How Minimalism Has Helped Me Become a Better Backpacker

Here’s a list of ways how becoming a minimalist has helped me become a better backpacker.

Smaller Backpack

I don’t need as much. My backpack is a 55L Eagle Creek Explorer LT. It has so far survived two years on the road and it’s still going strong. My back is not breaking because it’s light and easy to put on. In many airlines, it’s enough to even take as a carry-on. It’s easy to strap on and go.

What I took RTW

What I took RTW

Saves Money

Since my backpack is small, I can’t carry much. I’m forced to buy less. It really makes me think twice about what I’m buying. This wasn’t ever an issue since I became a minimalist before I was a backpacker.

To me it feels good to own less. The less I own, the better I feel. I’m usually not tempted to buy too much. I’ve bought souvenirs as a personal remembrance of some places but they are always small and sometimes they were free. I don’t need anything fancy. I’m spending the money on experiences rather than material goods.

Less to deal with at home

I don’t need to rent a storage house. In fact, all I have is a small box that is kept at my mother’s house. I’ve sold all my possessions prior to traveling. Just like my last

I have nothing holding me back

I can travel for as long as I want. I have, as many Americans do, student loans – other than that, I don’t have to pay for anything else. I’m free to backpack for as long as I’d like without worrying about delaying anything back at home. I’ve met many backpackers that unwillingly need to go back home because of all the “stuff” they have back at home.

Appreciating the small things

Not owning anything outside of a backpack and a box makes me appreciate the little things in my life. What I own means a lot to me.

75 Comments

  1. Peter Heck on April 24, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Totally agree with you Michael. It’s amazing how little you can live comfortably with (or without) isn’t it. You don’t realize it until you get rid of it all and strap the sack on and get out and do it. I can’t imagine owning that much “stuff” again.

  2. Peter Heck on April 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Totally agree with you Michael. It’s amazing how little you can live comfortably with (or without) isn’t it. You don’t realize it until you get rid of it all and strap the sack on and get out and do it. I can’t imagine owning that much “stuff” again.

  3. Danny and Jillian on April 24, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Agree completely! We continuously slimmed down our packs as we traveled. It was liberating not having so much stuff to carry and I loved being able to run around with my pack! Now that we’re home I still feel “free” when I see how little makes me happy.

    • Michael on April 25, 2011 at 4:17 am

      Good to hear that you’re feeling the same way even at home.
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Danny and Jillian on April 24, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Agree completely! We continuously slimmed down our packs as we traveled. It was liberating not having so much stuff to carry and I loved being able to run around with my pack! Now that we’re home I still feel “free” when I see how little makes me happy.

    • Michael on April 25, 2011 at 5:17 am

      Good to hear that you’re feeling the same way even at home.
      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Seattle Dredge on April 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I love looking at people’s packing photos.. hehe
    It must feel nice to have so little to worry about. I REALLY need to try this.. I’m such a pack rat sometimes.. great post!

  6. Seattle Dredge on April 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I love looking at people’s packing photos.. hehe
    It must feel nice to have so little to worry about. I REALLY need to try this.. I’m such a pack rat sometimes.. great post!

  7. Breakaway Backpacker on April 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    I think minimalism helps a lot when backpacking. I love love LOVE my 40L backpack. It has everything I need & is small enough to carryon ANYWHERE. I also love the fact that I am always the person with the smallest backpack.

    • Darrin on April 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      What kind of pack do you own?

    • Michael on April 25, 2011 at 4:13 am

      Nice! Must be great carrying a 40L bag. That’s indeed small. I often get commented on my 55L, too.

  8. Breakaway Backpacker on April 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    I think minimalism helps a lot when backpacking. I love love LOVE my 40L backpack. It has everything I need & is small enough to carryon ANYWHERE. I also love the fact that I am always the person with the smallest backpack.

    • Darrin on April 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      What kind of pack do you own?

    • Michael on April 25, 2011 at 5:13 am

      Nice! Must be great carrying a 40L bag. That’s indeed small. I often get commented on my 55L, too.

  9. Darrin on April 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    How much equipment do you take to stay connected to your blog?

    • Michael on April 25, 2011 at 4:11 am

      A laptop and my iTouch. I use to have an iPhone but it broke. Need to get that again sometime soon. There’s internet everywhere I go. I never had too much trouble getting online although the internet speeds are less than desirable in many countries.

  10. Darrin on April 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    How much equipment do you take to stay connected to your blog?

    • Michael on April 25, 2011 at 5:11 am

      A laptop and my iTouch. I use to have an iPhone but it broke. Need to get that again sometime soon. There’s internet everywhere I go. I never had too much trouble getting online although the internet speeds are less than desirable in many countries.

