Your Essential Guide To Minimalist Packing
Nothing dampers that euphoric pre-vacation rush like the sting of a heavy suitcase digging into your thigh or the words "your bag is overweight." Here's the ultimate guide to decluttering your case of duds and adopting a more minimalist packing mentality. Bookmark it now, read it before your next takeoff, and prepare for a beautiful trip—without the baggage.
How to pack
1. Make a packing list—and actually stick to it.
Get as specific as possible and map out all the clothes, toiletries, and knickknacks you'll need before you even pull out your suitcase. Check in with this fun "Pack This" pads if you feel like you're missing something. This more prescriptive approach to packing will keep your mind from wandering as you rummage through your clothes and ensure you don't needlessly pack something just because it looks cute.
2. Go for function over fashion.
Outdoor adventurer Kristin McLane has traversed the entire Pacific Crest Trail with only a backpack in tow, so it's safe to say she knows a thing or two about resourceful packing. "My main tip for packing as a minimalist is that every item should be multifunctional," she tells mindbodygreen. "A sarong could be a dress, skirt, towel, or scarf. A bandana could be a washcloth, towel, or headscarf. If there is something that will only get used one time, don't bring it."
3. Be an outfit repeater.
Take a nod from fashion icons like Vera Wang and Norma Kamali and visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg and give uniform dressing (wearing the same look multiple days in a row) a try on your next vaycay. This will mean less to lug around and fewer decisions to make in the mornings. Pack neutral pieces that pair nicely and wear them with a good shoe. Shoes take up a ton of valuable suitcase real estate, but stuffing smaller items inside them can be a space-saver.
4. Keep things clean.
"As a backpacker, I have one outfit for hiking and one for sleeping," says Kristin. "I wear my rain jacket and pants while laundering my two outfits in towns." If she can find a washer and dryer on her treks through remote parts of the country, chances are you can track them down on your travels. Avoid dry-clean-only pieces and opt for quick-dry fabrics that won't put up a fuss in the machine. According to travel expert Ella Chase, who is currently taking a yearlong trip around the world, dryer sheets are a must. She puts them in shoes, dirty laundry bags, or anything she wants to quickly freshen up on the road.
5. Remember it's all in the fold.
Once you've landed on what to bring, try out this genius folding how-to from one of mbg's favorite bloggers, Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo. Not only will it help keep your clothes compact, but it will leave them wrinkle-free.
6. Choose the right bag.
The smaller the bag, the less you'll be tempted to pack. Here's some of the durable, not-too-big, not-too-small luggage the mbg editors are traveling with:
- Away Carry-On: unbreakable, and comes with a lifetime guarantee
- Raden A22 Carry: sleek, durable, and complete with a built-in lock
- Everlane Twill Weekender: the perfect size for shorter trips
- Lexicon Weekender: built to withstand any travel woe
- Catalina Weekender: plenty of pockets to store anything and everything
- Apera Performance Duffel: This small Colorado company donates every third bag it makes to the Special Olympics.
What to pack
This sample packing list from Brooke McAlary, the Sydney-based travel and lifestyle blogger behind Slow Your Home, is full of clever multipurpose items. It's a great jumping-off point for your next warm-weather longweekend away. "The simpler I make my packing, the more I enjoy my trip," Brooke tells mindbodygreen. "There are fewer choices, which is always a good thing when I'm on holidays. Because, let's face it, sometimes all I want to worry about is the question of 'What do I want for breakfast?'"
- A lightweight sarong, to be used as a cover-up for the beach, skirt, a dress, a towel, and a wrap for the plane or any air-conditioned spaces.
- Coconut oil in place of a moisturizer and hair serum. It's great for soothing a minor sunburn or insect bites, too.
- Your favorite essential oil in place of perfume. Depending on the oil you take, it can also help you to relax, sleep easy, or fight off any sniffles.
- Natural sunscreen
- A pair of comfortable, lightweight yoga pants. These are great for traveling, sleeping in, taking a beachside yoga class, or walking around town.
- One pair of flat, comfortable sandals that go with everything. If there's going to be a lot of walking or running, bring a pair of sneakers, too.
- A couple of floaty, noncreasing dresses
- A lightweight cardigan
- A few simple tank tops
- A bold necklace or earrings
- A good book (Steve Martin's Born Standing Up is pretty great. So is Hugh Howey's Wool trilogy.)
- A notebook
- Some great podcasts and a solid music playlist
- Underwear and socks
- Sunglasses and a big hat
The simpler I make my packing, the more I enjoy my trip
Here's how this list translates to more wintry locales.
- One winter coat. You can wear this to the airport and throw it in the plane's overhead storage to save room in your pack.
- Two heavy sweaters and two lighter ones. Bring multiple layers instead of bulkier items to ensure you have all your temperature bases covered. Leave the bright reds and purples at home and bring neutral colors that pair nicely.
- A couple of long-sleeve shirts
- One pair of jeans
- One pair of winter boots. If there's going to be a lot of walking or hiking, then a pair of sneakers, too.
- Coconut oil in place of a moisturizer and hair serum. Throw in sulfur and jojoba oil, two winter-skin cure-alls, while you're at it.
- Your favorite essential oil in place of perfume. Peppermint and frankincense are both great for wintry conditions.
- A pair of fleece-lined yoga pants for the plane, hikes, sleeping, and workout sessions
- A good book (Here are mbg's top picks from the last year)
- A notebook
- Some great podcasts and a solid music playlist
- Underwear and cozysocks
- Hat, scarf, and gloves
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.