How to Travel 12 Countries with No Baggage Whatsoever

Starting tomorrow, travel writer Rolf Potts will embark on a trip that will take him around the world without using a single piece of luggage. This post will explain how he’s going to do it, and there’s a kick-ass giveaway at the end…

For six weeks he will explore 12 countries on five continents, crossing the equator four times, without carrying so much as a man-purse. The few items he does bring will be tucked away in his pockets. Though he’s a seasoned minimalist traveler (famous from his book Vagabonding), he usually travels with a single overhead-bin-perfect backpack, the Eagle Creek Thrive 65L. It’s been his go-to bag for the last 3-4 years.

So why attempt to travel the world with no luggage at all?

Rolf sees his journey as a real-time experiment in traveling ultra-light, and “a field-test for a more philosophical idea — that what we experience in life is more important than what we bring with us.”

While circumnavigating the globe with no luggage sounds like a clear enough proposition, it can raise a few semantic issues. What, for example, counts as a bag? Rolf has set up a set of ground rules to guide his own journey, including:

– No bags on the journey (not even a man-purse or grocery store bag, unless the latter is used en route to a meal).

– No borrowing items from his cameraman or using his cameraman as a pack mule.

– Borrowing or buying items along the way is permitted but excludes bags.

Since most people don’t travel with a film crew, Rolf’s advice for the average no-baggage traveler is a bit broader than the rules he’s set for himself. Here are 8 key tips from Rolf on how to plan and execute a no-luggage journey.

In Rolf’s words…

1) Manage the journey from your mobile phone.

A smartphone could well be the most important tool for a baggage-less traveler. It can store your boarding passes and other important documents, make phone calls from virtually anywhere in the world (with a swappable SIM card) and even act as a miniature blogging tool.

I recommend an iPhone with a foldable Bluetooth keyboard, which allows you to fit your mobile office inside a single jacket pocket. The iPhone can be loaded with a series of applications to replace everyday day items carried on a normal trip. The Kindle app lets you leave behind bulky books, and Genius Scan lets you use you iPhone’s camera as a makeshift scanner so you can quickly save receipts and email them to yourself on the fly. Wikihood utilizes the phone’s GPS to serve location-relevant Wikipedia articles, which is a unique and interesting alternative to a guidebook. Throw in your favorite currency converter, phrase book, and flight tracker, and you’ve got a single device in your pocket more powerful than its dead-weight paper counterparts.

Some recommedations:

TripTracker by PageOnce

Lonely Planet series of phrase books (multiple links depending on language)

Currency converter: “Currency”

2) Keep your footwear simple and practical.

With no bags, the only shoes you’re going to want to bring is whatever you’re wearing from day to day.

I’m traveling with a pair of Blundstone boots I bought in Australia in 2006. I’ve worn these boots all over the world the past four years, from Paris to Ethiopia to the Falkland Islands, and they’ve served me great. They work for hiking in remote environments, yet they’re easy to slip off and on at airport security.

Some travelers might prefer Chaco or Teva sandals (if nothing else to save packing socks) — and I won’t fault them for that — but my Blundstones look nice enough that they will get me into places where sandals might seem too informal. You are on your feet constantly when you travel, of course, so whichever footwear you choose to bring (be it sandals or boots or running shoes), make sure you aim for comfort, simplicity, and durability.

(Note from Tim: I opt for darker-colored Keen Newport Bison Leather Sandals. If you use black or dark socks, since they have closed toes, you can easily get into restaurants or even pass for business casual if you tuck the tightening strings in.)

3) Buy or borrow certain items as you go.

An old vagabonding adage goes, “Pack twice the money and half the gear.”

The same notion applies to no-luggage travel — even if you’re only packing a tenth of the gear. If a journey takes you to a beautiful beach region, odds are you can buy rubber flip-flop sandals there for a few dollars. If a given city is rainy, cheap umbrellas should be in plentiful supply — and if you get sick, the world is full of pharmacies (many of which are better-suited to cure local ailments that whatever medicine you might have packed).

Should you travel your way into cold weather, thrift stores are a good place to buy a warm jacket (which can be given way to a needy person or left in a hostel swap-box when you leave). You can also borrow things from other travelers along the way. You don’t want to be obnoxious about this, of course, but most travelers don’t mind sharing a spot of toothpaste or a couple of aspirin, and asking for these kinds of things can be a great way to strike up a conversation at the hostel or on the hiking trail.

4) Be disciplined and strategic with what you choose to bring along.

Packing light can be enough of a challenge when you have a small backpack, let alone when you have to keep all your gear in your pockets. This in mind, don’t bring anything you’re not going to use every day.

Nail clippers can be borrowed along the way; rain ponchos can be purchased on rainy days. I left my razor out of the equation (it was better to let my beard grow and then get a hard razor shave in Morocco), and before the trip I cut my hair so short I won’t ever need shampoo. Any big-box retailer should have bins of tiny deodorants and collapsible toothbrushes to keep your toiletries micro-sized. Camping stores will sell 3-ounce snap-top storage bottles that work well for toting concentrated laundry detergent or multipurpose liquid soap. Err on the side of minimalism; you can buy or borrow items along the way.

5) Wear travel gear with strategically located pockets.

If you travel without any bags, this means whatever gear you bring will have to fit in your pockets. My journey is co-sponsored by ScotteVest, an Idaho-based sportswear company that specializes in travel clothing with multiple pockets.

Most of my gear fits into the ScotteVest Tropical Jacket, which has 18 pockets of differing sizes. A majority of these pockets are accessed from the inside, which (a) is a nice deterrent against pickpockets, and (b) saves me the “dork factor” of looking like I’m traveling the world dressed like a confused trout fisherman. I can carry a majority of my gear in this jacket without looking ridiculous — plus the sleeves zip off, so I usually wear it as a vest. I’m also wearing a pair of Ultimate Cargo Pants from ScotteVest, though I’ve packed light enough that I rarely have to use the large cargo pockets. ScotteVest isn’t the only company that makes travel gear with utility pockets, of course; your local camping outfitter or travel-specialty store should provide you multiple gear options, and you can choose the clothing that best fits your needs.

6) Use a minimal rotation of clothing.

Essentially, you’ll want to travel with little more than the clothes on your back — but you will want to bring a few spare clothing items to keep things fresh and ensure you won’t get too stinky.

Given that I wear cargo pants, a travel vest, socks, underwear, and a short-sleeved t-shirt under a long-sleeved shirt on a typical day of my trip, I keep one spare t-shirt, two extra pairs of socks, and two extra pairs of underwear in my pockets.

Each night I wash the day’s socks, underwear and t-shirt in the hotel/hostel sink, and these items are dry enough to pack by morning. I’ve been washing the cargo pants about once a week (and I have yet to wash the travel vest). Some people take short no-luggage trips with even fewer clothes, but my arrangement isn’t bulky and ensures that I always have a rotation of fresh socks, underwear and t-shirts.

(Note from Tim: Here what I pack for an uber-light trip, in this example less than 10 pounds total. ExOfficio underwear are a lifesaver.)

7) Utilize the postal system for souvenirs and extra gear

With airlines baggage fees quickly spiraling upward, many travelers these days are saving money and hassle by mailing certain items to one or more destinations along their itinerary.

If, say, you’re traveling from warm climates into cold climates, you can mail your warm clothing to the first cool destination (just make a pre-arrangement with the hotel you’ll be staying at in that location). On that same token, traveling without luggage doesn’t mean you have to forgo buying souvenirs — if just means you won’t be able to carry them. To solve this problem, just hit the local post office and mail that Balinese mask or Latvian amber or Syrian silk home.

This is actually a strategy that can be employed when you’re traveling with luggage: The souvenirs you find along the way might be nice, but there’s no sense in dragging them along with you. It’s worth the expense to ship them.

8) Remember: Travel is about the experience, not what you bring with you.

In the end, that remember that going without luggage and packing ultra-light need not be an extreme act. It isn’t a contest, or a rite of travel-superiority: It’s just a great way to eliminate distractions and concentrate on the experience of the journey itself.

Freed of baggage, there’s little to forget or lose on the road. You don’t have to stow anything, guard anything, or wait for anything (aside from the occasional train or bus): You can just throw yourself into the adventure and make the most of your travels.


If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I would highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”

I recently partnered with Rolf to release the exclusive audiobook for Vagabonding. For more on this incredible book, click here.

Afterword: So how’s Rolf doing? How’s he actually holding up? Check out his progress here, in real-time on the RTW (Round-The-World) blog.

Question of the Day (QOD): What tricks for light travel have you learned along the way? Please share in the comments. The more detail, the better.

Prize of the Post: Leave an answer to the QOD by this Sunday at midnight PST (8/22), and one of the best comments (hard to objectively say one is “best”) will get a Sonos ZonePlayer 120 ($499 retail) and two Klipsch speakers ($389 retail)! Just download the Sonos app for iPhone/iPod Touch, and you’ve got a killer home stereo system that can play just about anything, including Pandora and Rhapsody.

The goodies will ship directly from me in an S5 box (as I now have a new S5 setup). Look forward to your tips!

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

485 Replies to “How to Travel 12 Countries with No Baggage Whatsoever”

  1. QOD:

    With your pair of cargo pants go to a tailor and have them sew pockets inside of your pants. It’s a great place to hide valuables while you are traveling that are not easily accessible to thieves. You can also have them attach zippers to any outside pockets for the same reason.

    Bring clothes that can be mixed and matched with each other to help you change things up from day to day. With 6 pieces of clothing you could have a 9+ different combinations of outfits rather than just 2 or 3. Also, be sure to bring clothes that you can layer for even more combinations and for colder weather.

    Roll your clothing items to be able to store and access them easily. More importantly, rolling them keeps them from being wrinkled.

    If you need a guidebook for where you are going. Rip out the pages you need and only take those with you. Guidebooks are heavy and take lots of space.

    Bring items that have several uses such as duct tape (wrapped around a pen so you don’t have to bring the whole roll) or conditioning shampoo (laundry, wash hair, condition hair, wash body, shaving cream).

    Who needs a razor? If you are careful you can use just the cartridges (without the handle attachment) to shave, saving you space since the cartridges alone are small.

  2. I also agree with the idea about using a backpack but with a bit of a twist. I pack a children’s backpack because then it makes me have to take less things on my trip. You think you can’t get a lot in a children’s backpack, but there are actually a lot of compartments and if you pack cotton like the one guy said up there then you can actually get a lot of stuff in it.

    Just make sure you remove your kids’ toys. One of mine had a toy knife in there that i forgot to take out and I guess you can imagine how that all went. Not fun. I thought it was funny, but don’t laugh about it at security as you probably know alreADY.

  3. QOD Response:

    USB Micro (as in size of device, not size of connector) Charger, car especially. In my experience ALL cars have 12Volt DC outlets, but most countries have various voltages for AC wall outlets, making it harder to charge your devices in a hotel then it would be in a taxi, rental car, or plane.

    iPhone for everything, and make sure it all syncs up, just in case it decides to go AWOL in someone else’s pocket. Where is My iPhone is always a nice thing to have active when you’re traveling and have heavy investments in your precious device. Also, credit card for everything, just in case again, and it can be monitored easily from the aforementioned iphone. Now just to find a way to make it sonically wash your pants while you walk around with it in your pocket!

  4. Simple. Selvage denim theory.

    It’s a huge subculture in Japan in here in the United States.

    1 pair of selvage denim worn continuously.

    Jeans do not need to be washed as often as people think. You can go week’s/months without washing them (and no they don’t stink like you would think); and they look cooler each day as the denim form’s to your natural body movements.

    Up and down the Pacific NW, I left home with one leather jacket and one pair of selvage denim CONTINUOUSLY. Not only did my clothes look cool as they were “broken in” my pack was light as a feather. You can’t chase tail looking like fisherman; this is a hip alternative.

    -Do let me know when I win.


