Ultralight Packing Guide for Freestyle Travel

Updated in April 2021 - Watch my latest packing video on YouTube

Big and bulky backpacks slow you down while you travel, cost extra money at the airport and limit your flexibility.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Your travel pack can be small enough to carry on to planes, light enough to tote around cities or epic mountain trails while still containing the versatile ultralight gear needed to thrive in any environment you're drawn to travel to.

A pack of 15lbs (~7 kilos) or lighter is achievable; ultralight travel opens you up to new opportunities.

In this post I'll show you an optimal ultralight packing list of the travel clothing and gear suitable for an endless trip around the world, including what I've personally carried in my 12+ years of non-stop travel, plus an obsessively minimalist packing list just for fun. You'll find links to ultralight gear as well as a list of the most common unnecessary items travelers mistakenly haul around.

(On my podcast, The Freestyle Travel Show, you can also listen to an episode I did there about ultralight travel packing)

This ultralight packing list is for freestyle travelers

Hostel-hoppers and thru-hikers have ultralight packing lists as well. Hostel-hoppers are unprepared for camping and multi-day hitchhiking trips, however, and thru-hikers are typically just set up for trail life and only concerned with one general climate for a fixed period of time.

Freestyle travelers blend the obsessively clever weight-saving techniques of thru-hikers (who carry their bags all day), along with hostel-hoppers' adaptability to all the transportation, accommodation and social situations that arise during extended travel.

We get around by hitchhiking, thru-hiking, using buses, trains, planes, boats - whatever it takes. We couch surf, camp, stealth camp, and sometimes stay in hostels or hotels. We travel indefinitely, throughout a vast scope of climates and seasons, from wilderness to cities; we often don't need much money to sustain our lifestyle. 

Ultralight Travel Packing List

The following packing lists allow one to travel throughout the world in all the situations I've described.

Just remember: Traveling, or doing whatever the hell you want: that's the key. This lightweight travel packing guide is obsessive and ridiculous, efficient and thorough. At a certain point we're talking about saving ounces or even grams... and sure, there are certain weight class milestones, such as slimming from a checked bag to a carry on bag, or from a carry on bag to a nearly forgettable sized bundle, but regardless of your pack weight - you're seeing the planet in electric fashion! You're a God-damned hero, massaging your soul and pollinating the known universe, inspiring the restless as you blaze on across the globe. So, absorb what makes sense, ignore the rest and keep on moving.

Here we go, this is what I carry, a more optimal list and finally a super ultralight list for the true minimalist.

What I Carry Optimal Super Ultralight

Travel clothes - Waist up

  • 1 merino t-shirt
  • Sweatshirt

Travel clothes - Waist down

  • Convertible pants
  • 2 pairs of underwear
  • Long underwear
  • 2 pairs of merino socks
  • Sport sandals

  • Convertible pants
  • 1 pair of underwear 
  • Long underwear
  • 1 pair of merino socks
  • Sport sandals

Travel toiletries

  • Dr. Bronners
  • Toothbrush
None (dirty bastard)


  • Top quilt
  • Stuff sack
  • BivyPack
  • 2 liter "dirty" water bag
  • 1 liter "clean" water bag/bottle
  • Water filter
  • Lighter

  • BivyPack
  • Quilt and stuff sack
  • 2 liter "dirty" water bag
  • Water filter
  • Lighter

Travel Electronics


Odds & Ends

  • Folding whiteboard
  • Whiteboard marker
  • Custom poly/cuben wallet
  • Passport
  • Ziploc bag for dirty clothes

  • Passport

  • Passport

Fluctuating Resources

  • Bills and coins
  • Food/ Water
  • Spices / Sauces / Tea

  • Bills and coins
  • Food / Water
  • Spices / Sauces / Tea

  • Food / Water

Last updated: October 20, 2020

My Base Pack Weight: 5 kilograms / 11 pounds
That's the weight of my backpack and it's contents, excluding what I'm wearing as well as consumables like food, water and fuel. (More on "base pack weight" at the very bottom of this post). If I include what I'm wearing (what's not in the pack), head-to-toe, it's closer to 15lbs (~7 kilos).

My current gear list does the trick, but it could always be better. I'll explain everything and point out where I could improve and where I'm just being stubborn or weighing convenience over lightness.

How not to travel light
The moment I started traveling, a walking yard sale.

