57 Travel Essentials for Minimalist Men (Packing List 5.0)

The fifth update of the 57-item packing list of minimimalist travel essentials for men that I’ve been fine-tuning for over a decade.

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’d been talking about a traveler, she’d have been spot on.

You are what you pack.

A man with an enormous bag? 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 go-to minimalist packing list for men that I’ve been perfecting for over a decade.

Minimalist Men’s Travel Essentials Packing List

Big Picture

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

TOTAL: 57 items, 19.5 lb

Wearing and carrying every item in my minimalist men's packing list.
New minimalist packing rule of thumb: If you can’t wear it all at once, you can’t pack it.

An Honest Packing List

As proof to you that my recommendations are legitimate and not money-grabbing affiliate links, I’ve included photos of me using my packing list items everywhere possible.

Bags

6 items, 2.3 lbs / 1.1 kg

  • 1 backpack
  • 1 daypack
  • 1 laundry bag
  • 3 ziploc bags

1 Backpack


1.9 lb / 878 g

My 32-liter backpack is behind me whatever I do and wherever I go.

Ideal Specs:

  • 32 liters or less
  • Side water bottle pocket
  • Reasonably lightweight but durable
  • Easy-access front pocket
  • Zippers with holes in them you can put a lock through
  • Washing machine friendly

Recommendation:

I love my Patagonia Fuego backpack, which I’ve had for sevens years. 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 ideal specs I laid out, I favor Patagonia products 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 this summer (June 2020), I brought it in again for a zipper transplant.

1 Day Pack


8.2 oz / 232 g

Chris walking in Valencia with his Patagonia travel courier day bag.
My Patagonia travel courier’s handy for wandering around town. (Also note my favorite t-shirt and shorts that’re also on this packing list.)

I pack a super lightweight bag for carrying stuff around during the day.

Messenger bags are the best for this. Unlike backpacks, I don’t need to take them off to get into them and I can swing them in front of me when in crowded pickpocket-prone places.

Recommendation: 

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.

Update: Patagonia no longer makes this bag. No other reputable company makes anything similar, either. For a replacement, I’d go back to what I used to have: an even lighter-weight sling like this one.

1 Laundry Bag


0.4 oz / 10 g

To separate your dirty laundry from clean clothes.

Recommendation:

Any plastic bag will do, but you can get some fancy synthetic fabric bag 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 double-bag to avoid disaster.
  • One for toiletries. Forget fancy toiletry bags.
  • One for anything else. Like snacks, for example.

Clothes

18 items, 8.4 lb / 3.8 kg

  • 1 pair of pants
  • 1 pair of nice shorts
  • 2 sports shorts
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of underwear
  • 2 singlets
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 button-up
  • 1 long-sleeved layer
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 waterproof shell
  • 1 hat
  • 1 towel

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

Chris hiking up Mount Bisoke in Lululemon ABC pants
My stretchy Lululemon ABC pants work just as well for hiking in Rwanda as for going out for dinner in the city.

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 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 six months in Colombia on everything from hikes to fancy dinners and they did the job perfectly.

1 Pair of Everyday Shorts


8.8 oz / 250 g

Best Mens Shorts for Travel, Sport, and Style Cover Post - Chris wearing his Outlier shorts in front of some graffiti in Valencia
As I explain in my post on the three best men’s shorts I’ve found, my Outlier New Way shorts are shockingly comfortable, durable, and practical.

Ideal Specs:

  • Versatile enough to be able to wear out to restaurants but also on active excursions
  • Drawstring (to avoid the extra weight of a belt)
  • Deep pockets (protection from pickpockets and inadvertent escape of valuables)

Recommendation: 

My New Way Shorts from Outlier have exceeded my high expectations for them (even given their high—$125!—price) since I got them in May 2019.

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 men’s shorts for travel, sports, style, and comfort.

2 Pairs of Sport Shorts


17 oz / 490 g

Kim and Chris playing beach volleyball
From the looks of this photo, my Lululemon Pace Breakers are sand-resistant, too.