  5. My tip is for those who visit the same hotel weekly. As oppose to taking your stuff back and forth weekly, you leave a bag of your stuff, you don’t need to take back home but will need when you return, with the bell boy with a nice tip. They’ll hold it at the hotel for a while until you get back. This way you won’t need to take your stuff back and forth weekly

  6. Travelling Light Tip:

    1) Put all of the clothes you want to bring on the floor

    2) Remove 3/4 of them

    3) Merino (superfine wool) is the perfect clothing for travel. Try it – you’ll never look back.

    4) Network extensively with friends before you leave. Hopping from friend to friend of friends to new friends is a great way to see a place through a locals eyes (and to wash clothes etc!) Having a tripit / olde school IndyJunior flash map on your blog can help people to meet up with you / think of people you can stay with.

    5) Remove more clothes 😉

  7. Making social connections. As MANY as you possibly can. This makes traveling light 1000X better for me personally. Someone who already lives there can give you any hook up and the details of whatever you may need. Browse forums, make connections. Best travel tip…Ever.

    ps. Adage of pack twice as much money and half the stuff rings truer than ever.

  8. I’d love to share my thoughts from my recent trip to South America. I think a lot of the things can be purchased locally, including underwear and contacts. I stopped doing laundry at one point and started buying t-shirts and pants. I brought a small backpack but in retrospect, I could’ve just brought a medium-sized purse. I use my friend’s camera whenever I need to record as I am not a obsessive picture taker.

    Anyhow, here are my 5 (and only five) essential items:


    Must-have Jacket: Northface Women’s Venture Triclimate

    Why: waterproof exterior shell (better than a rain coat) and a removable warm second layer. Flexible and very stretchable, wear both layers on mountains and either one of the two when the weather is warm. The hood is attached/adjustable. There’s the two hand pockets, both inside and out of the coat with zippers, very secure for all valuables, I wear the inner layer to sleep with my passport, etc.


    Must-have Sun Glasses: Ray-Ban RB3025 (women)

    Why: they are Ray-Ban, they are red, and they are Aviator. Instant celeb status.


    Must-have servant / guide / mother: the iPhone

    Why: get the following iPhone apps and it’ll be like having access to essentially everything you have access to at home: hostelwrold, tripit, lonely planet, skype, white noise (soothing sound to falling asleep), Jiwire (best global wifi finder), Trippo Voicemagix (type –> translate into sound), bank of america (pay bill online, find nearest ATM), and I could list out 10 more apps… (e.g., vuvuzela, flash light, google earth, etc etc.)


    Must-have medicine: Pepto Bismol and Cipro. (in pill forms)

    Why: you should get fully vaccinated before you go abroad, so the myriad of ways you can fall ill abroad basically gets narrowed down to stomach problems of varying severity. (not including sexually transmitted diseases, if you are not careful!) For minor stomach problems, just pop some pepto, I’ve never found a foreign medicine as awesome as my pink friend. For major viruses (puking for 2 with a clear virus attack): pop 3 Cipro pills, one per day. It kills everything in your stomach (so don’t take this unless you are really dying), but you will definitely get better no matter what, in fact, hospitals in all of south America will not give you anything better than Cipro, it’s the best.

    5. postcards of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    why: I give them away as gifts – to new friends, hostels, local families, kids. I give them a postcard picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, and I tell them that’s sort of my home, and that represents one of the most beautiful aspects of America in the most amazing city possibly in the world, and I tell them if they’re ever near the bridge, that they should give me a call. I write my email address on the back.

  9. I highly endorse Blundstone boots (aka “Blunnies”) as a comfortable and versatile travel shoe for men and women. These boots are Australian icons and I have owned many pairs over the past 25 years. I have travelled all over Europe, the US, Central America and North Africa with them on my feet.

    Even though they’re work boots you can wear them into a boardroom or a fancy restaurant without raising any eyebrows. They have excellent grip so are great for hiking (but not safe for horse riding). The elastic sides mean they’re easy to get on and off for countries where they don’t wear shoes indoors.

    The only drawback is that because they come up to your ankles they’re not ideal for hot weather. But none the less, you won’t look like a total dork if you wear them with shorts.

    Proper preparation is a good idea. If you buy the black ones (a bit more formal) you’ll need to put a bit of black shoe polish on the edges of the leather upper, because it’s raw and therefore white. It’s also a good idea to waterproof the leather. I prefer Dubbin ( but I’m sure regional variants are available. Put the boots in the sun after you’ve applied the waterproofing so the leather really soaks it up. Happy tramping!

  10. In most countries customs will not let you take fluids onto the plane so you’ll probably get some of your toiletries taken off you. Why not ditch them and buy them in-country?

  11. Hey.

    Been reading for a while but first time commenting. Awesome post–the tips here and on your “10 lbs. or less” post are priceless!

    Most of the things I’ve learned about travelling have been from mistakes. I’ve only been on real out-of-state vacations a handful of times but every few weeks I like to take a little adventure around the city 🙂

    The author said it best, “Err on the side of minimalism…” When I went to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage last year, I brought a nice bag full of things that soon realized I didn’t need at all. A quick example is the couple surgical masks we kept since my group wanted to be safe against swine flu and other diseases especially within large crowds. But, the second we landed, there were people near bus stops or local mosques passing out surgical masks (which weren’t even necessary if you have a scarf/bandana).

    The lesson I learned: It’s good to have some handy items, but I don’t have to be ready for every possible outcome (as there will be help along the way).

    Anyway, one great trick I always find helpful is to keep a hard glasses case that snaps closed when travelling. It doesn’t have to be big or anything fancy. I have to wear glasses, and I refuse to get contacts. So, this is big for me (and I guess anyone who likes to keep some nice shades around). The glasses case works well at night and other times when you don’t want to wear your glasses. It keeps them protected at all times (if you’re going swimming, etc.), and you won’t have to worry about waking up finding bent up glasses next to you if you have to sleep in a tight spot. During the day, you can use them to keep small valuables in, and they’re fairly safe against everything (since they snap shut and are hard). Also, I tend to find a case easy to keep track of (and harder to steal) inside a pocket since you’ll always feel it because of its size/shape, yet it won’t be too obtrusive if you have other things in a pocket. So, that’s my tip for travelers who are tied to their glasses (and I hope it wins me a nice sound system, lol).

    Good luck Rolf! And, keep up the great work Batman… er, I mean, Tim.

  12. Great Post.

    I have logged over 120k air-miles since last October and I have these 3 tips to share.

    Keeping track: There are many services out there, but I found an obscure site here which allows you to log your flights. The bonus is the site offers the ability to order a cool poster with all of your travels mapped – a great update on the atlas and colored markers.

    Packing: A trick from my grandfather – do a “dressing visualization”, starting at your feet, and work your way up – once for work, once for play – that way you won’t forget the cufflinks or socks !

    Travel: Always remember to pack your sense of humor, ability to be gracious and impeccable manners. Modern travel is fraught with many aggravations – being polite (pleases & thank-yous), a genuine smile and going with the flow is more likely to speed you through your journey and get you to your destination relaxed, than being a cranky fusspot.

    Happy travels.

  13. Thanks for awesome tips guys. Love the lady above’s tips on duel purpose gold sandals and just one “little black number” for smarter occassions.

    Hope my wife will take cognisance!

    Anyway my tip to packing size (but not weight) down is to use a vacuum cleaner. For example, if you will only need warm clothes two weeks into your trip, put them into a refuse or ziplock type bag, suck out all the air by holding the mouth of the bag over the vacuum nozzle and then quickly tape or zip shut. I find refuse bags best. Also great for clothes you won’t wear again- just ask housecleaning if you can use the vacuum for 2 minutes.

    Looking forward to Superhuman Tim! Hope the surveys helped.


  14. This is retarded. I want to enjoy my travels so rather than bringing everything I need in one convenient easy to roll suitcase I will instead spend all of my time shopping for toothpaste and deodorant, standing by my sink naked washing the only clothes I have and begging people along the way to borrow stuff.

    Oh, by the way, I have to do it all with underwear in my pockets…and have a jacket with 18 pockets full of s$&t. Plus, my hair looks like crap, my shirt is wrinkled, I can’t do anything or go anywhere that requires grooming like a nice restaurant or night club.

    Let’s be completely uncomfortable, limit our options and have to search and buy every little necessity of life for our whole trip to avoid rolling a suitcase for five minutes. And do this in the name of enjoyment?

    Why not go camping without a tent, or fishing without a pole… After all, the point of fishing is to enjoy fishing… Not to have a pole. Drrrr!

    Love the Blog Tim… Your content is often so good you can occasionally pawn off retarded stuff like this and people wii assume it must make sense and will aspire to it.

    I’ll take the road less travelled… If I ever get too weak to roll a suitcase from the plane to the cab and the cab to the room, I’ll start a blog, pawn off some retarded non fix fixes and use my proceeds to hire an entourage of people to carry my stuff in their cargo shorts for me. One dude to carry toiletries, one my IPad and a hot Norwegian model to carry my underwear.


  15. This is retarded. I want to enjoy my travels so rather than bringing everything I need in one convenient easy to roll suitcase I will instead spend all of my time shopping for toothpaste and deodorant, standing by my sink naked washing the only clothes I have and begging people along the way to borrow stuff.

    Oh, by the way, I have to do it all with underwear in my pockets…and have a jacket with 18 pockets full of s$&t. Plus, my hair looks like crap, my shirt is wrinkled, I can’t do anything or go anywhere that requires grooming like a nice restaurant or night club.

    Let’s be completely uncomfortable, limit our options and have to search and buy every little necessity of life for our whole trip to avoid rolling a suitcase for five minutes. And do this in the name of enjoyment?

    Why not go camping without a tent, or fishing without a pole… After all, the point of fishing is to enjoy fishing… Not to have a pole. Drrrr!

    Love the Blog Tim… Your content is often so good you can occasionally pawn off retarded stuff like this and people wii assume it must make sense and will aspire to it.

    I’ll take the road less travelled… If I ever get too weak to roll a suitcase from the plane to the cab and the cab to the room, I’ll start a blog, pawn off some retarded non fix fixes and use my proceeds to hire an entourage of people to carry my stuff in their cargo shorts for me. One dude to carry toiletries, one my IPad and a hot Norwegian model to carry my underwear.


  16. Travelling light has always been somewhat of a pain for me; I’m a hoarder and hauler at heart. But I have managed to find some tricks.

    Electronics: I carry something that has all the functions I need, is compact and has a small charger. So instead of taking my 80GB Cowon A3, watch, cell phone, camera, and laptop, I take just my cell phone. It has all the functions of the other gadgets, but is smaller and I only have to bring one charger.

    Toiletries: I hoard trial size and samples of toiletries just for trips if I can’t get the toiletries there. Colgate wisps replace toothbrushes, and I carry a collapsible brush/mirror to fix everything. The only full sized thing I bring is sunblock!

    Souvenirs: Most of the time, I stick to postcards. “Isn’t it nicer to receive a snapshot and stamp that’s been processed through multiple postal services than something you’ll never use?” I reason.

    Clothing: I like organizing things in plastic bags, so my clothes are usually packed in plastic bags, folded or rolled (whichever saves the most space), and then sat on (Yes, sat on) so the air is completely removed. In terms of content, I stick to a set of underwear (aka, bra, panties, socks) per day, with the max number of sets being 3 since I can wash them at night and pack them. T-shirts are good for 1-2 days wear before washing, so for a week I bring 2-3, and a good pair of jeans can last a week without washing. I wear a pair of sneakers, and usually have a pair of cheap, flimsy slippers (I typically grab them from airlines) for wearing in a bathroom or hotel on me. And I’ll usually wear one sweater or hoodie for the occasional cold moments. When it’s winter, I find that layers of lighter clothing (which can be washed and packed quickly) are better than heavy sweaters and pants, and that my tall winter boots are quite the storage space for extra socks, tights or anything soft really. (Us girls don’t have nice deep pockets in our pants, so we use what we have.)

