I’ve been on the road since June 4, 2013. A few months before I embarked on my journey I started reading a lot about minimalism, and slowly pared down my possessions to the point where they would all fit in a 53L backpack. Outside of my snowboard gear, and a wedding suit I keep at my mums, I find that this is all I’ve really needed.
For a while, I thought it would be interesting to list EVERYTHING I owned. The number sat at roughly 70 things, counting individual pieces of clothing separately. But I think it would be more useful just to review some of my essentials.
53L MEC Cragalot backpack. 4 pockets. This is my main bag. It’s got a small frame (like me) and large hip support straps. It’s super light and when packed tightly it isn’t so bulky that I swing it into people. 2 large pockets in the main rucksack- main pocket is waterproof and sealed off, used to store… well, pretty much everything. The others are more or less just for accessories. One is waterproof and leak proof so I use it to store goods that I don’t want leaking everywhere like my body wash, any liquor I’m packing around, and any cooking oil I might have.
Cloth Rucksack. The cary-on! It’s a cloth drawstring rucksack. Super easy to squish down, and it takes less space than a hoodie in my larger bag. Waterproof and roomy enough for a laptop, lunch, water bottle, towel, or whatever. It’s all I need for day trips, but I have thought about swapping it out for something a little more appropriate for heavy loads since cloth bags probably aren’t great for your back.
Various dividing bags. Just mesh or cloth bags that don’t take up space, they keep underwear, electronic cables, and dirty laundry separate from everything else in the rucksack.
MacBook. From way back in 2009 when I was wrapping up high school. I’ve only had to buy a new battery and it runs pretty much like it did when I bought it. Still, everything important is backed up in Dropbox or on Google drive, just in case.
Unlocked iPhone 5. I actually had an iPhone 4 set up for travelling before my roommate spilt an entire Captain and Coke on it forcing me to upgrade. I baby this phone. It’s proved to be useful all around the world, and my worst fear is breaking it or having it stolen.
Swiss Army Knife. I stole this from a kid named Lee when I was a 12-year-old cub scout. How do I remember? It has his name engraved in the side. I have to check it when I’m flying to get it around everywhere but it is an indispensable multi-tool. On the road, or day to day I use it all the time.
Padlocks. I have a standard sized one and a smaller one: sometimes you’ll find situations where the regular size doesn’t work. It sucks but some hostels have the smallest latches on their lockers…
Wire Luggage Lock. Not to be confused with those mostly useless wire-mesh luggage locks. This is useful for strapping my bag to bedposts, and roof racks in trains, it’s light and gets the job done when I feel a bit off ease.
Wetsuit. I’m only keeping this temporarily. It’s bulky but I’ve become a bit of a surf-head and what better place to pack one of these around than Oceania?
These are all mostly kept in one bag. It’s all pretty standard, toothbrush and all. I don’t like carrying around too much. The best thing you can do is find things that do 2 jobs- like a combined Hair and Body Wash, or a good moisturizer that can double as an aftershave lotion.
Campsuds. I picked up my first bottle at MEC, and I have found them at outdoor shops all over the place. 100% biodegradable, and a small amount works for laundry (sink or machine), dish soap, or body wash in a pinch. Plus it smells like pine trees, my favourite.
PackTowel. It’s basically a glammed up shamwow. It dries me off better than a regular towel and dries in open air in 1-2 hours. It stinks if you put it away wet so I’ll usually strap it to the outside of my bag if I’m on the move and unsure about how dry it is. Just because this thing is super useful doesn’t mean I’m above hiring a regular sized towel though.
I read somewhere that you should always care about what goes between you and the earth, invest in good bedsheets and good shoes. Since bedsheets are something I don’t really have control over I always invest in good shoes. And I know a lot of minimalist travellers are going to hate this, but I pack around 3 pairs.
-I always have a pair of sneakers, and my absolute favourites for traveling are Converse. No contest. I used to have some Vans Classics that I got cheap from a retail job, which had basically the same benefits as Converse, less the breathability. Converse dry quickly, can handle a beating, and are cheap to replace. Currently, Im taking my Converse obsession a step further with the All Star II’s: same deal but with a thicker suede type canvas and an insole by Nike which does wonders for your back. Still on my first pair so I cant quite swear by them yet though.
-Flip-flops. Also known as thongs, or jandals. Wicked for beaches, hostel showers, or strolling around on hot days.
-Hiking Boots. I don’t care if they are heavy, and stinky, and bulky. Your feet will thank you for the investment after any long treks you take off pavement. I don’t just hike either, I climb mountains, and I am not going to climb up a scree slope without ankle protection. These were’t cheap, packing them around is rarely convenient, but as an outdoorsman I won’t travel without them.
Clothing is often debated by nomads and backpackers, and there are different schools of thought on it by everyone. I’m not into the tech clothing (that expensive odour-proof, wrinkle-proof, quick dry stuff), and I think its fun to buy a new t-shirt shirt every once in a while. I pack around 8 days of clothing, and maybe 10-12 days of undies. This means 2 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of pants, and 8 shirts. If I stop somewhere for work I’d rather not be known as “that dude who wears the same shirt every day” by my new local friends. When I was backpacking Europe, 4 shirts and a pair of shorts was totally cool, but slow travel is a different beast.
Bomber Jacket. This is an essential, its just a light waterproof jacket with a high collar (its got a rain hood zipped into it). It’s useful to have a good shell layer for rain and wind, plus you can fit a sweater under it if the weather cools off.
Hoodies & Jumpers. Unless I’m somewhere where I find myself wearing them often I really only need 2. I have a hoodie for everyday use, and a more formal looking jumper for when I don’t wear the hoodie.
Dress Shirts. Because you never know when you need to look presentable. I’ve got 2 and had them both tailored to fit. One is a denim shirt, which doesn’t show many wrinkles. The other shows all the wrinkles, but I don’t mind that much.
Socks and Underwear. I’m hardly feel like I need to touch on this because anyone researching a trip will probably have already learned this from other sources or common sense. I pack at least 10 days worth of these. Why? Because this is the determinant of how often you’ll need to do laundry. I clean everything once a week, but trust me, having the 10 days flexibility definitely comes in handy.
I feel like this wall of text takes up more space than my bag. Feel free to write me and let me know what your essentials are yeah?