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 800 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.

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

  1. Loved the post and I’m loving the helpful tips. But I can’t believe Rolf left out what I consider THE most important “travel light” tip especially since it obeys every one of his guidelines and is a cheap insurance policy against “sitting out” days and days of a journey. It’s a tip I learned the hard way after my first extended trip to Asia a decade ago. After being what I thought was very sensible regarding what I ate/drank, I eventually caught something somewhere. At first I hoped the bug wouldn’t kill me but after three days of continual diarrhea, I hoped it WOULD. Sorry is this comes off as a nebbish or something but people need to know that their bodies will be encountering all kinds of “new and exciting” things too. So,..

    QOD: At least a week before your trip don’t forget to start taking probiotics capsules. Probiotics will help your system fortify its natural defenses against the bacteria found in the water supplies, fruits and vegetables of foreign countries. Best of all they “pack” extremely easily, since you’ll be carrying them in your digestive tract. They are widely available any place that sells quality vitamins. Look for ‘acidophilus’ on the label and good preps will contain various active strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium longum. NOT HAVING TO PACK water, toilet paper, energy bars, Ensure, etc. — the items I thought I’d need if I ever got sick again, finally cut the tether and gave me the confidence to carry only what I needed in a single bag.

  2. Just triied iSSH on my iPad and setup a remoter desktop connection to my macbook. now if you change the resolution to 1024×640 you have yourself a MacBook on your iPad, with XCode, Textmate and the other stuff you need for software development (albeit slower and with some usability limitations).

    In case of a slow connection, you can always fall back to SSH and vim.

    Now all I need is a place to leave my laptop with high upload speeds. I guess virtual intel mac in the cloud would be even better. oh… and travel plans.

  3. Paradoxically, if you think the item you have is essential for daily living, don’t bring it. If its essential you will be able to buy it at your destination almost guaranteed. I’ve traveled to many third world countries and I’ve been able to buy almost any necessity very easily. Examples include disposables, extra clothes, backpack, sunglasses, medicine, electronics, you name it. Just bring the things you couldn’t live with if you were stuck in an airport for two days: iphone for entertainment and communication, spare underwear, toothbrush, and maybe something warm.

  4. You definitely don’t need to carry around a roll of toilet paper with you. Pretty much anywhere that wont have TP available would be places using squat toilets. Just adapt to the local customs! They live with it, and there is no reason you couldn’t too with a little courage and maturity. If you’re worried about being sanitary, carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer around in your pocket.

  5. The easiest way to travel light in my opinion is to be realistic on what you really need, aware of what you can do once you are at your destination. E.g. for a week at the beach, there is no need to bring a new t-shirt for every day, you will only wear it in the evening and the morning only. The same is true for socks. Also, why bring sunscreen and shower gel along? You can buy it anywhere at about the same prize. When travelling for business for a longer time, save on shirts. Most of the hotels have a cleaning-service for a reasonable price or just drop it at a dry-cleaner on the way to the meeting and pick it up when you return. And leave the notebook at home, we’re in smartphone-times. If you need to take notes for meeting, do it in the end. This way you focus on the meeting and automatically only write down the important points. Even better, record it for Evernote.

  6. In the spirit of minimalism I will cut my suggestions down to two. I’ll skip those that overlap with all of the excellent ideas being shared.

    The first is an Ironkey USB drive: https://www.ironkey.com/

    You can often find computers at your destination, but frequently the security is questionable. The Ironkey allows you to use these with peace of mind. With the Ironkey you not only have unbreakable encryption if it is lost or stolen (with self-destructing hardware worthy of James Bond), but it allows you to use the onboard browser with their super secure network, along with password software, to just bypass whatever nastiness might be lurking on the host computer or wifi. Throw copies of all of your critical documents on the USB, and know that only you can retrieve them. It’s like having a full blown secure computer on your keychain. One that you can even go swimming with!

    The second tip is a bit of a hybrid between an item and a life style. Learning to walk and run well barefoot makes traveling the planet a minimalist heaven. You not only get much more receptivity to your terrain, but it is an education in moving well and efficiently, using your whole body as it was meant to work. Obviously the conversation around this is much larger than a comment on a post, but that is part of the beauty of minimalism, at its best it is provocative, not dictating.

    Just keep in mind that being able to walk well barefoot does not mean you have to actually GO barefoot all of the time. And in the next few years we will see a proliferation of minimalist shoes. For now, I can recommend the Feelmax Niesa http://www.feelmax.com/ which, as their name suggests, has incredible feel, and has the benefit of rolling up like a pair of socks. Or if you want something more, well, shoe-ish, and even business casual, the Vivo Barefoot Oak shoes are very versatile. http://www.terraplana.com/vivobarefoot.php Even though the soles are slightly thicker than some of their other models, they actually feel a bit more sensitive. The trick is to find what works for you. (I’m not a huge fan of the Vibram Five Fingers, although I do occasionally use them, but that is a conversation for another day.)

    We should just remember, in the spirit of minimalism, not to get caught up on the gear, but on reducing as much as possible the noise between us and the world. By minimizing that, we create the conditions for optimizing dynamic function. If one of the draws of traveling is learning what it means to live, then learning to move well can only help.

    And maybe I’ll leave even the soap-box at home too…

    Cheers everyone!

  7. I have to say that the smartphone has certainly changed the entire face of how we travel. Of all the technology in the world smartphones have to be the most travel friendly,

  8. Travel Tip

    Replace toothpaste with inexpensive glycerin free soap. It works out so much cheaper (one bar lasts months and months – taking a small cut of soap will suffice for weeks) and your teeth will be much cleaner and whiter. A quick Google on the effects of Glycerin and the prevention of reenamilization on teeth should reveal some good case studies but avoid overly expensive ‘tooth soap’ products.

    Once you climatise to the surprisingly palatable taste it’s hard to go back to normal toothpaste as it simply does not leave your teeth feeling so irresistibly ‘lickable clean’.

     

    It also has the bonus of being immune to exploding in your bag during travel!

  9. This is not only a travel tip, but a lifestyle design tip as well: Go Poo-less. There are many comments already on here about shampoo, and how to combine it with conditioner, shaving cream, etc. That’s all great, but I’m talking about eliminating shampoo completely. Yes, I’ve been poo-less for a couple months, no I don’t stink (I’m actually pretty anal about being clean), and my hair looks better than ever. Google around and you will find it is actually quite popular, or check this blog post out:

    http://simplemom.net/how-to-clean-your-hair-without-shampoo/

    Depending on how oily you are, you may need to occasionally use baking soda. I’m a lucky one and am fine with just water. This is a great help while traveling, as it is one less item I have to pack/buy/remember to grab while heading to the hostel shower. I do still use soap though. 😉

  10. Do not under-estimate the power of “social engineering”. Often times, the people around you can be your most valuable resource, especially when traveling light. The items, information or service you seek are very likely one conversation away from your grasp. Social competence is imperative. Knowledge of cultural mores, traditions and especially language (including accent and slang) are very helpful in social interactions. The most important word to learn in a foreign language is “help”. It is hardwired in the human brain (especially in males) to respond to the word “help”. No civilized human can resist reacting to the phrase “Excuse me, could you please help me with something?”.

    Use tact so as to not appear needy. Often times, a good deed can go a long way to win the trust and assistance of a local. Perhaps you have a certain skill set or resource that you can offer in exchange for something? Develop social networks wherever you find yourself. Be friendly and smile. There is nothing more rewarding than making friends in foreign countries, its part of the experience. Be keen on the universal language: body language. If you can read body language and non-verbal cues, you can navigate the social landscape with ease. Look for non-verbal indicators such as eye contact, open posture and a smile to identify a friendly individual. Use your social intelligence to maximize your resources. Be social savvy and the world is your oyster.

    Dan

  11. Ditch the rolling suitcase and pack everything in a carry-on size backpack. Thanks to the ADA most American airports are rolling friendly, however many international airports/subways/etc. are filled with stairs. Trust me, you do NOT want to be lugging a 50lb rolling suitcase up three flights of stairs in a Tokyo subway. Having no checked bags also gives you better flexibility for unexpected layovers, canceled flights, etc..

  12. QOD response:

    I try to pack even lighter than Rolf suggests: just bring a smartphone, charger, money, and good shoes. Your internal survival and generosity mechanisms will bring you to the right people, resources, and put you in touch with your own humility.

    Packing this light allows for an amazingly clear mind as well 🙂

  13. Wow…, This is a great subject for a Blog or a book

    Here’s my suggestions.

    1) A reversible belt with no metal parts. (brown and black) and no disrobing in airport security. I got my from Duluth trading Co.

    2) Carry a small zip-lock bag through airport security. When emptying your pocket, put coins, watch, keys, zip-drive etc. in bag. On the other side.., you just grab and go and not stand there putting everything back where they belong.

    3) Always ask for extra towels at the front desk when checking in. At the end of the day after doing “sink laundry” Gently, squeeze out the garment and roll the garment up in your extra towel. Un-roll and hang to dry. This always gets clothing dry on time and with less wrinkles as you did not have to “wring” the garment out so tightly.

    4) Before you leave.., compose a email to yourself listing credit card #’s and customer service #’s. Important phone #s, contacts, and any information that would “screw you” if you lost your wallet, itinerary, passport(s) etc. and do not send it to anyone. Place it in your drafts box in your email server. You can retrieve it with any internet connection. But it’s in a place no normal person would ever look.

    5) I know it’s been said before but a small roll of toilet paper is cheap insurance, and it only travels one way as you can use it before you leave, lightening you pack on the way home.

    Finally, thank you to all the other posters…, You’ve given me much to think about.

  14. I like to pack dental floss with me, not just for oral hygeine but it is a strong cord for many other uses (thread for sewing, repairing snapped laces).

    Also like to bring condoms with me agian not just for the obvious but many other uses to keep stuff dry and free from sand , storing water.

  15. Ok, so here’s my 2 cents worth (or 2,222,222,222 cents as you may see from the details 😉 ) :-

    I’ve travelled internationally and domestically in Europe & US over the past 20 years or so – mostly in economy (coach to our US friends), but sometimes Business / First although less these days… Tips to travel light are by their nature very personal habits and behaviours, but if you even find one or two valuable nuggets from this piece, then our work here is done!

    In all cases, it pays to invest in good quality bags – the RoI works out well, particularly if you travel a lot with them.

    Briefcase

    I have 3 or 4 briefcases and use each one depending on the particular documents requirement or travel duration. It is worth having a couple, as empty space in any bag tends to get filled with something ;).

    1. Small soft-sided portfolio for day-trips or if I also have a rollaboard.

    2. Larger soft briefcase with shoulder strap if more documents needed, or possibly a quick overnighter where I can carry a change of clothes / toiletries and laptop / documents in the one case.

    3. A “teachers” style case which is leather and has prob 50% more capacity than (2) and could work for 2 nights at a stretch

    4. A Swiss Army wheeled expandable briefcase which can do me for a 2-3 night trip, and plenty of documents or clothes required.

    All of the above also fit under a standard airplane seat (even (4) at a stretch!), which eliminates the stress and pressure of worrying about overhead bin space.