    When travelling light, I forget jewelry, accessories and extras that I use at home, and go with the flow. It’s easier and more enjoyable than fussing over something spilt or missing in my luggage.

  17. Thanks Rolf and Tim for this fascinating blog post, the adventure and for everyone’s fantastic tips and hints.

    I’ve been traveling the world for 2 1/2 years full-time… and honestly haven’t become the world’s lightest packer (where I can, I usually pay for help with my bag! *L*) …

    However, as far as light on the paper docs, I utilize my iphone and ipad extensively…. Dropbox is my lifesaver for myself, my VA team and family… can access it from anywhere. I store ALL of my important docs in dropbox. I also use Evernote to capture many extras.

    When I’m pushed to leave my camera and video behind, I bring only my Kodak Zi8 (not an affiliate link)

    *** *** ***

    Here’s my secret key!…

    Since 2006 I’ve had a ‘salt rock’ which is a polished rock of salt on a rope, used for underarm ‘deodorant’… I bought from a market in Cairns (Australia) in Sept 2006, and I’m STILL using it! Best investment ever for $9, and I NEVER have underarm stink! Saves my clothes from smelling also, and can reuse my clothes on several occasions before washing..

    I pack a long T (or 2) (usually black) and several short-T’s to get a new ‘look’ with minimal packing.

    One pair of jeans..

    several pairs of black Tights (one long, one three quarter)

    and a pretty ‘flowing’ colourful top that can be folded and doesn’t crease.

    One pair of black fancy ‘ballet’ shoes and sometimes fancy black flip flops – this is for evening dress

    I also pack stocking socks – which are easy to wash and dry, and pack lighter in my bag.

    I usually take mini-toiletries, or buy at my location/s. Or borrow those of family and friends when I arrive.

    Really pleased to get such a great pool of resourceful tips from your blog post.. thanks!

    You are so inspiring, and bring out the best in so many people around the world..

    Keep being Awesome

    (to you Tim, and Rolf! …and to all the contributors to the blog comments!)

    Katie Joy – The Global Butterfly!

  18. QOD Response:

    Travelling light for be best starts at the beginning. I suggest forcing yourself to buy a bag a lot smaller than what you ‘think’ you need. Carry on only is a must!

    This will not only force you to really prioritize your packing but after realizing that you never have to wait for your luggage after getting off the plane you will do anything and everything to pack as light as possible as often as possible.

    Simple but effective.

  19. Great post. I hope you have a great trip Rolf. Before I put in my two cents I just want to say there are many excellent tips in the posts. For myself, I learned through painful experience that the lighter I packed the more enjoyable the trip.

    1) I use solid toiletries like shaving soap, shampoo bar, mini deodorant stick and a small folding tooth brush. A good quality disposable razor is also a must for me as I look awful with a beard. All fit into a small ziploc bag. This is principally my back up until I get what I need locally.

    2) An iPhone (unlocked) for music, reading (Kindle, Free Books) email, maps, notes, Skype, TripIt, phrase books etc, .Probably my most valuable travel tool I have. No paper books.

    3) A small encrypted USB drive that have scanned copies of credit cards (2), passport and other essential info in pdf form in case they are lost or stolen. An alternative is to set up an email account before you leave with the scanned copies of your information, but save it in the Drafts folder. Do not send it! If the need arises you can access the account and obtain the information that way. Of course, this works best in an area where you can get access to a computer with a printer.

    4) Use the bundle method when packing clothing as per and only use a carry on bag (soft sided no wheels). Clothing should be multipurpose, lightweight and dry overnight when washed.

    5) I purchased a Scottevest Essential Travel Jacket which has 19 pockets for storing items. Very versatile and good for thwarting pickpockets.

    6) A collapsible water bottle (eg. Source, Platypus).

    7) Vibrams KSOs instead of runners if you wear them. I get some odd looks at times but they are a good icebreaker for conversations.

    8) Eat locally. Don’t bring food unless it is to eat on the plane. I once made the mistake of packing 12 boxes of Kraft Dinner in my luggage then having to explain to the customs officer on the other end that the orange powder in the packets was not Canadian cocaine (it is to some I guess) but the cheese powder used in making it.

  20. Some great tips here – I normally travel with nothing but a crumpler laptop bag so that I can carry on with my CyberGypsy lifestyle. I would find it hard to get my life into less than one hold luggage bag though.

    I also like to paraglide, which creates one more bag, but recently there has been a revolution in the weight of paragliding kit so that it is possible to have all of your kit in one small rucksack. Pop in a laptop, a pair of undies and suddenly you have a flying machine and your ability to work in something that you can carry around with you on your back.

    Is this an obsession perhaps?

  21. My advice is very simple, but it’s surprising the difference it makes.

    Don’t bother bringing a towel along.

    Alot of hostels provide towels for free (or for a minimal cost), in which case they are dry, clean, and do not become a damp mess in your pack. Alternately, if not provided, you can often use a tshirt as a towel and (if it is a warm enough a place), just wear it and it will dry off. Even microfibre towels are more bother than they are worth for the most part.

  22. Some great tips here – I normally travel with nothing but a crumpler laptop bag so that I can carry on with my CyberGypsy lifestyle. I would find it hard to get my life into less than one hold luggage bag though.

    I also like to paraglide, which creates one more bag, but recently there has been a revolution in the weight of paragliding kit so that it is possible to have all of your kit in one small rucksack. Pop in a laptop, a pair of undies and suddenly you have a flying machine and your ability to work in something that you can carry around with you on your back.

    Is this an obsession perhaps?

  23. My tip for lightweight packing is to bring a thin pashmina shawl (some uses might only work for us ladies :-). On first look it doesn’t look like an essential thing to bring but I have used mine everywhere.

    * When spending a lot of time in a bus, train or plane it is really nice to have as a blanket

    * Ever slept in a too cold room? Use as an extra blanket.

    * Throw over your shoulders when you need to look dressed up.

    * Wear it draped under your jacket for extra warmth.

    * I usually travel with kids so it is often used to wrap a cold child after a swim.

    * Works as a picknick blanket.

    * Can be used to wrap around a sprained ancle or a twisted neck for some extra warmth.

    Other than my trusty pashmina I bring my Vibram Sprint. They are great for walking in and since I bought mine in black I also use them as my nicer shoes when traveling. The Sprint together with a nice wrinkle free black dress and my trusty pashmina I look ready for anything.

    I had fun reading all the tips, not everything would work for me but I got some new ideas.

  24. Sounds like an awesome adventure.

    QOD: My advice is to always have colour photo copies of all travel documents stashed away somewhere with a few dollars or Euros. You never know where you could be stranded…

    Good luck, will follow progress.

  25. QOD. I work and play from odd locations and often find a short day trip turns into a one or two day stay. I might spend several days in a remote cabin, go on a road trip, or to an all night LAN party at a friends place.

    To prepare for this I have a Kifaru X-ray pack setup as my office/travel luggage/day pack/BOB. I take it pretty much everywhere, and it’s made unexpected overnight trips a breeze. I toss it into my truck, wear it while riding my motorcycle, or use it as a carry-on when flying.

    It is constantly evolving.

    If I wish I had something with me more than twice, I add it.

    I periodically empty all the pockets and remove the things I don’t need, as my needs change.

    I always look for things that perform more than one function or take up less space. (for example, once my Iphone 4 gets here I’ll stop carrying a digital camera)

    Since I never know if I’ll have to be dressed for business, casual, or some unexpected adventure, I carry this change of clothes:

    – a pair of black Lululemon yoga pants that are lightweight, comfortable, and look like dress pants.(These don’t have an elastic waist like their current pants.) I can wear them with a t-shirt, golf shirt, and have even worn them with a shirt and tie to a company christmas party. When these die I’ll look have to find something equivalent from somewhere else.

    – a lightweight merino wool sweater. Many have mentioned the magic of merino wool. Warm, moisture wicking, odor fighting magic.

    – a pair of silk socks in summer, or Ulfrotte merino wool in winter. (black)

    – a pair of Lululemon or Exofficio boxers.

    – TAD Gear softshell jacket.

    I pack it all into a lightweight Kifaru zippered pouch to keep it clean and organized. (I use two other kifaru pouches, one for my toiletries, one for my office supplies.)

    This change of clothing, combined with whatever I leave the house wearing covers me for most scenarios. I can dress up or down, layer for warmth, and have a few combination’s of clothing if I’ll be seeing the same people for a few days.

    My quest to create a lightweight, multifunction, multiday wardrobe really came together when I found Sanuk shoes though. They’re basically sandals with a canvas top, and the ones I use look just like loafers. Light, comfortable, and look equally at home in a nice restaurant or on the beach.

  26. Many travelers still make the mistake to bring too much stuff onto the road to feel well prepared and less scared. The truth is this is not what travelling is about. It’s about leaving behind what is known to discover new. This includes equipment, people and thoughts.

  27. 1. Go modular for temperature changes. When going to warm places, you can get away with almost nothing. I use ExO everything: underwear, polyester pants, t-shirt. Add UnderArmor ColdGear long sleeve mock + leggings, a pair of liner gloves, and a simple rain jacket (such as the Marmot Ion), and you can easily survive down to 40F, and you’ll dry off in minutes.

    For that one, ditch the sandals… my FiveFingers Flow are my best hot-to-cold weather friends. Also, I’m from Oslo, Norway, so people from SoCal might need the same gear for 60F 🙂

    2. This:

  28. The idea of doing things on a smart phone reminds me of how Ray Mears talks of hunter gathers going into the bush with just a knife, parang or an axe. This lets them get all they needed from the bush and at the same time they are so light that they don’t impede progress. The idea is similar to what you are talking about: the baggage actually takes away from the trip.

    Great idea look forward to the footage.

  29. Good post. I made a nice trip across 15 european countries in 30 days with just a little 40 ltr backpack. I used a pinstripe jacket with a hoody under it for clothing which I could combine for any occasion and worked very well.

  30. #QOD

    Bring knowledge instead of stuffs.

    1. Think through all your potential needs and make a huge list.

    2. Show this list (online or offline) to someone who has actually been to your destination (e.g. a local!) and ask whether they were real neccesities or just imaginary ones & is there any other suggestions she/he might add to the list.

    3. Ask for tipps about how he/she would solve those real-world problems using local resources, possibilities. (>borrow his/her brainstorm)

    4. Buy him a beer/her a mojito for the good advices.

    5. So you have a list with REAL neccesities & some seasoned advice from an experienced dude.

    6. Have a glass of good red wine (optional) and generate a huge brainstorm to find intellectual (not material) LOCAL solutions to all the needs on your list > so you don’t have to bring any “tool” to fulfill them. (except for your brain of course but you can’t leave without it anyway)

    7. Highlight the best alternatives and save this information

    (7+ if you are not satisfied with the results, try harder drugs &/ ask more experienced fellaz)

    8. Pack up your credit card, cash, passport, (Smart)phone & a spare undewear and drop-in.

    May the knowledge be with you.

    Bonus: Learn a magic trick/skill that can be used as a substitute for money > you might trade that for anything in case of emergency (think street musicians)

    Game on.

  31. I don’t think i could have added anything to the conversation about the physical baggage, sooo, without sounding too pretensious….

    Can i suggest cutting down on mental baggage is just as important as the physical stuff.

    I don’t mean ‘leave your preconceptions behind’ or anything new agey like that.

    I mean…

    1) No Worries

    The only things i travel with that i have to worry about are my passport, and a credit card. You could have everything else stolen (including the clothes off your back) and you’d still be more or less fine.

    2) Better to have the memories of a real experience than the photos of a fake one.

    If you spend your entire time behind a camera (as i’ve seen others do) then you’ll miss out on the important stuff. Besides, no one wants to see your 10000 photo travel montage – keep it down to 5 or 10 photos that really mean something to you, and let your memories fill in the blanks.

    Extra tip: no seperate camera – use your phones one, let others take the photos.

    3) No pressure.