Ideal Specs:

  • 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 sports 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
  • Wool for less smelliness

Recommendation:

My sister got me a couple of pairs of Darn Tough ankle socks for my birthday and I don’t think I’ll ever buy other socks again.

I’m so happy with them that they inspired a whole blog post on How to Pick Gifts Even Better than Santa: 8 Unconventional Tips.

Not only are these socks 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

Photo of seven different brands of underwear I've worn recently.
I’ve tried many underwear brands, and Icebreaker’s (top-left) have broken away into the lead.

Ideal Specs:

  • 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.

Recommendation: 

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

Chris and Kim in Hermanus, South Africa.
Three of my favorite things: Kim, South Africa, and a merino wool tank top.

Up until 2018, I was happy with plain 100% polyester singlets. They packed light and stayed reasonably cool.

Then I got a merino wool tank from the Icebreaker shop at the outlet mall. It’s lighter, cooler, and way less smelly. And by less smelly, I mean even when it gets drenched with sweat from a workout, it hardly smells after it dries. So I barely wear my old synthetic singlets anymore.

Recommendation: 

I slightly prefer the tank from Unbound merino I got in 2019 to the Icebreaker Anatomica tank. It’s softer, though a bit heavier (which looks nicer but isn’t as cooling). You can’t go wrong with either.

1 Plain T-Shirt


5.7 oz / 162 g

Staying cool in my crisp Outlier Ultrafine merino t-shirt (and Outlier shorts).

Recommendation(s):

The Outlier Ultrafine Merino Tee.

I had no problems with my Icebreaker Cool-Lite Sphere merino t-shirts (still don’t), but Outlier offered me one so I said why not. Maybe I’d love it as much as I do their shorts. If not, I’d give it to my brother, who was visiting us in Cape Town.

Well, as you can see in the photo above, I’m wearing the shirt and my brother isn’t.

The Outlier tee’s a bit heavier than Icebreaker’s. But it’s noticeably softer too and still insulating enough to keep me cool in here in the South African summer. I instinctively put it on instead of my Icebreaker ones, so I guess I like it more. I just wish I’d got a darker color.

1 Button-Up Collared Shirt


10.6 oz / 300 g

Chris in his new go-to button-up shirt
I’m so happy I got this Wool&Prince wool-linen shirt before moving to sweltering Valencia, Spain.

Ideal Specs:

  • Lightweight, so it can double as a beach shirt that protects you from the sun
  • Chest pocket, which is handy for boarding passes

Recommendation: 

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. This 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

My alpaca base layer kept me smiling this December day when everyone else was wearing puffy jackets.

Ideal Specs:

  • Lightweight but warm.
  • Not too sporty-looking, so it can be worn around the city without looking like a granola outdoors-enthusiast who’s trying to signal how adventurous they are.
  • Snug enough to be a mid or base layer, but not so snug that it suffocates my torso.

Recommendation: 

I’ve gone through a lot of these shirts, from Costco brand to Patagonia. (I actually liked the Costco brand one more.)

As of October 2020, I’ve been experimenting with something different: an alpaca wool base layer from Arms of Andes.

The team there read my post on merino wool’s pros and cons, contacted me to tell me alpaca’s better, then sent me the shirt to prove it.

So far, so intriguing.

The shirt is incredibly warm for its weight; I’ve been comfortable wearing just it and a t-shirt this fall in 10°C/50°F temperatures. I haven’t had to wash it yet despite wearing it for dozens of outdoor workouts. And it’s nearly as soft as cashmere.

But it also has the same slightly scratchy skin feel as cashmere (which good merino wool doesn’t have). It seems to be as hard to care for as cashmere, too (hand-wash only), which has me wondering how durable it will be. Time will tell.

For now I get more impressed with it every time I wear it.

1 Sweatshirt


15.5 oz / 439 g

Hoodies: the ultimate comfort clothing.

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:

I don’t know anymore.