    Rollaboard contents.

    When I need to bring a rollaboard due to travel duration or possibly a number of different formal / casual appointments, I have a few tips that I find very useful:-

    Toiletries – purchase some empty 50/75ml bottles from The Container Store and decant your favourite liquids / gels into them. I do use some standard shaving foams and deodorants, but you can’t beat having your usual shampoo / gel etc., and many don’t provide travel sizes. So create your own!

    Medicines / Wipes – Make sure you bring plenty of OTC and perscription medicines, and also wipes for your hands / face and electronics h/ware, all in individually-sealed packs if possible.

    Undershirts/Underwear – I often wear my older ones travelling and just throw them away once worn (if they’ve got to that stage), or don’t bother bringing any and buy some nice new ones if I know that they are well-priced where I am travelling (like Filenes / Marshalls in the US)

    Shirts – Use the hotel laundry for a maximum of one shirt – try to pack the same number of shirts as days on your trip + 1 for emergencies. This should suffice. In many cases, buying a new discounted shirt may only cost a few more $$ than laundering your old one. This actually applies to all clothing items.

    Used clothing – rather than pack another bag for the used items, take and use one of the hotel laundry bags – they are typically big & light, and perfectly suited to the job.

    Footwear – wear the heaviest and most bulky footwear when you are travelling – try to pack the lightest ones in your luggage.

    Also, try to purchase packing cubes or bags from Eagle Creek or similar. They can really help with packing / unpacking in a hotel. Some can even be vacuum-packed which makes them even more space-efficient.

    If you really want to become super-efficient at travel / packing, use a checklist from one of the main travel sites and customise it to your needs. You may even have one for each trip duration, on the inside of your wardrobe door. (Maybe overboard on detail, but worth considering…)

    General – wear your most bulky items and if you are bringing a coat, make sure to use the pockets to hold items that may otherwise clutter-up your briefcase. Things like phones, iPods, passport, wallet etc. Keep your travel documents in the same inside pocket every time, so you know where to reach, rather than be searching in the bottom of a bag…

    Scan your most important documents (passport, drivers licence etc.) and upload them to an online storage site where you can access them at short notice if needed, in case of loss / stealing.

    Books – if possible, carry a Kindle or iPad with the content on it – hardcover books are very heavy and bulky and can tip you over the max carry-on weight quite easily. Worst case, try to buy paperbacks of your favourite books.

    Try to also purchase a multi-charger that has tips for all your electronics – this can really save on space (volume) as well as weight…

    And during any trip longer than a day or two, do an audit of your briefcase and/or luggage regularly – we often accumulate lots of unnecessary rubbish while we’re travelling and end up lugging it around. Be ruthless and throw away newspapers, toiletries, etc. etc. that you are finished with or won’t use again.

    Hope that this helps!

    John P

  16. QOD – Here are some light travel tricks that I’ve learned:

    First, and most important, don’t make an ideal packing list and then find a container to fit it in. Instead, pick a ridiculously small container and then choose your stuff with that size in mind. You know how projects expand to fill available time? Same goes for possessions and storage space.

    I took a backpack and a monster suitcase on a 2 week trip once. Guess what, the backpack was overstuffed and the suitcase was right at the airline’s weight limit! Horrible. Took just a backpack on another 2 week trip. The backpack was still overpacked, but it did pretty much the same job minus the huge suitcase. Yesterday I bought a 400 gram, 13.5 liter suitcase. (Garage sale bargain.) Took it home and packed it for a pretend vacation as a test. It fit perfectly!

    Stuff expands or contracts to fit the bag. Rolf seems to understand this idea. He set a “pockets” limit.

    Second, I’d suggest bringing your own toothpaste. I can easily imagine borrowing rarely needed items from others, but you need some level of self reliance for personal hygiene. Constant mooching is annoying, even more so if done with bad breath. Ew! There is such a thing as travel size toothpaste. Even better, Eco-Dent tooth powder (I recommend cinnamon flavor) works well and lasts for months from a very small bottle. Crystal deodorant takes some practice at first, but it also works well from a small container.

  17. QOD – Here are some light travel tricks that I’ve learned:

    First, and most important, don’t make an ideal packing list and then find a container to fit it in. Instead, pick a ridiculously small container and then choose your stuff with that size in mind. You know how projects expand to fill available time? Same goes for possessions and storage space.

    I took a backpack and a monster suitcase on a 2 week trip once. Guess what, the backpack was overstuffed and the suitcase was right at the airline’s weight limit! Horrible. Took just a backpack on another 2 week trip. The backpack was still overpacked, but it did pretty much the same job minus the huge suitcase. Yesterday I bought a 400 gram, 13.5 liter suitcase. (Garage sale bargain.) Took it home and packed it for a pretend vacation as a test. It fit perfectly!

    Stuff expands or contracts to fit the bag. Rolf seems to understand this idea. He set a “pockets” limit.

    Second, I’d suggest bringing your own toothpaste. I can easily imagine borrowing rarely needed items from others, but you need some level of self reliance for personal hygiene. Constant mooching is annoying, even more so if done with bad breath. Ew! There is such a thing as travel size toothpaste. Even better, Eco-Dent tooth powder (I recommend cinnamon flavor) works well and lasts for months from a very small bottle. Crystal deodorant takes some practice at first, but it also works well from a small container.

    (My apologies if this appears twice. Had a problem with the submit button.)

  18. Language adjustment for mods:

    QOD response:

    Number one advice for packing light is to have the mindset of packing light – start with that goal, be willing to ditch some necessities that you can find along the way, and be willing to part with stuff you start your journey with. I personally like to pack as if I’m going camping (minus the tent and sleeping bag) no matter what the itinerary calls for.

    Clothes – Colombia makes incredible travel clothing – lightweight, breathable, and nice enough to clear any place with a dress code. I’m a big fan of the “PFG” line – made for fishing, but can easily pass for a collared dress shirt. I have not yet tried ExOfficio underwear, but I save all old underwear and socks for travel so that I can slowly throw them away throughout traveling to open up some space in my bag for souvenirs or to lighten my bag. Same with old clothes – I always pack an old pair of pants or few t-shirts that I plan on donating / not returning with. It’s travel – not a fashion show. Colombia is also my go-to for jackets – good interchangeable shells for varying temperatures in super-cold climates, and great packable rain jackets.

    MSR towel – absolute life saver – can be used for the obvious purpose of a towel, or to quickly dry clothes (tip from Tim), and always dries out in record time. Perfect for the beach, swimming pool, shower, packing wet clothes in a hurry, shade, privacy curtain, etc.

    Electronics – I sacrifice a little weight and like a camera and/or iPhone charger that takes AA batteries – chargers are bulky, and batteries can be purchased world-wide. iPhone obviously can serve as entertainment, reading, music, alarm clock, flight tracker, language translator, currency converter, and overall connection to outside world.

    Documents – iPhones can be good for management of documents – I also like Dropbox and Google Docs in case I lose my phone. I make sure document copies, lists of important numbers, and itineraries are available to me anywhere there is an internet connection. I also do a good deal of research before-hand and make a Google Doc of links to sites I want to see – this eliminates the need for heavy travel books.

    Toiletries – the camping section of any Wal-Mart / Target or specialty retailers have perfectly packaged paper-thin sheets of soap and shampoo, and the travel-sized section can cover things like deodorant. I always just buy 1 small toothpaste, 1 deodorant, etc to stay light and to ensure that I will have to go exploring the local shops for more when I run out. Camping sections also have gems like flat, disposable ponchos, small waterproof containers for pills, and travel-friendly squeeze bottles for sunscreen, etc.

    Luggage – Allen’s post above had it right on the money – an obnoxiously colored bag is a life saver in crowded baggage terminals – and if you already have the usual black, neon luggage straps or neon duct tape help you spot your stuff from a mile away. My daypack is a packable Eddie Bauer backpack – Kiva makes similar types – they can collapse to a few ounces, or expand into a backpack for wondering cities without your primary luggage. I always like to have a garbage bag, a few gallon ziplocks, and a few sandwich-size ziplocks at all times. They take up no space, are weightless, and can save your luggage and expensive electronics in the rain, or help keep dirty clothes away from clean ones in your bag – best part – after you use one, you can always pick up an extra in a hostel/hotel/ or from maintenance at the airport or bus stop.

    Earplugs – again – Allen speaks the truth – I always travel with at least 2-3 pairs. Perfect for sleeping in an 8-person hostel room, a bus full of crying children, and airplanes with corporate types who talk about spreadsheets all the way to London. I have literally been offered cash for my extra pairs – a good way to make a friend for life by saving someone else the torture.

    Cash – lots, and an ATM card for good exchange rates.

    Happy travels,

    Myers

  19. I like the mobile phone idea, but as a professional photographer, I can’t part with a good camera. Phone cameras just don’t stack up. The problem comes when you are on a long trip you can run out of space on your memory cards. Then you are back to bringing a 4-5 pound laptop.

    Here are three solutions:

    1) Download photos using Internet cafes or business centres of your hotels as you go. The only problem with this is that it can be time consuming and who wants to spend an afternoon indoors in front of a computer instead of on that glorious beach or riding a camel across a desert?

    2) Buy more memory cards. They are cheap and weigh nothing, the only problem is there is a possibility you might lose one missing out on important memories from your trip.

    3) Use a Zoomit card reader for iphone or ipod touch. http://www.zoomitonline.com Download photos to the pod/phone, upload to the cloud, job done. This is a great blog about it. http://snapperforlunch.blogspot.com/2010/06/gear-change.html#links from photographer Magnus Anderson.

    4) Try an AirStash. http://www.airstash.com/ I don’t know anyone that owns one, but it does look like the latest kit for iphone, ipod touch and ipad owners.

    I’d love to hear feedback. Any other pro-togs out there have new ideas?

  20. QOD:

    If you’re bringing along a compact camera and want to save space and not have in stolen when it goes through security wrap it in one of your odd socks. This works for other small electronic devices like an iPod too.

  21. Sorry . . . four ideas above . . . .late in the UK and brains not working as quickly as it should.

  22. Ladies (or guys with ladies):

    Leave your blow dryer (hotels often provide one), flat iron (go natural sometimes; it’s sexy) and curling irons (I use two sizes) home. Experiment before your trip with bobby pins (pin back your bangs; keep them flat for a vintage look or tug them a bit if you want volume) and elastic bands (loose, messy bun) on your towel dried hair (scrunch it with your fingers to create soft waves). The more practice you have (some positions of the bobby pin are more flattering than others – so move it around), the more comfortable you’ll feel going sans electrical devices that take up SO MUCH room and time getting ready.

    Also try… NO MAKE-UP! I know, it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re used to the cover up, but your skin with love the fresh air. It took me and my skin about four weeks to get used to not wearing make-up (which was encouraged by a boyfriend who saw me without it and told me I don’t need it). Coworkers asked if I was sick (ha ha) until my skin tones evened out and they got used to it. If you can’t kick the whole habit, try just wearing eyeliner and mascara (or get permanent eyeliner tattoo and temporary eyelash extensions that last up to four weeks).