  11. Guest on April 24, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I’m not a minamlist but I try to pack light when I travel. The more trips I take the easier it becomes to leave things back.

    • goteresago on April 27, 2011 at 2:27 am

      I’m a backpacker, but sometimes, I take trips that aren’t so long and I might need 3 dresses and 3 pairs of shoes. Almost feels strange to carry and bring a suitcase when I’m so used to packing so light for long term travel.

  12. Guest on April 24, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    I’m not a minamlist but I try to pack light when I travel. The more trips I take the easier it becomes to leave things back.

    • Transcendental Gypsy on April 27, 2011 at 3:27 am

      I’m a backpacker, but sometimes, I take trips that aren’t so long and I might need 3 dresses and 3 pairs of shoes. Almost feels strange to carry and bring a suitcase when I’m so used to packing so light for long term travel.

  13. Anthony on April 25, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I think the best tip is that if your backpack is small that you can’t buy anything else and you save money. That is the theory that I use and it stops you buying useless items that aren’t needed. Our biggest weight problem is our camera and laptop. They weigh the most and take up the most room in our packs. We are trying to still cut down on items we don’t need and get our weight down even further. Thanks for sharing what is in your pack 😉

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      The technology takes up the most room for sure. We just got a Macbook Pro and it’s a bit better than the netbook we had earlier. The technology seems to add up more than anything else in our bags.

  14. Anthony on April 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I think the best tip is that if your backpack is small that you can’t buy anything else and you save money. That is the theory that I use and it stops you buying useless items that aren’t needed. Our biggest weight problem is our camera and laptop. They weigh the most and take up the most room in our packs. We are trying to still cut down on items we don’t need and get our weight down even further. Thanks for sharing what is in your pack 😉

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

      The technology takes up the most room for sure. We just got a Macbook Pro and it’s a bit better than the netbook we had earlier. The technology seems to add up more than anything else in our bags.

  15. David William on April 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    i really like these sort of posts, and i must say this is one of the best ones yet. i have the same bag, but the 65L one. im worried even that is too big! 🙂

    i cant wait to take this same photo and do my trip. soon so soon!

  16. David William on April 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    i really like these sort of posts, and i must say this is one of the best ones yet. i have the same bag, but the 65L one. im worried even that is too big! 🙂

    i cant wait to take this same photo and do my trip. soon so soon!

  17. Roman on April 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I’m with you! Everything I own fits into my 60L pack and I could and probably should downsize at some point. It is a beautiful thing to live so simple and free.

  18. Roman on April 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    I’m with you! Everything I own fits into my 60L pack and I could and probably should downsize at some point. It is a beautiful thing to live so simple and free.

  19. Fly on April 26, 2011 at 1:57 am

    What did you take with?

  20. Fly on April 26, 2011 at 2:57 am

    What did you take with?

  21. Benjamin Spall on April 28, 2011 at 2:27 am

    Got to admit, I love these packing photos too.

    Nice photo and description. I’ve yet to go RTW, but on my last two short travel adventures (Norway for a week, Barcelona for a week) I took less than you can see here http://liferapture.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/travelling-light.jpg (I ditched things I didn’t need as I went along).

    I use a small notebook (HP Mini 210) and iPhone that shouldn’t add too much to the weight of the package when I plan to go RTW.

    What do you take with you when you only go away for a few days, Michael?

    – Benjamin

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      Good question. Depends where I’m going but usually a very small day pack, laptop, itouch, and camera. If I plan to make videos out of it, maybe my camcorder but I usually leave that behind because it’s heavy and expensive. The day pack is a 10L so I’m focused to bring very little.

  22. Benjamin on April 28, 2011 at 3:27 am

    Got to admit, I love these packing photos too.

    Nice photo and description. I’ve yet to go RTW, but on my last two short travel adventures (Norway for a week, Barcelona for a week) I took less than you can see here http://liferapture.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/travelling-light.jpg (I ditched things I didn’t need as I went along).

    I use a small notebook (HP Mini 210) and iPhone that shouldn’t add too much to the weight of the package when I plan to go RTW.

    What do you take with you when you only go away for a few days, Michael?

    – Benjamin

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm

      Good question. Depends where I’m going but usually a very small day pack, laptop, itouch, and camera. If I plan to make videos out of it, maybe my camcorder but I usually leave that behind because it’s heavy and expensive. The day pack is a 10L so I’m focused to bring very little.

  23. Aaron's Worldwide Adventures on April 29, 2011 at 12:07 am

    My packing has evolved over my trips to less and less. So much so that I just downgraded from a whopping 90L pack to a slim 32L pack. I’m pretty confident I can make it work through minimalism, but we’ll see!

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      90L to 32L?! That’s quite a drastic downgrade. Good for you! Must feel nice to have such a lighter bag. Would love to hear how it goes.