When I first started traveling in 2007 I had a monster, easily 60 pounds or more strapped to my back with crap clipped on the back and sides, extra day packs and all kinds of junk hanging off me. I see other travelers like this all the time, I try to guess what they could possibly be hauling around, I try to remember what the hell I was lugging through the world so pointlessly in the beginning.

Ultralight Travel Gear and Travel Packing

Travel Clothes - The waist up

Rolling your travel shirts.
Rolling up shirts is the way to go. 

Three is the magic number when it comes to t-shirts, for me it's two made from the magical merino wool and one from cotton, but you could get away with just two t-shirts, you'll just have to wash them more often.

Ultralight travel clothing done right, merino rules.
Merino shirt from Icebreaker, pretty sweet.

Merino wool is an ideal fabric for your t-shirts, it's very resistant to stink which means you can go many days without washing. Most people don't notice or care that you're wearing the same shirt for days at a time (especially if you're frequently on the move), you shouldn't care either. The downside is the price, like $40-$90 for a t-shirt expensive. If you got the cash for it, do it, and anyways traveling light also means you have fewer things, so you can maybe justify spending more on what you do have.

A justification for a third t-shirt can easily be made and is my preference. Besides my two great merino shirts, I have a third cotton shirt which allows me more time between washing, a different look and an easy shirt to burn up. By that I mean it's the shirt I don't mind screwing up when someone offers a hundred bucks to move a wood pile, or a few weeks trimming in harvest season... that smell isn't going away.

This OR Helium II rain jacket only weighs 6.4oz, half the weight of my old one.

One long sleeve shirt, also merino, would be ideal, for the colder days. A casual outer layer is also a must, I prefer hooded zip up sweatshirts. Lastly a rain jacket to stay dry in unexpected downpours.

T-shirt + long sleeve + sweatshirt + rain jacket = pretty damn warm. Depending on your sleeping bag or quilt (which I'll get to more in a bit), it can be possible to origami it into a very warm vest without looking overly ridiculous (but maybe just a little), then you'll be real toasty.

I also carry a baseball cap for keeping the sun out of my eyes on long sunny hikes, as well as a warm beanie for the biting cold.

Maybe you're fashionable, maybe you're a girl that needs to have a cute tanktop and several fancy shirts with particular style names I can't pronounce or spell and a dress and this and that. To each their own. All I can do is explain how to travel as light as possible the best I know how. Everyone has exceptions and hobby items. Traveling as light as possible is not the goal, good times and free flowing travel is the goal. Travel light where you can, but don't let it interfere with expressing yourself.

Super ultralight? You could get away with just one merino t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and no rain jacket (use your bivy/shelter as a poncho) and no hats. You'll be doing laundry a bit more frequently and won't be quite as warm when it's cold out, but the sleeping bag as a vest trick should get you by.

Travel Clothes - The Waist Down

I like to wear jeans, which some travelers and especially hikers would say makes me a sucker. Jeans are bulky, heavy and take a while to dry - not exactly ultralight travel gear, yes I know. I like them still, you can blend in anywhere in the world with jeans; no article of clothing is more universal. A friend of mine has some so-called "travel jeans" that are trying to bridge the gap using lighter and quicker drying material, so perhaps there is an acceptable compromise.

These slightly stretchy shorts are actually pretty awesome.

This also means I have a separate pair of shorts. If you're not hooked on having jeans then you will instantly be carrying much less than me, either with performance pants and shorts, or travel pants that zip off into shorts, and that's it. Pants don't begin to stink nearly as quick as shirts will, you can wear them for days and days and days. Zip off into shorts when it's warm, use your shorts as your swimsuit too, life is simple.

Underwear would be the priority over shirts in terms of splurging for high quality no-smell fabrics. I had a Smartwool merino pair once, I loved them, although they did seem to degrade and rip a bit faster than normal underwear. Instead, ExOfficio boxer briefs have been mine and so many other's favorite when it comes to travel underwear. They're comfortable and dry quick, I'll often go swimming with them too.

ExOfficio boxer brief is the travel underwear champ.

Two pairs should be enough if you have the good stuff, three pairs is a convenient luxury or a good number if you only have "normal" underwear. Any more than three pairs of underwear, no matter what they're made of, is insanity, utterly pointless.

