How To Pack Light: 79 Items You Need In Your Backpack

There is nothing more liberating that traveling light. It means increased traveling freedom and hence better traveling experience. Have it with you all the time: in the bus, on the plane, in a cab. Much safer and faster.  You don’t know what to leave out? Let me show you how to pack light.

Packing Philosophy

A light backpack is one that you can carry the whole day without a problem. In my case, I travel with a 26L backpack, just one, that is it.

My packing style is more minimal than the average traveler, yet not truly spartan. This means that for the majority of you it will sound barbarically small, while some other hardcore travelers might argue they only need a toothbrush and a phone charger. Whatever.

My point is that you need to ask yourself: How often are you going to use this? If you haven’t used it in the last couple of weeks, you probably won’t use it in the next two weeks, and so on.

The rule of thumb is: The only essentials are what you use every day. Once a week is relative. Once a month – you can leave it home.

 

Let’s get started!

How to Pack Light

Cat #1 Stuff You Wear On

The first question is what to wear on. This is my basic combo for most destinations (excluding high-altitude and beach).

Stuff on me

#1 – Long-sleeve T-shirt/Shirt, Layer 1, (black, turtle neck t-shirt)
#2 – Underwear (trunks)
#3 – Jeans (black denim slim fit)
#4 – Belt (black leather belt)
#5 – Socks (normal black socks)
#6 – Shoes (Nike Free Flyknit)
#7 – Wrist watch (simple Casio with alarm and light)
#8 – Hoodie or Pullover, Layer 2,
#9 – Notebook (Moleskin soft cover on my right pocket)
#10 – Pen (cheap, I keep losing it)
#11 – Smartphone (iPhone 7)
#12 – Wallet (small and discreet)
#13 – Money Belt (RFID Money Belt)
#14 – Sunglasses (foldable Ray-Ban WayFarer)

How to Pack Light

Cat #2 Stuff on Your Backpack

Backpack

#15 – Small black backpack (Patagonia Arbor Pack 26L or Herschel)

Clean Clothing Bag (fabric bag)

#16 – 2 pairs of socks (1 light one thick)
#17 – 2 pieces of underwear (back trunks)
#18 – Sports long-sleeve t-shirt (Nike Drifit)
#19 – Extra t-shirt or shirt
#20 – swimming suit (doubles as running pants)

Dirty clothing bag (fabric bag)

Here you’ll put dirty clothes

Flip Flops bag (tough plastic bag)

#21 – Light flip-flops

Toiletries bag

#22 – Toothbrush
#23 – Toothpaste
#24 – Soap bar
#25 – Deodorant
#26 – Ear-buds
#27 – Nail-scissors
#28 – Condoms
#29 – Portable shaving machine (battery powered)
#30 – Nivea Cream

Miscellaneous bag (in a zip plastic bag)

#31 – 3-in-1 spoon-knife-fork (“Spork”)
#32 – Emergency blanket (could save your life)
#33 – Binoculars (useful for hiking and astronomy)
#34 – Padlock (great for dorm lockers)
#35 – Earplugs (great for sleeping and clubbing)
#36 – Sleep mask (a must for night-buses)
#37 – Mini folding umbrella (LifeTek)
#38 – Tea bags and Instant Coffee (good for soviet train rides)

Towel

#39 – Towel (microfiber)

Pharmacy stuff (in a small plastic Zip-bag)

#40 – Ibuprofen pills
#41 – Malaria pills
#42 – Antiseptic lotion

Basic Electronics

#43 – Headset with mic (Sennheiser CX 5)
#44 – USB charger (phone and tablet)
#45 – Power Bank (50000m Ah)
#46 – Travel adaptor (Universal)
#47 – USB stick (Mini 128GB)

Docs (in a zip plastic bag)

#48 – Passport (put it in the money belt)
#49 – National ID
#50 – Driving License
#51 – Copies of your passport (for visas)
#52 – Plastified copy of your Passport (for hotel checkins)
#53 – Passport Pictures

Money stuff

#54 – Emergency Money: at least 50USD/EUR in cash (some in money belt)
#55 – Debit Card (in wallet)
#56 – Credit Card (in money belt)

How To Pack Light

Cat #3 – Optionals and Seasonal

While I think the above is enough for some, I do carry the below as well.

Reading

#57 – Tablet (Samsung 7″) or Book (Antifragile or The Brothers Karamazov)

Photo stuff

#58 – Camera body (Sony A7 Mk II)
#59 – 35mm lens (Zeiss Sonnar 35mm 2.8)
#60 – 55mm lens (Zeiss Sonnar 55mm 1.8)
#61 – Extra Camera Battery
#62 – Fast Battery Charger
#63 – Small lens Cleaner (Nikon)

Laptop

#64 – Macbook (12-inch)
#65 – Macbook sleeve (soft and light)
#66 – Macbook charger
#67 – Hard drive (2TB)
#68 – Hard drive case
#69 – Card Reader
#70 – SD Cards

Sports Optionals

#71 – Swimming goggles (Arena)
#72 – Swimming cap (Arena)
#73 – Heartbeat belt (linked to watch/phone)

Cold Weather Optionals

#74 – Jacket (Layer 4)
#75 – Fleece (Layer 3)
#76 – Hat (Insulate material)
#77 – Long Running Pants (doubles as underpants)
#78 – Gloves (Insulate)

One important idea to keep in mind is that it is better to pack clothes you can easily combine to keep warmer. And it is better to take different layers that you can put on. My strategy is to use 4 layers. Layer 1 and 2 are a t-shirt and a sweater listed in the basic clothing I wear on (listed above). Layer 3 and 4 are a fleece and a jacket (listed below)

Remote Areas Optionals

#79 Toilet paper roll (you will thank me later)

Takeaways

You can travel light too. Now you learned how to pack light. Just have a look at your backpack and sort out what you really need from what you’ve been carrying but never using. Get rid of it, leave it home, or give it away. In 99% of the cases, you won’t look back.

What is your backpack combo, how many liters? Does it feel too heavy?

Jordi

Traveling on a 22L bag. Expert at dodging pick-pockets & bedbugs. Find out more