Best Minimalist Travel Gear
Here are my picks for the best minimalist travel gear. Everyone needs different things when traveling, so I’m not about to tell you my entire minimalist travel packing list. But I do have a few suggestions of things I think are minimalist travel essentials.
Of course, even these may not be for everyone. I work online and love the outdoors so the items here reflect that. But I am sure most minimalist travelers and even non-minimalist travelers will find at least a few of these items useful.
Towards the end of this article, I also give some general minimalist travel packing tips.
Best Minimalist Travel Gear
Since I travel a lot and with carry-on only, weight is a big deal for me. But I also need good functionality for work. Macs are the answer.
Many netbooks are lighter, but running an internet business on one is painful. I suffered for 5+ years doing it before I finally coughed up the money for a Mac. Now I can’t see myself ever going back to Windows.
The obvious downfall of Macs is the price tag. Netbooks are way cheaper, but you get what you pay for. For me, it is worth the money.
Samsung Galaxy S7
Update September 2018: Although the S7 is considered an older model, I still recomend it over others. It ticks all the boxes I need a smart phone for, and being an older model makes it even more affordable. If I lost mine today, I’d buy another one.
Not the Galaxy Note! They are not allowed on planes since they catch fire. Also, they are too big for my liking. The size of the S7 is about as big as I like to go.
For my latest phone, my focus was to get a good camera. I take a lot of pictures for this blog, so a decent camera is a top priority. And if you have seen any of my posts, especially my earlier ones, you’ll agree I need all the help I can get.
A decent camera phone is the ultimate in minimalist travel photography!
After a fair bit of research, I narrowed my choice between an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S7. I chose the S7. It has a great camera, is water resistant, and is almost 1/3rd the price of the latest iPhone.
I considered an older iPhone which would bring down the price and the camera would still be decent. Then the news came out that iPhone released software that made all the phones slow down. It was the clincher for me not to get one.
Even if you don’t want an S7, any smart phone is a great piece of travel kit. Other than the normal call, text, and web functions, there are a many apps which makes traveling much easier. My favorites are:
- Google translate
- XE Currency converter
- Taxi apps (Uber, Grab, etc)
- Entertainment (music, video, and social media)
This item is great for those long day trips when I need to keep my phone charged. It will also charge my pocket wifi hotspot.
There’s not one brand I really recommend, but don’t buy a generic one from the local street market. They never last long. I’ve had my current one by XiaoMi since 2015 and it is still working great.
Minimalist Travel Shoes
So the first 3 items cover me for minimalist business travel. Now we move into the fun stuff – minimalist travel gear for the outdoors.
I do a lot of walking, so having good minimalist travel shoes is important for me.
I travel with 2 types of footwear. One pair of casual shoes and one pair of sandals. They are both minimalist barefoot shoes made by Xero.
There are many brands that make barefoot shoes, and every time I need a new pair (about once every 18 months) I re-reseach them. Since 2013, I have chosen Xero for both.
When buying my minimsalist footwear I look at 4 things. Functionality, weight, price, and style.
Functionality: I can (and do) use my sandals and shoes for outdoors activities and casual wear. I even use my shoes at weddings, although that’s pushing it a bit.
- Weight: They are minimalist so the shoes are lighter than most. A pair of flip flops might be lighter than my sandals, but you can’t go hiking in flip flops. I can in my Xero sandals.
- Price: Well, they aren’t super pricey, but they are not cheap either. Not compared to a local pair from the market anyway. But in comparison to other brands of minimalist shoes, they are competitive. On the website they have a “clearance page”. This actually helps me decide which type of sandals to get. They also have sales a couple of times a year so it’s a good idea to join their mailing list.
- Style: The biggest problem most people have with minimalist shoes is they look shitty. Not Xero’s. I mean, some of them do, but they have a couple of nice looking casual models. Mine have gotten compliments more than once.
Sawyer Water Filter Bottle
This is a great piece of kit which has saved my skin more than once. It also saves money and the environment.
The Sawyer Water Filter Bottle is a bottle with a built-in water filter. But not like your average water filter at home. With this, you can make tap water from a developing country drinkable.
If I am staying in one spot for more than a few days, I will buy a big bottle of water (like 6+ liters). But I hate buying 1L bottles or less. It’s a waste of money and is terrible for the environment. It’s much better to fill up my sawyer bottle.
This water bottle is also great to take hiking. If I decide to extend my hike or get lost (both happen often) I am not worried about running out of water. I can fill this up with whatever water source I see along the way.
Note: If the water is super dirty, I will filter out the visible dirt first. I also carry water purification tablets in my survival kit, but very rarely use them.