One pair of long underwear is a must if you want to walk around New York City in the dead of winter. It makes a huge difference in cold weather, they're nice to sleep in and it gives you something to wear when you're doing laundry. You can also wear them for many days in a row since you should be wearing your regular underwear underneath. You'll thank me when you're hitchhiking in sub-zero temperatures wondering what the meaning of life is.

Smartwool merino socks. Yes, please!

I have two pairs of socks, I used to have three, but I think two is enough. Again this is especially true if you get some of that sweet, sweet merino loving (seeing a trend yet?). I've had Smartwool socks before and they are awesome, just keep your toenails clipped and they'll last longer. Socks are quick and easy to wash and merino wool dries fast and doesn't stink as much, so rotating two pairs is no problem. Three pairs should be the max, if they're not all real high quality or if you're doing a lot of colder hiking and reserve one clean pair for sleeping.

Keen Newports, good for everything.

Lastly, shoes. Sport sandals are the way to go in my opinion, I prefer Keens, specifically their Newports and the variations of these. Other travelers will have many different opinions of course. The reason I like them is because they're great for just about any situation or season, maybe just not very formal events. They dry quickly after a day on the river, you can hike mountain trails without a problem, throw on warm socks during the winter and be breezy in the summer. I've yet to find a better travel shoe, until then I'll keep kicking with these.

Super ultralight? One pair of underwear, one pair of socks, one pair of hiking pants that zip off to shorts, the long underwear and sport sandals. Again, the compromise here is that you will constantly be washing your dirty junk and you'll be naked doing so. You'll probably get annoyed doing this so much and instead wash less frequently, stink more often without knowing it, go to more rainbow gatherings, meet an equally stinky beautiful girl named Butterfly, fall in love, have a "commitment ceremony" to celebrate your love and live happily ever after. So by all means, dedicate yourself to being super ultralight and I'll say congrats to you and Butterfly's first love child, but sorry, I don't have much advice for ultralight diapers.

Travel Toiletries

Travel toiletries start with Dr. Bronners.
Magical liquid. Get some.

Dr. Bronners is king for the traveler. This is an all purpose soap you can bathe with and wash your hair with, use to clean your clothes and even brush your teeth with. Everyone loves it as soap, one drop goes a long way so a bottle lasts a long while, but some people aren't satisfied using it to wash their hair. Try it yourself and decide if you wanna bring an additional refillable 3oz container for a legit shampoo.

Brush teeth, clip nails, open wine or beer, write a note, pointless screwdriver.

I've attached my toothbrush to a small swiss army tool, there's also scissors for cutting finger nails, no need for nail clippers. This same tool has a pen on it for leaving notes and filling out forms at borders, it also becomes the handle of an attachable spork. It also is missing a blade, so it's totally cool to carry on planes. (Update: Some TSA members in Darwin, Australia are dumbasses)

Obviously, the stand is not coming with you, just the trimmer.

Additionally, I have chapstick and an electric beard trimmer, the smallest I've been able to find so far that's still effective (Gillette fusion proglide), which takes one AA battery. I found a pretty awesome battery that actually has a pop off top to expose a USB plug to become self-rechargeable. No extra batteries, no need to get new ones.
Very cool. Need them? Get them.

A beard trimmer is something many people could probably do without, just borrow someone else's every few weeks/months/years when you wanna take the beard off. Or perhaps if you're the clean cut type you could just have a straight razor which would be lighter as well, Bronners will work as your shaving cream. I've been searching for something even smaller, but amazingly I have been unsuccessful. Gillette, are you listening? Micro USB powered miniature, please!

Some folks carry first aid stuff, sunscreen, pills and junk like that. I'm an irresponsible future (current?) cancer carrier.

Super ultralight? Carry nothing. Be dirty most of the time, shower with just water half the time and use generously offered soap/shampoo when you stay with friendly people. Brush your teeth with your finger. You'll have bad breath and painful teeth issues down the road, but you're living in the now.
Add or remove what you need. 


Hostel travelers can basically skip this entire section (although I'd still recommend the water filter),  but for freestyle travelers most or all of these things will be essential in their travel packing.

