Packing Like a Pro and Traveling Light—My Ultimate Guide

Tips for minimalist travel using just a carry-on bag

Packing properly is hard. But it’s totally worth it! Once you force yourself to pack smarter and lighter, your life on the road becomes so much easier. Finally you’ll feel like a bird, not packed like a mule.

A minimalist approach to packing will make you more comfortable and more mobile. By keeping things carry-on size, you can even save a lot of money by avoiding extra check-in fees. And did I mention you can skip the wait at baggage claim?

Sounds nice, but I know it’s still all too tempting to overpack. I’ve met some people hauling up to 30 kg (66 pounds) worth of stuff in their way-too-huge backpacks. This is nuts! They sweat, they curse, and finally swear they’ll never pack so much again. It’s not a fun lesson to learn.

I went through different phases myself. Back when I first started traveling, I was a little clueless and maybe a little scared. And so I packed like a doomsday prepper, filling my bag with completely unnecessary gear. These days, I travel with one carry-on bag weighing about 11kg or 24 pounds. It makes for light and easy travel — and I don’t miss a thing.

Intrigued by the minimalist one-bag approach? Then read on as I show exactly how I pack, and share with you some of my best packing tips and tricks.

 

Choosing the right bag

Wait. Hang on a minute.

One does not make a great burrito without a good tortilla. By which I mean: you can’t pack that well if you don’t have the right bag. 

The best way to avoid overpacking? It’s to get a smaller bag. It will reduce the temptation to keep adding more things, and it will force you to prioritize.

Most carry-on size bags have a capacity of around 40 liters. For me, this is a perfect size if I’m staying in hostels or hotels (and not camping or anything). This size works amazingly well for a shorter trip, but even for full-time nomadic travel I found it pretty do-able; I traveled with just a 45-liter carry-on for two years straight without major issues.

If you’re not sure what bag to get, check out my list of best backpacks as I regularly update it with the latest reviews. Right now I travel with the Tortuga Setout, which is a totally amazing 45-liter carry-on backpack.

So why a backpack? And why not just get some wheeled luggage?

That’s certainly fine for a stationary holiday in a resort. But if you’re going to be traveling around, those big rolling bricks get real awkward real fast. They’re especially awful on cobblestone streets, old windy stairs, dirt roads, sandy beaches, and so on.

A backpack is a lot more versatile. You can easily swing it onto the back of a tuk-tuk or a pick-up truck. Or you can tuck it under your seat in a bus, or easily secure it inside a locker. And if you need to run to catch that last train, you’re still light on your feet and might actually make it.

Many travel backpacks also come with clever features not usually found on suitcases that can make packing and organizing a lot easier.

 

3 rules for minimalist travel

You can pack light by following a few simple principles:

  1. Pack the must-haves, not the nice-to-haves
    Lay out all your gear. Think long and hard about every item, then eliminate anything you don’t absolutely need. If it’s your first big trip, you might end up packing more things just because ‘more stuff’ feels somehow comforting and safe. But resist this urge to be overprepared. Many first-time travelers wish they’d packed half as much.
  2. Don’t pack more than 1 week’s worth of clothing
    It’s simply much easier to do laundry than to carry weeks worth of clothing. Pick some versatile favorites with a simple color palette so that you can easily mix-and-match every item.
  3. Bring versatile instead of special-case items
    Focus on items that will be useful to you all the time (or have multiple uses), and think twice about anything you’ll use only on unique occasions. Keep in mind you can often rent gear locally, or find a cheap temporary fix instead of carrying something for a one-time use.

Remember that there are shops all over the world, even in seemingly remote places! If you forget something, you can usually still buy it there. Yes, they do have toothpaste on Borneo.

Oh, one more good rule: try to keep a quarter of your bag empty. It makes loading and unloading easier, and can be used for storing souvenirs or gifts.

 

So here’s how I pack…

Having covered a few general tips, let me show you exactly how I pack in a step-by-step way.

So… this is my main 45-liter backpack, a Tortuga Setout. I love this bag as it’s highly versatile and can be used for different types of trips. I use it to store everything apart from just my camera and a couple of other items (I put these in a small day-pack, but more on that later).

