You Are What You Pack: The Ultimate Minimalist Packing List for Men
The Only 53 Items You’ll Ever Need
In The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s character said, “You can always judge a woman by her bag.” (Probably. I never watched the movie.) Well, if she had been talking about a traveler, she’d have been spot on. You are what you pack. Someone with an enormous bag is overcautious, unexperienced, and indecisive. Someone who can go for months with just a daypack? That’s a happy camper who knows what’s up. And since you’re reading this blog, you probably want to be the latter and not the former, so without further do here’s my ultimate minimalist packing list:
Note: The products I recommend here are generally not cheap. That’s because they’re the best. They’ll last longer than low-grade alternatives, so the investment in them will pay off easily in the long run.
Even though you’re traveling light, you should have at least two bags. One light bag for all your stuff, and a super light bag for day trips.
- 32 litres or less
- Side water bottle pocket
- Easy-access front pocket
- Zippers with holes in them you can put a lock through (see minimalist packing list item #s 43 & 44)
- Washing machine friendly
Recommended: Patagonia Fuego backpack, which I’ve had for four years and never once had a single complaint about, but there are hundreds of other models out there that meet the above criteria too.
Recommended: I have a Patagonia Travel Sling, which conveniently packs into a little pouch that fits right in the front pouch of my backpack.
Recommended: A plastic bag will do, but you can get some fancy synthetic fabric bag too if you prefer.
Don’t bring your Kindle charger, though. Just bring a tiny USB to micro USB cord you can plug into your computer.
Get a standard 15 foot cord, but make sure it is two pronged, not three, so you can easily attach adaptors to it.
Recommended: I’ve had my BackBeat FIT headphones for going on a year now, and they’re still going strong despite heavy use. They’re super light, and though they look stiff in the the pictures, they’re actually a flexible rubber and very comfortable.
To have a minimalist packing list requires maximum flexibility, so ensure every piece of clothing matches with the others. Leave the crazy colors and patterns at home. Also, always choose easy-to-wash, difficult-to-stain, and quick-to-dry synthetic fabrics over cotton.
- Look somewhat dressy, but feel sporty
- Deep pockets
- Quick-dry fabric (not cotton)
- Drawstring (so no need for a belt)
Recommended: Lululemon ABC Pants look like khakis, but are super stretchy and comfortable. The fabric is quick-drying and easy to maintain. The only knock on them is they don’t have a drawstring, so be sure to get a perfect-fitting waist.
- Drawstring (to avoid extra weight of belt)
- Deep pockets (protection from pickpockets and inadvertent escape of valuables)
- A hidden pocket inside the shorts for valuables like cash and passport.
Our Recommendation: Venture Trek Tech Shorts from Tilley. They’re not the most stylish shorts in the world, but they are the most functional. I freaking love these shorts.
- Built-in underwear lining so they can be used as a bathing suit as well
- Big front pockets that can safely hold your phone
- Zipper pocket to hold cash, cards, and keys
- At least one black pair, so it can double as a pair of regular shorts
- Long enough so they can double as regular walking-around shorts
Recommended: Lululemon Pace Breaker Shorts are, simply put, my favourite shorts ever.
- Ankle socks, which are lighter and you can wear with pants or shorts
- A fly, or whatever the hole for your dick is called. Don’t fall for some companies’ infuriating attempts to sell underwear without it
- Extra, super, duper quick dry material. You’ll want to wash these with you in the shower, so they need to dry quickly
Recommended: Tilley Travel Boxer Briefs. I traveled for eight months with just two of these bad boys and they were still good as new by the end. They are breathable, odor and stain resistant, and extremely quick drying. I’ve tried every type of underwear out there and these are hands down my favorite.
- Lightweight, so it can double as a beach shirt that protects you from the sun
- Checkered pattern, which conceals wrinkles
- Chest pocket, which is handy for boarding passes
Recommended: Sorry, I can’t help you here. I have some old-school no-name shirt I found at a TJ Maxx. Let me know if you find a good one.
- Black or grey for easy matching and stain resistance
- Zipper pockets
- Zip up front for better climate control
Recommended: Arcteryx Covert Cardigan. I don’t know why it’s “covert” and it’s news to me that it’s classified as a cardigan, but I don’t care. Mine’s plain black and serves it’s purpose beautifully.
- Zipper pockets
- Inner chest pocket
- Packable into a pouch
Recommended: Patagonia’s Nano Puff Jacket because it exactly meets every one of the aforementioned criteria.
- Waterproof (This may sound obvious, but many a dumbass has bought a water-resistant shell thinking it’s waterproof)
- A hood
- Zip up front
- At least one outside pocket
Recommended: MEC Aquanator Jacket.
Recommended: The large sized PackTowl from MEC has served me well for longer than I can remember.
- Black, so they don’t show dirt and can be worn in cities with pants without looking too stupid
- Super lightweight. You should be able the easily bend them in half
Recommended: Nike Free 5.0+, because they are often on sale at outlets and do the job fine.
- Has a loop so you can attach it to your bag. If you don’t fasten your water bottle to your bag while on the move, you’re guaranteed to lose it at some point.
The Ultimate Men’s Minimalist Packing List
Altogether the ultimate men’s minimalist packing list adds up to 53 items and weighs in at only 8.9 kg or 19.6 lb. And since you normally won’t be travelling around butt naked, you’ll be typically wearing a good 5 lb of that. Everything will fit in one small, nondescript, and easy-to-carry backpack. You won’t be missing anything and will be shaking your head whenever you see a poor sucker with a needlessly giant bag.