Whether you're intentionally hiking and camping through the wilderness or get caught on the road hitchhiking only part way to your destination on a cold night, your sleeping bag will be your best friend. Even better, a quilt, which is like a sleeping bag except it can open fully like a blanket making it more versatile and also lighter because of the lack of a full zipper and so forth. Even when couch surfing there will be times where your host doesn't have any proper blankets or you just want to save them the trouble of washing a sheet.

Ultralight travel gear centerpiece.
Fairly light, certainly cheap, TETON Sports 20 degree bag.

Quilts and sleeping bags range from inexpensive and bulky to very expensive and featherlight, literally, they're made using goose feathers. Find a good balance for you. There's definitely a curve of non-sense when it comes to ultralight travel gear, where at the high-end the price shoots way up for only a marginal loss in weight.

I use a 20 degree bag, but one could get away with a 40 degree bag for less money and weight, I just like the next level of preparedness and freedom on colder nights to still have camping as an option.

This shelter's pretty popular, the OR Advanced Bivy.

Also, you need to stay dry when camping, of course. A tarp, a tent or a bivy sack are your primary options here. I've always preferred bivy sacks. They're lighter than a full tent, can seal up to protect you from mosquitoes unlike a tarp and are mostly incredibly easy to setup - just throw it on the ground and get in.

Magic, my backpack design that transforms into a bivy tent.

I recently fulfilled a longtime design idea I've had and created a backpack that itself transforms into a bivy sack. A backpack by itself is meaningless, it only exists to carry your stuff, so better yet to just have your stuff carry your stuff. For now I'm still happily testing our most recent prototype, but I'll have more to say about this soon.  (UPDATE March 2018: It's now available for anyone who wants one!)

Rolls down to the size of a banana. See for yourself.

I also carry a very small sleeping pad which provides extra comfort and warmth. I got by without one for the first five years or so of traveling, so you probably could too, but if you get a small enough one it can really be worth it.

A staple in everyone's ultralight packing list.
Sawyer Mini, smallest filter I've seen.

A water filter is also a must for doing any long distance hiking and becomes a money saving convenience when traveling to areas where the water is not exactly safe to drink. I use a Sawyer brand mini which is quite small and works very well. Along with this I have a two liter water bladder for "dirty" water. It came with a pint sized bag that I use as a flask, whiskey is a good friend when camping. Lastly I have a one liter sized Platypus soft bottle that I use for clean water, either filtering water into it or pouring straight from a trusted tap.

If you carry a pot, it's tough to beat this one for weight and size.

The last of camping supplies include a small cook pot/mug, a cat food can stove and a spork. Again these are three things that hostel travelers can do without, but are very handy for those that like to go camping. Also carry a lighter of course, which is also my preferred tool for bottle opening.

The spork head from the GSI cookset attaches to the scissors nicely.

Super ultralight? The lightest sleeping quilt you can find, bivy, water filter and just one two liter water bag. Two liters can usually be enough for most hikes in between water sources, particularly if you don't plan on cooking. If you're going somewhere a bit more extreme you could always snag an extra plastic water bottle for storage. Many hikers will bring a "flavor" plastic water bottle anyways, to spike your water with flavored packets and whatnot, without ruining your pure bottle. You could go with water purification pills instead of the filter too, obviously lighter, but less convenient and you have to replace them. Do without the cook pot, stove and spork and just eat crappy cold meals with your hands, or MREs, you are dedicated to nothingness!

Travel Electronics

Not everyone needs a keyboard, but this one is the best for travelers. Get it here.

I carry a good Android phone along with a bluetooth keyboard so I can still do a lot of writing comfortably. For many years I've had a laptop, but phones keep getting more powerful, now along with the keyboard I don't really miss hauling the heavier laptop around. The bluetooth keyboard is useful for me, but many people can skip this if you're not doing any extended writing or simply don't mind using your phone's on screen keyboard. (Update: Carrying a laptop again, but constantly debating about it)

I shouldn't really have to explain why a phone comes in handy, but... it's a camera, GPS maps, communication, a gateway to find hosts and even access to this thing called "Google" where you can figure out just about anything. Yup.

Selecting a phone that's right for you can be pretty personal. A laptop is only needed if that's what you're all about, you're a programmer or into hefty video editing, something like that. I'd say tablets are the worst, they're basically giant phones, plus you'll want a phone anyway to use it as a camera or generally have it on hand for easy wifi poaching. The only place I see for a tablet is if you're an avid reader and you're using it instead of hauling books around.

