Minimalist Packing Guide

Your complete gear guide for minimalist travel around the world

Use this list of our favourite minimalist packing gear to make sure you have everything you need for your mindful adventures! You’ll also find all our favourite minimalist packing tips below.

What’s in the Minimalist Packing Guide?

Note: Where pictures are marked Jane’s Pick, Stephen’s Pick, or Our Pick, it means we have these items in our minimalist suitcases. Other items are ones we wish we had!

Item #1: The Perfect Minimalist Backpack or Suitcase

A great bag is where any minimalist adventure begins! To keep it minimalist, choose a backpack or suitcase around 40L or less. Even for long-term minimalist travel, you don’t need any more space than that. Trust us!!

Here are our 3 favourite minimalist travel bags. All are small enough to carry on most flights.

(Don’t miss our complete guide to choosing the best minimalist backpack)

minimalist packing
Standard Luggage Carry-On
Best travel backpack for Europe
$179 USD
Get details
Ships free worldwide!
minimalist packing
Haupstadtkoffer Alex 20″
Best hard case carry on luggage
$80 USD / €65
Get details & reviews
Ships free to some locations

Osprey Farpoint 40
Best minimalist backpack that opens like a suitcase
$160 USD
Get details & reviews
Ships free in US

Minimalist Packing Tip #1: Which type of luggage is best?

Convertible Backpack, Wheeled Suitcase, or Conventional Backpack?

Choosing the right suitcase or backpack depends on your travel style, your destination, and your ability and desire to carry heavy things.

If you’re on a hostel budget and will be roughing it, a traditional backpack, like the Osprey Farpoint 40, is your best bet.

If you choose 3-star or better hotels, will be travelling only in developed countries, and don’t like carrying your bag, then get a wheeled suitcase like the Haupstadtkoffer Alex.

If you are all over the place, luxury one night and camping the next, then choose a convertible suitcase, like the Standard Luggage Carry-On.

Item #2: Travel Packing Cubes to Keep You Organized

Packing cubes (or packing squares) will help you fit more in your carry-on suitcase, plus they help minimize the time you spend packing, unpacking, and searching your bags when you should be out enjoying your destination!

Here are our 3 favourite travel packing cubes for minimalist travel.

minimalist packing cubes
Eagle Creek Packing Cube Set
Best ultralight packing cubes
$39 / £35 / €20 for set
Get details & reviews
Ships free to some locations
minimalist packing cubes
Standard Convertible Cube
Cleverly converts to a daypack!
$39 / £28 / €32
Get details & reviews
Ships free worldwide!
minimalist packing
Eagle Creek Travel Toiletry Kit
Best travel toiletry organizer
$25 / £17 / €19
Get details & reviews
Ships free to some locations

Minimalist Packing Tip #2: Are packing cubes worth it?

How to use packing cubes to keep you sane on the road!

Packing cubes may look like an optional extra — and if you’re on a ultra-tiny budget you can skip them — but for everyone else who’s interested in minimalist packing, they are an absolute necessity!

I can’t stress this enough. If you have it in your budget, investing in a set of packing organizers will help keep you sane while living out of a suitcase.

Stephen and I each have the Eagle Creek set of packing cubes shown above. I use the smallest cube for random items in my suitcase. The medium-sized packing pod is for rolled t-shirts and I have another medium pod that holds underwear and socks. We use our large packing cubes for pants and shorts. We each have an Eagle Creek toiletries packing pod, which is one of my favourite pieces of travel gear.

When I get to my destination, the first thing I do is pull out all my packing cubes and put them on a shelf or in a drawer. Voila! I am unpacked and ready to enjoy the world.

Item #3: The Best Lightweight Walking Shoes

All travel will involve lots of walking, so you’ll need an amazing pair of lightweight walking shoes to add to your minimalist packing list. If you’re going on a short trip, you should be able to get away with one pair of walking shoes. For longer trips in multiple climates, we recommend two or three pairs.

Here are our 3 favourite pairs of lightweight walking shoes for travel.

(Don’t miss: Our complete guide to travel shoes, including how to choose, what shoes you need, and our top shoe recommendations)

minimalist packing lightweight shoes
Salomon XA Lite GTX
Best waterproof walking shoes
$165 / £77 / €93
Get details & reviews
Available for men & women
minimalist packing lightweight shoes
Merrell Women’s Siren Edge
Women’s waterproof shoes for travel
$100 / £90 / €93
Get details & reviews
Women’s only
best walking sandals for travel
Keen Clearwater Sandals
Best walking sandals for travel
$100 / £66 / €80
Get details & reviews
Available for men & women

Minimalist Packing Tip #3: How to pack shoes for travel

Here are our best space-saving tips for packing shoes

Packing shoes for travel can be a bit of a nightmare, that’s why we say to limit yourself to one or two pairs! When packing, try to wear your heaviest pair of shoes and pack the lighter ones in your suitcase.

Turn your shoes so the toes are pointing in opposite directions and then place the tops of your shoes together with the soles facing out. The toes should nestle neatly in the heel of the other shoe. After that, wrap your shoes in a plastic bag. Lots of people recommend stuffing your shoes with other items, but honestly, if you have that little space in your suitcase, you’re probably failing at minimalist packing!

Finally, put your shoes in your suitcase first (near the bottom/wheels) and then pack softer items around them.

