5 Ways to Master Minimalist Packing

Insider Guides
by Guilherme Ribeiro Nov 1, 2016

I usually travel with an 8kg backpack — including my laptop. I don’t remember the last time I checked my backpack in. And I obviously never pay for it. Consequently, I never have to wait for it on the baggage carousel — those 10 minutes waiting might make you miss the one-per-hour airport shuttle.

There are many benefits to this minimalist lifestyle. Whether you’re going to start packing light is up to you, but remember that once you start applying the minimalist concept, it might actually change the way you travel. Without even realising you start focusing a lot more on experiences than you did before.

Here are five rules that if followed properly will hopefully change the way you travel for the better.

1. Choose a small backpack.

Parkinson’s Law? Where “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”? Basically, if you have a week to finish a task, it’ll take a week, but if you have two days, you’ll “magically” be able to do it in those two days.

This law can also be applied to packing — the bigger the bag, the more you put inside it.

So if you travel with a 65L backpack, you’re more likely to fill it to the brim and suffer the consequences. Or, if it’s not totally full, you might be more tempted to buy stuff during your travels as you have enough room to carry it.

I travel with a 30L backpack. I’m constrained to that space, so I have to be creative to carry everything I want. When you limit what you can carry, you focus on what you really need and leave the dead weight behind.

2. Lightweight and quick dry clothing

The main concept to understand here is this: instead of carrying more and doing less laundry, you carry a lot less and wash your clothes more often. But in order to do it in an agreeable way, your clothes need to dry quickly.

The majority of the lightweight/quick-drying items are either synthetic or made from wool. Another great advantage of using these products is that they are sweat wicking, which basically means that they don’t stink and can go for days without washing (within reason!).

3. Mix and match clothing

When I’m travelling I can close my eyes, pick any top and bottom piece of clothing and I’m pretty confident they’ll go together. My clothes are super versatile, they’re smart enough for a night out, but also perfect for the beach or a day out hiking.

If you have one piece of clothing that only matches with another, you’re probably going to be carrying dead weight for a long time. Or if you have some outfits just for going out, well, they’ll probably look out of place if you’re visiting a temple or don’t want any attention.

If after a six-month trip you only wore your favourite items a few times, you should ask yourself if they deserve a place inside your bag. Could you not find something similar, but more useful that match with other clothes?

4. Layer for the cold.

You can pack in a minimalist way even if you’re visiting a cold country; the trick to doing it is to think in “layers” as opposed to carrying a massive coat. If you’re only going there and back, you might as well wear the coat, but if you’re jumping from cold and hot, you’ll have to adapt.

As it stands you’re actually warmer with layers, as the air trapped between them act as an insulator. So how should you do it? The basic concept involves three pieces of clothing: a base layer (wool/wicking); a mid-layer (fleece/warmth) and outer layer (wind/rain coat).

The great thing is that all of these items can be used separately and they tend to be super light. For instance, a big fuzzy coat is too much on a rainy day in Koh Phangan, but a raincoat is not.

5. Forget the “what ifs”.

At the end of the day, the main reason people carry big backpacks is because they think they might need everything inside it. What if I’m invited to a wedding? What if I go to a fine dining restaurant? What if I lose my shoes/flip-flops?

You have to remember that unless you’re going (extremely) off the beaten track, you’ll find everything you need wherever you go.

When I decided to get married in Thailand, do you think I was carrying super smart clothes with me? Hell no! I bought it there and it was super cheap!

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