Generally for a phone I'd say get an Android phone that allows you to swap out the battery, then just shoot for the one with the best camera you can get your hands on. Everyone's different, there's no right or wrong answer, unless of course you decide to pay for an iPhone, then you're just a goof (yup). 

Best all-in-one I've seen with USB, but still sucks, there's got to be better. Take a look.

Besides my headphones, the rest of my electronics are about power. I have a second battery for my phone so I can go several days or more without looking for an outlet, it fits in my wallet easily. I carried a solar panel charger at one point, as well as those big brick batteries that charge whatever, but a second battery is sufficient and a hell of a lot smaller (unless you're phone has a sealed back and no replaceable battery capability, then it just sucks to be you).

Then of course there's the USB C wall charger and USB C cable, also a car charger. At current moment I have an adapter for European plugs and a separate one for the UK as well. They make all-in-one universal adapters that work for just about all countries, but most of them are a big bulky mess.

I am, however, searching for the perfect all-in-one. It has to be tiny, have the plugs for all countries, but instead of accepting plugs it should only have a USB port to save space, since this is the only type of power I need, ideally of the Quick Charge 2.0 variety. This would eliminate the need for the original wall charger as well, so in the end you'd have just one item, only slightly bigger than a normal charger, and it would work everywhere. Somebody's gotta be making this, but I haven't found it. Might be time to find someone with a soldering iron...

Super ultralight? Nothing. Take no pictures. Bring paper maps or just study and go, or just wander at will. Use public computers or friend's computers to arrange hosts on hospitality sites and stay in touch with far away friends. Or don't. I bet Butterfly has an iPhone she'll share.
Electronics (including phone + extra battery): 495 grams / 17.5oz

Travel Packing Odds & Ends

Here's where things can get out of hand. Typically "odds & ends" is stuff you either don't need or are an important part of you, but also just little stuff that doesn't fit in the other categories. A guitar, for example, would fit in this category. While not "ultralight", who cares, if you play the guitar then you have a guitar. All the packing tips are not just for those who want the lightest load possible, but also for those who want a load so light that it's no big deal to add a few of their heavier hobby and luxury items.

Stash a phone or use it discreetly.

I have (update, "had") a custom notebook I made, it has pages to write and draw in and hollowed pages in the back that I can hide my phone or cash in. I also made an envelope style pocket in there to stash any loose paper and metro cards from places I'm not currently near.

I use the pen from the multi tool I mentioned, which also functions as the handle for my toothbrush and spork, has the scissors for cutting my nails, tweezers which I rarely use, and a screwdriver/bottle opener which I just use as the attachment for the toothbrush.

Easy and cheap to make, including the marker it's just 46 grams (1.6oz)

I made a dry erase whiteboard (working off this simple tutorial) which folds up to either pocket size or the size of my notebook, I use this for making hitchhiking signs on the fly. I recently stepped it up and made a custom hat where the brim is removable, the brim being a shaped custom whiteboard like this.

You could also not do this and just get a normal marker for making signs with cardboard or whatever you find, or carry nothing at all, I actually only make signs while hitchhiking a small percentage of the time. If you're new to or enthusiastic about hitchhiking, I've got plenty of videos and information.

The last thing I have is a simple wallet I made for myself out of waterproof polyester and cuben fiber. I stash any cash and cards I have in here, it also has an excess pocket that pulls out where I can put my passport, phone, headphones or anything else I want to contain and keep dry.

Ultralight Packing

The Osprey Exos 38 may be the best commercial travel pack available.

There are many different backpacks you can get, but I recommend something that's 40 liters or less. If you're not sure what pack to get, I highly recommend the Osprey Exos 38. It's widely available, comfortable, and the perfect size.

Once you choose a backpack, the next task is packing all your gear in it.

My BivyPack backpack has one big top loading opening like most backpacks, it's just one big pocket and has one big external stretchy pocket. Inside there's also a divider on the back where the bivy gets tucked away and separated from the rest of my stuff in case it's wet or dirty.

I tuck my sleeping pad in with the bivy which provides a bit more comfort. In the bottom of my pack I have my sleeping bag in it's stuff sack.

Next I have a 20L Cuben Fiber waterproof bag that has my food, spices and tea, cooking supplies and any loose items I may have like my water filter, foreign currency and metro cards I'm not using.