Item #4a: The Best Men’s Travel Clothes

The capsule wardrobe for the travelling man consists of three basic items. The minimalist packer will need: one pair of men’s travel pants, one pair of men’s travel shorts, and one great men’s travel shirt. To that you can add the men’s wardrobe essentials from our travel essentials checklist below.

Here are some of Stephen’s favourite travel clothes for men.

minimalist packing mens quick dry pants
Bluffworks Men’s Chinos
Men’s quick dry pants for travel
$125
Read our review
Ships free in US
minimalist packing mens travel shirt
Meridian Dress Shirt
Men’s wrinkle-free travel shirt
$125
Get details
Ships free in US
minimalist packing best travel shorts for men
Lululemon The Works Short
Best travel shorts for men
$98
Get details & reviews
Ships free in some locations

Minimalist Packing Tip #4: Travel essentials for men

A men’s wardrobe essentials checklist

Stephen used to be a notorious overpacker. In the last five years of travel, he’s winnowed down his travel clothes packing list to these essentials:

  • mens’ quick dry pants
  • jeans / comfortable travel pants
  • zip-up sweater
  • travel shorts
  • dressy shirt
  • 3 cotton t-shirts
  • 4 underwear
  • 3 pairs socks

He also carries an array of yoga clothes which you won’t need — so you can go even more minimalist!

Item #5: The Best Women’s Travel Clothes

I’ve yet to find a brand or style of women’s travel clothes that I am really in love with. To be honest, I tend to just grab whatever’s on sale or the comfiest t-shirts from my closet. But there are a couple of specialist items that need to start your minimalist packing travel capsule wardrobe. These are: one pair of women’s lightweight travel pants, one pair of great travel shorts, one versatile travel dress. With this, you can add whatever travel shirts, scarves, and accessories you need.

I have similar items to all of the ones listed below but of course, the exact styles I love are no longer available!

minimalist packing women's lightweight travel trousers
The North Face Horizon 2.0
Lightweight travel trousers
$60
Get details & reviews
Ships free to some locations
minimalist packing travel dress for summer
Prana Sanna Dress
Travel dress for summer
$79
Get details & reviews
Ships free to some locations
minimalist packing womens casual travel shorts
prAna Larissa Knicker
Women’s casual travel shorts
$47
Get details & reviews
Ships free to some locations

Minimalist Packing Tip #5: Travel capsule wardrobe for women

A women’s essential travel clothing checklist

Exactly what clothing you’ll need when you travel depends so much on the style of travel you’re doing (5-star hotels or hostel beds?), where you’ll be going (Paris, Milan, or Timbuktu?), and what season you’re travelling in. But the one thing that’s always true is that you need less than you think you do!

This is my capsule travel wardrobe:

  • lightweight travel pants
  • mid-weight quick dry travel pants
  • travel trousers for cold climates
  • quick dry travel shorts
  • cozy sweatshirt
  • thin long-sleeve shirt for layering
  • travel yoga pants
  • tights for layering
  • dressy shirt
  • 3 cotton t-shirts
  • 2 tank tops
  • 6 quick dry underwear
  • 4 pairs socks
  • great travel dress

And that’s it! I probably pack more than could strictly be called minimalist packing, but we do travel full-time, in all climates, and move between 5-star luxury and grimy hostels, so I do my best!

Item #6: Our Favourite Travel Yoga Mats

Strictly speaking, minimalists probably don’t need a yoga mat for travel. But if you’re going on a yoga retreat or want to practice yoga regularly during your trip, then a foldable yoga mat or a lightweight yoga mat will become one of the essentials on your minimalist packing list.

(Don’t miss: For more help choosing the best travel yoga mat, see our complete guide)

These are Stephen’s three favourite travel yoga mats.

minimalist packing
JadeYoga Travel Mat
Best travel yoga mat overall
$40
Get details
Shipping charges may apply
minimalist packing
Manduka Travel Yoga Mat
Lightweight yoga mat for travel
$42
Get details
Shipping charges may apply
minimalist packing
Liforme Yoga Mat for Travel
Most eco friendly yoga mat
$125
Get details & reviews
Ships free to some locations

Minimalist Packing Tip #6: How to choose the right travel yoga mat

What should you look out for when buying a yoga mat for travel?

There are a few key elements that deserve your attention when looking at yoga mats for travel.

  1. Portability. If you’re going on an adventure where you’ll be changing locations every few days, we recommend a foldable yoga mat that you can slide inside your suitcase.

  2. Mat comfort. If you’re going on a yoga holiday, where you’ll stay in one place and practice daily, you might want to get a slightly thicker mat that is more comfortable.

  3. Environmental impact. Choosing a yoga mat that is made with as little negative impact on the earth as possible just makes sense! Don’t buy a cheap petroleum mat that will leach toxins into your body and the ground!

More to come…

We will be adding to this page whenever we find new gear that we love (and as time allows). Bookmark it or pin it for future reference!

  Happy minimalist packing, Jane & Stephen

It’s easy to help us keep this blog going! Some of the links in this post are our personal affiliate links. If you buy something using one of the links on this page we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. It is a HUGE help to us. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J

Use this list of our favourite minimalist packing gear to make sure you have everything you need for your mindful adventures! You'll also find all our favourite minimalist packing tips below. #minimalist #travel #packingtips

Pin this for your next adventure!

Use this list of our favourite minimalist packing gear to make sure you have everything you need for your mindful adventures! You'll also find all our favourite minimalist packing tips below. #minimalist #travel #packingtips

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