    – Get an open return ticket – travel where you want, when you want – save the appointments until you get back to work. (see: Round the world tickets, EuroRail ticket, local last minute budget airlines)

    – Travelling with others, let them know ahead of time that you will enevitably fall out – when you feel this happening, be honest, talk it out.

    – If travelling with others for a long time, every now and again split up and do your own thing, this will take the pressure off and reduce animosity.


  32. QOD response:

    I’ve learned to travel light and simple by following and living by these quotes. Let me try to explain my interpretations.

    #1 “survival is about balancing risk with benefit”

    -To get around, know your limits, don’t overcompensate, under compensate, be prepared, but not too prepared where you lose the opportunity for spontaneity for adventure and life experience.

    #2 “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end”

    -Live simply and give back to where ever you go. You’ll require less and less each time you give because you’ve become so full by your experiences. hey the quote explains itself =p

    #3 Don’t forget your toothbrush. Seriously. Bad Breath can speak a lot of languages =D

  33. If not staying in hotels and have to provide your own towel, bring a travel towel (chamois). I first encountered these when learning to platform dive, you tend to dry your self each time you exit the pool to stay warm.

    They’re tiny compared to a normal towel and you can ring them dry enough to dry you in seconds. If you’ve ever read hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy you’ll this is the most important item a traveller can have!

    @Tim if you’ve never tried platform diving I’d imagine you’d enjoy it (I’ve just read your blog entry on learning to swim!).

    (sorry if this is a double post I don’t have time to read them all this morning!)

  34. I disagree with idea number 7 because sending stuff around the globe with postal services is extremely expensive. I tried to send a bag with clothes from the USA to Europe and they had to charge me >150 dollars for that….

  35. QOD

    1. Travel with thin undergarment singlets (tank tops). These are super light, cheap, dry quickly and take up almost no room in your luggage. You can buy them from almost any supermarket. Perfect for hot climates. Nice to sleep in. Just the easiest piece of clothing for your top half.

    2. Buy swimmers with good pockets. These are not as fashionable as traditional board shorts but the pockets will do you well. Being swimmers, they are easy to wash and are quick dry. The pockets will have zippers or Velcro to deter pick pockets. They will replace traditional shorts and swimmers all in one.

    3. Waterproof camera such as the Olympus uTough. I found this to be an amazing tool on my travels. Even more so if you are a solo traveller. One of the issues I used to have was that if you were going swimming on a beach or pool, you dont want to leave your valuables on the beach. Every currency I have come across in the world is water proof. So just pack your camera, cash and hostel key into your swimmer pockets and your good to go. Swim with all this stuff in your pocket, and never miss a photo opportunity. They are super study and obviously water proof. They can be used as a scanner. Can take under water photos and video.

    4. Go bare foot. Obviously this is a no go in airports and in cold climates, but if you are in beach country, dont even bother buying flip flops. Go caveman styles.

    5. Dont wear clothing with logos or brands. The plainer the better. This will not be so obvious if you are on a long trip and you have heaps of photos wearing the same thing. Also, if you are staying somewhere for a longer period of time, it wont be so obvious that you are wearing the same clothes over and over.

    6. On that note, choose dark colours. You will be able to wear them longer without wash, and permanent stains (which will definitely happen) wont be so obvious.

    7. Smart phone tips:

    1. Use the screenshot option on the iPhone (power + home buttons) to take screenshots of google maps so you can find your hostel off line.

    2. Create a folder just for tickets. Cache this folder (pre load it) before you leave the internet zone. This will have flights, hotels etc in the folder. It will mean they wont get pushed out after 50 emails come through. These can be very helpful to show taxi drivers or follow directions form the airport.

    3. There is an app called White noise. This is basically an app that plays sounds such as rain falling. Combine this with a set of noise cancellation ear buds and it kicks the crap out of traditional ear plugs. No more 5am disturbances in hostels.

    4. Always pick the bed next to a power point if possible.

    5. Turn off WIFI and 3G when not using. Saves loads of battery.

    7. If you are carrying a net book, choose one with a long battery life. This can serve as a portable recharge for your smart phone when power plugs are limited.

    8. Try and have all your devices charge off USB. This will save significant space and weight on chargers and cables.

    Hope these tips help all the light-weight travellers out there!

  36. Quick edit on the above:

    Point 7.2. I am talking about folders in your email account. Eg Gmail or Yahoo.

    Another quick note, dont spend months and months preparing. Dont buy stuff before hand. Dont try and go over every possibility in your head and with everyone on the internet. That, in my opinion, defeated the purpose.

    Enjoy your life at home. Then enjoy your travels abroad. Dont waste your time at home reading every little detail of the destination you are headed too.

    Just follow Ralphs quote: “Pack twice the money and half the gear.”

    chances are stuff will be cheaper there, or you wont even need it in the first place. An example of this is I bought a sleeping bag when before I left. 9 months later and I have used it a few times, but I definitely didnt need it. And I could have easily bought a $10 blanket and thrown it 3 times over instead of spending $150 on a sleeping bag…

    Go to your destination with the bare minimum. Then build if you need too. I would even go as far as saying dont buy a guide book or even plan where to go. Just rock up and start talking to people. You will figure out what to do on the road. This is how you build your own resourcefulness!

    Experience, don’t plan.

  37. I mostly travel in Japan and I used to lug all kinds of crap around. Now I carry a very light college style backpack (Jansport). I only carry one extra shirt, pair of underwear, and socks. Those plus camera and cell phone. Everything else I do without or buy when needed.

    On my way home I always send my stuff with Kuroneko (UPS like shipping company). That way it`s a relaxing trip home with no baggage what-so-ever.

    PS. Cargo Pants FTW (for the win)!!

  38. I am on a business trip right now, living out of a backpack… these are my favorite articles and I love everyone’s suggestions. I plan to rethink my packing system again from these new ideas. My suggestion is to write out a packing list. By the time I was done writing it, I crossed off 1/3 of my list.

  39. I can’t wait to follow Rolf’s adventure 🙂


    I also travel using my jacket as my main luggage. One hack that has been essential for me to *move house* without paying surcharges on weight, and to do so on no frills airlines has been to tear a whole in my jacket pocket and use the inside as storage, thus taking advantage of the airline’s luggage loophole in a more extreme way compared to what Rolf is doing. The jacket I do it with is double layered and I have squeezed up to 20kg into it. I also put a large strong shopping bag into the pocket, so once I pass through security (and they never care about how much stuff is in it) I put the jacket itself into the bag so there is no discomfort in the airport and when flying.

    I showed how I moved house recently this way in this video.

    One other tip I mentioned in the video is what always gets people’s attention in the video as the coolest trick: I travel with a large bulky towel (I don’t like the micro fiber one), but when I have a small bag there is usually no room for it, so I wear it like a superhero cape and put my jacket over that. Nobody at the airport notices that I am ready to save the day at a moment’s notice. This could also work with clothes (tucking something into your collar and having it hang over your back).

    I’m not quite a minimalist, but I do have my travel hacking ideas 😉

  40. In response to the QOD: I think a sarong is the most compact, multi-purpose item I take whenever I travel. I use it as a towel, as a sheet, as a skirt/dress, picnic ground cover, head-covering for the blazing sun, curtain, basket for picking veggies and many more spontaneous uses. It’s thin and dries quickly and rolls up very small. I’d pack one of those in my cargo pockets, Rolf! A sarong has saved the day many times for me.

    I definitely have digital copies of all important documents including passport and all travel docs. And I digitally store all contact information of people I meet instead of collecting scraps of paper and cards along the way.

  41. Nice post

    just back from vacation around Europe and bought one small bag

    What I would suggest and would like to offer to Rolf is a SIM card from my company maxroam that covers him everywhere in the world for voices and data.

    you have my email guys, drop me a mail and I can express it to his next destination

  42. What allows me to travel the lightest is learning a language to a functional competency (conversational) before I go. Having that dialed, it helps me tackle more than half the problems I might encounter along the way. I learn by using the Pimsleur language series, and cram more lessons along the way (mp3’s on my iPod). I skip learning reading and writing, but for Latin-based languages, I usually figure it out as I’m there.

    A smartphone with an e-dictionary is a bonus. The iPhone is useful because you can write Asian kanji on some applications and have it translated.

    Stuff-wise, I like taking a few ziploc freezer bags (with the little zipper tab) because they’re so re-usable. They lock in odor (not freshness) for laundry, are waterproof for wet clothes, can hold water (camping), hold food, separate items, hold documents, and much more.

    Since my travel style varies from backcountry trekking to dancing a storm in the city nightlife, I go with Salomon GTX trail running shoes that’s waterproof and grippy for the outdoors, but look slick enough (if cleaned) to get me into clubs. If I go Latin dancing, I put duct tape on the soles of my shoes to kill the friction allowing me to do more turns.

    Besides language and ziplocs, having lots of time is the greatest asset. Traveling ultra-light is necessary if I’m whilrlwind traveling or trekking, but if I base myself somewhere, then I only have to travel super-light.

  43. 1. Question every single little thing you bring. Which follows into…

    2. Follow principles of minimalism. Only bring what is essential. Less is more.

    3. Don’t hold yourself back. Travel is a life to be breathed into.

    4. Can’t follow #3? Fear-set. Fear-set everything.

    I feel that in any venture in life, should really focus on the fundamental principles that govern that are. All else is career-work.

  44. QOD:

    I’m a total convert to Red Oxx luggage. It’s built to last and has a lifetime warranty! Our most recent addition is a triangular day pack. We just went through 19 days in Europe and I had it with us whenever we were out. It’s very comfortable to wear and a good size to carry a few extra things like a light weight jacket, camera, etc.

    Ditch the carry-on with wheels! You loose space in the luggage to the wheels. My main bag is a Red Oxx Air Boss and I can comfortably fit everything I need in it and it easily fits in an overhead.

    A carabiner hook is great to hang a water bottle to another bag or belt/belt loop. I’ve been using one of the newer metal bottles that has a large loop on the lid that the hook works well on.

    I do pack essential toiletries since I don’t want to spend my trip time finding stores to buy what I need on the other end. If I know I’m going to use it, I bring it. You can get shampoo in a bar soap and powdered toothpaste to reduce the issues with gels and liquids. I use a mineral salt crystal for deodorant and it travels well.

    I’m not sure how someone with no baggage is going to carry around a pocket knife or leatherman tool if plane travel is involved…

  45. I LOVE this journey that Rolf is going on and I am so looking forward to the updates along the way!

    My best tip is for the women – who are usually totally under-represented in the “tip” arena for light traveling IMO 🙂

    Having lived and traveled in a variety of foreign countries I have found that unless you are in Europe tampons can be VERY DIFFICULT to locate (sorry guys if this makes you uncomfortable)…Rather than packing a bunch of extras or trying to figure out just how many you will need I highly recommend the Diva Cup instead. (Bonus benefit: it’s a very “green” solution even when not traveling!)

  46. The iPhone is a terrible travel phone due to its incompatibility with most other computers that you will find on your travels. You cannot mount it as a drive, so it cannot be used as a data storage/transfer device. It is very difficult (if not impossible) load new media files (i.e. music or movies) without iTunes which is NOT found on most cafe/hotel/hostel computers. So basically, what you leave home with is it.

    You are better off with a smartphone that is not crippled by Apples proprietary software.

    On the plus side – it does do mapping and browsing very well!

    I love my iPhone at home, but I travel with my Nokia N810 – older but reliable and compatible plus a built-in keyboard.

  47. I like Rolf’s experiment, I may try a messenger bag traveling soon, I think I’ll take my laptop wherever I go because I run my business on it for now. I hope Rolf has the book on kindle, so I may finally get around to reading it on my laptop.

    I’m traveling light in Taiwan right now, 1 bag, and 1 small messenger bag. It’s about the experience, though it’s important to make it something you want, not just listen to others who tell you what they think it’s about. Meaning, do what you want, not what I or whoever says is best for you, unless you really trust our tips and want to use our experience as a guideline. I’m writing a post right now on everything I carry.

