Packing

Minimalist Travel Essentials Packing List

Trying to figure out how to pack light? Check out our ultimate packing list and learn how to pack like a minimalist from RemoteYear’s experts.

Ultralight travel actually is all about maximizing comfort and efficiency. And, if you can do it correctly, minimalist packing comes with multiple benefits, from avoiding lengthy lines at the airport to saving on bag and taxi fees. 

You’ll probably agree that minimal packing is not so easy. This is an art that seasoned globetrotters perfect over many years. Casey Carr-Jones, a member of Remote Year Magellan, and Zach Boyette, a member of Remote Year Kaizen, say embracing a minimalist lifestyle is not as hard as most people think. 

We asked them to share their best tips and tricks for maintaining a minimalist packing list during long-term travel. Here’s how to pack for a 365-day adventure like a pro. 

TL;DR

TLDR? No worries. Here are some top tips for minimalist travel:

  1. Don’t overpack your toiletries - there’s a good chance you can find whatever you need, wherever you’re going.

  2. Choose clothing that can pack down tightly.

  3. Look for wrinkle-free materials.

  4. Make sure the clothing you choose is versatile enough to be worn in at least two different situations.

  5. Wash your clothing in cold water and hang your pieces up to dry. These clothes have to last a year, after all!

Take your minimalist tendencies on the road by joining a work and travel program.

What is Minimalist Travel?

Minimalist travel literally means packing everything you need in your life in a 30L or 40L bag. That said, a minimalist wardrobe is a small collection of multifunctional clothing - think of five pieces that could turn into a month’s worth of outfits. When traveling for an entire year, anything under 65 items could be considered a minimalist wardrobe, not including shoes or undergarments. 

If you live a nomadic lifestyle, minimalist travel means packing lighter and smarter, so you can enjoy your travels without being bogged down by luggage. 

Overpackers tend to pack everything they think they might need instead of what is necessary. This personality trait is often influenced by previous travel experiences, anxiety, and the “what if” mentality. Such individuals end up lugging around a bunch of stuff that they never use throughout the trip. They end up losing a lot of their moveability for absolutely nothing. But that’s not the actual problem here. 

Remember, the more stuff you bring, the more money you spend on it. Any additional bag means spending an extra $30-$50+ in excess carry-on fees. And in case any of your items are lost, worn out, or stolen, you end up spending more on repairs and replacement. 

Bringing less stuff means you have less to worry about. You also spend your money on experiences, not transport, repairs, and replacements. And as others wait for hours at the baggage carousel, you’ll have breezed through the exits and grabbed the first cab. Now, that’s the spirit of minimalist travel.   

Minimalist Packing List 

We all wish there was one, but there’s no single best packing list for everyone and every trip. The best you can do is pull ideas from other remote workers’ packing lists and adjust to meet your needs. In the end, what you choose to carry will be based on where your travels will take you and what you’ll be doing.

Remote work

Minimalist Packing List for Females 

Now for the big question: what did Casey actually pack for her Remote Year?

“I packed one checked bag - and most of the weight was from toiletries,” Casey said. “The most important items to pack in your minimalist wardrobe would be: a bathing suit, a great pair of jeans, and tops that make you feel awesome and can be worn over and over and over again.”

Here is Casey’s packing list: 

  • 4 pairs of jeans

  • 1 pair of black slacks

  • 3 pairs of shorts

  • 6 t-shirts

  • 5 tank tops

  • 4 camisoles

  • 6 long sleeve shirts

  • 1 crop top

  • 2 cardigans

  • 1 chambray shirt

  • 1 vest

  • 2 blazers

  • 2 sweaters

  • 1 windbreaker

  • 1 day dress

  • 1 maxi dress

  • 1 long-sleeved dress

  • 1 date night dress

  • 2 pairs of pajama pants

  • 1 nightgown

  • 2 pairs of yoga pants

  • 3 workout/sleep shorts

  • 7 workout tops

  • 3 bras

  • 4 swimsuits

  • 1 cover up

  • 1 pair of sneakers

  • 1 pair of wedge heels

  • 3 pairs of sandals

  • 2 pairs of casual shoes

Minimalist Packing List for Men 

What did Zach actually pack for her Remote Year?