  23. “I kind of would like to know what it would be like a girl version of this.” – Probably something very similar to Rolf’s list with additional toiletries and some accessories, depending on how minimalist she is willing to get. Although I lack the fancy vest needed to no bag the trip, I could definitely get down to an underseat bag with the things I already have in my closet. Whether or not my layers would be warm enough and last the entire six weeks is questionable, though.

  24. Hi Tim: I have a tip!

    Seven years ago when my husband and I were in our late fifties and sixties, we sold and gave away our stuff and then traveled around the world for four years using a couple of wal-mart backpacks (we used super-glue when the seams started to give and they did just as well as the $200 ones.)

    My tip is for women of a certain age. I’m past the age when I can ignore my skin and it glows with health – sure miss those days. So here’s my minimalist skin care/makeup travel kit.

    Make a 3:1 mix of powdered milk (gentle, soothing – think Cleopatra and her milk baths) and baking soda (for scrubbing off the dead cells). Enough for two months of face cleansing will fit into a plastic herb container. (I’ve always worried some customs guy will wonder what that white powder is but so far no problems.)

    With that and small bottle of fish oil pills for both rubbing on your skin (the smell fades quickly) and taking by mouth, a small spf30 of sunscreen and you’re set (if you’re a woman – not talking to you Tim). Toss in a medium lipstick for both cheeks and lips; a mascara and one little tube of concealer and you’ve got the 80:20 rule applied to makeup and skin care. You get the 80% of the results you want with just 20% of the products in your make-up kit.

    Thanks for sharing your sharp brain with the rest of us.

  25. If you are into partying at all, most of the time you will have to wear a button down shirt, so instead of traveling with one or two shirts I find that befriending local people will help introducing you to their social circle (crucial for partying like a rock start while letting down your guard a bit) and will even let you use a nice shirt of theirs or help you find a nice cheap one in the local stores.

  26. Travel with your oldest and most worn socks & underwear and as you use them just throw them out, so that way you lighten your load so to speak as the trip progresses

  27. If you want to get really hardcore, take your toothbrush and other plastic items and take a power drill with an 1/8″ or so drill bit and drill out multiple holes along the handle to save weight.

    Since you’re not checking anything, having a multi-tool with no knife is good to have so you can get through security.

  28. Great advice in this article but a little trickier for me. See below.

    I am getting ready to depart on a nine month 28 country tour with my wife and four children, boys 5 and 8 and girls 11 and 13. We are attempting to bring a backpack and carry-on each and that is it. We are packing light and having school books and ski clothes (for Austria) shipped to us along the way.

    The ex-offico underwear went through a 4 day trial last week, they wash in the sink and dry in about 2-3 hours, great product. I am only taking three pair for the trip. If they wear out i will buy three more!

    Essentials

    – We all have solid hiking shoes for daily use and flip flops for the beach

    – good water proof shell

    – bathing suit

    – 1 pair of jeans

    – 1 sweater

    – light wicking t-shirts in black and grey

    – global phone

    – laptop

    – 3 pairs of exoffico underwear/socks

    – ipods for the kids

    – lots of cash

    Expecting a lot of fun, adventure and challenger along the way. We start the journey on September 4th and drive across the US and then we take off from LAX on September 15th and stay in Costa Rica for 1 month. Let the fun begin.

    Thanks for the inspiration you provided and the ideas that have allowed me to set up my business to continue giving me income while I take this special time with my family.

    Cheers

  29. If you can afford it, and want to take a video camera along that doubles as an 8.0 megapixel camera, I recommend the Canon Vixia HF S11. It has a 64GB flash-drive built in, and can take memory cards up to 64GB, meaning you can take AVCHD (1920×1200) full-HD movies for hours, or tens of thousands of pictures. It’s small enough to fit in a cargo-trousers pocket (I carry mine in my cargo-shorts) and the batteries are small, as is the charger. You’ll obviously have to have an adapter if you plan on charging in other countries, but it’s a great camera and has fantastic storage that will allow you to capture memories of the trip on the removable cards (with the camera memory as a secondary storage) until you can get home to do your editing, or borrow a laptop for uploading.

  30. I travel light by taking any toiletries I need in my purse, taking the minimum amount of makeup and toiletries in sample sizes and take a small hair brush and no hair dryer, since they take up so much space. I bought an inexpensive bag instead of traditional luggage, that can be “scrunched” into a small space and carry lightweight clothing that can be rolled up for packing. I good pair of walking shoes that look dressy enough for evening wear is all I took, for instance, to Taipei. Also, I have found that black clothing is the most versatile, does not show dirt as quickly so can last longer between washing.

  31. TIM, ROLF NO CREO QUE HAYAN ESCUCHADO ESTE TRUCO DE VIAJE

    RETRO CROYDON SHOES MADE IN COLOMBIA (The country, Not by Columbia the company).

    (Click on my name’s link to see a pic)

    What makes some inexpensive, All-Star-imitation snickers so handy for your light travel needs:

    -First-world travelers are sometimes oblivious, for cultural reasons, to the message they are sending with their shoes. For example, nice, cool looking shoes in Latin America, Africa and some countries in Asia means… Hey! I am not from here and I have expensive stuff with me. Burglars might even just try to steal your kickers because they look fancy. Believe me, I am from Latin America and I know this by experience; I have walked home barefoot a couple times.Expensive, “weird” looking shoes are just a give a way of your foreignness. If you’ve been in India, you know very well that leaving your cool Teva or Keen sandals at the restaurant or temple’s door is not such a good idea, my sister can testify that.

    -The Croydons are inexpensive (about 20 dollar) and they are trendy nowadays in Latin American Countries so you can take them almost anywhere. They also come in cool designs and colors to fit your mood. They will not camouflage your Nordic features, but you will blend a bit better with the people and you will not be a magnet for burglars. You can replace them easily if you lose them, unlike other expensive shoes.

    -The Colombian version is made with a tough fabric (unlike the American version) that can be water-proofed if you want to. They offer some support for your ankles so they can be used for light hiking as well. They are a bit wild to tame at the beginning, but after a few days they fit like a glove. Their sole is “vulcanizada” (whatever that means) so their sole is not too slippery.

    -Traveling light is great, but your trip’s goals should define what you take with you; there is no need to spend too much money on cool gadgets. When I travel to a new country, my main goal is to submerge myself in the culture. That means playing street soccer in Bahia, Brazil, or salsa dancing in Cuba. I don’t think Mr. Potts is planning to play soccer, or go to the beach with those blundstone boots. With the Croydons you are ready for everything; you can play street soccer (they are actually pretty popular for this), go running, go salsa-dancing, hiking and even for going on a date with a beautiful morocha Argentina (yes, they work pretty well for that too).

    (I probably should ask Croydon if they have an affiliate program after writing this comment)

  32. for Question of the Day:

    my favorite light packing tricks are as follows:

    (apologies if some have been repeated, I haven’t read all the posts)

    – forget about make up and jewelry, you can live without them

    – for toiletries, a bar of natural soap triples up as shampoo and laundry detergent (for washing socks and underwear in the sink), and can go through airport security. (it also lasts forever, unlike the little bottles of toiletries that run out at the most inconvenient times.) I don’t carry toothpaste- I can borrow it, or use salt or baking soda or just water if I really have to rough it. I don’t carry deodorant, either. the soap mentioned above, used for twice-daily sink showers, takes care of that problem.

    – in the summer, wear sandals. don’t pack any other shoes. if it rains, bare feet dry faster than socks. if it’s cold, pack a pair of short socks the same color as your sandals. you’ll be surprised as to how few people will notice the uncoolness, if any.

    – a bandanna is great for a handkerchief, towel, hair tie, sleep mask or hat.

    – wear one cotton shirt, and pack one that is 100% polyester. cotton is good for those hot sweaty days, and can be used as a towel as it absorbs water well. polyester dries easily, stays clean, and doesn’t stick to annoying things like beach sand. also works for cleaning other things (eg. your pants when you spill coffee on them while riding the bus).

    – I prefer lightweight cotton-type pants to jeans. more comfortable, lighter and can be slept in if necessary.

  33. Re: Question of the Day

    While I’m not the most “traveled” person compared to most who have posted on here, traveling light is something I’ve come to love being a technologist and a survival hobbyist. My most prized possession when traveling light is, and always will be para-cord. So simple, and yet essential to just about everything I do. I’ve used para-cord for belts, watch strap replacements, lanyards for sunglasses and keys, temporary straps for backpack repair and of course, shoe laces. I use the North Face Big Shot (do not work for them) as my traveling pack, and needless to say I’ve broken more than my fair share of buckles, now I use para-cord to make bracelets, anklets and belts WITH replacement buckles for the backpack, so that when I break one, I just undo a bracelet/anklet or belt (depending on which buckle) and repair the backpack en route, then, if need be re-tie the bracelet and just knot it up sans buckle.

    The most useful way to make one is the cobra weave (just do a google search) and you can use your imagination to figure out things to make and ways to strap them to you. As a general rule, for every inch of para-cord item you make, you will use a foot of para-cord. So say you have a wrist with a circumference of 7″, you would have 7′ of para-cord tightly weaved into 7″ to do things with. On any given trip I have around 30′-50′ of it, as well as 3 replacement buckles (waste, chest, chest) for my backpack. Extremely strong, light weight, and a must have for any seasoned survivalist (and light traveler =P) Cheers!

  34. QOD:

    Purchase a pre-paid cell phone SIM at each of your destinations. Buying a local SIM serves several purposes:

    -It will save you a tremendous amount of International Roaming (voice and data) and International Long Distance on your cell phone bill. Purchase a cheap pre-paid phone at the airport and use it with your in-country SIMs if you can’t/won’t/haven’t unlocked your iPhone.

    -You can freely share your pre-paid numbers with travel companions, hotels, etc.,. without fear of giving away your primary mobile phone number.

    – Locals who need to contact you will appreciate being able to reach you via a number that is local to them, instead of dialing internationally to reach your primary mobile number.

    Take note of the Emergency telephone numbers of the countries you will visit (a good list can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_telephone_number). You never know when you’ll need to call for help.

    Where an In Case of Emergency bracelet that indicates any allergies or chronic medical issues.

  35. Great motivation for minimalism in travel. Thanks!

    When I went to Egypt last Winter my friends poked fun at me for not wanting to bring more than 1 pair of footwear. I traveled from Alexandria to Ashwan and back in 1 pair of sandals to the amazement of my American friends.

    Amazed they were, but why? Most of the Egyptians I met owned only 1 pair of shoes/sandals and had been “traveling” in them for years. Something for your average Joe to think about when he packs his luggage set.

    Thank you Tim and Rolf.

    -michael

  36. Question of the Day (QOD)

    1. Satellite handheld phone: This can be use for remote travel where there is no cell phone access. 7 oz.

    2. Webcam as Security: Take a mini-web cam that’s about 5 oz. Ask for a shoebox or small box when you arrive to your hotel. Place any money or valuables like phones that you don’t want to carry with you when you go out. Put the box in a closet and place the webcam on top. Nobody is going to touch your stuff. 5oz

    3. i-Phone + saved Google maps. It is good to have a map set with directions from the airport to your first destination.

