minimalist packing list for men
Pack loosely, light, and wrinkle-free so you don’t have to bother rolling your clothes.

This trusty minimalist packing list for men, which I’ve been using and fine-tuning for over a decade, will help you figure out what to pack and what not to pack, down to the last Ziploc bag.

A Man is Judged by the Size of His Bag

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.) I don’t know about her general advice, but if she had been talking about a traveler, she’d have been spot on.

You are what you pack.

A man with an enormous bag is overcautious, inexperienced, and indecisive. And probably sweaty.

A man 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. So, without further ado, here’s my complete go-to minimalist packing list for men that I’ve been perfecting for over a decade.

Men’s Minimalist Packing List

all 53 items from the ultimate minimalist packing list
A true minimalist doesn’t waste time making photos of their packing list look beautiful.
Big Picture

Because minimalist men always look at the big picture first. Click any to jump straight to it.

TOTAL: 52 items, 19.5 lb

September 2018 Update:

  • The Nike Free 5.0+ shoes have been kicked to the curb in favor of some even lighter, more comfortable, and, hopefully, more durable New Balance 20v7s.
  • A technical merino tank top from Icebreaker has replaced the polyester ones I used to use.
  • The Arcteryx Cover Cardigan’s been swapped out for an Icebreaker hoodie.

Note: The Amazon links in this minimalist packing list for men are affiliate links that reward me for referring you to them. As proof to you that these are legitimate recommendations and not money-grabs, I’ve included photos of myself using them. And, as further evidence, you’ll notice many of the links aren’t to Amazon. I earn no commission on these but recommend them anyway because they’re better than whatever Amazon offers.


Bags

3 items, 2.3 lbs / 1.1 kg

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.

Backpack
1.9 lb / 878 g

Minimalist packing list backpack is key

Chris hiking down a gully.
Even on multi-day hiking trips, my 32-liter backpack has done the trick (with some custom add-ons).

Ideal Specs:

  • 32 liters 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

Recommendation:

I love my Patagonia Fuego backpack, which I’ve had for five years and never once had a single complaint about. Patagonia stopped making it, but their $139 Paxat bag looks to be just as good if not better.

While you can probably find dozens of other bags that meet the same criteria, I gravitate towards Patagonia products in part because of their lifetime guarantee. When my bag got torn in the washing machine, I brought it to the store and they fixed it, no questions asked. And if they can’t fix it, they’ll replace it and recycle it.

Day Pack
5.8 oz / 164 g

mens minimalist packing list example
Showing off my Patagonia sling from our Sri Lanka trip. It’ll look cooler on you.  Items 27, 29, 31, 35, 39, and 42 from the ultimate men’s minimalist packing list are also on display here.

You’ll also need a super lightweight shoulder bag for carrying stuff around during the day while you leave the rest in your main bag.

Recommendation: 

I have a Patagonia Travel Sling, which conveniently stuffs into a little pocket that fits right in the front pouch of my backpack.

I can’t find it online anymore, but this one by OutdoorMaster looks like it’s the same design stich-for-stich. It’s really inexpensive, $14.99… for better and for worse.

Laundry Bag
0.4 oz / 10 g

Any type of bag to separate your dirty laundry from clean clothes.

Recommendation:

Any plastic bag will do, but you can get some fancy synthetic fabric bag too if you have money to burn.


Clothes

16 items, 8.4 lb / 3.8 kg

A minimalist packing list requires maximum flexibility, so ensure every piece of clothing matches with the others. Also, always choose easy-to-wash, difficult-to-stain, and quick-to-dry fabrics over cotton.

1 Pair of Pants
1 lb / 459 g

Chris showing off lululemon pants
Lululemon’s ABC pants look dressy but feel sporty.

Ideal Specs:

  • Look somewhat dressy, so they can be worn on many occasions, but still feel sporty and comfortable
  • Deep pockets so things don’t fall out of them in buses and cars
  • Quick-dry fabric (not cotton)
  • Drawstring (so no need for a belt)

Recommendation:

Lululemon ABC Pants ($128) 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.

I wore them just about every day during our most recent six months in Colombia on everything from hikes to fancy dinners and did the job perfectly

1 Pair of Regular Shorts
8.8 oz / 250 g

minimalist packing list regular shorts
They’re not the coolest-looking shorts, but they’re the best.

Ideal specs:

  • 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.

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. Sadly, it looks like Tilley’s stopped making them, but there are some sites that seem to have them still. But mine aren’t for sale.

2 Pairs of Sport Shorts
17 oz / 490 g

things to do in lamu
Trying to pick up the pace in my Pace Breaker sport shorts on the sand dunes in Lamu, Kenya

Ideal specs:

  • Built-in underwear lining for comfort and 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 backup pair of regular shorts
  • Long enough so they can double as regular walking-around shorts

Recommendation: 

Lululemon’s Pace Breaker Shorts are, simply put, my favorite shorts ever.