Minimalist Travel Backpacks
There are many candidates for the best minimalist travel backpack, but in the end, I choose none of the big brand names. For me, the best minimalist travel bag is a generic lightweight pack away bag. Actually, I use 2. One is slightly larger than the other, and the smaller one doubles as a daypack when I go exploring.
Packaway bags are the best for minimalist travel. They are super light and easy to replace. Also, they are cheap and can be replaced easily from most street markets and online.
I do have some criteria though.
- At least 2 pouches. The main one and a front one.
- Side mesh pockets, big enough to fit a small water bottle.
- Zips that I can put a small padlock through to lock at least one of the pouches.
I used to be all about dry sacks, but they are bulky and heavy. You know what works just as well? Plastic bags! Use a few of them though.
I do have one “proper” waterproof bag. It is to put my phone in so I can take pictures underwater. But I don’t buy one of those expensive Lifeproof ones. I use a universal waterproof phone pouch. That way I can also put my money in it. If you do get one, make sure you can still use your buttons with it.
A sarong is a really good bit of kit with heaps of uses. I’m not going to list them all here… there are way too many. The main things I use it for are a towel, to block out light, a blanket, and as a sarong.
I don’t carry a Gortex raincoat, or any raincoat for that matter. They are too heavy and bulky to travel with. If you go on multiday hikes in cold countries, then yes, get a good jacket. But I stick to the tropics and day hikes. Also, when I do multiday hikes, I hire gear.
But even in the tropics getting wet is no fun. And if hiking or camping it can be dangerous. So I always carry an emergency poncho. Besides keeping me dry, it makes a good emergency shelter if I decide (or am forced to) camp out unexpectedly.
You don’t have to get a super good emergency poncho, but you don’t want cheap crap either. Get one that’s not heavy, but not ultra thin. The thickness of a thick garbage bag is good. In fact, a thick, large garbage bag with a head hole cut out of it is almost the same thing!
Travel Survival Kit
These last few things are general minimalist packing for travel tips. They cover non-specific items.
This first one is actually a bunch of items, and most of them are not “brand names”. It is my airplane safe travel survival kit. It has medical, repair, and general survival items. Most of these items are at least dual-use and I can replace them at any local market or shopping center.
Here’s a complete list of what’s inside.
The following are in a plastic bag or in my pocket. I take them almost everywhere I go:
- Survival keyring (compass, paracord, led light, pendrive)
- Tiger balm
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet tissue
- Plastic spoon
These items are in a hard plastic container. They stay with my main pack unless I’m going on a multi-day adventure.
- Spare bankcard and 50-100 US dollars (in $20 notes)
- Pain killers (ibuprofen and something strong, e.g., Panadene forte)
- Cold and flu tablets
- Antibiotics for gastro
- Water purification tablets
- Sewing Kit (needle, thread, buttons)
- Measuring tape
- Duct tape
- Survival blanket
- Magnesium stick
- Safety pins
- ID Photocopies
- Cotton buds
- High visibility reflective strip
Minimalist Travel Clothes
My minimalist travel wardrobe changes from time to time but is pretty much this:
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1 set of thermals
- 1 singlet
- 1 hat
- A lightweight packaway jacket
- Socks and underwear
Minimalist Travel Toiletries
Obviously, I have things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. so I’m not going to go into this much. There are 2 items I want to highlight though.
The first is a small travel towel. My sarong is my first go to when I don’t have a normal towel. But sometimes I don’t want to get that wet. So I have a backup travel towel. Maybe this is not 100% necessary and if I was every overweight on a plane it would be the first thing to go. But it is incredibly useful.
The other thing is coconut oil. This is so useful on so many levels. There are too many things to list here, so I wrote a separate article on the uses of coconut oil for travelers.
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Minimalism is something I think most people can really benefit from, especially travelers. It is good for your mind, the environment, and your wallet.
- Mind. When you have less stuff, you think clearer. Seriously. Try working at a desk with lots of clutter compared with a clear desk. You will be more productive with the clear one. It also gets rid of the “keeping up with the Jones’s” mentality, which seems to bring a lot of people unnecessary anguish.
- Environment. When you use less, you waste less, and corporations will make less.
- Wallet. When you want less, you buy less.
Well, there you have it. My picks for the best minimalist travel luggage items.
I know at the start I said I wasn’t going to tell you my entire minimalist travel packing list. There are a couple of items not on this list, but it is almost everything!
All my stuff is less than 7kg. That way I can fly with carry on only.
Did you find these minimalist backpack travel items useful? If so, share this article with your friends.