If you really want to push the extreme limits of minimalist travel, one experiment you can try is to pare down your luggage to the absolute least amount of stuff that you can get by with and still not look and smell like a derelict. I’ve done this a few times on my shorter travels (meaning a period of a week or so) and the times I’ve tried it, it’s worked out well without any major problems.
The articles listed in my What’s In My Bag post is in reality more stuff than I really need. I’ve had many trips where I’ve returned home after several weeks of being on the road and ended up not even wearing one of those 4 shirts a single time. I just didn’t need to.
The following is my personal luggage list for absolute minimal travel without smelling like a bum. The key to this, of course, is diligent washing of clothes every single evening. Without doing this, it simply won’t work or you’ll have to buy more clothes on the road.
Lite Adventurer’s bare minimum travel list:
- 3 short sleeve quick dry shirts
- 2 quick dry boxers/underwear
- 1 quick dry shorts
- 1 jeans if it will get chilly at night or if the occasion calls for it, OR a second pair of quick dry shorts (basically 2 pieces of bottom clothing in some combination)
- 1 pair of shoes, which for me are usually Chaco sandals
- Ample Woolite for the duration of the trip in small plastic bottles
- Bag of toiletries
- A light jacket/windbreaker if needed
- Cell phone & charger
- Cash, credit cards, ID, and passport
- Some Ziploc bags
And that’s it. Everything listed above includes what you’ll be wearing at the time. I bet you could fit all of the rest in a plastic grocery bag. As my Australian friend and fellow light packing expert Mardo says, one to wear, one to wash/dry, and one ready for tomorrow. The three shirts allow for a comfortable rotation of pieces, while the shorts and pants (since they don’t directly touch your junk) don’t need to be washed quite as frequently. Since underwear is worn underneath your shorts/pants, 2 pair is probably fine since you’re less likely to spill mustard on your undies while eating lunch and have the need to change them mid-day.
So why don’t I pack like this routinely? The main reason why I don’t go this extreme is that all of the above stuff only takes up about a third of the space in my backpack. The rest is empty. Even with my usual, slightly heavier pack list, my backpack is only filled to half capacity. I have more peace of mind traveling with an extra set of clothing in the event I go all klutzy and spill a bottle of hot sauce on myself. Which has happened on occasion.