A 2.5 gallon Hefty slide locking plastic bag with all my travel clothes is usually on top, I have another hefty bag in it to separate clean clothes from dirty. Another Hefty bag has my laptop and electronics, then a tiny one for my toiletries at the ready.

I stuff my rain jacket in the external stretchy pocket for easy access in a downpour.

And that's it. That's what I got, how I pack it, why I suck and could be doing better and how you could be an over-the-top ultralight freestyle traveler if you so desired. Now that you see what I've been doing, here's a few ways to think light and come up with your own weight saving strategies.

Balance what you carry against what resources may be common

You can do without a towel, but if you can't resist, try this one.

A towel is the perfect example here. Newbie travelers with a case of insanity will grab their normal bath towel and cram it into their monster pack amongst their other junk. Some lightweight travelers have discovered the amazing pocket sized quick drying camp towels, they weigh next to nothing and pack so small you could forget it was in your pocket.

I once went that route, with the tiny camp towel, but soon discovered that carrying a towel at all is pointless. Nine times out of ten (at least) when I have access to a shower I also have access to a towel, whether that's at a hostel or I'm couch surfing. The few times I didn't have a towel I had a clean shirt handy or good old fashioned sunlight.

Like what I mentioned with my beard trimmer, in reality I could probably do without it since the frequency in which I use it is close to the frequency in which I stay with someone who would let me use theirs.

Still, take nothing for granted and don't expect that resources will always be there, but do balance what is likely to be there for you and if certain things are worth carrying, or if something else you're already carrying can be used for a similar purpose.

Multiple Use Travel Packing

Your travel clothing can be used as a pillow at night. Your multitool is the handle of your toothbrush, spork, pen and scissors. One soap for all purposes. A shirt as a towel. A backpack as part of your shelter. Basically at any time you're not using something, it's just taking up space.

Especially with fabrics and bags, think of what you can combine, what you can get rid of and use something else you have for the same purpose. Get creative and you'll carry less, yet have more functionality.

The ditch and pick up method

One strategy some long term travelers use is ditching gear they don't need or stashing it, then just getting new gear or retrieving it when they need it. The big example here is winter gear. Throwing out socks or a jacket in warmer months then re-upping when it's cold. Or avoiding carrying an adaptor for New Zealand when there's no immediate plan of being there.

I'm not a huge fan of this method, but I definitely see it's value and sometimes it makes sense. If I stash something it's because I don't know what else to do with it and don't necessarily expect to see it again. The problem I see with this method is it blocks you from being creative and also limits your freedom a tiny bit in decision making, or can cost you money to re-buy things.

I may be in a warm climate today, but tomorrow I could go hiking at high altitude where there's still ice and frosty nights. Layers are key anyway, no one should travel with a winter jacket unless you'll be somewhere ridiculous for an extended period of time.

This also comes back to double use. Those warm socks and winter hat add to your pillow in warmer times. If you pack perfectly you should have everything you need for every situation and have nothing you don't need.

Junk Many Travelers Pack and Shouldn't

Giant day packs. The pregnancy mimicking day pack worn in front... please don't. One bag is enough.

Too much travel clothing. This has got to be the number one reason of baggage heftiness.

Full blown towels. Use the towels around you, use your shirt, use the sun.

Hard drives. Use the cloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, or anything else that can't break or weigh you down.

Camelbaks (water bladders with drinking hose). Completely unnecessary bulk, weight and confusion. Don't confuse clever with useful, a simple water bottle will do.

Pillows. Use your clothes, your sweatshirt is perfect.

Whistles. Really? "Hi! I'm Joe Whistleholder, and I wanna be rescued after surviving a bear attack in a ditch", amateur.

Compass. Use the sun, know the trail, have a map, reference your phone if you can. Skills are lighter than things.

Oversized multitools. Think about what you will actually use on that hefty piece of engineering. Do you really need pliers on the road?

Laptops. If you're a programmer, video editor or have some other quite specific function, then sure. For most everyone else a good smartphone should be enough, perhaps with a small bluetooth keyboard.

Bags inside of bags inside of bags inside of bags. "But it keeps me organized!", yeah... but no. It creates black holes where things accumulate, useless bulk. One amazing thing you can and should do, is take everything out of your backpack and take everything out of whatever case or bag it's in. Pile up your actual stuff, then pile up all those cases and bags, tiny and big, your empty backpack included. That's ALL dead weight. Look at it. Now have a beer before you get too stressed out.