I’ve tried similar pairs from Patagonia, Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and more, but none have supplanted the Pace Breakers from their title.

Lululemon stands by their stuff, too. I brought in one 5-year-old pair that had seriously faded and they simply swapped it for a new one.   

2 Pairs of Socks
2.8 oz / 80 g

Ideal Specs:

  • Black ankle socks
2 Pairs of Underwear
5.6 oz / 160 g

underwear from Tilly
Do your nether regions a favor and buy yourself a couple pairs of these.

Ideal Specs:

  • 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

Recommendation: 

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.

I like them way better than the MeUndies, ExOfficio, Saxx, Patagonia, and Under Armour pairs I’ve also tried.

2 Singlets
10.6 oz / 300 g

Modelling Icebreaker tank
I’m so happy to be wearing my Icebreaker tank.

Up until this year, I was happy with plain 100% polyester singlets. They packed light and stayed reasonably cool.

That was until I got an Icebreaker Strike Lite Tank ($80). This merino wool tank is lighter, cooler, and way less smelly. I barely wear my old singlets anymore.

1 Plain T-Shirt
5.7 oz / 162 g

Chris modelling luluemon tshirt

Recommendation:

Lululemon’s t-shirts. While their quality has gone down somewhat of late, I haven’t yet found any shirt that’s more functional (quick-dry, stain-resistant, sweat-wicking, anti-odor).

1 Long-Sleeved Button Up Shirt
10.6 oz / 300 g

itsukushima shrine miyajima saijo sake festival
Modeling my long-sleeved travel shirt, which is strategically checkered to somewhat mask the wrinkles.

Ideal Specs:

  • 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

Recommendation: 

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.

1 Long-Sleeved Layer
7.9 oz / 225 g

Server at Cable a Tierra bringing out food.
I asked this server if she liked my Patagonia long-sleeved layer. It wasn’t hippy enough for her, I guess.

Recommendation: 

Patagonia Men’s Capilene Zip-Neck (black). It’s light but warm, guaranteed to last forever, and a quick dry material.

1 Sweatshirt
15.5 oz / 439 g

Chris in hoodie
My Icebreaker hoodie has been a “lifesaver.”

Ideal Specs:

  • Black or grey for easy matching and stain resistance
  • Zip up front for better climate control
  • A hood for extra warmth and to cover up messy hair

Recommendation:

Icebreaker Shifter Hoodie ($200). I’m a full-on wool convert now. It’s light and breathable but warm and comfortable and dries quickly.

I broke my own rule here and instead of getting black or grey, I got a red one. That’s because it was half price. 

1 Lightweight Jacket
12.8 oz / 362 g

Chris and Kim in nano puff jackets.
Kim liked my nano puff jacket so much she got her own.

Ideal Specs:

  • Zipper pockets
  • Inner chest pocket
  • Water-resistant
  • Packable into a pouch

Recommendation: 

Patagonia’s Nano Puff Jacket because it exactly meets every one of the aforementioned criteria. Kim liked mine so much, she got herself one.

1 Waterproof Shell
13 oz / 371 g

A waterproof shell is also a handy windbreaker and an extra layer of warmth.

Ideal Specs:

  • 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

Recommendation:

MEC Aquanator JacketIt’s kept me dry so far!

1 Hat
2 oz / 60 g

Get a hat you don’t mind squashing in the bottom of your bag, not some pristine New Era cap with the sticker still on it. If you’re going somewhere cold, pack a knitted cap instead of a baseball hat.

1 Towel
6 oz / 171 g

towel for minimalist packing list
A travel towel also serves as a super cool Arab-style sun protection device.

Get a lightweight, quick-dry (not cotton!) towel. This is the rare item of which you don’t want to get the smallest size possible. It should be big enough to wrap around your waist.

These towels serve the additional purpose of being beach blankets, and you can tuck them under your hat too for Arab-style neck and shoulder protection.

Recommendation: 

The large sized PackTowl from MEC has served me well for longer than I can remember.


Shoes

2 items, 2.0 lb / 0.9 kg

Flip Flops
13 oz / 374 g

crocs sandals before and after
Crocs sandals: new and very, very used. They’re the best.

Recommendation:

Crocs Swiftwater Flips. I’m wearing these flip flops as I write this. I wear them everywhere. And I’ve been wearing the same pair for over a year now and they’re still going strong. Even more amazing? They don’t stink!

What more could you ask from a pair of flip-flops? They’re durable, they look fine (if you’re wearing flip-flops you’re not in a fashion contest anyway), they’re odor-free, and they’re comfortable. I walked over 15 km (10 miles) in a day with these bad boys to no ill-effect.