    4. Telescoping Space Pen: 1oz and 4 inches.

    5. NiteCore Flashlight: slightly larger than Double A battery. Waterproof

    6. Laser facial hair off: Never any need to shave again. Plus there is no need to carry shaving gear or grow a beard for a couple of weeks.

    7. Johnson’s head to toe baby wash in small bottles.

    8. Hydrogen Peroxide: Use undiluted as a mouth wash and disinfectant. This stuff is available all around the world.

    9. Iodine: Use to purify water. This is also available anywhere.

    10. Refillable Travel Toothbrush: Combines toothpaste with toothbrush. You the fill base with toothpaste, which comes out of the tip of the toothbrush. Good for one month of cleaning. Also go to the dentist before you leave.

    11. Mineral Tablets to stay healthy and hydrated.

    12. Foldable Fork

    13. Silicone Foldable Bowl: 3oz

    14. Have some currency already converted before you leave.

    15. If your going to carry a small travel bag.

    Laptop: Sony Vaio P Series: Full keyboard. 1.3 pounds, 8 inch screen

    16. In the future, I may get an RFID blocking passport holder.

  37. 1. pack towel (msr ultralite’s are solid). also very helpful on those weekend trips to friends house’s so you don’t have to use one of their towels.

    2. wear your heaviest cloths on the plane to save luggage space. i usually wear two layers of shirts and wear my one pair of pants onto the plane.

    3. 3 sheets of computer paper. i fold them up and keep in my back pocket during my trips and jot down notes along the way. great way to remember fun places you went, general ideas and takes up less space than a large journal.

    4. patagonia capeline underwear. amazingly comfy and quick dry. just get them…you won’t regret it.

    5. last but not least, pack a positive attitude and a smile. it doesnt take up any luggage room and goes wonders in bringing good fortune to your adventures 🙂

  38. Hi guys,

    It seems I have been using these packing strategies for years. I am a motorcycle enthusiast and am forced to pack light anywhere I go. All of your packing strategies look excellent. One tip I would recommend would be to use a camera that takes “AA Batteries”. These type of batteries are readily available almost everywhere you go and allow you to not have to carry a charger. Besides who has time to stop and charge batteries on the go??

    Matt

  39. Do not under-estimate the power of “social engineering”. Often times, the people around you can be your most valuable resource, especially when traveling light. The items, information or service you seek are very likely one conversation away from your grasp. Social competence is imperative. Knowledge of cultural mores, traditions and especially language (including accent and slang) are very helpful in social interactions. The most important word to learn in a foreign language is “help”. It is hardwired in the human brain (especially in males) to respond to the word “help”. No civilized human can resist reacting to the phrase “Excuse me, could you please help me with something?”.

    Use tact so as to not appear needy. Often times, a good deed can go a long way to win the trust and assistance of a local. Perhaps you have a certain skill set or resource that you can offer in exchange for something? Develop social networks wherever you find yourself. Be friendly and smile. There is nothing more rewarding than making friends in foreign countries, its part of the experience. Be keen on the universal language: body language. If you can read body language and non-verbal cues, you can navigate the social landscape with ease. Look for non-verbal indicators such as eye contact, open posture and a smile to identify a friendly individual. Use your social intelligence to maximize your resources. Be social savvy and the world is your oyster.

  40. The biggest tip I think is that figure out what you think you need and cut that in half. A big way I saved space was to only bring two pairs of underwear, two pants, and two shirts. Bring the days worn items and wash them with you in the shower. If you bring light wool quick dry fabrics your clothes will dry in about ten minutes. I also fill my water bottles with nuts and berries or something to snack on in the airport and then once I’m done fill it with water. Leaves you a great snack and takes up no extra space. Finally replace your souvenirs with a journal. You’ll get more out of the experience and take with you lessons and memories rather than a snow globe.

  41. One simple tip among many would be to use space like the inside of a shoe to stuff your socks or other things… leave no space unused. A kid earlier wrote about rolling clothes up like a snail shell and he’s right that works wonders for saving space.

  42. so the first travel “trick” is mostly philosophical. in the words of Mr Potts himself – “be were you are now” (from a lecture posted previously). this is the greatest trick of all and with Rolf’s inclusion of the iPhone i’m interested to see how this goes. he’s going to have to display some discipline to enjoy his travel without always being connected to the web, blogging, twitter, etc. with that, a pack light trick for people who are blogging would be to use a one source auto-poster for email, blog, and social media. something like posterous – linked to all your sites like twitter, facebook, blah blah blah – is easily updated with an email which you can write in any internet cafe in almost any city in the world. simply log into to posterous, turn on all autoposting, send an email to post@posterous.com and BAM – one quick – or long – email and your friends, family, and followers are updated. now, you can unplug and go back to your locale, where you are now.

    next trick – i traveled around asia for 7 months with 2 shirts. Patagonia’s capilene silkweight t-shirts are unbelievably light, airy, comfortable, and resilient. they wash and dry super quick and act as a baselayer if you’re doing any cold-weather stuff with multi-layer clothing. the second shirt also came in handy as a bandana/buff to wrap around my head for sun/heat protection. of course i looked goofy, but most people stare at you anyway, so i was used to it.

    this leads to the next trick – rent gear: when i trekked towards Chomolungma (everest) base camp, i simply rented a down jacket and sleeping bag in kathmandu. i hiked along during the day in my Patagonia shirts, threw on the jacket as the sun dipped behind the himalayan peaks, and burrowed in my sleeping bag until it ascended the following morn. i didn’t have to carry any of that gear the previous 6 months, thankfully.

    final pack light trip – do a meditation retreat. i’ve went with http://www.dhamma.org, a Vipassana organization. the days are broken down into simple, light activities. meditating, walking, eating, showering, and sleeping. physically, you get to see how simple you can live – no books, music, fancy junk. mentally, burdens are lifted from the mind and it becomes more free, yet more disciplined. your surroundings, even leaves on the ground, take on powerful new meanings. creativity skyrockets. happiness soars like fireworks, each explosion full of appreciation and gratitude. this is one of the truest forms of traveling light i’ve experienced.

    much love tim & rolfe. thanks for kickin’ my butt – my previous work, work, work paradigm – and putting me on the path 3 years ago. i say thanks, yet, i can’t thank you enough!

    adrian

  43. Tim,

    I have a small squirt bottle where I mix 50 percent Downy Wrinkle Releaser and 50 percent Orange FeBreeze fabric scent. The combination works great, especially since I often travel for business in Asia, and everyone smokes. A few sprits of this mix can get rid of the smokey stink, and the wrinkles all at the same time.

    — Tony P

  44. Hi Rolf, Hi Tim,

    I’m a big fan of both! Rolf – I just read both of your books and consider your ‘Marco Polo didn’t go there’ one of the most entertaining reads! (I laughed so much!!!) Thanks!! Tim – I CAN NOT WAIT FOR your new book – it is expected to get me in top shape for an October wedding 🙂

    I haven’t had a chance to travel all that much lately… , live in the US now, originally from Poland, so the few times I got to go back to Europe I made all the mistakes and learned a lot from them..

    thanks to your writing I’m learning about how traveling around the world does not have to be saved for when I retire in 50 years or make a LOT of money and feel I can afford to..

    Anyway… here are the few mistakes I made and the lessons I learned:

    *do not insist on taking your electronic toothbrush – even if you think you can not live without it…

    –I bought this expensive and Heavy transformer that literally melted my toothbrush the first time I plugged it in

    *think carefully when you plan your outfits…

    –one time I packed about 20 tops and NO bottoms… I ended up in one pair of pants (the ones on my butt) and a 70 lb luggage full of tops and misc. stuff.

    *do not buy the cheapest luggage

    –Devon Street in Chicago sells these good looking, cheap and poorly made luggage that got destroyed the first time I took it to Europe

    *do not fall for buying expensive electronics for family/friends in exchange for local money

    — I put video camera and other electronics on my credit card and got local currency for it once I landed….. but of course I spent it all and was faced with huge credit card bills once I got back from my vacation…. Bad Idea….

  45. Nice article. I have enjoyed reading the other tips also. Here is my 2 cents worth.

    – get a bank account that doesn’t charge for foreign ATM machines. Then you are not worrying about the system fees, and don’t have to carry wads of cash.

    – I carry a credit card with a very small limit on it. $1000. Not worried about it being stolen.

    – A toque and gloves. These go a long way to helping you keep warm without a heavy winter coat.

    – ear plugs and eye shades. Survival can be a good sleep.

    – With an iphone use a dictionary app (ie: chinese-english) combined with the iphone’s international keyboard to communicate to people who don’t speak english.

    – spend the money on high tech, travel friendly clothes.

    – duct tape can patch ripped clothing amount other uses.

    – a micron filter water bottle. Removes contaminants to make safe drinking water. I got mine from “the water geeks”.

    Happy Trails.

  46. Thispast February I set out for a 2 week trip in Peru. I skipped my flight home and stayed 3 months. While I was there I worked less than I had at home, founded a new division for my company, and arranged highly profitable deals with South American governments. I can discuss the details yet, but I’m saving the government’s money and reducing their carbon footprint. All I had packed was my favorite bag a Fjall Raven Kånken http://www.fjallraven.se/Produkter/Ryggsackar–vaskor/Kanken Being a former pro-photographer I had two SLR cameras, extra lenses, and a flash in the bag in addition to my clothes. Here is what I learned:

    1 – B.I.T. – Buy It There, I did this with everything from toothbrushes and swimsuits to suits worn in meetings with government officials.

    2 – Wanna do work on the road? You don’t need a computer. You do need a flash drive and a smartphone with skype on it. If you don’t mind paying international calling rates you could probably even get away without a smartphone. You can get away without a flash drive if you know you will have fast reliable internet by storing files online. Our organization uses knowledge tree. It may be a bit more robust than what you need.

    3 – Don’t take books or kindles. You are traveling for new experiences! Having your head in a book is not a new experience!! Not having a book will lighten your load and force you to get out and find something to do. If there’s nothing to do, there are always people to talk to, and this usually leads to finding even more things to do!!!! This might be the most important travel lesson I learned.

    4 – Don’t take travel guides. They are really bulky. Other travelers will have them. Hostels will have them. Hotels will have concierges with better advice. If you followed my advice in #3, you will probably be out making new local friends whose knowledge is far more valuable than anything you will find in a travel guide.

    5 – Don’t mind being dirty. It’s ok not to wear freshly clean clothes every day of the week. Most of the world does it already. You should try to change your underwear everday if it’s convenient. If you are in a warm climate, you may not need to wear underwear and that problem is solved! Deoderant is an un-needed luxury in most countries, especially if you can swim or shower once or twice a day. You can still make friends and still make deals with foreign governments as long as you are not self-conscious about wearing semi-clean clothes and not wearing deoderant.