  • 4 casual t-shirts

  • 4 workout tanks

  • 4 pairs of shorts

  • 2 button downs

  • 2 pairs of pants

  • 1 belt

  • 1 pair flip flops

  • 1 pair of running shoes

  • 1 pair of casual shoes (Allbirds)

  • 9 boxer briefs

  • 9 pairs of socks

  • 1 quarter-zip pullover

  • 1 rain jacket

  • 1 packable outer shell

“The most important thing is making sure your clothes can pack down very tightly and not wrinkle,” Zach said. “For example, I have a lululemon rain jacket that folds up smaller than my fist. It lives in my backpack.”

As a remote worker, you also want to consider the type of gadgets to include in your minimalist travel accessories. Here are some of our favorite tech recommendations:

  • 1 laptop 

  • 1 phone

  • 1 camera 

  • 1 pocket camera

  • 1 Gopro

  • 1 powerbank 

  • 1 hard disk

Of course, don't forget your passport, wallet, credit cards, and a water bottle. When it comes to toiletries, we recommend buying them on location, so they don’t occupy much space in your bag. 

How to Create a Minimalist Wardrobe 

When minimalist travel packing, a few key things to focus on are durability, quality, and adaptability. Coming up with a “minimalist wardrobe” is not just about the exact number of pieces you have, but what you can do with as little clothing as possible.

Here are 8 tips and tricks for how to pack like a minimalist:

1. Don’t Pack Everything

The secret to creating a minimalist travel packing list is considering only the items you will really need. If you’re debating whether to pack a particular item or not, consider the worst scenario you could find yourself in if you left it. If it’s not too bad, then there’s a chance you won’t need it as you travel the world. 

2. Go for a Smaller Travel Bag

Most people understand that the secret to a comfortable trip is packing light. But this often seems impractical partly, because they have a big bag. 

If you’re a chronic overpacker, downsizing to a 50L, 40L, or better yet, a 30L should be your first step when minimalist packing. Because a tiny bag has limited space, it forces you to restrict yourself to necessary items only. 

We advise investing in a high-quality suitcase that can take rough handling. Even better, get a rolling suitcase with shoulder straps for added convenience, comfort, and style. 

3. Consider Versatile and Multi-Purpose Clothes

One characteristic of overpackers is packing their bag by item instead of outfit. If you tend to look at your closet and pick items just because they are stylish, there’s a problem.

When making an ultralight travel packing list, consider clothes that can be matched in various ways. To achieve this, ensure your choices are mostly neutrals. For colored items, keep them within the same family. 

The key to Casey’s minimalist packing success was ensuring that everything she brought was multifunctional.

“Each item should work for two scenarios,” Casey said. “My workout clothes double as pajamas. The outfits that I wear to the coworking space could also look great on an evening date.”

Building a minimalist travel wardrobe allows you to take a look at the way you’ve been presenting yourself to the world and reevaluate if necessary. Would it tell your story if you want everyone to know who you are just by looking at your clothing?

“Allow your style to change as you build it,” Casey said. “I went from a corporate office lifestyle where my uniform was pencil skirts, bright colors, and animal prints, to a work and travel lifestyle where my wardrobe consists of black, white, blue, and gray.  And you know what?  I feel a lot more confident now than I did then.”

4. Invest in Durable Clothes 

We recommend buying durable clothes that can withstand regular wear and washing. Durable clothes tend to be of high quality, so you don’t need to replace them when packing for every other travel adventure.  

How do Remote Year minimalists like Casey and Zach keep their clothes in tip-top shape so that they can last for the entire year?

“Skip the dryer - hang dry everything,” Casey said. “Also, beware wash-and-fold laundromats, where the machines tend to rip fabric.”