Anyway, let’s open it!

The main compartment

In my bag’s main compartment I mainly keep my clothing. The Tortuga backpack is side-loading which gives better access than a top-loading backpack.

It’s often better to roll clothes instead of folding. Fewer creases, more space-efficient. Rolled up shirts (when stacked) are also easy to see at a glance.

I use packing cubes mainly to store my socks and underwear. For a long time I just kept my stuff in plastic shopping bags, but I’m glad I saw the light and bought a 3-piece set of slim packing cubes by eBags. They cost only $15 and makes organizing my clothes a lot easier. They fit perfectly and have little windows in them letting you see what’s inside.

I typically travel with two pairs of shoes. One to wear, one to carry.

I keep a pair of Merell low-top hiking shoes in a plastic bag for when I go hiking or walking a lot. For my everyday shoes, I like to bring low-top canvas sneakers such as Converse All-Stars as they fold up easily and take up very little space. In a tropical climate, you could substitute these for sandals, though I personally like to chuck in a pair of flip-flops instead. Girls can easily add a pair of flats, as well.

For clothing, I usually pack the following:

  • 6 or 7 shirts or t-shirts, ones that I know I’ll be happy to wear regularly
  • 7 pairs of underwear. Some advocate bringing as few as 3 (one to wear, one to wash, and one to dry), but I prefer having fresh underwear every day and washing only once a week. I’m just a little weird like that.
  • 3 pairs of pants/trousers; if I’m going somewhere hot, two of these will be shorts
  • 3 pairs of socks for tropical climates, more if temperate.
  • One sweater or hoodie
  • Swimming shorts

Since I often travel in hot climates, I usually won’t bring any nightwear. I’ll just sleep in boxer shorts and a tank top. But if I’m going somewhere cold or temperate, I might add a pajama or jogging pants/trousers.

If you’re a bit of an adventurer, you may want to invest in some merino wool clothing. Merino wool costs a bit more, but it provides warmth when it’s cold, keeps you cool when it’s hot, has the amazing ability to stay warm even when wet, and even dries much faster than cotton. Gee whiz! Seriously though, this stuff is made of miracles. Merino wool socks can be used for days on end without getting stinky, making it perfect for trekking.

I put my dirty clothes in this polyester laundry bag with a drawstring. This keeps the stinky clothes nicely separated, and I like the world map printed on it too. Maybe I should start marking where I’ve been?

What about rainy or cold weather?

I most often travel in the tropics or in summer, so I don’t bother packing a jacket or more than just one hoodie or sweater. If you’re packing for a cold or wet climate then this will obviously add more weight, but not so much as you might think. Your winter jacket, jumper, etc. will be on your body anyway, so won’t add to your luggage weight. For rain cover, you can just get a packable lightweight raincoat, as these can compress down to about the size of an apple. If you need to pack for multiple climates, consider bringing a compression bag for storing your winter items when you no longer need them.

The front compartment

Moving on to the front compartment, this is mainly where I store my toiletries and a few other handy items.

My toiletries bag is pretty small (it’s the little blue sleeve on the left). I like to keep things simple, so it’s just a toothbrush + paste (travel size), a small roller deodorant, some matt clay for my hair, and a beard trimmer (only for long trips).

If you’re going to stay in hotels, you might not need to pack a towel or soap or shampoo as these will already be provided. But I often stay in hostels and guesthouses, or I travel to developing countries where these aren’t provided as standard. Even in developed (Eastern) Europe, a lot of places don’t give you these basics.

That’s why I always bring a lightweight microfiber travel towel. These weigh at least 10 times less than the average cotton towel. Some people don’t like their velvety texture, but you are not supposed to actually rub this type of towel on your skin. After showering, use your hands to remove most of the water first, then just gently pat yourself dry. Microfiber travel towels dry much faster than cotton ones, which is great if you’re traveling around a lot.

Remember that liquids can’t exceed 100ml if you want to have them as carry-on items on a flight.

My preferred solution is to not use liquid soaps at all.

I have these two soap containers, one containing a soap bar and the other a shampoo bar. As solids, they’re always accepted as carry-on. They’re also lighter and more compact than shower gel or shampoo bottles. Fun fact: 70% to 90% of the weight of shower gel is just water!