  24. Aaron's Worldwide Adventures on April 29, 2011 at 1:07 am

    My packing has evolved over my trips to less and less. So much so that I just downgraded from a whopping 90L pack to a slim 32L pack. I’m pretty confident I can make it work through minimalism, but we’ll see!

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 9:02 pm

      90L to 32L?! That’s quite a drastic downgrade. Good for you! Must feel nice to have such a lighter bag. Would love to hear how it goes.

  25. Hendrik Morkel on April 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I reckon you could at least leave one more pair of shoes behind =)

    Other than that, I like the attitude of experiences over stuff – that’s the way to go!

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      I did actually. The boots were way too much. I left those behind. As time went on, I kept taking things out of my bag so I had less than what the picture has.

  26. Hendrik Morkel on April 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I reckon you could at least leave one more pair of shoes behind =)

    Other than that, I like the attitude of experiences over stuff – that’s the way to go!

    • Michael on May 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm

      I did actually. The boots were way too much. I left those behind. As time went on, I kept taking things out of my bag so I had less than what the picture has.

  27. roy | roymarvelous.com on May 10, 2011 at 2:55 am

    I agree and prefer to travel light too. My only problem is when I want to go somewhere nice and don’t have any nice clothes to wear.

  28. roy | roymarvelous.com on May 10, 2011 at 3:55 am

    I agree and prefer to travel light too. My only problem is when I want to go somewhere nice and don’t have any nice clothes to wear.

  29. Guest on May 25, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Can you recommend a medium/large backpack with a proper camera case (padded and all) inside it?

    PS.  might have already asked this questions at some another site/post.

  30. Guest on May 25, 2011 at 7:19 am

    Can you recommend a medium/large backpack with a proper camera case (padded and all) inside it?

    PS.  might have already asked this questions at some another site/post.

  31. shaun on August 21, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Great articles on this site!

    I’ve recently come back from 6 months in China – teaching English near Kunming in Yunnan province and had an AMAZING time.  Before I left England I didn’t plan on travelling after teaching….but plans never stay the same.  When I finished teaching I really wanted to travel…  However, I had a huge suitcase as I never intended to travel….it was a nightmare on trains and buses haha!  

    I’m planning on going back to China next year in Spring….around southwest China again for 4 to 6 weeks.  Do you have any recommendations of sizes of backpacks etc that I should take? And what/how much I should pack?  I saw your photograph of what you take, but I’m skeptical if it’d really be enough for me haha! I know next year’s a long way off, but I’m already dying to get back over there!

    • Michael on August 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      Hey Shaun. Thanks for the comment! China has that effect on people. It’s awesome there.

      It’s difficult to know what you’ll really need in your pack. It’s really up to what you find important to bring in your bag. Check out the sizes in real life at most outdoors shops and you can see the difference in sizes. 

  32. shaun on August 21, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Great articles on this site!

    I’ve recently come back from 6 months in China – teaching English near Kunming in Yunnan province and had an AMAZING time.  Before I left England I didn’t plan on travelling after teaching….but plans never stay the same.  When I finished teaching I really wanted to travel…  However, I had a huge suitcase as I never intended to travel….it was a nightmare on trains and buses haha!  

    I’m planning on going back to China next year in Spring….around southwest China again for 4 to 6 weeks.  Do you have any recommendations of sizes of backpacks etc that I should take? And what/how much I should pack?  I saw your photograph of what you take, but I’m skeptical if it’d really be enough for me haha! I know next year’s a long way off, but I’m already dying to get back over there!

    • Michael on August 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      Hey Shaun. Thanks for the comment! China has that effect on people. It’s awesome there.

      It’s difficult to know what you’ll really need in your pack. It’s really up to what you find important to bring in your bag. Check out the sizes in real life at most outdoors shops and you can see the difference in sizes. 

  33. Koalahedgehog on October 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    this makes me wish i was a guy. Ive really tried to go down the minimalist road on my recent travels, my feminism keeps getting in the way. silly silly

  34. Koalahedgehog on October 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    this makes me wish i was a guy. Ive really tried to go down the minimalist road on my recent travels, my feminism keeps getting in the way. silly silly

  35. Eddie on November 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Only Problem i have is what to do about money to get from point A to B to C to D and so on? 

    • Michael on November 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      What do you mean?

  36. Eddie on November 2, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Only Problem i have is what to do about money to get from point A to B to C to D and so on? 

    • Michael on November 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      What do you mean?