“Wash on cold, use the low spin cycle, and hang instead of machine dry,” Zach said. “You’d be surprised how much longer your clothes will live if you follow those steps.”

Another great tip: invest in materials that stand up to the test of time.

“Nearly everything I own is merino wool,” Zach said. “It’s magical. You can wear it multiple times in a row, it dries quickly, packs small, and it never smells bad.

5. Avoid the What If Mentality 

The “what if'' mentality is a mindset that tricks people into catastrophizing over what they might need. While traveling to a new destination is fun, it takes you out of your comfort zone. And this tends to push you into packing for all imaginable scenarios that might occur. 

Concerning this, Zach’s best piece of advice is to go with your gut and skip  overthinking.

“Don’t contingency pack. You can always buy things on the road,” Zach said.

Great point. Unless you’re traveling to the remotest part in the middle of nowhere, the odds are that you’ll find anything you need on that trip- so don’t overdo it on the toiletries or shoe options! 

“Minimalism doesn’t mean you can’t buy something new,” Casey said. “I bought a dress in Marrakech and you better believe I rocked that thing for the rest of my trip.”

6. Have a Packing List (and Stick to It)

Check items off the packing list as you pack to ensure you do not forget anything important. And remember to keep the packing list for reference during the trip. It will be handy, particularly if you keep forgetting your items in hotel rooms. After the trip, go through the list again and identify the things you didn’t use so you don’t have to carry them on your next trip. 

7. Find Ways to Pack Efficiently 

Consider which items can be rolled or folded to save space when packing your clothes. Casual dresses, swimsuits, pants, t-shirts, and pajamas tend to take up less space when tightly rolled versus folded.

Button-up shirts and bulky items like sweaters and hoodies are better folded. If possible, wear your bulkiest clothes on the airplane to create more space for smaller items in the suitcase or backpack. Stuffing your socks inside your packed shoes also eliminates the need for extra space. 

Packing cubes are another space-saving technique that you should not ignore. These smaller bags compress your clothes and could save up to 5-20% of the space in your bucket-style suitcase or backpack. 

8. Don't Be the Last-Minute Packer

You’ve probably been there. You’re unpacking in your hotel room only to realize that you brought five tops and only one bottom. In most cases, you’ll learn this happens when you leave packing to the last minute. Frantic packing is also very likely to lead to overpacking. That’s why Remote Year packing experts advise starting the packing process early enough. 

Final Thoughts 

Traveling around the world for a year may seem like a pretty long time. But we guarantee you don’t need as many items as you think. Generally, the best minimalist packing list is the one that fits your travel style. Consider Casey and Zach’s minimalist essentials above a challenge to pack less and enjoy your upcoming travel adventure. 

FAQs

Does rolling clothes save space?

Rolling is preferred when traveling with one bag because it allows compact packing while reducing creases. However, note that clothes like dresses and trousers can actually occupy more space when rolled than when folded. 

What should you not pack for a month-long trip?

What not to pack for a month-long travel adventure will depend on your destination and what you plan to do. But generally speaking, you don't need an outfit for each day. Speaking of clothing, 1 or 2 pairs of denim jeans will likely be enough. Shoes that you’re yet to break in may ruin the experience too. 

How do you keep clothes wrinkle-free when traveling?

  • Try the rolling method 

  • Use packing cubes

  • Consider packing light 

  • Purchase wrinkle-resistant clothing

  • Invest in a travel steamer

How do you pack shoes for travel?

Consider packing them in free plastic newspaper bags if you want to protect other items in your suitcase from the germs and dirt on your shoes. You can also use a shower cap to wrap your dirty shoes’ soles. If you feel fancy, you can buy a stylish drawstring-type bag online and from most dollar stores. 

Are vacuum bags good for travel?

Vacuum bags are an efficient packing hack because they save time while doubling the space in your suitcase. This allows you to fit more in the bag. The only drawback is that vacuum packing tends to compound the creases in your clothing.