    My first tip, learn to purge.

    1. Pick a bag size which is not too big and allows you to blend in if you wear it around town. I picked a 28L bag which seems small though it has more than enough space for my items. Pack the bag to the max (unless you’re cool with less stuff already).

    A bag bigger than 32L is a pain to carry around town if you are walking around a lot.

    When you restrict yourself to a certain smaller sized bag (than you’d usually pick) magic happens. You start packing less because it just doesn’t fit. You’ve already started purging and prioritizing what was important to bring with you and what you could buy while you were there.

    2. With your full bag at your destination, start mercilessly cutting things (by this point you should be annoyed having to move stuff around and repacking your bag to get to that one item under all that stuff).

    Mail these things back home, or to family you can keep it with. You could always give them away or exchange them as Rolf mentions.

    At this point as well while you are cutting stuff out of your bag, you should notice there are just some things you rarely if ever, use. Do you really need that camera stand you may never use?

    If you’ll use it, keep it, though think about it deeply. I almost brought a portable standing desk with me on my travels because I like to work while standing (it’s better for the back) though I didn’t bring it luckily.

    For cutting clothes, following Rolf’s tips about always having a fresh pair ready is a great idea. 2-3 pairs of socks, undies, and shirts. The ExOfficio and wool clothes which avoids “stink” are great items to have 2-3 of (2 if you plan to wash everyday).

    3. Choice of clothes utility is important. If your clothes can convert or your shoes serve many purposes, you’ll need less stuff (wanting less is a whole new ball game).

    Convertible pants are great, they usually have cargo pockets and you can covert them to pants or shorts based on what is best for the moment. Darker the better, so you can blend in fine in whatever environment.

    I mentioned before the wool clothes which avoids stink, this clothes is expensive though it works great. Of course if you are vegan or non animal products type, use synthetic stuff. It may smell, though it dries fast for an easy wash. Neutral colors which go well with your pants.

    Underwear which avoids “stink” works well. Two pairs of ExOfficio and you can go a week with no wash (though you can wash them). I got 3 pairs as a disclaimer.

    Socks, get socks which avoid “stink”.

    Bring light weight biking/running shorts for when you wash your pants/work out/swim.

    Shoes, enough to wear to nicer places and good enough for hiking/ being active. I bring flipflops though you can buy these cheap wherever you go if you don’t want to lug them around.

    4. Handwash your stuff.

    It was mentioned in another comment, the aloksak bags are great for washing clothes in and compressing stuff.

    Handwashing also allows you to clean your stuff daily or every few days so you don’t need so much.

    5. Digitize your documents/use an all in one tool such as the new iTouch coming out next month (Where the do you get an unlocked iPhone for travel?)

    Scan all your needed documents to your computer/dropbox/internet cloud.

    Use the iTouch to have all your travel confirmation numbers, map out wherever you’re going when you have wifi, currency conversion and whatever else apps you want/need. The iTouch doubles as a phone with Wi-Fi via the skype application. The next iTouch coming out is rumored to have a camera on it, so you may be able to not need a video camera or camera if you just want pictures for memories.

    Use a mail scanner service/forwarder. This is a biggie, if you run a business, or want items shipped internationally, it’s easier getting a company who works for you to do it than your mom or siblings. These services can scan your stuff and you can access it via internet or have them shipped to them and have them ship it to you. If you crave almond butter, you’re definitely going to have a hard time finding it here in Taiwan.

    Digital books on your kindle app for iTouch or iBook make for light weight no book carrying traveling. Not all books are available yet so read all the books you want before your travels or just ship them back and forth.

    Now if you bring only a carry on bag, this will already reduce what you can bring in terms of toiletries on planes.

    A lot of stuff you’ll need can be purchased where you are going. Though you’ll have to bring some of it with you or buy it from the United States or your country and have it shipped internationally. A lot of businesses don’t ship internationally, though if you pick up a shipping service as I mention above, that company will ship it to wherever you pick.

    I read through all the tips previously just to see what folks mention (and to see which things I could apply to my current travels) and I understand I’ve repeated some of their stuff (even if I didn’t read it, I’d still write the same tips).

    The single best tip I have for light traveling. Pack enough for what you need (literally) and enough of what you want to be comfortable. It’s you traveling, not the folks who tell you what you should do. Take their tips if you know it would help you and you’d be comfortable with it.

  48. This is for tall people especially: pants (whether jeans or not) take up an incredible amount of space. Pack shorts if you can because they take up much less space in luggage. If you need pants or jeans for whatever reason, bring one pair and wear them while traveling. This allows you to use a smaller bag or have more space for other items.

  49. When I visited London for 10 days in chilly November, I took 2 silk t-shirts and 2 pairs of silk long underwear pants. I put on a clean set after my shower each night to wear as PJs, then the next morning wore them under my clothes and a light Gore-Tex jacket. To clean them while staying in a hostel for less than $20 per person per day, I wore that day’s silk underlayer into the phone-booth shower stall each night, lathered my underarms and other smelly bits with unscented bar soap, then stripped off the silk to rinse under the shower spray and hung them up to dry in our 3-person hostel room while we were out sightseeing all day. Silk also rolls up very small when packing.

  50. I traveled for 5 years full time. Here are a few things I picked up along the way.

    1. EARPLUGS – sleep, crying children, and the very real danger of hearing loss caused by airplanes

    2. People in the service industry give the best advice – naturally you’ll spend a lot of time talking to other travelers, but seek out bar tenders, cab drivers, bouncers, cashiers, etc. They’ve heard thousands of stories and have a better feel for what’s going on outside the tourist traps. Also, being friendly can mean the difference between making the next flight, getting the rental car you wanted, or learning something cool.

    3. Polyester wrinkle free dress pants are not that different than dorky travel pants. They dry fast and they’re comfortable, but look a lot better. Get dark colors with some sort of pattern so it won’t show stains. I had some Perry Ellis pants that could take a beating. The same goes for synthetic dress shirts, often hand washable but don’t scream backpacker.

    3. Mesh ditty bags and a couple tiny carabiners – I’ve got a few made by Outdoor research in different sizes. You can store wet or dirty clothes on the outside of your pack and they won’t make everything else funky. You can kind of dry your swim trunks this way.

    4. Mint soap – Dr. Brommers is pretty awesome. In a pinch, minty soap can be used as shampoo, toothpaste, and detergent. The tingly stuff makes you feel cleaner than you are. Sometimes washing your face in an airport sink can be the difference between losing your mind and being ok. If you leave it on for a couple minutes you get a bengay type effect on sore muscles.

    5. iPhone/iPod charger that uses AA batteries. The elusive outlet can never be found when you need it most. Batteries are available everywhere.

    6. Most hotels and anything bought with an American Express come with an unconditional satisfaction guarantee. Often hotels change prices for special events. They will tell their central booking there’s no vacancy when they have several rooms available for walk-ins. This is used to get around the corporate policies, guaranteed rooms for platinum/diamond members, or to prevent you from booking with your hotel points instead of cash. When these things happen, remember, if they do this, you aren’t going to be satisfied and you can just call corporate the next day and your stay is free. Also if you even have problems call the number on your points cards rather than the publicly available number. Wait times are much different.

    7. When a flight is canceled call the travel agent or airline direct while you wait in line. It allows you to beat the people in front of you to the limited seats on the next flight.

    8. Stereo cable for plugging your ipod into other stereos, rental cars, etc.

    9. Books on tape on your ipod – learn something in your down time

    10. Be willing to let go, be unprepared, and improvise.

  51. when it comes to business travel it seems the red oxx air boss is the way to go, but what about their sky train bag for leisure travel? should I choose this one over the Eagle Creek Travel Gear Thrive 65L Bag? I guess the build quality of the sky train is better, but the eagle creek seems more modular with its day bag.

    also where can I get some decent looking socks that dry quick like the exofficio boxers? the ones from exofficio look to much like hiking.

  52. Your iPhone can double as your camera…to take even less. With MobileMe service from Apple and the iDisk you can easily upload and download files you need with any web browser. It also syncs with your iPhone Mail/Contacts/Calenard, etc. so you could just use a computer in an internet cafe anywhere…full keyboard.

  53. The best light-travel approach I have learned is to have a love for simplicity, which requires one to have a lack of clutter.

    When I was just twelve, I had the opportunity to stay with a family in Sanlucar de Barremeda in the south of Spain. My Spanish was already great, and I went there for an experience from which I could learn their culture and language, so I brought no guidebooks, no dictionary, and no itinerary.

    I learned there that bringing as little as possible, meaning I brought no smartphone or iPod or books, allowed the freedom, the almost mythical “escape” or “getaway” one sees in travel adverts.

    It was the best trip of my life! I didn’t have hotel comforts, like a television or pool, so I made time to talk with the family and any of their visitors, and swim in both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic (Sanlucar is one of very few places in the world where one can easily swim between them). I learned more Spanish in two weeks than in four years of school.

    I recommend leaving everything at home. I would go so far as to say that I would rather bring a friend or even an acquantance than to bring my iPhone.

    I hope to see more people learning to travel for this type of experience. I hope that soon people will “travel through Europe” instead of “backpack through Europe.” Happy Travels!

  54. When I had my quarterlifecrisis, I quit my job, hopped a flight to Seattle and hiked the Pacific Crest Trail for two months straight. I did this in the worst, Coleman lantern way possible. I had a 50 pound pack on my back that included: a tent, extra pair of shoes, pots and pans, knife and tools, coal (yes, coal), map and compass, and far too many clothes. At the end of the trip, I learned through a sore back and bloody feet that I had it ALL WRONG.

    Now, 12 years later, I am a corporate management consultant and am on the road an average of 29 days a month. Up In the Air has nothing on me. The most important tip I’ve learned is to drop necessary items. I do not carry a laptop with me. At every turn of the road, there is a computer available. The only gear that I actually carry on me are my blackberry, a 1 gigabyte SanDisk memory card, and a digital camera. The memory card works in the camera but also cracks in half and has a built in USB adaptor to plug into any computer. I store a majority of my important documents here and the rest are stored digitally online. I wear a light black jacket that has 7 interior pockets and 4 exterior pockets. When I am suited up, I can carry everything just in those pockets for my day trips (including a water bottle). I do have a carry-on that I use on these business trips that keeps my suits and a few personal items (toothbrush, etc). Whenever I’m not wearing my jacket, I still keep all of the pockets filled with my various road needs, and so it still helps me stay organized and compact.

    Even though the rule of the road is to “Reduce Reduce Reduce,” anything additional that you choose pack may just be your lifesaver. The “useless” coal briquettes that I packed with me on my wilderness adventure made it possible to start a fire underneath a downed tree during a rainstorm. Let them laugh, I say.

    Happy travels everyone!

  55. QOD:

    The Undisputed King of Ultralight is Andrew Skurka. This guy is in the middle of a 4,720 mile hike/ski/raft around the borders of Alaska! He carries extremely minimal gear and has inspired me to do the same. Check him out here: and here: if you haven’t heard about him yet, I promise my advice to look him up will be worth the prize!

    I recently went on an 45 mile, overnight ultralight/fast backpack trip. We carried no water or food as both were available in the Utah wilderness we were traveling in. Less is more! (more fun, more energy, more adventure etc.)


  56. The ExOfficio underlayer is key. With two pair of undershorts and undershirts (one worn, one packed) you’re good for your trip. They repel odors, wash out quickly, and dry overnight. Wear a quick-drying shirt and pants, pack another one of each. For socks, I love black Thorlos – they wick away moisture, don’t absorb odors, dry quickly, and most importantly provide great cushioning.

    I still like sleeping in cotton – that’s my weakness, I guess – but with my cheap, carryon-friendly ebags convertible backpack, I have plenty of room for that single indulgence.