A shampoo bar works just like a soap bar: simply rub it in water and you’ll get some lovely foamy shampoo. This 100ml shampoo bar will last just as long as three normal size 250g bottles of liquid shampoo. Assuming you wash your hair every 3 days or less, it will last you a whole year.

But what if you don’t like solid soaps? Or what if you’re way too attached to your favorite brand of artisanal gluten-free quinoa pomegranate shampoo? Don’t worry, there’s an alternative solution: just pour some into a 100ml travel container. These are often sold at drug stores, or you could re-use some containers from a hotel. Of course, these won’t last quite as long as a soap or shampoo bar.

Wait… where were we?

Oh yeah! I was explaining what’s in my backpack’s front compartment.

I also have here a lightweight packable rain jacket and a compact inflatable travel pillow.

I love having a travel pillow, but I always hate how much space they take up. The inflatable travel pillow is an incredible solution as it stays super compact. You blow it up with a button (not with your mouth) and it’s super soft (not rubbery like other cheap inflatables).

Finally, because I tend to be in and around the water a lot when I travel, I now bring a waterproof bagIt lets me jump off a boat and swim to an island and still bring my camera, or it lets me keep my dive log and other stuff dry when I go scuba diving. It’s perfect for the beach as well.

The back panel

One-bag travel purists be warned: this is where I’ll be diverging from total minimalism just a little bit.

Since I’m a blogger, I almost always travel with a laptop. I do have a fairly lightweight ultrabook, but that’s still an additional 1.3kg (or 2.8 pounds) I need to carry. If I wasn’t blogging, I’d probably stick with just a tablet or a smartphone.

I used to travel with a MacBook Air but it got stolen. Someone snatched my old daypack from a restaurant patio in Lisbon (booo, shouldn’t have dropped my guard!). Now I use a relatively inexpensive Acer Chromebook R13, which also doubles as an (oversized) tablet. By the way, I have a separate guide to the best travel laptops.

I always bring a universal travel adaptor with two USB ports. This means I never have to worry about all the different electrical sockets used around the world. It also lets me charge my laptop and two other devices via USB at the same time.

I also often pack a — gasp! — physical paper book. Sometimes it’s a travel guide, sometimes some paperback fiction (or both). I know that’s not ultra minimalist, but in this case I don’t mind compromising a bit. I tried using an e-reader for a while but I hated the ergonomics and terrible typesetting. Ugh, I’m such a snob. Somehow it’s also just satisfying to read from thin sheets of dead tree.

The back panel is also where I keep some emergency money, receipts or notes, and my backup bank cards.

Side note: if you travel often it might be worth getting a debit card with Transferwise or Revolut.

These internet banks don’t charge ATM fees and let you save a ton of money on currency conversion. They also have apps that let you monitor any withdrawals and freeze the card with one tap. They’re awesome about sending you a replacement card if needed while you’re still on the road. I’ve struggled enormously with legacy banks when traveling but these new startups online banks are amazing.

 

What I keep in my daypack

Besides my main 45-liter bag, I also carry a small Lowepro 150 AW Slingshot camera bag.

This counts as my additional “personal item” when I’m flying, and I use it when I’m out and about and sightseeing.

I love photography so I always bring a bigger camera with an interchangeable lens system. The most lightweight option is obviously to use a compact camera or a smartphone. But I diverge from the maximum minimalism here (uhh, is that a thing?) simply because I love having a fully-featured camera.

I used to have a bulky Canon DSLR, but I replaced it with a much lighter mirrorless camera. My Panasonic Lumix GX8 has been a real game-changer. It’s so light and portable that I now take it everywhere I go. If you want to read me gushing uncontrollably about this camera, check out my full review of the Panasonic GX8.

The Micro Four Thirds format used by Panasonic and Olympus is amazing for travel photography, as the lenses are just so ridiculously lightweight. Inside my small camera bag, I can easily pack my Panasonic Lumix GX8 with a 12-35mm f2.8 walkaround lens, a 35-100mm telelens, a 25mm f1.7 prime, and a Laowa 7.5mm f2 wide angle lens. All this combined weighs only 1.3kg (2.9 pounds). My mind has still not finished being blown over this.