    By the end of the trip I was conversational in Spanish, compentent in Salsa dancing, and catching waves on the ocean, since I spent my free time practicing and learning instead of reading or playing on computers. When I got home I was offered a promotion, got a raise of 2.5x, and my next trip was already paid for by one of the governments I am working with.

  47. Great post!! I love ScottEVest products and it is great to see them promoting such an awesome project.

    Here is my tip: Always carry a pair of running/workout shorts. They can be used as swim trunks, workout pants, underwear, pajamas, regular shorts and something to wear if you get lucky enough to find a washing machine and can wash everything else at once.

    Good luck on the trip Rolf!!

  48. Great tips here!

    Here’s my QOD tip:

    When minimizing the change of clothes, laundering your clothes becomes more important. So carrying a flexo-line, a braided surgical tubing line, gives you a clothes line anywhere. It wraps up tight.

    Wrap the tubing with a small square of rubber like from a bike inner tube and you’ve got a stopper too. Leave the square as a cylinder and it’s a case for the tubing.

    Now you’ve got a mini laundry room to go along with you. It helps you stay fresh when you’re relying on only a few pieces of clothing.

    Rolf, good luck with your travels. Look forward to hearing about your adventure!

  49. Tim, I think this question of the day is a trick one and I won’t fall for it! Let me explain:

    If Rolf’s goal is truly to “eliminate distractions and concentrate on the experience of the journey itself” then he’s completely going about it the wrong way. If there’s anything I learned from reading The 4 Hour Work Week it’s how important it is to MENTALLY unplug from the world, especially when traveling (as opposed to physically).

    The “emotional freedom” you talk about in Chapter 14 will never be achieved if he’s running his trip from his smartphone. People/work will keep calling with “emergencies” and he won’t be able to ignore the calls for long because the phone will need to be on to run the trip. The impulse to check the news/voicemails will be a constant distraction that will ruin the trip.

    One of the first things I did after reading 4HWW was take the mail app on my iPhone (which you can’t delete even if you wanted to) and put it on the LAST page with the apps I never use. Having if off my homescreen allowed me to think about email less and now I check all three of my inboxes about twice a day as opposed to every two minutes when it was staring at me when I turned on my phone.

    On a completely other note I myself wouldn’t last two HOURS let alone two weeks without my own supply of floss. My dentist would haunt my nightmares and give me anxiety the entire time.

    There’s no reason why he can’t at least have a small man-purse to hold some stuff. The whole thing is kind of silly.

  50. Unique ideas that haven’t been covered by Rolf, Tim or other minimalists over the years are tough to come by. Peatt Raftis’ maxi-pads and duct tape idea above may be the only exception.

    We travel with 4 & 6 yr old kids and the key to keeping them and us happy on a car/bus/plane/train/anywhere else extended sitting required are snacks and entertainment. If I were only traveling with Rolf’s vest, and the family, I’d put an ipod loaded with music, books, video & games for each kid in one pocket and then snacks in all the others. Any other necessities I could pick up as needed. Better to go stinky, commando and sockless for a day, than to have a 5 hr ride with a bored, hungry child.

    Tim, BTW, Thanks for the Layer Cake video recommendation. Watched it this weekend. Great movie!

  51. Hi Tim,

    Another great post – thanks!

    QOD: Lots of great ideas from others here, many are part of my own light-travel approach. As many have already commented, the iPhone serves well as the electronic equivalent of a Swiss army knife: flashlight, book reader, alarm, meeting recorder, presentation tool, multi-mode recording device, the list is endless.)

    Most of my travel tends to be on business, which brings its own set of challenges when trying to travel light, especially if you’re also planning to fit in some non-work related stuff while at the destination (after all, sleep is vastly overrated and I’ve got to have *some* fun on a 5-day business trip to Tokyo, haven’t, I?!)

    With that in mind, I travel first of all in what I call my ‘safety’ pants. A black pair of lightweight, wool trousers that work equally well casual when paired with an appropriate shirt, but can substitute for suit pants if something untoward happens to the suit pants while on the trip -thus the ‘safety’ moniker. Just make sure the suit is equally dark with minimal pattern in it – doesn’t have to be black; most people won’t notice. They’re also really comfortable on a long-haul flight.

    My other tenet is that if it’s less than 7-8 days, I shouldn’t have to check any luggage. Yes, it can be done, easily, even on business. You already know I’m packing a suit, but I’ll wear my dress shoes for travel, and again, paired with a casual long-sleeve shirt over a t-shirt (flexibility for warmer/cooler climates) you’re good to go. On the shirt front, although there’s some excellent help-you-fold bags and tools that you can pack with, they all add bulk, so I’ve just learnt how to fold the shirt by first laying it, fully buttoned, in the roll-on bag. Done right, creases are at a bare minimum, and the shirts pack very thin. 3 light/neutral business shirts plus one casual shirt in the roll-on, hotel service or local dry cleaner can extend you for the rest of the trip even with a 24-hour turnaround snafu. Add to that traveling in another shirt that’ll work equally well in the board room or out at night, and you’re good to go. Oh, and there’s also room for running shoes, shirt and shorts in there, along with underwear, socks, and toiletries (minimal zip-lock bag o’ stuff, much like yourself).

    Last step if you’re travelling from warm to cold climates (think travel in January from Los Angeles(70 degrees) to London (43 degrees, but believe me, it feels a lot cooler!) is carry your coat/overcoat. You’ll want it when you get there anyway, and it’s one less thing to try and fit in the roll-on.

    Safe travels everyone!

  52. Tim!

    Great article, but every time I see a new blog post lately and it’s not an update about the new book I get really disappointed! What gives?

  53. Love the post!

    Suggestions for Rolf:

    • Consider adding running shorts to his repertoire…for sleeping in…for wearing while washing his cargo pants. How does Rolf wash his cargo pants?

    • Take a few plastic garbage bags (good to sit on, use as tablecloth, wear in the rain)

    • Upgrade to moleskine pocket notebooks

    Notes for Tim:

    • I love the Marmot 3oz jacket you recommend & I wore it to the top of Mt. Whitney. My kids like that I’ve upgraded from white plastic bag rainwear

    • That Kiva expand-a-bag is handy! Half the size of my palm but expands to fit a reasonable amount.

    • We like Keen’s too, but the water variety. We bought Keen water sandals before rafting the Grand Canyon, thinking them a wild extravaganza; I’ve been surprised with how much we’ve used them for all sorts of vacations, beach of course, but canoeing last week in the Boundary Waters, even 5 mile hikes.

    Other tips, as a woman, consider bringing:

    • Bathing suit, especially if you are hard-to-fit or particular about fit. Tankini doubles as cami-top or string bikini is small & could be worn as underwear.

    • Tampons. These can be hard to find in foreign countries where pads dominate & who wants to try to explain in a foreign language what a tampon is?

    • OPI nail case (super small scissors, file, tweezers) – helpful in lots of situations, stylish case hasn’t been a problem eight times through security.

    As a parent, I cannot see carrying a sippy cup in Rolf’s ScotteVest. In your small carry-on, consider bringing:

    • Diapers, yes enough for a three week vacation if you need. After a few vacations of “buying diapers there,” we learned:

    – It can be hard to find diapers, especially in sizes 4 & up

    – All diapers are not created equal. Do you really want to have multiple blow-outs from leaky diapers?

    • Handcleaner

    • Children’s medicine (chewable tylenol, motrin, and benadryl tablets as well as dissolving strips of cold medicine). These pack small and can be hard to find in stores when you need them. Adults can double the dosage and take in a pinch.

    I agree flea markets & thrift stores are a great way to experience the culture of a new place. My favorite finds:

    • Women’s Italian leather jacket for $35 (Rome)

    • Boiled wool jacket in England for $4

    • His/her kimonos for $25. While trying on kimono jackets, my husband & I were followed by paparazzi from the Kyoto photography club.

    Other travel tips:

    • Bring clothes that are near the end of their life & then jettison them before the return flight home.

    • The following can be indispensible: moleskin, single-use Neosporin ointment, ½ oz. hydrocortisone, OFF wipes for bugs.

    • We like to mail house-warming gifts to coincide with our arrival instead of carrying gifts

    • Consider what information you should have accessible elsewhere just in case…say, if your phone should skitter across the catamaran deck & plunge into 80 feet of Caribbean water on the 2nd day of a 14 day vacation.

    • Sometimes the best experiences take only cash. Horseback riding in the Eastern Sierras took all the cash we’d brought.

    We look forward to hearing more about Rolf’s adventures & Tim’s commentary.

  54. Spent 6 weeks travelling through Europe earlier this year to 9 different countries, with very different climates. Unfortunately I am not the greatest at travelling light – however, the following things were handy; a coat – doubles as a blanket on the plane (and means you don’t have to pack it) and can throw it on to make any outfit warmer/more presentable and keeps out the weather too if raining. Took tunic dresses that were great in warmer countries with sandals but with leggings and a thermal underneath with boots worked in the colder places. Cards to give to people you meet, business cards or otherwise are handy. Also, we had a trip blog which is now a great record of our trip, enabled everyone to see what we were up to and kept us in touch with everyone at home. It’s here: http://www.royalsonholiday.blogspot.com

    Lynda.

  55. Hi Tim,

    None of us have been doing much traveling of late; however, we are totally jonesing for the Sonos player and the Klipsch loudspeakers so we’ve been sitting around brainstorming ideas we might contribute.

    First, a few concerns. Is there a budget for this project, and where does Rolf keep his cash? Isabel says that in Brazil the thieves steal everything including all the clothes you’re wearing! Does Rolf have a back-up plan for such an event?

    We all have dogs, and are wondering if you could make some suggestions dealing with that issue. Is there some cool carrier you might have stumbled upon?

    Has anyone had any issues with the Blundstones? Although Rolf raves about them some have had problems with arch support.

    It seems like this might be an easier trip for the guys as girls need to carry quite a few more items especially if they’re going to be on camera everyday, which begs another question: Is the cameraperson baggage and where do you put him/her, and how much stuff are they bringing? This might be another cool topic, how little stuff can a videographer get away with bringing!

    There is one more thing as we are musicians: what do we do with our guitars and stuff, and then there are the pharmaceuticals and the sleep apnea machine.

    Hmmm, on second thought maybe we don’t have that much to contribute to this topic. 🙂

    Oh, Leslie wants to give a shout out to the Lee Child novels: the main character named Reacher never carries anything, never does laundry, just buys a new outfit every so often and disposes of his old one. Have you guys read them?

    Thanks for another great post, Tim. You always get us thinking outside the box!

    Peace,

    Team Wendy

  56. QOD Response:

    Tip for air travel:

    Wear your most space-consuming clothes on the plane.

    This maximizes space in your bags and reduces weight. Some airlines (e.g. Ryanair in Europe) charges by the kilo for checked/carry on bags. Wearing as much of your clothes as you can when flying will reduce these costs.

    This tip may be especially useful for someone with a limited travel budget – for me, as a college student, I am often limited on what I can buy when I arrive in another country – so finding the right balance of what I can buy while traveling and what I can instead pack is key.

