Over the past three years, I’ve made 5 lengthy solo trips around Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Except for the times that I’ve taken my bike I’ve never taken more than a carry-on bag onto the plane when I’ve left home. I’ve learned to travel light and discovered unexpected benefits in going without and living with less.
Let’s say, on a whim, I decide I’m going on a solo trip to Tokyo tomorrow with the vague intention on exploring that part of Asia for a few months. I’ve heard of a nice hike in Shikoku I might do and maybe I’ll be able to get to Mongolia and explore the wild steppe in some sort of local tour. I’d expect to be staying in hostels most of the time and I’ll take some camping gear in case the opportunity to get out into the wild presents itself. It’s May, so it’ll be warm in the Northern Hemisphere so there should be no need to take any winter clothes. My flight leaves tomorrow morning so I’d better get a move on and get packing. Here’s what I grab:
Backpack: My trusty and 15-year old Aarn Peak Aspiration (pictured above). It holds 47 liters, is waterproof, it great for hiking and is small enough to get onto a plane as carry-on, meaning I don’t need to pay for baggage on the budget airlines. On the downside, it only has one pocket and nowhere convenient to hold a water bottle but otherwise it does the job.
- iPhone 7 with the standard wired earbuds.
- An Amazon Kindle Paperweight.
- 20,000 mAh Power Bank that has a solar charger on one side for emergencies.
- Garmin Fenix 5S smart watch, although this isn’t really necessary.
- Short cables for the above.
- A power adaptor for the country I’m going to. I tend to lose these easily so I often just buy a cheap local copy when I arrive in the country.
- I don’t take a laptop, iPad, bulky headphones or dedicated camera as they take up too much space and the iPhone can do everything that I need it to do.
- A lightweight 3 season sleeping bag. I don’t travel to winter destinations so there’s no point in taking a fancy, bulky and expensive down sleeping bag. My current bag weighs less than 1kg and is rated to 10º C. It’s good enough for sleeping in dodgy hostels or camping in warm weather.
- 1-person tent. Again, these can weigh as little as 1.5kg, pack down to a very small size and can cost less than $100 when avoiding the fancy brands.
- Ultra-light sleeping mat. These can get as light as 600grams and pack down to the size of a coke can.
- I don’t take any cooking equipment until I’m sure I’ll need it. It is heavy and the metal can cause issues when taken as a carry-on. Should I find I’ll be doing some multi-day hiking in the wild then I’ll buy some second-hand cooking gear at that point and a small stove.
- I love merino travel gear and use it for my underclothes and long sleeve top. It stays warm, doesn’t smell and can be worn for a few days.
- Uniqlo is my go-to place for non-cotton shorts, pants, t-shirts, and shirts. It’s affordable, light, unbranded and so far has lasted the distance for me.
- I take one pair of simple trail running shoes (Asics, Nike) that serves for hiking, cycling, or just wandering around cities. A pair of light thongs for the beach or once I’ve setup camping is the only other footwear I’ll take.
- Finally, I’ll pack 2-3 pairs of medium thickness socks (preferably not cotton)
- A bamboo toothbrush, suncream, small towel, and other toiletries, which I usually buy at the destination rather than take on the plane.
- A water bottle, emptied before I fly.
- My Passport, a small diary, and a pen.
- Some simple first aid stuff that could also be bought at the destination.
That’s all. It all packs easily into my 47L backpack and weighs in under the 7kg mark. It’s everything I need to start a trip with the option to do some camping, hiking but also hang around in cities and do touristy stuff without looking too scruffy. And it means that I can fly only taking cabin baggage.