In the photo above, I’m probably on my phone researching the best hoodies out there. I really liked the performance of my Icebreaker hoodie, but its durability let me down. It eventually got so worn that Kim made me stop wearing it.

For now, I’ve got an old J. Crew cotton hoodie. It’s comfy, but it’s not ideal for big trips with small bags. Likely, I’ll replace it in 2021 with either something from Lululemon or Unbound Merino. Lululemon

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 my criteria.

Kim liked mine so much, she got herself one and now considers it one of her 15 top travel essentials.

1 Waterproof Shell


13 oz / 371 g

A waterproof shell is also a handy windbreaker and an extra layer of warmth. (Also note my super-versatile ABC pants.)

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.

Recommendation: 

In October 2020, I said sayonara to the weathered red trucker cap with my brother’s business on the front and got something more technical: Lululemon’s Fast and Free Run Hat Elite.

Yeah, “Elite.”

I don’t need an “elite” hat for my travel purposes. But its lightweight, easy-care, and inconspicuousness do the trick for me.

I also considered a cap from Ciele. A lot of people love them. But I hate the fact they plaster their brand name in giant letters in the front. I’m not paying a premium to make my forehead and advertisement for their company.

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. (Or, better put, longer than I’ve been keeping track of everything with my lifelogging practice.)

Shoes

2 items, 2.0 lb / 0.9 kg

  • 1 pair of flip-flops
  • 1 pair of runners

1 Pair of Flip-Flops


13 oz / 374 g

Ideal Specs:

  • Durable, so the strap doesn’t fall apart when you’re in the middle of nowhere. This seems to happen to some friend of mine and their Havaianas every other trip.
  • Not stinky. Constant exposure to sweaty bare feet can make cheap sandals a noxious threat to everything else you pack with them in your bag or to a whole room when you take them off.
  • Comfortable enough to be able to walk in all day long without forming blisters or rashes.

Recommendation:

For most people who prefer a conventional flip-flop:

I cannot endorse Crocs Swiftwater Flips strong enough.

I’ve had four pairs over the past ten years. Only one fell apart from overuse after three years. (Another pair was eaten by a dog, and one pair I bought on Amazon flew into the Amazon river.)

They never stink, they look like regular flip-flops (if you’re wearing flip-flops you’re not in a fashion contest anyway), and I can walk 30,000 steps in them in a day to no ill effect.

For people who’re crazy about minimalist footwear, as I’ve come to be:

Xero Cloud barefoot sandals.

I started wearing these for two reasons:

  1. I read Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman and learned how much flip-flops can mess up your stride and your feet. That explained why my toes are perpetually curled.
  2. I wanted a pair of sandals I could wear hiking and on the too-hot-for-bare-feet grass and turf for workouts.

They’re also significantly lighter than my Crocs flip-flops.

But the downsides are significant, too. They are not nearly as comfortable; I can’t slip them on or off; they get stinky; and they look kinda stupid, so Kim doesn’t let me wear them out.

I still wear them a lot more than my Crocs these days, but I won’t begrudge you for sticking with convention in this case.

1 Pair of Running Shoes


1.2 lb / 194 g

Close up of Chris' muddy Lems shoes
Putting my Lems Primal 2 shoes to the test in Rwanda.
Chris stuffs Lems shoes into mouth
Inspired by a Lems employee’s LinkedIn profile pic, I tried o stuff a Primal 2 in my mouth when they first arrived.

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.
  • Zero drop (i.e., no elevation of the ankles relative to the toes).

Recommendation: 

Lems Primal 2s.

My New Balance 20v7 Minimus Trainers finally started to go after two solid years. I was happy with them (much better than the multiple Nikes Frees I had before), but they weren’t perfect, so I went on a deep dive searching for alternatives. All I wanted was simple black minimalist runners.

The search did not turn out to be so simple. I don’t get why minimalist shoemakers feel the desire to give them such odd designs and ugly colors. Why not have a minimalist design with a minimalist shoe?