  57. 1. Buy really good travel insurance that covers such things as 100% of your

    hotel and food bill if you are hung up with a detour if passport/airline tickets stolen (American passport stolen in Irian Jaya, was going to Bali, had to detour to Jakarta for new passport and an American airline travel office – added several days to trip and was quite expensive)

    2. Carry a couple of credit cards (in separate places) for emergencies such as #1 and CALL the companies ahead of time and let them know you will be in X foreign countries (so they don’t think your card has been stolen and cut you off, etc)

    3. Carry a paper copy of your passport and airline tickets

    and last, but not least, use a travel agent to book atleast part of the trip so you have someone to call and consult and possibly help when #1,2,and 3 happen when you least expect it!

  58. From travelling around I’ve found POCKETS are key. Regardless if its cargos pants, the scottevest or a good backpack. Throwing everything in a catch-all bag/pocket drives me crazy.

    When I need chapstick or my camera I don’t want to dig through everything. I really like the demonstration of the scottevest I’ll have to take another look at that. Although I don’t know how accessible my items would be.

  59. Though this post and its comments will likely help countless travelers, one thing that I haven’t seen mentioned as much as I’d like to see is an emphasis on time. It appears to me (a relative outsider) as though the philosophy of light travel is to remove clutter of all sorts not for bragging rights but in order to allow one to focus, zen-style, on the journey and to be able to prioritize the traveler’s experiences abroad over all else. To become as devoted and immersed as light travelers aim to become, one should not only remove unnecessary objects; the elimination of distracting tasks is also necessary for true light travel nirvana. The example that Evan mentioned is that eliminating paperbacks using a Kindle or an e-book app reduces space but mimics a time-consuming task you can do at home. It might, therefore, be unadvisable to bring reading materials, as they hinder the filling of days with activities reserved for travel. Another instance that seems to both align with and conflict with travel is buying supplies onsite. Though it does not take up very much time, it does lead one to waste time that might have been better spent in other ways.

    I hate to ask, as I generally support space-saving ideas, but is it possible that spending time enacting the BIT (Buy It There) principle and similar ideas might significantly interfere with the travel experience? If so, how do you, my fellow commenter, think that one should manage the tradeoffs of packing less and spending more time on idle tasks?

  60. @Dave – [re:airport security] Actually, you wouldn’t believe how many professional travel techniques pop up on the “Terrorist Watch” lists. A friend showed me the list just after it was updated in ’05 and said he should report me. Security shouldn’t be a problem though. A combination of good humor and blunt honesty has worked every time (10-years+).

    Regarding the QOD: Almost all weight comes from personal comforts, legal requirements and (surviving) the environment. Personal fuzzies are what can usually be cut down the most on. But don’t count out what “time” things cost you. The number of items carried are how many have to be taken out when washing, carried while drying and re-stored once dry. Less is better.

    Pay in Coins – Weighty, unmanageable and downright pesky, coins should be shelled out whenever possible. You practice long enough, you get good at counting ’em on site. When leaving the country, give what coins you’ve still got pocketed to the nearest gypsy. ALWAYS keep coins in the same pocket, or they’ll begin taking over everything. Pennies always win.

    Rain Me No Likey – Two sandwich baggies for that iPod touch. Don’t eat it, just bag it. Rain is the reaper of electronics… and, without protection, any random storm will completely limit your travels or end your communications altogether. For real protection, get a very small DrySack just large enough to hold the iPod and seal shut.

    Pocket Lawyer – Don’t let your passport nor credit card see the light of day. A traveler’s neck wallet large enough to hold both is required. Other than mugging, this kills any worries of checking pockets to make sure your most valuable items are still with you.

    Haggling – Don’t pay more than you have to. Ask someone on the plane or ferry if they haggle where you’re landing. If they do, get into the game. Not only does it become fun, but it saves a lot of money once added up.

    Migrate Towards Moderation – Going into New Zealand without any baggage just as they’re in the heart of winter? Not something I’d normally suggest. A key to traveling light is avoiding the extremes of summer and winter. Being a traveler means you can migrate away from extremes and can carry much less when in moderate climes.

    Lose the Light – Yeah, it could come in handy, but it’s just one more item to take out and put back in whenever washing. If you can’t live without it, go with a single, small (think thumbnail small) LED instead.

    Systematize Me – This is my bathroom pocket, here’s my computer room pocket, then here’s my kitchen pocket… for the kitchen sink. Assign every pocket mentally, then keep with that system. Looks like Rolf’s covered this, but worth repeating. Never take out what isn’t needed and go for clothing with pockets that SEAL.

    Pillow Soft – You just never can trust that the pillow where your head’s gonna land will be soft enough. Traveling with no bag means no worries about guarding it when in a hostel. You still have things to guard. Sleep in the boxers (my vote goes in for ExOfficio) and wrap all valuables in your clothes under your pillow for extra padding and the warm fuzzies of security.

    If It Was Good Enough for Jesus… – Halfway up a mountain isn’t the time to ask “Why, o why, am I wearing sandals?” I’m ashamed to say I’ve been there twice. At the same time, I’m voting down the boots. Sandals. No socks. The boots are added weight, they also add more clothes (socks), more drying time and more cleaning time. They’re one of the heaviest additions in time and weight to this trip. Boots and socks also lend to fungus and other foot parasites that thrive in their dark warmth. The worry on this trip would be New Zealand. Normally with sandals, if you use them your feet build up to handle more extreme elements. Not enough time on this trip to make the switch.

    Not-so-Safe Pins – No safety pins. They easily come undone, are theft magnets, can injure you if they come undone and can injure someone else if accidentally left near a sink when cleaning. They don’t pass the pro-vs-con sniff test and add to the number of items.

    QuickDries – Running out of time and freaking, but definitely see where you can use clothing that dries quickly as it will be dry by the time you want to sleep and use it as a pillow. Real quick.

    iPod touch Me There Again – Now, my entire section on the iPod touch. This device is sick. Pack the USB. No heavy power converters, no wieldy solar panels, just keep your eye on where you can charge via computer. When packing anything, ask the Apple question: “Is there an app for that?” Your pen and notebook. There’s an app for that. Make sure it’s an iPod touch G2+. Pack earbuds with built-in microphone. Anything you’re not going to blog, use a recording app and speak what you want to write instead. It also means less risk of ink spillage from airplane pressure or extreme heat, as well as damage to your paper. This also saves time, as you adapt real quick to pacing and talking to yourself as you record and it changes how you think. Instead of using phones, use Skype with the worldwide plan and phone line. Look for WiFi near colleges in almost all countries and at coffee shops. WiFi tracking sites online abound these days, just map ’em ahead of time. There’s also an app for your flashlight. Just saying. I’ve been using the touch for years, but I’m considering buying a used iPhone off of Craigslist entirely to remove the camera from my inventory. No need of the phone service. For Rolf, however, I would suggest looking for a small spy-camera while on this trip. They’re lipstick small and light as all hell, but you do need some practice to know what you’re shooting. One thing to do ahead of time is make sure that auto-sync is turned OFF on the iPod touch. Otherwise, you risk losing all apps and other synced items.

    Awesome venture! I’ll definitely be following closely.

    ~Jaya, alt.traveler of a decade (sorry for errors, cutting close to deadline)

  61. The absolute BEST trick that I’ve learned for light travel is a lifesaver and one I recommend to all of my personal friends and now to you all! Read on for details…

    I’ve done the whole mini-size personal care items and cutting out all non- mission critical clothing but the single biggest trick of the minimalist trade that I can share with you for pure lightweight travel is leaving the girlfriend at home and taking her blow-up counterpart. This will cut your baggage exponentially and pay dividends in numerous facets of your trip (except one of course).

    – Flight connections time dependent meetings will now miraculously be made and you’ll be on time for everything!

    – The tension headaches you used to always get from “travelling” will cease to exist.

    – You’ll marvel at how you now seem to only go to sites and experiences you actually enjoy. Nirvana will be yours!

    I graciously accept your thanks in advance for this secret gem of travel advice and may your travels be… well, quieter.

    (just kidding honey, you know I LOVE travelling together.. cough)

    Thanks for the all the great stuff you share Tim!!! It’s had a huge impact on my life.

    Best,

    Matt

    (whew 11:54pm made it)

  62. Hi Tim,

    I’m an older lady who just traveled around Europe with one cabin-sized bag. I didn’t want to stand out as a tourist, but I did want to take a large camera. Here’s what I did:

    1) Packed one pair of black pants and a crushable dress as I was going to attend a wedding, and one black and one coloured top. I washed my clothes every night in the sink.

    2) Wore one pair of very comfortable shoes that went with the pants and the dress.

    3)Packed minimal makeup and borrowed shampoo along the way.

    4) Packed a very light, curling brush hair dryer that enabled me to do my hair every day AND dry my clothes before I packed them if hanging overnight didn’t quite do the trick.

    5) Backed a small black vinyl “handbag” backpack. These are a bit out of fashion now but you can still buy them in handbag shops. They held my camera and my purse when I was out and about and very sucessfully hid the fact that I was a tourist.

    6) Rolled all the clothes up like a snail shell which created a lot of room in my cabin bag.

    7) Packed a belt with a zip compartment in it to take cash.

    8) Took my iphone with Tom Tom on it to hold travel maps, language dictionaries, metro maps, kindle novels etc. I took the sim card out so I wouldn’t be hit with date fees and bought myself a skype number and forwarded my phones to that. Then whenever I found a hotspot, I called home, checked my voicemail, email etc. Tom Tom was a lifesaver! The only regret I have is not getting an extra battery for my phone – it ran down on train trips.

    9) Sent scans of all hotel reservations and travel documents to gmail.

    10) Took a tiny bottle of eucalyptus oil to keep my shoes smelling nice!

    Because I was dressed all in black with a “handbag” when I was out and about, I was constantly mistaken for a local. Locals would come up to me to ask for directions! I had a wonderful time chatting to people and got largely left alone by hustlers. It was brilliant!

    Thanks Tim for the inspiration!

  63. QOD:

    I really hope this gets in on time! I officially submitted this before midnight …

    One of the most valuable assets an individual can possess to ensure a lighter load on the road is a sophisticated social skill set. I’ve had the great privilege of traveling a great deal as a journalist, and my tendency to talk too much has helped me out in (or gotten me into) a tight spot on countless occasions. I think these experiences count as distinct from buying things on the spot because there is no material loss involved in them / no capital is required for them:

    Example 1:

    While covering some wild protests at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, I was bombarded with a great deal of tear gas. During my entire stay in the city, I was afraid to carry swimming goggles — the best way to protect your eyes against the gas — because the Danish police were suspicious of people carrying them, and I was being frisked everywhere. But I was able to acquire some on the spot when I ran into a few young activists I had struck up an extended conversation with the night before. There’s no reason that they would’ve picked me over thousands of others to help out in that situation aside from the friendly rapport we established over a bowl of soup at an activist den. My eyes were saved!

    Surreally, I later used the goggles to barter for a megaphone during the protest, which I used to find the people whom I came with (the primary subjects for my piece). With an amplified voice, I found my crew with ease. This was good because I did not have a working phone and I was being batonned quite badly.