By the way, the cool thing about using a sling camera bag is that, well… you can sling that sucka around and always instantly access your camera! #Blessed #Grateful #HoorayForCameraBag.

Inside it I also keep a GorillaPod Action ultra-compact tripod. If I’m going somewhere hot, I also have some mosquito spray and sun lotion in there, always ready for action.

Finally, I keep some first-aid plasters/gauze and basic medicines in my daypack. I also attached a safety whistle, in case I get lost in the woods and chased by a yeti.

Other than that, there’s a bit of room left here for some snacks or a water bottle, or for my passport when in transit.

 

A few more handy items

There are a few other smaller items I want to tell you about. I usually put these in my backpack’s quick-access pocket.  They’re not strictly essential, but they have made my life on the road consistently easier.

Firstly, a number padlock often comes in super handy. I stay in hostels and budget guesthouses often, which means having to lock your bags in a locker. With a number padlock, you don’t have to worry about losing the key.

I also have a wire lock, which lets you secure a backpack to a pole or fence, to prevent opportunistic theft.

An LED headlamp comes in handy when you have to find your way through a dorm room at night, when there’s a power cut (not unusual in developing countries), or when you’re hiking at night or going on a caving adventure. A regular torch works too, but having a light strapped on your head keeps your hands free.

portable backup battery gives my phone and other electronics a bit of extra charge in a pinch. A cool bonus is that I can leave my phone to charge inside a hostel locker or hotel safe, instead of leaving it out in the open.

Finally, I bring this piece of multifunctional headwear by Buff, made of a special seamless stretchy material. You can easily use these to create a bandana, sweatband, scarf (great for motorbiking), sleeping mask, or sun guard. It’s amazingly versatile and I think it looks kind of cool too.

A Buff can be quickly turned into a scarf

Also works well as an eye-mask!

 

But… but… you’re a guy!

Whoa. Does that even matter?

Girls on the backpacker trail have sometimes commented that I can only pack light because I’m a guy. I guess the implication is that I can go full Bear Grylls style and be a total scuzzy dirtbag with only one t-shirt to wear (not true), while girls always need a huge wardrobe.

This seems silly as I’ve seen countless female travelers pack just as light. It’s totally possible, regardless of gender, to put together a functional and fashionable travel wardrobe without overpacking. As long as you can do the occasional laundry, I think you won’t have to compromise that much.

It’s true that as a woman you’re likely to bring a few more toiletries, cosmetics, and other items, but many women’s clothes are also smaller than men’s versions. The total volume ultimately might not be all that different.

Of course, my packing example does totally come from a guy’s perspective. But other women travel bloggers have offered their own examples of packing light. I’m going to go out on a limb here though and say that the general approach can work for anyone.

 

The full list of all my gear

I hope this post has been helpful! Packing is a pretty personal thing so everyone does it differently, but maybe my example has given you a few ideas. Any specific products mentioned are simply ones I like to use — there’s no influencer marketing or sponsoring here.

Below are links to all of the gear that I use, which lead to your local version of Amazon (US, Canada, UK, Germany, etc.). If you do decide to buy something from Amazon feel free to use these links, as they earn me a small commission. This helps me write more in-depth posts like this one.

Happy travels!

My backpacks

By the way, I also recommend these other backpacks.

Packing and organization

Misc. travel gear

Tech & camera

49 comments

  1. Caro Reply April 3, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Legend!!! I am going to Japan for a month on a very tight budget and not having to pay for checked luggage is such a fantastic idea. I have just been travelling for 3 months in very hot and then quite cold places carrying 15kg and I was very proud of myself. Yet there were heaps of things that I didn’t use so I am sure that it will be perfectly fine with half the weight.
    As a woman, I can give the following tips:
    1. use a bikini top instead of a bra. They’re more comfortable, easier to wash, smaller, and you get 2 uses out of 1 garment. Or, even better, just don’t wear a bra.
    2. use a menstrual cup. Super easy to pack!
    3. don’t wear make up! at least give it a go during the trip and you’ll see how amazing it feels.
    Thank you for your post!!

