The 57-item men’s minimalist packing list I’ve been fine-tuning for over a decade by dumping excess crap and hunting for the best gear.
A Man is Judged by the Size of His Bag
This idea was featured in our Unconventional Monthly, which shares one new curiousity-inducing, outside-the-box idea every month.
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
Because minimalist men always look at the big picture first. Click any to jump straight to it.
- 6 Bags – 2.3 lb
- 18 Articles of Clothing – 8.4 lb
- 2 Pairs of Shoes – 1.5 lb
- 13 Electronic Items – 5.5 lb
- 8 Toiletries – 0.5 lb
- 10 Miscellaneous Items – 0.8 lb
- Only Pack if Really Necessary
- DO NOT Pack
TOTAL: 57 items, 19.5 lb
An Honest Packing List
As proof to you that these recommendations are legitimate and not money-grabbing affiliate links, I’ve included photos of me using them whenever possible.
6 items, 2.3 lbs / 1.1 kg
✧ 1 Backpack
1.9 lb / 878 g
- 32 liters or less
- Side water bottle pocket
- Easy-access front pocket
- Zippers with holes in them you can put a lock through
- Washing machine friendly
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 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.
✧ 1 Day Pack
8.2 oz / 232 g
I use a super lightweight shoulder bag for carrying stuff around during the day while I leave the rest in my main bag.
My 15L Patagonia Travel Courier conveniently stuffs into a little pouch that fits right in the front pocket of my backpack.
I like that it has a couple of water bottle holders (which I also often use as a quick-access pocket for my phone), a couple of secure zipped compartments, and an easily-adjustable, comfortable shoulder strap.
✧ 1 Laundry Bag
0.4 oz / 10 g
Any type of bag to separate your dirty laundry from clean clothes.
Any plastic bag will do, but you can get some fancy synthetic fabric bag too if you have money to burn.
✧ 3 Ziploc Bags
1.2 oz / 36 g
- One for electronics. Put your little cords and Kindle and phone in a Ziploc bag (even consider double-bagging) to avoid disaster.
- One for toiletries. Forget fancy toiletry bags.
- One for anything else. Like snacks, for example.
18 items, 8.4 lb / 3.8 kg
Maximum Flexibility for Minimalist Packing
A minimalist packing list requires maximum flexibility, so I ensure every piece of clothing matches with the others. I also always choose easy-to-wash, difficult-to-stain, and quick-to-dry fabrics—especially merino wool—over cotton.
✧ 1 Pair of Pants
1 lb / 459 g
- 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)
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
- Versatile enough to be able to wear out to restaurants but also on active excursions
- Drawstring (to avoid extra weight of belt)
- Deep pockets (protection from pickpockets and inadvertent escape of valuables)
My New Way Shorts from Outlier have exceeded my high expectations for them (even given their high—$125!—price) since I got them a month and a half ago.
And, most importantly, Kim loves them too! Unlike my previous go-to travel shorts, she has no problem with me wearing these out to dinner and other events where I need to be “presentable.” So I wear them all the time.
For more about what I like (and don’t like) about these shorts, see my in-depth review, Outlier New Way Shorts: Overhyped, Imperfect, and Awesome, and my 3 favorite mens shorts for travel, sports, style, and comfort.
✧ 2 Pairs of Sport Shorts
17 oz / 490 g
- 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
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
- Black ankle socks
- Wool for less smelliness
My sister got me a couple of pairs of Darn Tough ankle socks and I don’t think I’ll ever buy other socks again.
Not only are they darn tough (they have a lifetime guarantee) but they’re darn comfortable and darn stink resistant.
✧ 2 Pairs of Underwear
5.6 oz / 160 g
- A fly, or whatever the hole pulling your pecker out of is called.
- Extra, super, duper quick dry material. You’ll want to wash these with you in the shower, so they need to dry quickly
Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers. My go-to used to be Tilley Travel Boxer Briefs, which are almost equally fantastic, but the Icebreaker’s 83% merino wool provides better insulation and odor-fighting than Tilley’s 100% polyester.
I like both pairs better than the MeUndies, ExOfficio, Saxx, Patagonia, and Under Armour pairs I’ve also tried.
✧ 2 Singlets
10.6 oz / 300 g
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
I wear this damn thing for days on end. Even when my armpits get super stinky, it doesn’t.
Because it’s merino wool it doesn’t dry as fast as synthetic shirts, but since I have to wash it way less frequently it spends more time on me and less in the wash or drying cord.
✧ 1 Button-Up Collared Shirt
10.6 oz / 300 g
- Lightweight, so it can double as a beach shirt that protects you from the sun
- Chest pocket, which is handy for boarding passes
I’ve only had my Wool&Prince wool-linen button-down shirt for about 50 days, but I’ve probably worn it 20 times already.
And washed it once.