  57. QOD: 2 items:

    a bandana–so many uses and ways to configure–you can’t go wrong

    and a journal for keeping a leaf, a note of inspiration. I too am about the experience and capture it as it comes to mind–so I love rite in the rain journals. No matter what is happening in the elements –

    I find that the less you have the more your mind can be creative!

    Have a blast and be safe.

  58. If I know exactly where I am going to be, I send stuff ahead. This works especially well when traveling to several areas in succession with quite different climates. Hotels will hold items for registered guests if you have prepped them appropriately. When you are ready to move on, just box up that set of gear / apparel and send it home, along with goodies for those at home who will store your stuff.

    I save product samples that come in magazines and catalogs. An open pouch stored in a snack-size zip-lock can be used for days, and then tossed. The range of products is vast enought to cover any conceivable personal care need, perhaps with the exception of deodorant. If you can’t scavenge these, you can buy samples on some dedicated websites.

    I keep a very small spray bottle of alcohol-based body spray when I travel in the company of others: Deoderize the bathroom between users (very appreciated), spray shoes and gel sole liners, spray underarms of those fast-dry tech-fabric items that seem to hold B.O. forever, spray toilet seats in questionable locales, spray the hotel phone. This is obviously a female strategy, but guys on the receiving end will appreciate it. And a very little goes a long way.

    Never travel without good humor. It makes going without all the things you wish you had brought much easier.

    Have fun! Be safe!

  59. Great ideas!!!! Thanks for sharing!

    I pack pretty light for a woman. Here are a few of my tips.

    One pair of shoes – comfortable & multi-purpose

    I roll my clothes – they do not get wrinkled and it makes more room.

    multi- purpose makeup – bare escentuals mineral make up weighs just about nothing.

  60. Almost forgot.

    11. The black backpack or suitcase get’s lost. The neon pink bag get’s brought to you by girls who think it’s funny and remember you. You can spot it from across the airport and no one picks it up by mistake.

  61. Great post, and great comments. As I can find myself spending days – and sometimes weeks in the Canadian backcountry, I have a system that has saved my back on many trips.

    When I first woke up to the minimalistic thought process I was 35 km in with a pack that was uncomfortably heavy. My days of wanting to be the group mule had ended. That night at the hut I tore my pack apart and spread my things out so I could see them all (that is not the suggestion BTW…). From that day forward I kept a small list of the things I used each day. The next trip, I only brought the things I used. All the contingency items got left behind. What used to be a daily tally is now done at the end of a trip. Anything I didn’t use? If yes, it gets pulled off the list for the next trip.

    Also, in light of the iPhone comments, I agree with Strathy that it is horribly restricted. I’d recommend an Android phone (you can get pretty much all the same apps – if not yet, then by the time I am done typing this comment) as you can connect to any type of computer that you may find.

    On the battery life front I’d forgo any other type of charger system for a USB solar charger. As the backcountry is one of the places you can’t buy batteries, the Brunton solar USB charger has become an indispensable part of my kit. It can easily be strapped to the outside of my pack and can allow me to use my phone to track my adventures by GPS as well as keep a full charge so I can turn on some white noise when one of my trekking buddies decides to saw logs all night. Plus, it saves the environment – one battery at a time ;)…

    This is my fave as you can get it in a 6, or 12 watt panel. The 12 watt can power 2 phones so you can get your buddy to carry both in trade for giving him/her the gift of power!

    Thanks for all the tips…I have to go revise my gear list now!

    Eric Petersen

  62. Tim –

    I was recently in this experience of having to travel light and be VERY, VERY creative! I just recently retired from the corporate grind and now spend my days traveling and pursuing other dreams (Yup, at 38 years old, thanks to you!!).

    Anyways, I just got back from a trip to Europe – 4 countries in 30 days. I was so busy in the time leading up to the trip that packing was certainly an afterthought. I literally packed my stuff (in one very small suitcase) one hour before I was supposed to head to the airport – and subsequently did not do a very good job at it. As a result, here are the lessons that life decided to teach me:

    1. Take 2 minutes and do some research on the weather – I don’t know what I was thinking when I packed thick jeans and long sleeve shirts for Seville, Spain. Not only did I never wear these items, they were bulky and took up too much room in the suitcase. Take a moment to research the weather so you know what to pack – unless spontaneously combusting in the town square is your thing!

    2. Recycle – Clothes are inexpensive. Real Estate (in your luggage) is not! I quickly gave those bulky items mentioned in Suggestion #1 to some homeless woman. By the end of the trip, certain clothes/items I bought along the way – i.e. a 5 euro beach towel for laying on the beach in Monterosso, Italy were also given away.

    3. Make a mind shift. Get over it! – I really was bummed at first that I did not do a good job packing. Until I saw my 4’10” friend lugging 4 bags through every airport, train station bus terminal, etc! Yes, I did not have nearly the cutesy clothes to wear for every occasion like she did. However, I quickly realized that when you are marveling at the beautiful statures in Florence Italy, you quickly forget that you don’t have the prettiest dress on. Heck, even the statue of David there isn’t wearing clothes!

    4. Have a “hub”, if possible. Florence became my hub. The place I was staying there allowed me to store our luggage while I left for several days or a week to explore other countries. This way, I could easily travel with just a small backpack, but still have access to other items, if needed.

    5. Keep things in perspective – This goes along with Suggestion #3. I can’t tell you which shoes I wore in Monte Carlo, Monaco. However, I can describe to you in great detail the fabulous sandwich I ate there or how I felt walking through the Hotel du Paris and Monte Carlo Casino.

    6. Everything has to do double duty. I washed clothes in the sink every night with my shampoo. I also used it to not only clean my hair, but lather it up as shaving cream, too. One of my dresses was one of those stretchy tube dresses, so sometimes I would just pull it down to my waist and Voila! – it’s a skirt!

    7. Leave it Behind! – And for those of us who want to make sure we still have room in our luggage to bring back items, pack clothes you plan to throw away or toiletries that are half bottles. You use them up and throw them away on your trip and now you have more space in your suitcase.


  63. Use inexpensive disposables whenever possible to minimize weight and conserve space. For example, you can purchase online disposable cotton underwear, individually wrapped in plastic, air expelled. These weigh very little, take up almost no space, yet do the job exceedingly well. Best of all, you don’t have to bring the dirty garments back home on the return trip and face the drudgery of laundering. These are available for both men and women at

  64. Lol, more stuff. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Full of the most obsessive ultralighters around. The staff and readers take an very scientific approach to backpacking, from measuring carbon monoxide in stoves to testing heat retention in down jackets. We’re talking people who cut off zippers to save weight. Large reader base with many people experimenting, making their own gear, etc. Ryan Jordan, co-founder, and a couple partners traveled 600 miles in the heart of Alaska with 20 lbs of gear plus food with no resupply. His blog is really good too. More on philosophy and decluttering

  65. Lol, more stuff. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Full of the most obsessive ultralighters around. The staff and readers take an very scientific approach to backpacking, from measuring carbon monoxide in stoves to testing heat retention in down jackets. We’re talking people who cut off zippers to save weight. Large reader base with many people experimenting, making their own gear, etc. Ryan Jordan, co-founder, and a couple partners traveled 600 miles in the heart of Alaska with 20 lbs of gear plus food with no resupply. His blog is really good too. More on philosophy and decluttering

  66. I always find that shoes are the hardest part of packing light. This is much less of a problem now that flats are in style! I can wear my all-purpose comfy walking shoes on the plane and pack one pair of cute, somewhat fancier flats for going out. The other trick I use is the choose a color scheme. For me this is usually greys and blacks and a few colors that match. That way my shoes and bag will always match and I can mix and match anything I bring to create different outfits with half the clothes.

  67. I always carry a copy of my passport’s picture page and leave a copy with a friend/family back home when I travel to other countries. If you ever lose your passport, it is much faster/easier to get a replacement if you have a photocopy of the picture page.

    Nowadays, you can forgo the paper copies by keeping digital copies on your smartphone/flashdrive/computer. This advice applies to any other important travel documents you may need. Of course, be sure to safeguard this information as well as the originals.



  68. Why carry a cellphone in the first place? Travelers over thousands of years never had cellphones and they found remarkable places and diaried their journeys.

    Wanna be minimalist? Leave it behind and panhandle for coins, or bring a phone card.

  69. QOD Response: Ladies, if you’re like me, you might like to travel with something a little more…girly – I love having a skirt or dress because I love to dance wherever I go! I’ve found the best way to travel light (before I purchase one of those ScotteVest Tropical Jackets – amazing – or make one myself), is to wear a dress (wool is best) and smartwool black leggings with a thick-strap tank top (for comfort) underneath and probably the ScotteVest or something similar (I’ve always used a bag + very packable raincoat/trench with hood by Nau, so this will be a first). This allows you to keep warm on the plane/train/bus, be dressy if you need to be, and have clothes that are easily washable and dry quickly. I wear hiking boots sized like trainers (I prefer Merrell) and gaiters from EMS (any will do – I making sure they are waterproof). They help with warmth, bug protection, and actually look quite stylish. Plus, they pack to fit in a pocket inside my new vest. Otherwise, I definitely agree with the water-bottle suggestion (use a carabiner or shoulder strap to be totally hands-free), sunglasses, and smartphone. Isn’t technology useful!

    Also, Tim, I was at a trade fair this week volunteering for a friend who just opened her own business because of 4HWW and as I was chatting to the guy in the booth next to me he mentioned Pareto’s Law. I said “4-Hour Work Week?” And his eyes lit-up and he said “That’s why I started this company last year!” Instant friendship. I have one year of college left (career change from Primatology to Fashion Design) and I plan to be at that same NYC trade show next year…I wonder how many other people I’ll meet that you have personally inspired to GO FOR IT!

    Thank you – love this post – good luck Rolf! (PS: Great Chelsea boots!!!)



  70. Ex officio underwear is fabulous. When I travel, I wear a black cami and panties under my clothes–the black cami doubles as a nice top for going out at night, and the two together are a bathing suit. They dry quickly except in humid climates and wear very well.

    Rolf could add an extra touch of style by threading his bandana through a belt loop at his hip, and could add a webbing belt with a hidden zippered pouch for a little secret storage compartment for extra cash.

  71. Bring charcoal pills (found in vitamin aisles in stores) – invaluable way of dealing with diarrhea or stomach upset for anything you might eat on your travels overseas. Works better than any pepto anything.

    Pills to decontaminate your water, depending on where you go.

    Bandaids for cuts and pocket disinfectant like neosporin – band-aids are very hard to find in places like Greece, southern Italy, Croatia, India.

  72. Dr bronners soaps are perfect when you need to pack light in terms of toiletries and cleaning products. The soap can be used to wash clothes, for toothpaste, and even for shampoo.

  73. Tim,

    First, some housekeeping. I Thought you might want to know that one of the links came out weird on this post.

    Some recommedations:

    TripTracker by PageOnce

    Lonely Planet series of phrase books (multiple links depending on language)

    _blank”>Currency converter: “Currency”

    _blank”> Probably wasn’t how you wanted the 3rd link to look.

    Like any other WYSIWYG based web app, these things happen way too often. Ask me how I know, I’m herding cats with 30+ WordPress blogs and counting…

    If you just switch over to HTML mode, you should be able to drop in new code in 5 seconds.

    Old Messed-Up HTML Code:

    <a href="; target=

    _blank”>Currency converter: “Currency”

    New Aesthetically-Pleasing Code:

    Currency Converter

    Now that I’m done with my OCD coding.


    My advice is actually fairly opposite of Rolf’s. For standard travelling and first-world tours, I agree 100% with not carrying the whole house with you…

    However, most people don’t ever consider that they are 3 days away from total dehydration at any given point. Not to mention food.

    You can live for 2-3 weeks without food, but how effective will you actually be after a 7 day fast. I’m guessing you’ll be seeing ancestors you didn’t know you had or talking to trees by that point. Plus your travel mates will start to look like walking Pot Roasts…

    Mind you, Micro-Deodorants and changes of underwear are completely necessary. But when the sh*t hits the fan, you have to be able to leave the situation. And that typically means walking to where people aren’t.