    • Marek Reply April 3, 2018 at 8:24 am

      Love these tips! Thank you Caro 🙂 Have an amazing trip to Japan!

  2. Dan Stefanescu Reply February 22, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Marek! Incredible post and incredible blog. Was curious if going for a long backpack trip(2 months) in South America while taking a lot of multiple days trips(Ciudad Perdida, Machu Picchu, Uyuni Salt Flats) if you need to bring with you a sleeping bag or/and a tent?

    • Marek Reply February 22, 2018 at 11:21 am

      Hey Dan! In all three of those experiences you’ll be sleeping in hammocks/tents provided or in basic lodges. So there’s no need to bring your own gear, unless you really plan to go camping totally on your own (outside of such known places where there are adventure tours available).

  3. Lizzie Reply October 29, 2017 at 12:37 am

    I travel with a 25L backpack by Osprey. I love it. I prefer something at 28L but the bag I want only comes in two sizes: 25L & 32L. I managed to go around with the smaller bag simply because my clothes are very small! =D

  4. Ivo Reply October 16, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Marek,

    First of all, congratulations on a great traveling resource written in a witty and inspiring way!

    I have a small question regarding your list: do you have any recommendations regarding t-shirts (materials, colors etc.) for SEA, or basically any cotton t-shirt will do? Looking forward to hear your thoughts on this.

    Happy travels!

    • Marek Reply October 16, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks Ivo! That’s a great question.

      Really any cotton or linen summer shirts will do, though it’s preferable to go for 100% cotton/linen/etc. Avoid synthetic blends if you can as they get very hot and sticky IMO. I like to go for medium or darker shades of colors as well (if possible) as it’s less of a big deal if they get a bit dirty.

      You could also consider getting a merino wool tshirt (like the ones at http://www.icebreaker.com). These aren’t cheap but they’re super breathable, soft, and comfy for hikes and other activities. I was skeptical until I got one and they’re actually pretty amazing. By no means necessary though – only do this if you can spare the money.

  5. ben Reply September 24, 2017 at 12:03 am

    I just spent 5 hours in your post, and $550 🙂 thank you Marek. From Morocco.

  6. Felipe Reply September 12, 2017 at 3:50 am

    Thank you so much Marek. I have just spent 2 hours in your post and close to $300 haha!! I really appreciate this post!! Felipe (Brazil)

    • Marek Reply September 12, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Hah thanks Felipe, glad it helped you put together your travel gear. Boa sorte! 🙂

  7. Jane Grahek Reply July 13, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Hi Marek, Thanks for sharing all your wonderful packing ideas! Mostly I want to thank you specifically for the Safety Whistle and the Wire lock. I have travelled solo for years all over the world and never needed them but now that you suggest it I think its a great safety tip. Thanks Again!

  8. Steve Reply June 12, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Very helpful article thank you.
    I would like to know whether you are able to get away with the 55L osprey as carry luggage or are you often forced to check it in?
    Thanks

    • Marek Reply June 12, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      I’ve gotten away with it most of the time (by detaching the 15L daypack and carrying it as the additional ‘personal item’). It didn’t work with Easyjet though – they made me check it in.

  9. Anne Betts Reply May 16, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Thank you Marek for such an informative post. Your recommendation of 40 litres is spot on. On my last trip of 2.5 months, I went with the Osprey Farpoint 40 and the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack. I travelled on several regional carriers with a one-bag carry-on limit of 7 kg. The best I could manage was a packed weight of 8 kg, but on all 9 flights the Farpoint 40 didn’t attract any attention and I had no trouble going carry on. The Stuff Pack served me well as a day pack, and of course packed away easily in the Farpoint 40 on travel days.

    One packing strategy I’d like to elaborate on is the idea of multi-purpose multi-use items. I find when I ask myself this question about every item I pack, my packing is more strategic. For example, on my last trip I didn’t pack my shower thongs (that serve as indoor footwear and beachwear) in favour of a pair of Croc sandals that not only served the same purpose, they were fashionable enough to wear to a few evening events and comfortable enough to wear as a walking sandal. Also, I traded in a pyjama top for a tunic I could use as daywear if necessary.