I was close to giving up and re-upping for another pair of New Balances when I found the Primal 2s from Lems, a small company in Colorado. The shoes looked fine. And the reviews looked even better, especially the raving fans who had the same pair for years then bought them again as soon as they’d run their course. So I convinced them to send me a pair.

Nine months in, I’m stoked I persevered and found them. They’re lighter than the shoes I had before but they feel more comfortable. Maybe it’s the extra-spacious toe box. They’re not as “cool” looking as Nikes, but they don’t attract attention, either.

They’re starting to show some signs of wear and tear—small tears on the top of one shoe and well-faded grips. We’ll see how long they hold up.

I may try the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite II shoes next to compare. Kim is happy with her pair and they look nice. But I have no complaints about my Lems, which are about 40% cheaper.

Electronics

13 items, 5.5 lb / 2.5 kg

  • Laptop with case and charger
  • Cell phone and case
  • Local SIM
  • E-Reader
  • Extension cord
  • USB charging cube
  • Adaptor
  • Headphones
  • Sleep ring

Laptop With Case And Charger


3.9 lb / 1785 g

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

Cell Phone & Case


6.3 oz / 180 g

Old and new iPhone cases I recommend for my men's minimalist packing list
My 4-year-old phone case and it’s replacement.

Get a ghetto case to diminish thieves’ desire to steal it, but that’s good enough to diminish the risk of cracking your phone’s screen if you drop it.

Recommendation

Speck Presidio cases.

I had the same Speck case for over four years, and just replaced it this December. The new one costed something around $25, but I got the previous at Winners for $9.99.

Over the course of the four years I had it, the extraneous bits broke off (in true minimalist fashion), but it held my phone together. 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 in 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 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

An extension cord is one of my favorites that I would replace if I lost it
So basic, but so essential: My extension cord.

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 allow me to 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 with multiple sockets at the end of it.

Wireless Headphones


0.9 oz / 25 g

Ideal Specs:

  • No cord.
  • Water-resistant enough not to get damaged from my excessively sweaty ears.
  • Fit well enough not to fall out when doing handstands and jumping exercises.

Recommendation

After 5 happy years with Plantronics BackBeat FIT headphones, their microphone stopped working so I decided to try something new: the Apple AirPods Pro.

Enough people rave about them online already, so I’ll spare you that. I don’t even care much for the noise cancellation mode. I just care that they stay in my ears, have long enough batteries, and are durable. It’s been 3 months and they’ve held up well so far. Give me another year before I join the choir of fanboys.

Oura Ring and Charger


0.1 oz / 4 g ring and 1 oz / 30 g charger

Oura ring while sleeping
Maybe if I slept in the dark I’d sleep better…

The Oura Ring is a 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 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

Toiletries

8 items, 0.5 lb / 0.2 kg

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Tweezers
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet paper

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

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.

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 UK, 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.

Miscellaneous

10 Items, 0.8 lb / 0.4 kg

  • Zipper lock
  • Passport
  • Drivers license
  • 2 Credit cards
  • Travel insurance contact info
  • 100 to 300 USD
  • Pen
  • Carabiner
  • Water bottle

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 peace of mind. Sure it can be cut, but a thief’s likely to go to the next, unlocked bag instead.

Recommendation: 

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

Passport


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

Cover of me picking the best Canadian credit card for international travel
Fellow Canadians: Check out these credit cards for zero FX fees, good insurance, and high cash-back.

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


Chris drinking out of his Camelback waterbottle
See how the magnet on the cap of my CamelBak Chute keeps it from falling on to my face

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.

Recommendation:

After years of not having a water bottle worth recommending for my minimalist packing list, I now have one:

The CamelBak Chute.

I immediately fell for it—so hard that it’s already on my shortlist of favorite things I’d immediately buy again. As I wrote in that post:

The spout is the ideal size for chugging from when I’m super thirsty; the handy magnet keeps the cap from hitting my face when I’m drinking; and the size is perfect for backpack side pockets and car cup holders.

