Bare minimum travel and the wake of minimalistic backpacking
Travel with nothing but the clothes on your body? No, not really, that may be the first thing you think of when first hearing the sentence "travelling with the bare minimum" or "travelling with the bare necessities".
Minimalistic travelling is more of a philosophy and it may be more complex then you think, in this article, we will stick to explaining the packing and preparing for an adventure without worrying about what to carry. If you'd like to check out more about the minimalistic travel-style you can check out our minimalistic travel manifesto and the philosophy of Trippola travellers
What do you really need?
This concept may seem easier to grasp for some than for others, but what does it really mean to travel with only what you truly need?
Each year more and more people are drawn to travel following this style of worrying less about what you are taking to the trip but rather what you got from it. Minimalistic travel is all about the fulfilment of the experiences of travelling and completely forget about all your material needs and letting go completely of consumerism, starting from this perspective we can see that you don't really need that luggage full of clothes you're probably not going to wear, jewellery and a pile of books. You're going to explore, meet people, acquire knowledge and culture and get delighted in the cuisine, and whatever else you love to do only while travelling, everything else should just support this.
Even when thinking on setting on a minimalistic and bare necessities travel style, it's not hard for first-timers to go down into the rabbit hole of thinking that absolutely need everything you touch.
The beautiful vastness of freedom
Well, the thing about packing for a minimalistic trip is a very subjective thing, there are no guidelines on what your maximum capacity is or what you definitely shouldn't take.
If you read out minimalistic travel manifesto you know that it is about making your travel about experiences and memories, and letting go of your possessions. We can determine some general rules, especially if it is your first time:
If you are not sure, you don't need it
And this couldn't be more true. Sometimes you are not really sure if you will really need something, and you decide to pack it "just in case", and in the vast majority of cases you ended up not using it even once. if you even have to think about it for more then a few seconds, ditch it.
Start with what you need for bare survival
The very first things you will pack is the absolute minimum clothes (the minimum you can possibly think of that will make travelling impossible if you bring any less), water bottle, passport, wallet, phone, universal charger, small hygiene kit, the end. Now work your way up.
Work your way up leaving additional clothes for last
Camera, additional equipment for specific kind of trips (more on this soon), and then the additional clothes up until you are comfortable about the choice, if your backpack is barely closing, it's not right, there should be some space leftover, time to remove something, now work your way down.
Practice makes perfect
Yes, it's true even for this, after a few trips you will get better at learning what you need and what you don't, don't expect to get the perfect load on your first travel.
Now we can talk about some more specific items in the rules of packing, that are not written in stone but depend on a number of variables, from personal feelings and tastes to hobbies and trip types and climate.
This is a bit tricky one, so many things can change the amount, space, and weight of clothes you take with you. But generally:
Multi-purpose combinations always. Don't pack a suit or a fancy dress, anything that is one-purpose, pack clothes that you know you can employ in multiple situations and as non-touristy everyday clothes (makes you blend in). You may end up facing formal occasions (embassy visit, invited to a local party, etc), then as an example for men, one or two button-up shirts that can easily also be worn over jeans in a bus or while dining in town, for women there is no lack of outfit combinations that fit that purpose.
Amount of clothes are dependent on laundry availability. It's hard to determine how many sets of clothes to take in, but based on your planned destination it should be roughly what you think is an average of days you go without laundry + 1 day, that goes for sets of underwear + pair of socks + top. You should always keep it as low as possible but try very hard to not let it go over 5 sets + pyjamas.
Maximize laundry in your planning. A way to keep your clothing sets small is planning for laundry, when you book accommodation or previously finding the closest laundromat to where you sleep and allocating some time to go there. In case of hiking or just travelling in a more deserted area, hiking washing techniques can come in handy.
Climate. Different weather requires different clothing and have different effects on your body. If you are going someplace cold you will need to take it into consideration and take additional pullovers, sweaters and additional warm clothes, but also take into consideration that you sweat less and the clothes get less dirty in cold conditions, decreasing the sets required between laundries.
Technology is one of the greatest revolutions that make this kind of travelling style easy and accessible to everyone, so use technology in your favour. Naturally, you will take your phone, you will take your laptop as the default unless it's a short (< 5 days) trip and/or you just know that you will not use it, take a powerful power bank, capable of fully recharging your phone at least twice. Take a universal charger with adapter in case of going through countries with different power plug configuration. If your laptop uses or supports type-c charging, it is smart to use the laptop charger to charge everything. Kindle is a great replacement for books, if you like reading, it is a no brainer.
The minimal hygiene pack includes:
Toothbrush and small (< 100ml for plane transport) toothpaste
Small shampoo bottle (< 100ml)
Unscented moist towelettes
Big plastic bag to separate clean and dirty clothes
For women, logically menstrual cup and other feminine hygiene products.
Do not bring non-degradable items or disposable items, not only it makes it harder to carry them but it is bad for the environment, always use the items provided by accommodation when it is available.
Now this solely depends on your choice of travel style, you don't need to sleep under the stars (although highly recommended!), many backpackers prefer to stick to hostels/Airbnb/Couchsurfing and well, good for them as that's less stuff to carry but if you fall onto the first group, sure go ahead and stick that camping tent and equipment to your backpack.
Your hobbies and passions
Again, travelling with minimalism is not to ditch everything but going with only what you really, truly need, and sometimes many passions fall into this category, photography and videomaking for example, sure it is more to carry but it makes your experience even deeper and more memorable to you, so it is worth it. Don't take this as a green light to take every single one of your hobbies with you, sometimes sacrifices have to be made, you are the judge on what you should carry.
Last but not least, how to pack, and we will start with the golden rule: Minimalism is backpacking, it must all fit into a backpack or you're not going. For first-timers, it is a good idea to start off with the smallest pack you have and try to fit all your essentials there, if you do not have enough space but need to really take something with you, then migrate to a big one, but keep with the smallest possible mentality. Another interesting tip is to use bag organizers, they may look like an extra thing to carry but they do make you use your backpack space more efficiently by separating and squeezing things into their respective "containers", and if you travel backpacking you probably already know the difference in used space inside a backpack for tidy items and the same items in a messy state, and if you don't, buy bag organizers to not find out.
It is not about just travelling light
Maybe you have noticed that we are not strictly talking about travelling with less than X kg or lb, rather it's about sticking to the philosophy, it's about letting go of your possessions and your need to consume and buy things to take them with you for the sake of taking them and/or showing off, as I've already written, you can take all your heavy camping and photography equipment with you if you can carry it without hindering your travels, there is so much that adds that extra experience of capturing the memories into picture and videos or sleeping under the sky. This travel style is about letting you be fully taken into the travel experience, it's about letting it all be about the trip and the people we share it with, everything else is just clutter and noise, right now you have no belongings, what you bring with you is what you need to survive and enrich the experience.
You have no home, the world is your home, and it is waiting for you.