    This scenario also includes unhappy failures in our convenient lifestyle system. Water mains break, power plants fail, FEMA isn’t very effective. You get the idea.

    That said, here are a few items I almost always carry with me:

    1. 6 Year Old Hand-Me-Down Timberland Backpack ($1) – Most of us would agree that a backpack is essential for anything above underwear-in-my-pockets travel. Besides, right now my whole business resides in here, including the laptop I’m typing this on…

    2. Katadyn Micro Bottle Water Filter ($36) – Filters bacteria, viruses, and ‘some’ of the horrible taste of unfiltered water. You can survive filtering swamp water 160 times if you have to…

    3. Katadyn MicroPur Purification Tablets ($8) – For your travel mates who haven’t prepared as well. A better “long term” solution if you will.

    4. 2 MRE’s – 2500 calories total. Downside: There is a reason they are called “Meals Rejected by Enemy”.

    5. GNC Stainless Steel Water Bottle ($11) – This is just useful for every day life. Stop drinking soda and I guarantee you’ll lose 5 pounds!

    6. Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Mummy Sleeping Pad ($64) – I couldn’t have imagined how comfortable this air mat really is. About 1 minute to blow it up and you’ll sleep like a 5-star hotel. This baby folds into a 8″x3″ cylindrical bag and weighs less than a pound! Plus I’m 6’3″ and my feet don’t hang over. Great for sleeping in airports.

    7. Pureland Track 300 Mummy Sleeping Bag ($43) – OK, so this isn’t for every trip. It’s around 1 pound, but fairly bulky (12″x12″ cylinder). But it’s great for cold weather climates or any time you expect to be outside over-night.

    8. Mechanix Gloves ($30) – There are two reasons for these. First is the obvious, you will need gloves at some point. You may also need to, um, hide your fingerprints somewhere. Hey, when you need it you need it.

    9. Signaling Device – Honestly, I’m still working on this one. A mirror works alright for this, but flare guns are ideal. The perfect combo would be a hunting weapon with some type of high-visibility incendiary round for when you need to signal a helicopter. Unfortunately they frown upon these types of devices at airport security…

    10. Iridium Satellite Phone ($35/week) – If the country you are in is experiencing the apocalypse, chances are the rest of the world is watching it on TV from a lazy boy. Start calling your cousins “back home” and tell ’em to come get you…

    11. Narcotic Pain Killers – Next time you go get dental surgery, throw some of the left-over drugs into your pack. When you need to push through a bad situation, the last thing you need is a sprained ankle slowing you down. Drug up and fix things properly when you get home.

    12. Wad of Cash – This works as well in Rap videos as it does in just about any country on earth. Most things not mentioned above can be purchased.

    I know it’s a bit survivalist, but let’s face the fact. Anyone can buy a t-shirt in Thailand and check into a hotel in South Africa. That just takes a wad of money.

    Understanding how to exit a sticky situation for several days without running out of food and water is way more important than how your underarms smell today.

    Awesome Post Rolf!

  74. I’d like to add a bit to my earlier post, lest anyone think that I’m only joking. Okay, it is rather funny when you whip out a maxi-pad to solve a dilemma, but it is also a great conversation starter, because certain folks recognize ingenuity. I can only imagine what a horrible night I would have spent on that 8 hour overnight bus ride, if I hadn’t been able to sleep. Compound that with a screaming baby and it may as well been a journey to the bowels of hell. The older Danish couple sitting behind the young parents were so relieved that the next morning they bought me coffee.

    And, I would have been in terrible shape without shoes in the desert.

    So, in all seriousness, it’s vitally important to be resourceful and creative. If you’re going to be an independent traveler, you need to be able to solve your own problems. It’s fantastic when you can help someone else, too! Despite my penchant for traveling light, it is great to be an asset in a group of people! (So I’m not really the borrow-toothpaste-kinda-girl, unless I could offer a trade for something.)

    So I also purchase a decent-sized knife after leaving the US, I carry a p38 can opener (which is so small it fits into my wallet), and I carry 3 bandanas on me. The bandanas can be used for countless applications and take up virtually no space. I’ve even used my 3 in place of a swimsuit, by tying 2 together to make a loin cloth on bottom and the other on top. (As long as your parts are covered outside the water, the officials don’t really care much.)

    So, again I stress, it’s about RESOURCEFULNESS, adaptability and a willingness to help those around you. And I smile an awful lot and keep myself open to possibilities. Go sit on a park bench and absorb the immediate world around you! Be a good human and you’ll be a great traveler!

    (in my earlier post I meant to type “aisle” instead of “isle”. There were no islands on the bus. It wasn’t that big o’ bus.)


    Apparently WordPress took my fixed HTML code and automatically converted it to a link. Here is the code, broken up into several lines so WP doesn’t convert it. Obviously, you will have to put the code into a single line to make it work..

    Currency converter


    Apparently WordPress took my fixed HTML code and automatically converted it to a link. (Even though it was broken up into 4 lines)

    Here is the code, broken up into several lines so WP doesn’t convert it. Obviously, you will have to put the code into a single line to make it work..

    Currency converter

  77. Don’t worry, Mr. Burngasser. Even though WordPress seems to convert all of your efforts, the code shows up in e-mail notifications.

  78. I give up…you win WordPress. I literally broke up the code and put ——– in between each line.

    It took out the ——- and put the code back together!?

    WordPress is like a terminator robot of automatic links. It really wants to avoid showing raw HTML code. Here is one more try. Take out all the GG’s (8 total) and you’ll have the clean HTML…

    CurreGGncy converter

    P.S. – Sorry about all the posts…

  79. While using a minimalist approach to traveling I always remember to never pack anything. Yes, I typed that right, I never pack anything. By never packing one single piece of luggage, I am able to buy the items that I need wherever my destination is. Then once I’m ready to leave, I throw them away. When I board the plane I have my Android smart phone, travel documents, and the clothes on my back. That is all that I need to travel to any destination in the world. My friends have told me that I am crazy for traveling all across the world without one piece of luggage. I usually laugh and tell them that I don’t want to pay the $50 luggage charge. While utilizing this strategy, I have realized that this is the only way to travel and my experiences have been so much greater now that I am not weighted down with useless baggage.

  80. The following ideas are unorthodox. Some are downright gross — I’ll confess that right now. But they work, and will lighten the load significantly.

    1. Floss instead of toothbrush/paste. Tooth decay starts with gingivitis, which starts with rotting food above your gumline. Floss cleans this up better than brushing, and travel floss comes in spools the size of a quarter. Don’t just clean between teeth: start above the gumline and sweep the floss across each tooth to remove gunk. Then smell your floss, and take perverse joy in the eye-watering stench of the slime you have just removed.

    2. Bad breath? Overlapping but separate problem. You could avoid it entirely by abstaining from meat, coffee and dessert — but that’s overly restrictive. Instead, swish hard liquor to kill bacteria (offers multiple benefits — I prefer tequila), and chew mint leaves or buy mints enroute. In a pinch you can gargle Dr. Bronner’s soap — painful, but leaves you minty fresh.

    3. Go commando every third day — your pants are the extra pair of underwear you don’t have to carry!

    4. Shave off stinky body hair. Yes, men too. Especially men. That malodorous miasma clings mostly to hair, not skin. Shave it off — armpits in particular — and you simply don’t smell. I wouldn’t wish this task on that hapless Moroccan barber, though. Instead, just ask the hotel desk for a free disposable razor (1st world), or buy one at a time (3rd world).

    5. Wash your quick-dry clothes while wearing them. I learned this from a US Special Forces dude while riding my bicycle across Iowa. Buy a universal soap like Dr. Bronner’s. Step into the shower fully clothed. Get wet, soap up, peel off soapy clothes, soap your body, rinse the whole kaboodle, and hang your clothes. Done. Mind-bogglingly fast and easy. Makes it easy to find and focus on washing the stinkiest parts of your clothes: they are adjacent to the stinkiest parts of you.

    6. Go swimming at every opportunity. Whether it’s a public pool, hot spring, lake or ocean, you will discharge more body odor by soaking for 20 minutes than by scrubbing for 5. Particularly important for women: rinses the stinky parts you can’t reach, I’ll just leave it at that.

    Hope this didn’t ruin too many Saturday breakfasts, folks. Happy traveling.

  81. We’ve been using contact cases to carry extra little items for side trips.

    For example, if you need some sort of cream, toothpaste, saline solution, sunscreen, dental floss, etc, etc…You just put a small travel amount in a contact case and label the lid. Contact cases are lightweight, cheap (usually free), easily disposed of, and don’t allow you to carry too much. They obviously fit in your pocket, under your hat, or in your purse.

    Thanks again for the article, and great ideas!


    Travis and Robin

  82. My favorie trick: a towel. Totally and shamelessly “leveraged” from the late Douglas Adams, I might add.

    Besides being a “massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have,” (Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy for those who didn’t get it), it’s also a massively useful thing a world traveler – or even a local traveler – can have.

    Sure, it’s not as sexy as a nice pair of sandals nor can it scan your receipts like your iPhone can. But a decent-sized towel can serve as a poor-man’s daypack, can dry your stuff when it’s wet and can give you some level of shade and protect you from getting burnt when you’re out and about. You can roll it up really small so it’s incredibly portable and it’s not likely to set off a lot of security freak outs when people run across it. It can also lay over stuff to hide it, and a good towel will dry quickly.

    And technically, if push comes to shove, you could always wear it (think about those toga parties you attended back in college…). In theory I suppose you could also pour nutrients on your towel and use it for nutrition by sucking on it, too…but I don’t think I’m going there.

  83. Hi – great idea however if travelling to Europe expect a conversation perhaps with nice customs men – if casually dressed with no baggage – you will have that conversation.

    Footwear – any tactical boot designed for warm climate – look smart enough under jeans for entry to clubs , or formal dining – also they are so comfortable you can sleep in them !

    Good luck with the trip

  84. Take old stuff and throw it away as you wear it!

    On a recent week long trip to New York, I wore one pair of jeans, took 3 pairs of socks ( I wore vibram 5 fingers the whole time without sock and only ended up using 2 pairs! ), 2 pairs of lowe alpine dryflo quick drying underwear, I washed each pair everytime I wore them in the sink at the hotel.

    Finally 7 t-shirts, both my socks and t-shirts had seen better days, each day after taking them off I would put them in the fabric recycling can outside our hotel.

    My bag was so light when I came back I had room for two ipads!

  85. I read Vagabonding and really enjoyed it. Gave me some great tips about enjoying the journey I took shortly thereafter for a few months.

    RE: Point Number 7 about mailing your things forward — wouldn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of vagabonding — or travelling without obsessive itineraries? The postal systems in some countries are painfully slow — how does one overcome that? You’d have to know a month ahead where you wanted to head to, which seems sort of contrary to the idea of vagabonding, and of travelling without baggage (literal and metaphorical).

    But a really fun read, nevertheless. I don’t think I could do it, but I’m definitely going to try a smaller backpack than the 14kg whopper I carry around (even though it does fit into overhead bins).

  86. Many travelers still make the mistake bringing too much stuff onto the road to feel well prepared and less scared.

    The truth is, this not what travelling is about. It’s about leaving behind what is known to discover new. This includes equipment, people and thoughts.

  87. Great post guys!!

    As a women, Here are a few tips that I have learned along the way for optimum light travel…I usually first pack everything I think I will need and then take at least half of it out!

    I roll up all my clothing items in the suitcase which provides me more space for sure and try and pack items that are multi-use, the ‘infinity dress’ that can be worn a million different ways and so light weight and great option, cargo pants that can be rolled up as shorts or down as pants and I bring two-sided tape for any wardrobe malfunctions;) I also love taking 1-2 pashminas with me as they are lightweight and can double as a curtain for privacy,a bed sheet, or a beach blanket! I also love cotton mesh bags from supermarkets because they are great for washing lingerie….