And, unlike many other things on my packing list, it’s inexpensive. The only small downside is the “loop” isn’t flexible like on a Nalgene, but hard plastic. I don’t mind much, but Kim always points it out to me.

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 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 (Update: I now wear cheap ones to protect my eyes from sand when playing beach volleyball). 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, but it may also 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.

Read This Next:

Update History

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.

December 2020 Update:

February 2020 Update:

July 2019 Update:

  • My Venture Trek Tech shorts from Tilley had a great 10-year run, but have been replaced by my Outlier New Ways.
  • 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.

Disclosure: Whenever possible, we use links that earn us a cut if you pay for stuff we recommend. It costs you nothing, so we’d be crazy not to. Read our affiliate policy here.

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15 thoughts on “57 Travel Essentials for Minimalist Men (Packing List 5.0)”

  1. A good thing to attach to your bag is a Bluetooth tracker like Tile or Chipolo. In the event you misplace your bag, nearby you’re able to ring it to make a sound and locate it on your phone.

    The item is either to attach to your zipper or anywhere on your bag

    Reply
  2. Good list for general travel!
    I would appreciate if you stress this aspect from the start of the article.

    “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.” – This feels misleading.

    If you were to go on a 1-2 week hike (or even a few days)in Peru or Nepal for example and you have to camp and cook, you would need a lot more stuff.
    The equipment you recommend is top quality and damm expensive, that’s where some of the “weight loss” comes from.
    Also I agree that fasting works, just that it’s a big difference if you do it in a controlled way or if you are climbing cold mountains.

    Reply
    • Hey Sandu. You’re totally right. A man who shows up with just a daypack for a multi-day trek is going to end up being the opposite of a happy camper! It’s easy to distinguish between a guy carrying a big bag full of camping stuff en-route to a hike and one who’s heading to their luxury Airbnb while carrying a big bag full of unnecessary trinkets, shoes, and clothes though, don’t you agree?

      Reply
      • Hey. Agree… was just a little frustrated cause I read the article on phone and went through it all just to find that there is no camping equipment included 🙂
        Guess it was more about expectations, other than that it is a really good list!

        Reply
  3. What’s your thoughts on deodorant…no seriously. I’ve found that using deodorant gets on the inside of my Icebreaker shirts and gives bacteria a place to live. The armpits start to smell after 2-3 times of wearing them.

    Reply
    • Hey Tim. I’ve found the exact same, which is why I don’t pack deodorant. On average I’ve experienced that not using deodorant keeps me less stinky… but there are still some seemingly random times when my pits explode with B.O.

      For that reason, when I’m not traveling and going to some social event, I sometimes apply deodorant to “keep me covered” for a few hours, even though I know later in the night, hopefully after I’m home, it’ll probably make me smell worse.

      Reply
    • Hey Nic. At 10oz/280g that bag’s impressively light. I guess it’d take the place of the messenger bag day pack in my packing list. I prefer the messenger style in general because it’s easier access than a backpack, but if you’re going to hike a lot or carry heavy laptops and whatnot this style will be more comfortable. If you get it, keep us posted on what you think of it. Enjoy Thailand!

      Reply
  4. A lot of this is going to depend on where you are going, with who, and what activities you want to be prepared for.

    Hiking or camping will have a whole different set of priorities than a bar-hopping trip, or a trip to visit the red light district.

    A trip to another country by plane to go on walking tours will have significantly different needs than a road trip to the next state to visit a museum.

    Reply
    • I totally agree. This packing list can serve as a guide that people can alter based on specific needs. I do the same myself.

      Have to say I’ve never packed specifically for a trip to visit the red light district, though! Please do write a post on that packing list.

      Reply
    • Hey Rick. I normally use soap I scrounge up wherever I’m staying. Sometimes a packable laundry stick if I’m feeling fancy. It’s really just the underwear and socks that need washing. The rest, especially the merino stuff, lasts a long time before needing a clean.

      Reply

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