    Example 2:

    In Barcelona, I developed a hilarious hand signal-based relationship with the owner of an Internet cafe. He rarely understood anything I said, but after witnessing my effort to get to know people, he was extraordinarily generous towards me. When I tried leaving the shop during torrential rainfall one day, he was kind enough to just hand me his umbrella as I was about to sprint out the door. That might be the reason my laptop still works today.

    Example 3:

    While it’s not quite fair to call me an avid fisher, I do find it unfortunate that the sport is off-limits to anyone who doesn’t want to carry around a bunch of gear (in areas that don’t offer rentals). In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I was meandering along some pleasant beaches, when I sat down on a bench by a particularly stretch. I wanted to talk to the fisherman, but I knew they didn’t speak English, and my Arabic is terrible. I struck up conversation with some young college students near me who happened to know a bit of English, and after a while they introduced me to one of the fishermen. Gotta love that Saudi hospitality: The fisherman let me use his fishing pole for a good bit of the afternoon!

    Example 4: Rather than carry around Lonely Planet guides with you everywhere you go, you’re better off using local recommendations. I make a point of talking to 2 -3 people at any sort of public venue I attend to get recommendations, and write them in my notebook. I decide which ones are superior by bouncing old recommendations off the people giving me new ones. Local peer approval is often superior to the very broad prescriptions of tourist-centered guide books.

    Improving your social skills is challenging, but there are tools. The biggest one is simply practice — challenging yourself to talk to strangers in any circumstance. Start with banal situations like the grocery store; then build your way up to things like an attractive prospect at a bar. Possible literature: Never Eat Alone, The Game, and the Mystery Method.

  64. QOD Reply.

    When I am in minimalist-traveler-mode, I always have the following two things…

    1. an unlocked GSM phone. I bought a Nokia old-school mini phone on ebay for $40. I ended up getting stuck in Lagos, Portugal longer than expected and bought a 15 euro SIM card. I had a local number and it came in really handy to meet up with my new friends and set stuff up. I was also able to continue to text my new friends as I continued throughout Europe without paying ridiculous roaming fees.

    2. Sleeping sack. I had my mother’s seamstress make me a sleeping bag out of a bed sheet. It folds down super-small and even had a spot to tuck in the pillow. I used this in every hostel that I slept in. This way, I was able to always know that I was sleeping in clean sheets (or at least sheets that were not slept in by other people). After reading all these comments I want to get another one made of drifit material 🙂

  65. As I started reading, my first response was: “That’s easy, just get a scottyvest.” Heh. Pockets, give me more pockets!

    My rule for light travel: Everything need to have at least 2 uses.

    This includes clothes. While pants for example can only really be used for pants (though maybe a hat if you’re so inclined) they need to be useable for both digging a ditch or a dinner party and everything in between. Shirts need to follow the same rule. All clothes also need to be easy clean, drip dry, and look ok without ironing.

    Interchangeable socks – my preference is black. Then it doesn’t matter if you lose a few, they’re all the same anyway.

    Everything precious has it’s own place. Then when you want it, finding the item you want is easy. It also helps with packing – if said location is empty, it’s not yet packed and probably still under the hotel bed.

    And whenever I travel anywhere, I also carry some nuts (usually peanut) and chocolate. You just never know when you’ll find yourself stuck in a closed airport or train station overnight! And besides, sharing chocolate makes you everyones friend!

    But I really think that it’s not what you take or don’t that defines traveling light – it’s the attitude of, at a moments notice, being able to leave something behind.

  66. @R.J. – Where in Brazil did you get the report on stealing everything down to the clothes? Never heard about that (with exception to stealing everything a person has if they pass out drunk).

    Traveling light IS a form of security. You’re just not the same target as someone with a backpack full of pawn shop bait. If fact, wearing nondescript clothes and avoiding touristy places (in tandem with traveling light) almost places you entirely off of a thief’s radar. It takes a bit of backwards thinking, but if you see someone with a big backpack and a padlock on the main chamber pocket, that is actually the biggest target (the padlock is an attraction, not a deterrent)… not someone who doesn’t look like they’re carrying anything (and may actually be able to defend themselves or run after the thief).

  67. I travel a lot for business and pleasure and have a few simple “rules” that I follow to I only take what I need.

    1. lay out all my clothes before packing and then plan outfits accordingly and based on time away. Then split what’s left in half. If you pack darker clothes it’s easier to mix and match and then I don’t need as many shoes either, which take up a lot of space.

    2. to prevent wrinkles, roll your clothes and pack them then hang them up when you arrive. You’ll prevent wrinkles and save space – this alone often allows to me only need a carry on bag for up to a week.

    3. liquids – use what the hotel provides since they all have shampoo, body wash, conditioner, lotion and hair dryers. If you need to bring your own liquid items then buy smaller sizes or get samples from the retailer- saving you space and money! Here’s what I get free samples of to travel with – perfume, night cream, spf day cream, and some make-up. It’s amazing what you can fit in that little “secure” airport plastic baggy (for liquids).

    Happy travels!

  68. I usually travel for business and have to wear a suit. My tips: one pair of underware, wear same suit and shirt; carry a Nook for reading, one file with all contact information on clients and leave behinds, one briefcase to carry everything in, put wallet, keys etc in briefcase and it goes through security easier, iphone, and stay in same hotels… they know me, in most places in the nation and it seems to matter.

  69. Rather than the genius scanner, do as I do and photograph your receipts with your digital camera. You could always use the iphone, they don’t need to be high quality.

    I then backup the photos to my website using FTP. hint: If you use a net cafe, then make sure you lock the card so you don’t get any nasty viruses that hide/delete you’re images.

    I use the bison sandles all the time, and the postal system. Great ideas. It works best in capital cities, where there is less chance of stuff going missing in transit.

  70. One trick I’ve learned that has worked well for me is rolling your clothes instead of folding them and then packing them into a spacebag (vacuum/compressible bag) that fits into my bookbag. I’m able to pack plenty of clothes w/out sacrificing much space at all.

  71. Tim,

    I have an unlocked, jailbroken Iphone, so I can do the Sim Card Switch as you described. One big drawback I found is that some cool apps including Travel Journal, and Vlingo require upgraded Iphone software. Once you upgrade your Iphone to latest Apple software, the phone is “put in jail, and “locked”, so then you lose the Sim Card Switch capability. Any thoughts on how to get around this? Thanks! John

  72. I notice with a smile how your plan to be luggage-free requires at least one mug to NOT follow your example. I’m visualizing an entire hostel washroom of people following your list, except one poor mug who is swarmed for “one dab of toothpaste” and “a couple of aspirin”.

    “Can I borrow a sweater/shirt/something I didn’t take?” “No can do, dude. I followed your instructions and didn’t pack anything either.”

    I’m forced to disagree on your idea that a “hand-to-mouth” existence is somehow liberating. Overplanning and over-preparing and the subsequent overpacking is one kind of misery, but you’re proposing a new flavour of hardship and frustration.

    “Wow, is it chilly out there today!” (people who packed sweaters and hoodies climb into them quickly.) “Uh…where’s the nearest thrift store? I need to score a jacket or something.” “Over in the poor section of town, about 12 blocks from here. But they’re not open until 10, dude. The bus to the mountain leaves at 8:30.”

    “Dude. WHAT are you wearing?” “Well, the thrift store jackets were pretty picked over. It’s only a size too small.” “But, green and white polka dots?”

    Nevertheless, some very intriguing ideas to get the brain working on paring down excess luggage.

  73. Tim! You make me smile. You make me laugh. You make me squeal for joy! And I haven’t even met you. hahahaha. This breaks my heart it’s so awesome. Sending good vibes from Hollywood, FL.

  74. I think most married men would agree that the real travel challenge is not packing light yourself, but getting your wife to pack light. My wife and I went on a trip to France a couple of years ago. Since we were planning on using their excellent public transportation system I felt it was imperative to have light small bags so we could hop on and off the trains, buses, and Paris metro with ease.

    However my wife does not like to pack light; she loves shoes which naturally take up lots of space and usually required her to take several bags when we travel. So for the trip I bribed her and said I would buy her a nice new coat in Paris if she could fit all her stuff in her purse and one carry on. She was able to do it, although just barely, we almost couldn’t get the bag in the overhead bin for the trip over.

    It was the best money I have ever spent. Because we didn’t have to wait for any checked bags we were able to catch and earlier train and saved 2 hours. And I was able to carry both our bags when needed as well so getting around train stations and metro stations was never a big problem.

    And ever since that trip she has been packing everything in one carry-on for all our other trips because of how much easier and better packing lighter made our trip to France.

    While we didn’t pack ultra light by any stretch of the imagination just making the jump to one carry on bag makes a huge difference. If you haven’t tried it you really need to. It makes flying in particular so much easier and more relaxing. You don’t have to worry about lost luggage or how you are going to get all your stuff through a crowded train station. So husband and wives do whatever it takes to bribe your reluctant spouse to pack light it will probably be the best money you spend on your upcoming trip.

  75. Purge until you become uncomfortable.

    It’s happens the night before every trip. We look at the pile of garbage we want to lug with us and we start tossing things. Nothing is safe. We stop when it starts to feel uncomfortable.

    ***SIDE NOTE***

    I picked up Vagabonding a few days ago and polished it off in two quick sittings. Great book. I found it to be just as much about day-to-day life as it was about travel.

    Best quote of the book:

    “..we have politicized open-mindedness to the point that it isn’t so open-minded anymore. Indeed, regardless of whether your sympathies lean to the left or the right, you aren’t going to learn anything new if you continually use politics as a lens through which to view the world.”

  76. Here are some power-related tips:

    When traveling with electronic devices, the single most useful item that I bring is my Belkin surge protector. It’s a mini 3-outlet surge protector with 2 USB charging ports and is very light/compact. This way if i’m at a crowded airport, coffee shop, conference room, hotel lobby, or whatever, I can simply ask a person using an outlet if I can plug in my surge protector. This has saved me on many occasions when I need to charge something on the go. The model # is BZ103050-TVL.

    If you’re only traveling internationally with small mobile devices, skip the voltage converters and get a solar USB charger. They’re often much smaller and lighter than a voltage converter and adapters. This has the added bonus of being able to charge even when there are no outlets available. It’s almost always easier to find a source of light than a source of power.

  77. Great write up. I swear I’ve checked your blog every day and this is the first I’ve seen. Drat. Missed the contest.

  78. @peatt good tips & amusing.

    Here a few hacks from wilderness backpacking and international traveling for the last 20 years:

    ~ Duct tape. Good for bag/clothing repair, blisters…only limited by your imagination here.

    ~ Baby wipes or handiwipes. You can get the alcohol free fancy pants ones @ Wild Oats or just regular. On very long flights, USA – Australia/Asia…before landing I go into the bathroom shave, put deodorant on. Then clean up with one of the baby wipes. I feel like a new man and am ready to hit the ground running.

  79. I hope this isn’t unnecessary, but I’d like to note that my responses are submissions as answers to the “QOD” portion of your post. I know that my odds are low (nearly 1 in 400), but I’d hate to be disqualified from the Sonos contest simply because I forgot to specify something.