Here’s a picture of my sandals 18 months and 1000s of kilometers in. They’ve had a long, tough life, but are still going strong. When the sad day comes that they finally give up the goose and go up to flip-flop heaven… I’m buying myself a new pair of the same model immediately.

Running Shoes
1.2 lb / 194 g

Ideal Specs:

  • 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

Recommendation: 

New Balance 20v7 Minimus Trainer ($78-98). I finally gave up on Nike and their self-combusting shoes to give these a try. I’m glad I did.

They look a bit too flashy (or plain ugly) in the photos, but when you wear them they look like nothing more than plain black sneakers. They’re lighter, more comfortable, and feel better built. It’s been only a couple months so far. Let’s see how they hold up.


Electronics

12 items, 5.5 lb / 2.5 kg

Laptop With Case And Charger
3.9 lb / 1785 g

I’ve got a Macbook, but won’t begrudge you if you prefer non-Apple products.

Cell Phone & Case
6.3 oz / 180 g

close up of cell phone case
My well-worn cell phone case has done its job perfectly.

Get a really ghetto case to diminish thieves’ desire to steal it.

I’ve had the same Speck case for two years now. I got it at a Winners for like $6. It’s weathered and worn now (perfect!) and my screen has yet to crack (knock on wood) despite having dropped my phone dozens of times.

Local SIM
0 g / 0 oz

Don’t cheap out on getting a local SIM wherever you go.

It’s happened to me twice where I’ve gone to a country, decided against getting a SIM, put my phone on airplane mode, lost it, and couldn’t find it because Find My iPhone doesn’t work in airplane mode. I’m a slow learner, but now the first thing I do when I arrive at a foreign country is get a local SIM card. Do the same, no matter how cheap you are or disconnected you want to be.

E-Reader & Case
8 oz / 230 g

If you don’t have a Kindle (or another brand of e-reader), get one already.

Don’t bring your Kindle charger, though. Just bring a tiny USB to micro USB cord you can plug into your computer.

Recommendation:

The Kindle Paperwhite. It’s less than half the price ($120) of the newer Oasis model ($250) but still has absolutely everything you’d ever need: enough storage to hold thousands of books, multiple-week-long battery life, super lightweight and durable, and a backlight for reading at night without bothering others.

An Extension Cord (My Secret Weapon)
9 oz / 250 g

extension cord for mens packing list
The oft-overlooked extension cord can be a lifesaver.
Extension cord plugged into computer
Thanks to my extension cord, I can plug my electronics in anywhere, like at this rooftop BBQ stand-up desk in Medellin.

You might think an extension cord is unnecessary, especially for a so-called minimalist packing list. Maybe you’re right because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone else who packs one. But just because nobody else does it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I’d argue the opposite

I use my extension cord just about every day, everywhere I go. Not only does it enable reach distant plugs in airports, bus stations, and poorly designed hotel rooms, but it also doubles or triples the number of power outlets. It can be used as a clothesline or a rope in a pinch too.

Get a standard 12-foot cord, but make sure it is two-pronged, not three, so you can easily attach adaptors to it.

USB Wall Charging Cube
0.9 oz / 25 g

minimalist packing list charging thing

This you can use to charge your phone, headphones, and e-reader.

An Adaptor
0.3 oz / 10 g

Your phone, computer, and Kindle can handle voltages from any country, so you just need a cheap dollar store adaptor.

Headphones
0.9 oz / 25 g

 plantronics backbeat fit headphones

I’m a wireless headphone fanatic, but if you insist on going wired, that’s your loss. Have fun constantly untangling cords and inadvertently tugging them out of your ears.

Recommendation

I’m a huge fan of the Plantronics BackBeat FIT headphones. Before I got these, every pair of headphones I bought would only last a couple months before they fell apart from all the sweat, pounding, and use I put into them. These lasted for over a year… until I lost them. As a testament to how much I like them, I immediately bought the same model again.

The BackBeat FIT are super light, the battery lasts 7+ hours and charges fast, and though they look stiff in the pictures, they’re actually a flexible rubber and very comfortable.

Ziploc Bag for Electronics
0.4 oz / 12 g

Put your little cords and Kindle and phone in a Ziploc bag (even consider double-bagging) to avoid disaster.


Toiletries

9 items, 0.5 lb / 0.2 kg

Travel-Sized Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss
1.7 oz / 51 g total

If you don’t floss, start. “One less thing to pack,” is not an excuse.

Razor and Shaving Cream
2.4 oz / 70 g total

You lucky guys who can grow luscious full beards might not need this one and the next.

Tweezers
0.3 oz / 10 g

One great tip from a reader is to bring the extra small ones from a Swiss Army knife. You can buy them individually at MEC in Canada for just $2.50. I imagine you can find the same at similar outdoor stores like REI in other countries.