  10. Alex Reply April 14, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Marek! I will be asking for as much advice as possible! I will be traveling throughout europe for a minimum of 35 days. I Will be staying in hostels and will also be walking throughout nature for a few days at a time. Wondering what the most suitable bag os for myself. I do understand that it is personal preference but, from your experience, I would appreciate your personal opinion on what you would/have travel with and how. I think that the TALON 44 or the MANTA AG 36 would work. Which do you recommend and if neither please substitute! Any recomendations of where to visit in Italy, Switzerland. or France?

    • Marek Reply April 15, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Hey Alex! Between those two options, personally I’d go for the TALON 44 as I’ve found around 45L a perfect size – not too big, not too small.

      It’s been a while since I travelled in those countries so I’m not the best source on them right now, but have great memories of the Amalfi coast and Capri in Italy 🙂

      • Alexander James Solomon Reply April 17, 2017 at 2:50 am

        Thank you so much greatly appreciated. Ice it easy to access things in the bag? or is it all in one pile?

        • Marek Reply April 17, 2017 at 9:39 am

          All in one pile. I’m personally more of a fan of the Farpoint 40 and 55 bags (see this post) which open horizontally. Combine them with some packing cubes and it’s easy to keep them organized.

  11. Lew Reply March 23, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Thanks so much for this great advice, your a life saver! Going for a year in a month with exactly the same bag as you have got. Thanks again

    • Marek Reply March 24, 2017 at 12:33 am

      Glad it helped! 🙂

  12. Alex Reply March 2, 2017 at 2:46 am

    Great post, very useful advice!
    Did you end up purchasing that Sony mirrorless camera yet, I am also currently saving up for one. I hear amazing things about them!

    Cheers

    • Marek Reply March 2, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Hey Alex. I was set on getting the A7 (and borrowed one for a while) but then went the totally opposite way and got a micro four thirds camera (the Panasonic GX8).

      The main argument for me was the affordability, weight, and small size of micro four thirds lenses. I’ve got a 24-70mm equivalent lens at f2.8 fixed aperture that weighs just 300gr. A similar lens on a full-frame Sony would weigh 3x as much and cost 2.5x more. The A7 is beautiful but I realized it’s the wrong upgrade path for me if I want to keep things very portable, do lots of street photography, etc.

      I’m going to do an article/video about this soon. 🙂

  13. Aimee Reply January 9, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Really helpful and really informative, thank you! I’m thinking of going on a backpacking trip with a couple of friends before I head off to uni, and this will really help us all pack light and efficiently! Super super helpful

  14. kemiller715 Reply December 29, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Hi!

    I’m headed to Prague this June for a study abroad but am travelling throughout Italy and Greece for 10 days before and then backpacking throughout Europe the entire month of July. I really loved the blog and found it incredibly useful. I’m wondering if the Farpoint 55 would still be best, or if I might need a slightly larger pack since I’ll also be using it for school. I tend to be a light packer, I just want to make sure I invest in the right pack.

    Additionally, I’m looking into buying a camera for my travels, and was wondering if you had any recommendations on that. I tend to take a lot of landscape, structure, and monument photos, but I may also want to take some actions shots along the way as well. Is there any camera in particular that stands out to you?

    Thanks again for all of the great info! Reading your blog has exponentially increased my excitement for travels ahead as I begin to plan and start thinking about packing!

    • Marek Reply December 31, 2016 at 2:59 pm

      It’s great to hear that!

      Hmm, it’s hard to say without knowing what your other uses for the backpack are. Do you mean taking the pack to school everyday? (The 55 is already twice the size of most school backpacks.) Or do you mean you need additional space for books and such? If so I would probably consider leaving these additional items in a storage locker and travel with only your travel items through Europe.

      I have some camera suggestions here.