  80. This guy is either an amateur or completely nuts.

    How can you not pack any mosquito repellent when travelling to countries in the tropics?

    Oh, and no, Malaria- or dengue-carrying mosquitos don’t wait until you have found the local pharmacy to stock up….

  81. This sounds like a great experiment. I’d love to see how this works out for a female traveler though. Who knows, maybe I’ll try this on my next trip!

  82. I would love to travel like this. My problem is I want to be ready for anything. One packing trick I use (not for packing light but quickly) is to make a list of all the stuff I normally travel with and remove things from the list I do not need on that trip.

    Josh Bulloc

    Kansas City, MO

  83. Tim,

    I’ve said this in the past and it has been amazingly consistent that every time I’m making changes in my life you seem to post exactly what is relevant! I’m about to embark on a 3600 Mile Walk across the country from Jackson, NC to Long Beach California… My platform is speaking on the childhood obesity epidemic and I’ve been ever so fortunate to have created a muse and system to support my 12 month walk. September 11th is the start date and by all means, this post on “packing light” is obviously right on point!

    While I’m not giving my two cents for the contest, I want to again thank you for somehow being right on par with the info and knowledge that is needed in my life, time and again!

    Cheers Tim!

    Patrick

  84. Hi!

    This is something I have been perfecting each time an opportunity for a trip arises! I favor multi-purpose items and have found that the less I have in my bag, the easier it is to maneuver around. The most essential pieces of equipment in my travel bag are :

    – a sarong : this I have used for a towel, blanket, skirt, scarf, bag, dress, shirt, etc… it’s lightweight but tightly woven, and are sold in most places across the globe for a very low price.

    – a small travel size bottle of Dr. Bromer’s concentrated soap will last at least a month for any type of washing up : hair, body, clothes.

    I hope this is helpful! Thanks for all the commentary insight!

  85. Paper (and pen) beats rock, scissors, language difficulties and boarder officials! Nothing is mightier.

    Always carry a pad of paper and a pen, not just because you are a writer, not just for the reasons below, but for all the reasons can’t think of.

    When I went to Thailand on my RTW trip I had a one way flight to Bangkok and no ticket out, witch is the visa requirement. When I presented my passport to the boarder official at BKK airport she replied “round trip ticket?” I shook my head and she said “ticket out??” She went to signal somebody to come over but I cut her off by waiving my hand, pulled out my pen and paper and proceeded to pretend I was deaf. I scribbled a made up language which she tried very hard to read. She went to signal somebody again and I waved my hand in a “lets try again” type of motion and scribbled away. She became impatient and the line of restless travelers behind me got longer. She put up her hands in surrender and waved me into thailand with my visa. Thank you pen and paper!

    When in asian countries hand signals rarely work. Just try asking for a bathroom without talking, you’ll find yourself in the squat position motioning fecal matter flying from your bum in desperation. You wont have to do that if you have pen and paper! Just doodle a picture! I was at a massive bazaar in China and wanted to find an electrified bug zapper shaped like a tennis racket that I saw once. I doodled a tennis racket, a lightning bolt and a fly and I had one in my hand in about a minute, no clarification or pantomiming needed.

    Directions in a language you can even pronounce or read. China once again had me stumped trying to ask directions or telling taxi drivers where to take me. Enter pen and paper! I asked the last english at my guesthouse to write it down in Mandarin and I presented it to my cab driver. I was there in no time with no confusion.

    If somebody writes down something for you, just make sure you get your pen back. A ball point pen is big trade item in some countries.

  86. Gavin is absolutely right about the pen and paper, and it can make a great icebreaker in low-language social situations too.

    You can keep a single notepad and just rip out the unimportant doodles to keep your important information quickly retrievable. Retrievability is also why the audio recorder is crucial for reducing notepad load.

  87. A little obvious, some may say but..

    Find a spring loaded USB to iphone cord!!

    Should be less than $5 and you can plug your phone into any USB port(internet cafe’s) to charge anywhere in the world- no bulky chargers or international adapters required.

    They’re super cheap on ebay.

  88. Further to Dave’s Aug 20 comment regarding raising suspicion at having no bags. This past Thursday I was returning from a Central American business trip. One burly Atlanta Custom’s Agent asked “Where you bags at?!” When I tilted my shoulder to reveal my small backback (Cabela Day Pack) and briefcase, he replied, “You the smartest guy in here!” Have Travels John

  89. I have been using that exact keyboard for years (originally had it hooked into my Cingular 8525) and I *highly* recommend it for seasoned road warriors/travelers. Mine’s still in “like new” condition after 5 years and it sits in the bottom of my day-pack.

    What’s better, since iPhone updated its BT (for iPads to use the Apply BT keyboard), that keyboard really does work auto-magically. If you’re over 30 and you want to write anything more than a Twitter entry, you really should consider this.

    I don’t think they make them anymore, so get one while you can. It was the smartest “luxury” item I’ve purchased in the last decade.

  90. I forgot one!!! I always do 2 things before I travel to areas where I will be using internet cafes, and “unknown” computers.

    Thing #1: I setup a new gmail account with a new password (a password that I use nowhere else) e.g. meontheroad@gmail.com. From this email address I download all the email from my real accounts. The idea of this is that when you finish your trip, you change the password on this email account or abandon the email address all together. Why do I do this? Some shady internet cafes will have key loggers that can record every keystroke on a computer.If you sue one of these computers, they will have your username and password and if your username/password is the same everywhere else then they have access to a lot more than your email. (e.g. doinga search on your email for what bank you deal with). With this technique, even if they get your new travel email and password, they will not have much time to cause you harm.

    Thing #2: I always travel with a 2GB mini USB stick. On it, I have portable apps http://portableapps.com/ This is a set of applications (such as firefox) that run off the USB stick rather than the one that is on the internet cafe’s computer. This way, you can make sure you are using applications that you are familiar with and ones that don’t save any of your login information…. and it’s free!

    Hope this helps!

  91. Being a hardy traveller – with expensive carbon roadbike from Australia to France – weight is an essential consideration for me. I am a logistics monster.

    I’m also a terrible, terrible overpacker. Even on day trips on the bike out to watch Le Tour, I had trouble picking one single lense: “oooh, but I WILL need a tele, and wide, and standard”.

    This year for France (Le Tour, L’Etape), I had 3, yes, THREE, packing lists, viz:

    Bike Bag including bike, energy gels, bike tools, kit.

    Casual stuff

    Camera gear (40D, 70-200L, 10-20 wide, 17-55, spare cables, spare memory, batteries, chargers)

    Powerbook 13″ + charger

    iPhone, iPod + chargers

    2 business books

    Canon IXUS 100IS

    I just don’t learn. I did the same thing last year.

    I started this with this years “stuff” pile on my bed. 14 tshirts for 13 days.

    TIPS:

    1. Take your piles, cut everything in half.

    2. If you must take camera gear, rationalise. 2 lenses, max. No flash. Or dump it all, and take a high quality point and shoot. I need a dSLR for my website and ebooks (covers etc), and for the shutter speed, but most people can get away with an awesome point and shoot. Or even nothing, and use an iPhone 4.

    3. A laptop, really? Unless you’re blogging/cutting video (I was), you don’t NEED one. Well if I was going for a month I’d take one. I hate slumming it in internet kiosks, mucking around with SDHC and CF cards.

    4. 1 pair of shoes.

    5. No books (put them on laptop, iPad, etc etc), or 1 max.

    For me, the weight is in:

    – books

    – shoes

    – coats

    – excess clothes (1 tshirt per 2 days).

    I’m back off to France next year for Le Tour and L’Etape and 2 weeks in Spain with my +1 (3 weeks total), so will take

    Bike, minimum kit, buy all my energy stuff there.

    1 tshirt per 3 days, ONE going out tshirt only (I usually take 4 or so, and then don’t go out).

    1 pair of shoes ONLY (something for trekking, going out – Salomons or equivalent from Wiggle)

    1 jumper

    1 light rain jacket shell – buy in Europe as they’re way cheaper than in Australia

    3 pairs shorts (casual, walk/plane, boardies)

    Really, the list of weight saving is endless.

    Thanks Tim for the heads up on the keyboard, and backpack.

    Tim Marsh

    PS, I go overseas for snowboarding and don’t even want to think about that topic.

  92. When it comes to ultra-light travel, it would be a shame to not mention Ray Jardine and his lightweight backpacking principles.

    Jardine was the rock climber who pioneered the spring-loaded camming devices, which in many ways, totally reinvented the sport of rock climbing. The spring-loaded devices that he was responsible for creating could be easily removed from the rock as climbers made their way up, so they could climb long, steep pitches without causing damage to the rock face. Plus, climbers could carry less gear because they were bringing the cams up with them as they climbed, instead of leaving their gear wedged in the rock like climbers had done for so long in the past.

    Moving away from the rock climbing world for a while, Jardine became an avid thru-hiker, hiking extremely long distances in short amounts of time… and setting numerous records along the way.

    Jardine became a name in the hiking world, not necessarily because of the paths he took or the trails he traversed, but because of the way he traveled with so little gear. Jardine advocated that one could travel longer distances in shorter amounts of time if he were to simply pack light. To do this for himself, Jardine used an array of homemade products to assist him on his travels. And he later took his ideas and compiled them all into what is often times referred to as the Bible of thru-hiking books – a book titled “Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine’s Guide To Lightweight Hiking.”

    Note to Tim: You would like this book, not just because of the lightweight principles, but because he has an entire section of the book dedicated to nutritious, lightweight foods that give your body powerful boosts of energy.

    The book totally revolutionized the world of long-distance hiking… and from the ideas share in Jardine’s book a whole host of modern-day thru-hikers are now carrying packs that weight as little as 12 pounds or less.

    In addition, the principles that Jardine shared are now behind some of the most famous and well-respected outdoor companies in the world. GoLite, for example, has a motto that reads “Less is more. Less is liberation. Less is our passion. But we didn’t invent this philosophy. You did. You want to get away from all the stuff—the blaring music, the gadgets, the never-ending load of work and the glut of more, more, more. So you go light. You head out on the trail, because you want to experience nature on its own terms. You value adventure over advertising. Memories over souvenirs. You don’t want to clog the planet with more stuff. You just want to have pure, simple, heart-pounding fun. Therefore you GoLite.”

    While Jardine pushes lightweight travel as a means of covering longer distances at a greater rate of speed, lightweight travel (for me at least) is simply a means of freeing yourself up to whatever experiences may come your way. When you are bogged down with excess gear, it does nothing more than hold you back from potential opportunities. While the benefits of lightweight travel are great, it is the freedom you receive as a benefit of lightweight travel that really makes the “ultra-lite” principles so appealing.

    Thanks again Tim for another great post. Keep up the good work!

  93. I do not know if anyone else has said these but I like the Aqua Safe Straw Plus for thirst quenching it is one of the best ceramic straws. Removes 99.9999% bacteria and 99.99% of Viruses. Great for when you want to go to a place where the water might be questionable and still allow you to drink even alcoholic drinks so you do not have to worry about the ice in the drink.

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