You owe something to every thing you own.
Each item you cram into your suitcase is an obligation you’re committing to maintain, protect, or give attention to for the duration of your trip. The less you bring, the less responsibility you have.
You need money and a passport to travel. Everything else is optional. Finding out how much stuff is ‘enough’ is for you, and then packing just a little bit less than that, is where the challenge lies.
I try to make sure all the clothing I bring can be mix-and-matched, so my navy shirt isn’t waiting for me to change out of my navy pants to avoid offending international fashion laws.
I shoot for a full week’s worth of clothing. Doing laundry once a week is manageable. If I can get an Airbnb with a washing machine, that's a win. Otherwise I'll compare the cost of laundry service against the hassle of planning around a local laundromat.
Made-for-travel clothing can often be washed in the bathroom sink with minimal effort. This isn't my first choice, but it's a viable plan B and a bonus for spending a little extra on quality clothing.
Shirts are the highest maintenance clothing items. Decent pants can be worn at least 4-5 days in a row. Socks and underwear are easy candidates to be washed in the sink before bed. I haven’t figured out shirts yet.
A recent optimization I've made to my travel packing routine is minimizing charging cables and adapters. All my electronics can now be charged via a USB-C cable, including my electric shaver. Bulky power adapters are no longer necessary, just 2x USB-C cables and a USB wall charger.
My stuff is split into smaller bags and pouches before being put into my main bag. My clothes live inside of a packing cube, my electronics and cables live inside of a large pouch, my liquids in a freezer bag, toiletries in another, and my laptop inside of a collapsible day bag. Packing takes 10 minutes, unpacking takes 1 minute.
The cost of packing less essentially comes down to having a small wardrobe. I deal with this by doing laundry weekly, buying durable clothes, and/or buying more clothes on location, if I need to. In return I get to travel with a small 25L backpack that wouldn’t look out of place if I wore it to school.
No checked baggage. No baggage claim lines. No thinking about “stuff” whatsoever.
My One Bag Travel Packing List
This is my current packing list for indefinite one bag international travel. I put all of this inside of my 25L Core Pack by Topo Designs.
- Phone + Charger
- Laptop + Charger
- Packable, waterproof day bag
Clothing for indefinite travel
- 4x boxers
- 4x socks
- 3x t-shirts
- 2x pants
- 2x shorts
- 1x button-up shirt
- 1x longsleeve shirt
- 1x hoodie
Gadgets and electronics
- Laptop + Phone
- Wireless earbuds
- Wireless mouse
- Portable SSD
- USB-C to USB-C cable (2)
- Electric shaver
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Nail clippers
My Favorite One Bag Travel Resources
Nomad List is a decent resource. I rarely use the website aside from glancing at the rankings on the front page. You don’t need an account for this. Becoming a paid member will unlock the Slack community. Membership might be worth it just for the access to more experienced travelers who have been where you’re going before. It’s as if the country you’re going to/currently in has community-sourced customer support ran by fellow travelers.
I have a phone number parked at NumberBarn, which forwards all my texts and 2FA confirmations to my email for a few bucks each month.
Counterflows is an excellent newsletter on the digital nomad lifestyle.