  15. Katie @ the tea break project Reply September 14, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Great list – and I totally agree, it’s just as easy for girls to pack light as it is for guys. I recently went to America for 5 weeks with just a 40L backpack and it was totally fine. In fact, I still ended up taking things I didn’t need! I think it’s trickier when you’re travelling to multiple climates – especially if you’re cutting back and forth between tropics and servere cold. But I think it’s probably still possible by layering. It’s just about being really really strict with yourself.
    Katie @ the tea break project recently posted…25 Reasons Why New Zealand May Just Be My Favourite Country on Earth (in pictures)My Profile

  16. Margaret Reply September 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Marek – This is an amazing list of gear and confirmed my original packing list. I’m getting ready to travel to SEA for several months and need a new wallet to travel with. I’m considering just a very small billfold or something similar to Herschel’s Charlie wallet, but think I might need something with a zippable pocket. Do you have a preference or a favorite?

    • Marek Reply September 15, 2016 at 11:22 am

      Glad it’s been useful! 🙂 I have a tiny leather pouch that attaches to my belt and which fits some folded up notes. I like using this or just a simple billfold. I keep bank/credit cards and such locked up back at my hotel or hostel and never take any more cash than I need for the day, so a simple solution usually works for me, though everyone has their own preferences.

      • Margaret Reply September 15, 2016 at 4:05 pm

        Thanks so much for your reply. The dual wallet is a great idea – I usually just stuff extra money and my passport in a random pouch in my pack, but actually having a passport wallet to hold it all together while in my pack somehow seems revelatory. 🙂 Thanks again

  17. Karen DW Reply August 29, 2016 at 6:21 am

    Thanks for this great advise re: packing. I will take another look at the Osprey line.
    One thing to mention re: girls & packing… bras take a LOT of space! Mine, for a week, would be 2L, like a milk carton 😉 And I’m not even very busty. All well and good to think “it’s holiday, so go braless”. But for some, that’s not a comfortable option! Also, many clothes are designed for a particular shape, and a bra helps with that. 😉
    Happy traveling, all.

  18. Andrea Reply August 14, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Wow, I am glad I found this site! For everyone who is afraid of packing light:
    do you know the feeling when you get home and realize that you haven’t even used most of your stuff in your bag? I recently got this: I arrived home after 4 month of travelling. My bag weighted 14 kg and have a mexican hanging chair(!!!!) in it!. ( You don’t need to much on the road, cause the most important is inside you 🙂 )

  19. Kathryn Reply July 5, 2016 at 12:38 am

    I travel with a backpack that expands from 35 to 45l and have never had an issue. You really don’t need that much stuff!

    I’ve booked a flight for later in the year on BA and you get 23kg carry on luggage + checked bags. I can’t even imagine what you’d pack to get that much weight!

    I think it can be harder for women. I guess it depends. If you’re a size 8 with no boobs then it’s easy but I find the hardest thing to pack is bras!

    I travel long term and pack things like vintage dresses with full skirts plus a decent amount of makeup. I used to just buy toiletries at my destination but I’ve committed to only buying non-animal tested products so now pack my own because they are so hard to find in Asia. I still manage to stick to around 10-15 kg.

  20. Claudia Reply June 3, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Marek,
    Thanks for all the info, especially on Central America!
    I am currently looking for a portable backup battery and was wondering which one you are using and if you can recommend it?
    Groetjes from a fellow Dutchie

    • Marek Reply June 3, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Hai Claudia! I’m using this one. It’s small but has enough for 1 smartphone charge or about 2 to 3 camera battery charges. Groetjes 🙂

  21. Jack Reply May 29, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Thanks for the post, Marek, It’s been helpful as I’m preparing for a trip to Central & South America. I’d planning to trek La Ciudad Perdida, Inca Trail, and perhaps a few other overnighters. Would you advocate taking a top-loading trekking pack (for all travel) considering my interest in these treks? Majority of my travel will consist of staying in hostels/not highly concentrated on trekking. Or would you recommend taking a front/side loading travel pack and renting gear for the treks? Also, any functional differences of note between Osprey 40/55 aside from the detachable daypack feature? Thoughts on the Osprey Porter 46? Thanks for all of your helpful info, man. Great work.