You see how much space those containers, cases and bags take up? There's a reason my packing list includes even "ziploc bag" as something I carry, it all counts, overlook nothing. Remember, use your stuff to carry your stuff whenever possible. Socks can be ditty sacks when you're not wearing them. Your rain jacket typically has pockets, stash stuff in there. If you can't find a good place for something, good, it'll be loose and in your way all the time until you realize you don't need it and finally toss it.

Well then, that was a monster of a post for such a minimalist topic. Go forth, travel light, move like the wind! Or take none of this advice and haul that gigantic beast around, you'll still be having a better time than if you just stayed at home. Enjoy!

For reference:

Base Pack Weight Hiking Classes:

Conventional: 20lbs or more
Lightweight: less than 20lbs
Ultralight: less than 10lbs
Superultralight: less than 5lbs

With respect to the hiker weight classifications, here's a grouping of travelers given their Base Pack Weight:

  • Heavy Vacationer: more than 50 pounds (usually pay extra flight fees, you're not very mobile anyway and only get to do this once a year or so)
  • Vacationer: More than 40 pounds (you're checking a bag and moving slow or staying planted, or simply carrying way too much junk and souvenirs)
  • Backpacker: Less than 40 pounds (You have to check your bag, but at least you're mobile otherwise)
  • Lightweight Traveler: Less than 22 pounds (only few airlines would charge to check your bag, you're cruising around once on land)
  • Ultralight traveler: Under 11 pounds (somewhere around ZERO airlines charge you for your bag, you move about freely, sometimes mistaken as a university student)
  • Superlight traveler: Under 5 pounds or no bag (you think you're so cool...)
If you fall into the last three, you're in freestyle traveler territory. Good times, travel light!


  1. Oh I see you do use a Bluetooth Keyboard my bad.

  2. Thanks for this post. I found some Marino gear on a sale. Got two pairs of socks $20 each and some underwear $25... Didn't splurge on a tshirt but it was tempting. I'll give it a go. Never tried Marino wool before.

    Do you find it hard to dry it while travelling? Since I notice its not tumble dryable?

    1. Merino dries really quickly, that's one of the benefits. Just hang it up, sometimes I'll even put it on straight after washing.

    2. Some cool suggestions. I'm having a hard time with your math and an 11# base weight: Bag 2/12#, Bivy 2 1/2#, Laptop 2#, Keyboard 1#, Misc electronics 1#, Osprey 2#. That's 11# with nothing else-no phone, no clothes, no toiletries???

    3. I suggested the osprey and maybe some other bivy, but I have a BivyPack which is both backpack and bivy in one, weighing just less than a pound: https://www.freestyletravelgear.com/product-page/bivypack


  3. The thing I would add to this list is a sarong. I can wear it as a skirt, shawl or dress. It can be a light weight sheet in warmer climates, a curtain for privacy, a lightweight towel, a beach blanket or tied up into a bag to carry stuff.

  4. Hey there - I laughed when I saw 5 t-shirts and a pair of jeans on an ultralight list, but you already said travel is doing what you want, which is true! There's a particular band's t-shirt I take everywhere, and I have about 4kg of camera stuff (the tripod at 1.4kg is the heaviest thing I take). I'm hoping to get to less than 10kg (350oz) including camping gear.

    I found this post by searching for a lightweight beard trimmer - do you know if the Amazon 11.2 ounce weight of the Gilette is accurate? It seems a bit heavy so I might just stick to not shaving, or maybe I could get away with not taking all of the accessories, if that saves much?

    Good luck with the BivyPack!

    1. Ha, yeah I've since fixed the five shirt thing, but jeans I like to much to get rid of.

      I got rid of all the accessories on the trimmer except one of the blue clip on length attachments which really just functions to protect the blade from messing stuff up when packed. It ways 61 grams by itself like that. Plus the self recharging usb cell AA battery I mention in the post weighs 22 grams, so all together it's just shy of 3 ounces. Maybe that amazon weight was including the giant stand it comes with and everything, not sure.

  5. Great list for male travelers and I want my husband to read this as he is constantly looking for these type of information and I think your blog will be perfect for him.

