 🙂

  13. Tobias

    Wow, couldn´t be that minimalistic… but I´ll try! Like the minimalist style of your site too…

    Cheers,
    Tobias

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