    In terms of toiletries, dry shampoo is great when you dont have time to shampoo, multi-moisture balms with spf for face/body/lips are also amazing, or egyptian majic cream which is an amazing healing balm and excellent for things like insect bites, rashes and cold sores! just only think it comes in a 4oz tub:( I also take lots of hand sanitizing/baby wipes with me that are awesome for removing stains/makeup/ and cleaning surfaces.

    Another tip I learned in terms of cash, I never carry it all in one place, some in the front/back pockets/money belt or whatever, and the rest in my sutcase/carry on..oddly enough, sometimes my luggage is the safest place when you’re a women travelling alone!

  88. Great comments fellow travelers!

    I always bring an oversized, universal sink stopper. It’s basically a large, rubbery disk that will seal any sink. Voilà. Your sink can become a temporary laundry tub or a beer/wine chiller (if you add ice).

  89. Years ago I was working in Ohio when a group of people who worked nearby at a motorcycle shop won a gigantic powerball lottery. I was a consultant at Bank One in Columbus Ohio at the time and when we heard about it at work we had a great conversation at lunch about “what would you do if you won?”. There were about seen of us at the table and we slowly talked about it and others started to open up about what they really wanted in life. It was very interesting as people started to talk about what they would buy, what charities they would support, where they would live, and all the usual stuff you would expect.

    I sat there and really thought about what I might do and finally I was asked “Dan, what would you buy?” I answered “Nothing.” Nothing! What do you mean nothing!

    I said that amount of money conveys the ultimate freedom – you could go anywhere in the world, do anything you want and never have to “own” anything. I said if I felt like living in London for a while I could just jump on a plane, find a nice hotel I liked and buy *anything* I needed there. If decided it was time to live in Rome I wouldn’t even have to pack – just jump on a plane again with the clothes on my back and go to Rome. Again, buying whatever I needed there. I explained that having more money than you could possibly spend actually could mean freedom from the tyranny of having “stuff”, packing and transporting “stuff”, and *anything* could be rented – the best homes across the world, the fastest cars, whatever.

    When I finished speaking everyone looked at me like I was NUTS. They couldn’t imagine a lifestyle like that. They all wanted a big house, dream car, whatever.

    You guys who actually find ways to live like this *inspire* me! Not having stuff is by far the most liberating thing I can possibly imagine. You can wake up – decide to go skiing in Chile and simply walk out the door and catch a cab and go! I realize I am romaticizing this a bit and we would all want a small bit of stuff to carry around but we could all live much simpler *and* happier lives.

    I can never compete with all the travel tips here – but I guess my tip is bring the right mentality with you. Not packing a giant suitcase is a luxury few will ever experience or appreciate.

    – Dan Stroot

  90. I spent the last year living the south of France and like any other self-respecting, self-proclaimed world traveler, I traveled extensively throughout Europe. The biggest hurdle for a college student on a budget was circumventing the cheapo airline’s baggage fees. Pretty much anything bigger than a computer case had to be checked for more money than it was worth. So on one particular trip, this is what I did:

    Duration: 8 days

    When: February

    Route: Aix-en-Provence > Barcelona > London > Reykjavik > London > Barcelona > Aix-en-Provence.

    First thing to note is that it was winter, ie. COLD. The winter this past year in Europe was exceptionally brutal. It snowed multiple times along the French Riviera, and that just doesn’t happen. So, I wore all the bulky winter coats, pants, gloves, etc to save the space in my bags.

    I was living in Aix and visiting friends in each other the other cities, except Reykjavik. My route permitted me to employ a technique developed by NASA–the multi-stage rocket technique. I packed a backpack too large to carry on a plane from Aix to Barcelona and took the bus instead. When it was time to head to London, I left my big backpack with my friend but took what I needed out of it and packed it up into one of those little “string and sack” gym bags. This allowed me to take it on the plane with me at no extra cost. For Iceland, I basically wore everything I possibly could, because it literally was and land of ice. Pretty much all I had left to pack at that point was a few extra pairs of underwear, socks, my toiletries and one of those super light towels recommended in your book, Tim, which by the way may have been the best pre-Europe purchase I made. I was staying in a hostel in Reykjavik, so the towel was necessary because I didn’t want to pay for one there.

    My route allowed my to retrace my steps to collect the things I left behind, while also providing me with fresh clothes upon arrival. My camera lived in my pocket the whole time, as did my iPod. The more you layer your clothing, the less you have to pack. The outer layers shouldn’t really get dirty so you’re essentially bringing clean clothes with you on your body. Pretty neat.

    Dark blue jeans and a pair of dark Sperry’s are comfortable, casual and will get you into everywhere except the most posh of places.

    Just some of the things I figured out while abroad. KaPOW!

  91. This is great for men, but ladies might not want quite that utilitarian of a look. I’ve sewn several of the Saf-T-Pockets garments for myself and used them for traveling (or just local shopping!). It’s great not having to carry a purse. Ladies can make a skirt or pants with inside pockets and a vest or jacket to match, and be able to carry all this stuff, and still look stylish. For shoes, I recommend a comfortable but stylish pair of sandals, such as those that Bass makes. They’re dressy enough for a skirt, but comfortable enough to walk for miles in. I’ve done it.

    If you don’t sew, find these garments ready-made or have someone make them for you. They’re awesome!

    Finally, if you do this and travel with your family, make sure that the members of your family have similar garments for themselves. If not, you will end up being the pack mule for your family. “Look, (honey, mom, auntie, etc.), you have an empty pocket there. Will you carry my water bottle?”

    Can you tell I speak from experience. XD

  92. Wow, thanks for the post Tim and Rolf. And great comments everyone. Tough to add originality to that list, but I’ll try:

    My best suggestions are a lightweight gore tex jacket with a hood. Serves every purpose you can imagine and if you get one with good ventilation, it can even be worn on hot days.

    Ex Officio has been beaten to death in the comments. Their clothing and undergarments rock. Enough said.

    If one must carry soap, Dr. Bronners Peppermint is the way to go. A little goes a long way as soap, shampoo, and even toothpaste.

    The absolute best tip I can offer, however, is simply DO NOT WORRY. Mankind survived for millenniums with much less than even Rolf is taking on his trip. If you find yourself in need of something, be stoic. Use it as opportunity to remember Bob Marley’s lyrics . . . “Everything is gonna be alright.” Practice poverty, and you’ll see that it really isn’t all that bad to go without. The worst that will happen is that you’ll be cold, wet, and tired for a time. The best that will happen is that you mark something else off the list of things you thought were necessities in life, and you’ll be happy knowing that you survived a trial and approached your limits–eustress in action!

    Godspeed Rolf!

  93. I frequently travel with my dog and the Orvis ToughChew Mat and Crate Pad ( with Cordura (think camping dry bag stuff sack) liner alternatively stuffed with an extra dress shirt, t-shirts, slacks and underwear. On my person is usually a backpack with my laptop, reading material, journal and camera. When I don’t travel with my laptop I don’t need the backpack. I don’t bring any toiletry, i can buy them for 99cent at any convenience store in the US. I wear a pair of Vertex Operational Athlete Cargo’s ( because of the security pockets for my credentials. I recently started wearing a pair of Timberland Earthkeepers 6″ boots but have been eying the Wolverine 1000mile Montague (no laces). Oh, because I’m not Matthew McConaughey I don’t travel bear-chested and because the airlines frown on that; I usually where a 5.11 tactical t-shirt and generic hoodie. Minus the weight of Rambo my Jack Russell who fits under the seat or checked depending on the airline, or the passenger seat of the car, travel is relatively light.

  94. This one tips comes from recent travel with my sister in Brazil and Argentina.

    The most efficient travel item…. The Sarong

    This magnificent, light weight item, comes in a multitude fashionable designs and can be serve its master as any of the following.

    a dress

    a shoulder wrap

    a blanket

    a skirt



    a make shift bag

    head wrap

    a rope to climb out of windows

    a flag for a pirate ship

    bandido mask

    I hope Rolf has his Sarong for the journey.

    Good luck!

  95. I’ve found that the most important thing has been to pack at least a week in advance. For 3 days, your pack goes everywhere with you. While you work, while you go to the gym, while you go grocery shopping, etc. Furthermore, for those 3 days, you can only use the things in your pack. This does 2 things:

    1. Gets you mentally prepared for life on the road, where you may have to go for long stretches of time before being able to put down your pack.

    2. Lets you gauge your current lifestyle needs. In college I would travel with almost nothing, now I’m willing to carry something like a booklight, for instance.

    3. Sometimes you realize you’ve packed too much, and need to skim down. Sometimes you realize you’ve packed too little, and a little extra weight is worth the inevitable misery you’d face without certain ‘luxury’ items.

    Remember, its all about balance. You need to honestly assess the trade off between roughing it and comfortable living you’re willing to face for this particular trip. I always like to travel light, but a hiking trip with buddies is different than a romantic getaway with the girlfriend.

  96. Answer of the day: Comfortable and dry shoes. I know it’s pretty obvious to wear a pair of comfortable shoes with you everywhere but if you’re looking at walking places and really exploring, it will be worthwhile getting yourself shoes that will stay dry and odor-free jumping through the streets of Saigon in wet season or hiking up some cliffs in Canada. Gold Bond Medicated Powder will help with that as well to keep your feet happy. As for shoes, I’d recommend a pair by Patagonia in their Travel series – they meet high environmental standards and are built to last.

  97. great comments as always everyone. my two cents:

    – buy cheap clothes everywhere you go. you blend in immediately and the shopping jump starts your fun in the new country/city. I get a small wardrobe for each destination for the time I’m there. way cheaper than you think… if you discover a gem, mail it home to yourself when you move along. or give it back to the place you bought it (typically you’re buying in goodwill type places).

    – hit the ground running in a new spot by visiting 5-10 bars/restaurants and coffee shops, etc. for one drink. talk it up with folks and you’ll have a new city/country dialed in within hours. then the adventure begins…

    – all you really need is passport/money/contacts(for me)/phone/music/books. have your base setup be something that you can be stuck in an airport with anywhere for 24 hours and be comfortable. I always bring food/water with me at every takeoff from an airport or long trips where things are unknown. control your destiny and be ready to improvise.

    – be really relaxed and nice to all service staff worldwide and you’ll be amazed at what they will do for you. smile, make some small talk and notice what sucks about their job (commiserate) and doors will open like magic! Be the ray of sunshine in their day that is filled with plane loads of assholes of every imaginable ilk (I’m sure we could do a massive piece on what everyone on this blog has seen in their travel – I’ve got many).

    cheers everyone!

    – chris

  98. It would be easy for me to list what you really need, 1 shirt, 1 pair or shoes, 1 pair of shorts and so forth. But that’s not always practical, going to a wedding? Business trips? Ski vacation? It won’t cut it.

    What I do is layout on the bed 2 piles. 1 for necessities – A suit for a wedding, your goggles for skiing, your helmet for a motorcycle trip. You get the idea.

    The second pile is “nice to have” extra socks, face cream, etc. I generally lay this out and then try to cut it in half by asking myself – Do I really need this? Do I really need two of these? Can I buy this there? Can I borrow this?

    Follow those simple steps and regardless of your trip and you’ll be set. I used this on a recent 3 month trip to South East Asia and managed to bring a complete Professional camera setup (lighting, stands, tripods, lenses, laptop and what not) AND all my clothing in a 45L Salomon pack. I’d chuckle at the people with 80L packs + 40L day pack + a messenger bag trying to navigate their way around from place to place.



  99. My tip is to start the trip with one less shirt than you want/need. Then find a seamstress in a town you will be in for a few days, show them a picture of a shirt you want sewn and have them sew it for you. You can pick out your own material and color from the local fabric store. I’ve done this in Mexico and it worked out so well that a bunch of my friends tried it also and loved it! It ends up being a unique take home item that you will cherish for a long time and costs a fraction of the price you would pay in the USA. And it is custom fitted.