  6. As a nearly-ultralite backpacker and soon-to-be lightweight world traveller, I really got a lot out of your list and explanations - and I've seen a lot of such lists! Am considering the BivyPack for myself, now. And your quest for a lightweight beard trimmer/shaver really rang a bell with me. I like to keep my beard fairly short, and carrying a regular beard trimmer (plus shaver) is not a viable option weight-wise. So your mention of the Gilette got me going on a quest of my own (thanks!), and I am now the happy owner of a Philips Multi-Groom Ultra Precise Beard Styler Series 1000 (bought in Germany at https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B00ROSVV7M/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1). It weighs only 119 g, with trimmer head plus 3 comb attachments, a shaver head and a AA battery! Yes, it is narrow, you you need a bit longer to get through your beard (and esp. to shave), but that's a price I'm very willing to pay for the huge savings in weight. This thing weighs less than half the weight of the Gilette. The combs are in S, M and L. The S gets you down to a stubble, the M is a tad too "long" for my preferred length (will ask Phillips if maybe other attachments are available) but OK, and the L is quite long (not bad for eyebrows in my case). Love it as a trimmer! Shaving is slow (like mowing a lawn with a half-sized lawn mower), and you have to draw your skin pretty taut and make a few passes to get good results, but you can get a smooth shave that way. For EUR 16, it's a no-brainer to give it a try. And if it gets broken, lost or stolen, it's cheap to replace. The trimmer is now going to be my companion even on ultralite hiking trips preceeded or followed by a bit of city life, as in Norway wilderness treks with a few days of Oslo before or after. It's OK to let the beard go wild for a week or so, but that's not the way I like to stroll around in cities. Hope you like it, too! As for not carrying a tablet, I won't go on my world trip without my beloved iPad, a LogiLink folding tablet stand (LogiLink Foldable Stand for Tablet) plus the excellent Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard (https://www.amazon.de/Microsoft-GU5-00007-Universal-Foldable-Keyboard/dp/B010WTVRO6/ref=sr_1_1?s=ce-de&ie=UTF8&qid=1467622432&sr=1-1&keywords=microsoft+folding+keyboard). For a somewhat older guy with not-so-great eyesight, small cellphone displays just won't cut it. With this setup, I can do just about everything a laptop can with a lot less weight. Sure, it's too heavy for extended trekking, but otherwise a must for me.

    1. If the Medium attachment is cutting the hair too long just sand it to the correct length for you, the attachments are just offsets. If you tape sandpaper to a table and draw the attachment over it you should get even results.

  7. Hi, I will be printing out this list, which I find extremely helpful! The only thing I would change is the sandals with a pair of lightweight, breathable track shoes. Thanks for your effort though, mate!

  8. Sounds like you are living a very interesting life! I wish I had the time and the courage to do some freestyle travelling. anyway, this post is great, and I think it is useful for packing for shorter trips and hiking too. Thanks!

  9. You make it all sound easy. This is so inspiring.

  10. These shoes are really important because you may get your foot hurt if you don't wear them.

  11. Hey Kenny
    I'm enjoying the podcast/travel show's my friend

    I'm currently living a vicarious existence at the moment through you. I was meant to be on a plane to Canada this spring (from the UK),thumbing my way around with some Wwoofing in between, catching up with old friends, then on to Australia but.....the rest is history as they say ! I digress.
    List's are, a very personal thing, but yours is a great "template" to start from.
    As a fellow camper i can concur that is where the majority of the bulk will probably be, and weight too( i don't carry much electronics...old school ).

    Personally, i like to wear some kind of a sneaker/trail running shoe and also bring a pair of light weight flip flops/sandals.
    Also i may be tempted to swap out the rain jacket for a nice Silnylon poncho which can be used above my Bivy sack as a tarp.
    I also like a jeans STYLE pant but in a synthetic mix blend, poly/cotton i like a lot as it's the best of both worlds, looks and feels normal, dries fairly quick and doesn't smell. Great for long sleeve shirts too, of which i usually carry one. Some times in real heat i find even merino wool to hot...?
    I guess the trick is to have clothes that work but also don't make you stand out ,been there done that ! The thrift shop is a travellers best friend...

    Hope you're still out there doing your thing in "elecrtic fashion"
    What ever happens in 2021 i'm heading out that front door at the beginning of spring....😉😎
    All the best from the South coast of the UK


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