It has the relaxed, casual look of a linen shirt with the odor-fighting and stain-repelling benefits of merino wool which makes it perfect for travel, especially to the warm-weather places Kim and I prefer to visit.
✧ 1 Long-Sleeved Layer
7.9 oz / 225 g
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
- 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
Icebreaker Shifter Hoodie ($200). I’m a full-on merino 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
- Zipper pockets
- Inner chest pocket
- Packable into a pouch
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
- 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
MEC Aquanator Jacket. It’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
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.
The large sized PackTowl from MEC has served me well for longer than I can remember.
2 items, 2.0 lb / 0.9 kg
✧ 1 Pair of Flip Flops
13 oz / 374 g
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 two years 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’ve 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.
✧ 1 Pair of Running Shoes
1.2 lb / 194 g
- 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
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 online store photos, but when you wear them they look like nothing more than plain black sneakers. They’re lighter, more comfortable, and feel better built.
One year in and they’re holding up WAY BETTER than my Nike Frees I used to wear.
13 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
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.
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
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
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.
You only need one adaptor if you get an extension cord that has multiple socket at the end of it.
✧ Wireless Headphones
0.9 oz / 25 g
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.
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.
Oh, and Kim liked them so much she got a pair too.
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.
✧ Oura Ring and Charger
0.1 oz / 4 g ring and 1 oz / 30 g charger
The Oura Ring is pretty nifty little device that tracks all my sleep stages, heart rate, heart rate variability, body temperature, activity, and a bunch more stuff.
There’s only one problem with it:
I haven’t slept any better since I got it five months ago.
Well, except on my most recent two-week road trip in South Africa when, interestingly, my elusive deep sleep quality was off the charts. I’m now trying to figure out what it was that caused me to sleep so much better then.
And that’s the reason I still wear the ring and take it everywhere with me. It makes me more conscious of my sleep quality, which should in turn improve my life quality.
If you’re curious, check out my detailed, no-bullshit review of the Oura Ring here.
8 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.
0.3 oz / 10 g
For splinters, in-growns, and whatever else is in you but shouldn’t be.
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.
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.
10 Items, 0.8 lb / 0.4 kg
✧ 1 Zipper Lock
2.1 oz / 60 g
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.
I prefer locks that have a flexible band, like these MasterLock ones that are around $12 for two.
1.3 oz / 38 g
I don’t bother taking a printed copy but I do have a digital copy saved on my Google Drive.
✧ Drivers License
0.2 oz / 5 g
For ID and for renting cars, if necessary.
✧ 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.
If you’re a fellow Canadian, save yourself a bunch of money by getting one of the credit cards from my Best Canadian Credit Cards for International Travel post.
✧ Travel Insurance Contact Card
0.1 oz / 2 g
I never thought of carrying a printed card with my travel insurer’s contact info until a few of the travel insurance industry insiders I interviewed for my guide on how to buy the best travel insurance told me to.
If something bad happens, I need to call my insurer ASAP. If not, there’s a risk I could have to pay a portion of the charges.
And if I’m too hurt to contact them, the hospital needs to know who’s paying. Some foreign hospitals turn back injured travelers who don’t have proof of insurance.
✧ 100-300 USD
0.4 oz / 11 g
I hope you don’t mind me counting this as one item in my packing list, not three-hundred.
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.
✧ 1 Carabiner
0.5 oz / 15 g
For attaching stuff (dirty wet clothes, shoes, water bottle) to the outside of your bag.
✧ 1 Water Bottle
6.7 oz / 189 g
- 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.
I’ve managed to survive a lifetime without sunglasses, but if you insist just make sure to get good ones with UV protection.
This is something I would normally buy on location, since it can be hard to predict whether bug spray will be needed or not.
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.
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 57 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 fits into 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.
Before You Pack Up and Leave…
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 these out:
Say Goodbye to the Status Quo
Push this button if you want to live outside the box:
I continuously update my minimalist packing list as new products and new technologies emerge and as I discover different brands and alternatives.
Here’s the tracking of what I’ve changed.
July 2019 Update:
- My Venture Trek Tech shorts from Tilley had a great 10-year run, but have been replaced by my Outlier New Way pair.
- My Patagonia Anatomic Sling bit the dust after 4 repairs and 7 years, so I replaced it with a Patagonia Travel Courier.
- Wool&Prince’s wool-linen button-down shirt easily unseated the old linen shirt I got from a boutique in Sri Lanka and has now become my go to here in Valencia, Spain.
May 2019 Update:
- Instead of any old pair of socks, I’m now all about Darn Tough.
- My Icebreaker Anatomica boxers have taken the title from my Tilleys for best underwear.
- My Lululemon t-shirts have been usurped in preference by my Icebreaker ones.
December 2018 Update:
- I now wear an Oura Ring sleep tracker everywhere I go, so it’s earned its way onto the list along with its little charger.
- 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.