  37. Nmejicano on November 8, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Great article, great life. I just retired from many years working for a company, but even when working, I managed to squeeze 2-3 weeks a year for travel. Most of my friends do not understand why I do not want to join them in their trips on a 5000 passenger cruise ship. My response, “I do not want to take with me everything that I want to leave behind” The world is a beautiful place just waiting for us to discover its hidden treasures. Travel light, travel safe, travel to places that most tourist buses don’t go.

    • Michael on November 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      Good to hear that you’re traveling the way you want to!

  38. Nmejicano on November 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    Great article, great life. I just retired from many years working for a company, but even when working, I managed to squeeze 2-3 weeks a year for travel. Most of my friends do not understand why I do not want to join them in their trips on a 5000 passenger cruise ship. My response, “I do not want to take with me everything that I want to leave behind” The world is a beautiful place just waiting for us to discover its hidden treasures. Travel light, travel safe, travel to places that most tourist buses don’t go.

    • Michael on November 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Good to hear that you’re traveling the way you want to!

  39. Ian [EagerExistence] on May 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    2 pairs of shoes & thongs (flip-flops) = minimalism?

    I’m trying to downgrade right now from 80L to carry-on. I’d like hiking boots and running shoes, but I think 2 might be pushing it. Unless I wear one pair on my feet, and carry 1 pair? Hmm.

    Why’d you go with 2 pairs? Fashionista?

    • Michael on May 29, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      Well that’s a rude comment. Considering the activities I was doing the first few months I carried those shoes, it was either bring them or have my feet destroyed. If I planned on staying on the beach the entire time throughout my entire trip then I’d just stay with flip-flops (which I eventually did once I got to the islands of Thailand). I shipped out the boots to use for another trip once I was done with all the hiking. China had a ton of mountains I wanted to climb. Especially Tiger Leaping Gorge and without those boots, it would have been hell. The boots were not really bothering me to carry when I wasn’t wearing them either since I strapped them to the back of the backpack.

  40. Ian [EagerExistence] on May 24, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    2 pairs of shoes & thongs (flip-flops) = minimalism?

    I’m trying to downgrade right now from 80L to carry-on. I’d like hiking boots and running shoes, but I think 2 might be pushing it. Unless I wear one pair on my feet, and carry 1 pair? Hmm.

    Why’d you go with 2 pairs? Fashionista?

    • Michael on May 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      Well that’s a rude comment. Considering the activities I was doing the first few months I carried those shoes, it was either bring them or have my feet destroyed. If I planned on staying on the beach the entire time throughout my entire trip then I’d just stay with flip-flops (which I eventually did once I got to the islands of Thailand). I shipped out the boots to use for another trip once I was done with all the hiking. China had a ton of mountains I wanted to climb. Especially Tiger Leaping Gorge and without those boots, it would have been hell. The boots were not really bothering me to carry when I wasn’t wearing them either since I strapped them to the back of the backpack.

  41. Savi on July 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Oh wow guys… for you it’s so easy to be minimalistic.. I’m a girl and for me it’s sooooo hard to reduce the quantity of shoes/dresses/clothes I want to take with me. In my travelling I like to go out at night as well and I want to feel attractive… You know?

  42. Savi on July 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Oh wow guys… for you it’s so easy to be minimalistic.. I’m a girl and for me it’s sooooo hard to reduce the quantity of shoes/dresses/clothes I want to take with me. In my travelling I like to go out at night as well and I want to feel attractive… You know?

    • May on August 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      I’m a sorority girl, and I have the same issues, but I still travel with a 30L bag. This was impossible for me at first, but travelfashiongirl has a great website with lots of packing lists. The maximista list is what I use, and with practice it is pretty easy to take cute outfits AND a small bag. (:

      p.s. Im not in any way connected to that site, i just find it handy for girls(or boys too, i suppose?) (:

  43. David Vallance on August 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Good read! I’m hoping to fit everything in a 40L bag for my next trip. From the looks of your planning it should be doable since I’m not planning much trekking! It’s always good when people do things before you and prove its possible :p

  44. David Vallance on August 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Good read! I’m hoping to fit everything in a 40L bag for my next trip. From the looks of your planning it should be doable since I’m not planning much trekking! It’s always good when people do things before you and prove its possible :p

  45. May on August 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I’m a sorority girl, and I have the same issues, but I still travel with a 30L bag. This was impossible for me at first, but travelfashiongirl has a great website with lots of packing lists. The maximista list is what I use, and with practice it is pretty easy to take cute outfits AND a small bag. (:

    p.s. Im not in any way connected to that site, i just find it handy for girls(or boys too, i suppose?) (:

  46. Frederick on October 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Did you fit all of that stuff into one bag??

    • Michael on October 28, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Yeap!

  47. sarge on December 31, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Now I don’t feel so bad about living out of a tote at my parent house, giving up the city life and backpacking more. people tell me i’m crazy but now i’m starting to think they are crazy

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