    • Marek Reply May 30, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Hey Jack. I would get the backpack that works best for you for travelling (as this is how you will most often use it). Both treks you’ve mentioned actually require you to do them organised with a company, and so they’ll be providing things like food and tents/lodging. For the Ciudad Perdida trek I actually left my main bag in a secure locker in Santa Marta and took only my daypack with my toothbrush and basic clothes on the trek. Other trails in Latin America can be hiked independently but in that case you could rent or use your travel backpack anyway. Since it’s not a focus for you I’d probably not worry about it too much. 🙂

      No major differences that I know between the 40/55 apart from the detachable daypack. The Osprey Porter 46 is a perfectly fine backpack. Only downside (for some) is that it’s got a tougher outside (the ‘walls’ stand up even if there’s nothing in it), making it less moldable and so it doesn’t always get accepted as carry-on luggage on airplanes, as the dimensions are a bit too big for that to start with. Other than that, it’s (as far as I know) a good backpack.

      • Jack Reply May 30, 2016 at 11:20 pm

        Awesome – thanks for the prompt and helpful response! Seems to me like the benefits of a side/front loading pack are plentiful and I’ll have options for if/when I choose to trek overnight. I appreciate your help!

  22. sagar Reply May 21, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Hey Marek,
    Absolutely amazing article, the list provided is really fantastic. right from the basic accessories. Bingo!!!
    A good start for the beginners like me.
    Keep Posting…
    Cheers. 🙂
    sagar recently posted…What to See, Do and Eat in Singapore?My Profile

  23. Mr Adam Reply May 10, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Great post 🙂
    Every trip I take, I pack less then the last – and every time get annoyed at how much I have. My last trip, I kept leaving things behind in hostels so I didn’t need to carry them.
    Going travelling again long term from next month, and I refuse to make the same mistake!

    • Marek Reply May 13, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      Hah I also kept leaving behind and giving away things during my first long-term trip! Every time it felt like shedding ballast…

  24. Leslie Reply May 9, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Amazing advice. I thought I was organized until I read this. Please keep up the great work. I have bookmarked this site.

    • Marek Reply May 13, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks Leslie! 🙂

  25. Dawn Reply May 8, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I love reading other people’s packing lists. I’m thinking of changing my vacuum bag to packing cubes so thanks for the recommendation, I’ll take a look.
    We’ve been travelling light for the last 3 years & are thinking of reducing our 40l bags to 30l this time. Re your mention of women travelling light, your readers might find my recent blog useful for remaining stylish & travelling light?
    http://wp.me/p3LBy5-xk
    Dawn recently posted…Eating our way around Asia – Our favouritesMy Profile

  26. Esme Reply May 3, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Marek – I love your packing advice and particularly the sample chapter from your book. I’ve linked to your blog from my blog (https://roamingfentiger.wordpress.com)if that’s OK as I think the advice is too valuable not to pass on! Happy travels 🙂

    • Marek Reply May 13, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Of course Esme, thanks for linking to my site 🙂 Happy travels!

  27. Kate Reply April 7, 2016 at 3:39 am

    Great post, Marek! I’m about to set off on a RTW trip myself and feel like I’m constantly adding items to and removing items from the packing list.

    The water bag is a great idea that I wouldn’t have thought of. I’m intrigued by the idea of a shampoo bar, too. Still debating packing cubes!

    • Sam Reply April 23, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      Packing cubes are the greatest. Some sort of organizations cubes or bags are the way to go, you will not regret them. I wish I would’ve found out about them years ago. It makes life so much simpler.

      Thanks Marek for the post, enjoy reading your blog. You have some great tips. You are absoulety right, women can pack light! We don’t have much more to travel then men. A few bralets, a dress or two and minimal makeup (if chosen), only takes up a few more liters. I opt out for a big bigger pack, due to my camping gear, but do love this osprey fairpoint pack with the day bag attached. Have been contemplating lately to switch to it, (just need to get back to the US to exchange it) I travel a day bag for hiking trips also, so I might as well go for it.
      Happy travels my friend!

  28. Nikolas Douglas Reply March 24, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Hey Marek thanks for the helpful info! I’ve put together a very similar kit and hope it will do the trick as I am slowly travelling from Guatemala to Chile with my girlfriend over the course of 6-8 months
    Nikolas Douglas recently posted…WE ARE STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION…My Profile

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