For splinters, in-growns, and whatever else is in you but shouldn’t be.

Sunscreen
1.8 oz / 50 g

I went on a bit of a rant against sunscreen in our post on cliché travel tips and what to do instead, but you should still bring some.

Even if you’re going to the U.K., be optimistic. Just keep the bottle under 100 ml. so you can fly with it.

Toilet Paper In A Small Ziploc
1.1 oz / 30 g

Take out the tube. Always have some on you just in case.

Ziploc Toiletry Bag
0.4 oz / 12 g

Forget fancy toiletry bags. A simple, transparent Ziploc bag is perfect.


Miscellaneous

11 Items, 0.8 lb / 0.4 kg

1 Zipper Lock
2.1 oz / 60 g

lock
Put locks on your zippers for security and peace of mind.

When I’m on an overnight bus or leaving my bag in the luggage storage at a hotel, having my zipper locked gives me a bit of piece of mind. Sure it can be cut, but a thief’s likely to go to the next, unlocked bag instead.

Recommendation: 

I prefer locks that have a flexible band, like these MasterLock ones that are around $12 for two.

Your Passport & A Printed Copy
1.3 oz / 38 g

Keep them separate.

2 Credit Cards
0.1 oz / 3 g

Take two because there’s always the chance one gets canceled or lost or doesn’t work with a certain ATM.

100-300 USD
0.4 oz / 11 g

Always have cash as a backup. Keep it separated in two different hiding spots within your stuff. I often hide some in my rolled up socks.

1 Pen
0.3 oz / 8 g

For filling customs forms and writing letters to put into bottles.

2 Carabiners
0.5 oz / 15 g

carabiner
Because some people don’t know what a carabiner is, here’s a photo. Easy to use, hard to spell.

For attaching stuff (dirty wet clothes, shoes, water bottle) to the outside of your bag.

1 Water Bottle
6.7 oz / 189 g

Ideal Spec:

  • 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.

Only If Really Necessary

Bar of Soap
You can almost always get by using soaps and shampoos in the bathrooms on the road, but if you really don’t want to risk it I particularly like my LUSH shampoo bar, which lasts forever and creates tons of suds for a complete head-to-toe wash.
Sunglasses
I’ve managed to survive a lifetime without sunglasses, but if you insist just make sure to get good ones with UV protection.
Bug Spray
This is something I would normally buy on location, since it can be hard to predict whether bug spray will be needed or not.
Reader Suggestions

I don’t pack the following but other readers do. Here are some small additional items to consider:

  • Toothpick from a Swiss Army Knife. You can’t take the knife if you’re not checking a bag, but reader Barry swears by the toothpick. You can buy one for $1 at MEC in Canada or, I imagine, REI in the US or whatever the outdoor store is in your country.
  • A small instrument. A little plastic flute like this one or a harmonica. As the reader writes, “This will drive you crazy (and make you dizzy) for two weeks till you figure out how to play it, but once you do you can have a lot of joy.” It’s a great idea.
  • A couple of USB flash drives. These can be lifesavers if you’re unable to back up your data to the cloud.

DO NOT Pack

A Big Wallet
Just carry a couple cards and maybe a money clip. You probably won’t need your Costco card where you’re going, so you don’t need anything more than that.
A Bathing Suit
Your sport shorts double as your bathing suit.

Sorry, Speedo lovers, but your banana hammock stays home.

Zip-Off Pant/Shorts

I’m fine with making sacrifices to have a true minimalist packing list, but zip-off pant/shorts is taking it too far.

Snacks
This may sound radical. It sure was radical to me. But now I believe in it and preach it far and wide.

You don’t need snacks. Ever. So don’t carry them. Not only does it lessen your load, it may reduce your jet lag.

It doesn’t matter how long you’re traveling. You can go days without food and without suffering. Before you dismiss this as insanity, read my fasting FAQ and tips and the story of my first three-day fast. It was enough to get Kim’s parents to try it. Maybe it’ll do the same for you.


Take a Load Off

Altogether, this minimalist packing list for men contains 52 items and weighs in at only 8.8 kg or 19.2 lb. And unless you’re traveling around butt naked, you’ll be typically wearing a good 5 lbs of that, so it’ll weigh closer to 14 lb.

Everything will fit in one small, nondescript, and easy-to-carry backpack. You won’t have to roll your clothes to get them to fit in your bag, you won’t be missing anything, and you’ll be shaking your head every time you see a poor sucker with a needlessly giant bag.


Hey, Don’t Pack Up and Leave Just Yet

What are your favorite items you’d have on your own minimalist packing list?

Do you think I missed anything or included something unnecessary?

Contribute in the comments below.

And if you’re looking for some other tips that’ll help you have a better trip, check out our post on what cliché travel tips you shouldn’t follow, and what to do instead.