Indefinite Backpack Travel

Updated June 2024

In 2015 I got rid of everything I owned that didn’t fit in a laptop backpack, and I’ve been living at this level of minimalism since. The idea is to only own what I need, which allows me to focus more, spend less, travel spontaneously and simplify my life.

I update this post yearly, previous updates are available on the Internet Archive: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017. I also include some affiliate links, but they don’t make as much as they used to so if you enjoy these posts you can buy me a coffee on ko-fi! I also plan to start posting more about this lifestyle on Instagram and Twitter/X if you’re into that!

/// This update marks 10 years of onebag living! It’s insane that this poorly-written list of my stuff has been read by a million people. Thanks for the awesome messages and emails! :)

/// Update in progress – new images and words coming soon ///


This post isn’t supposed to be a guide, but whenever it’s shared without exposition a lot of the responses online tend to be the same dozen questions and misunderstandings. So here’s a few paragraphs to address those:

Onebagging is unquestionably the best way to travel. Traveling without luggage removes just about every pain point associated with flying, such as checking bags, overhead compartments, bag fees, waiting in line, and needing to drop off luggage before an adventure. Just stroll into the airport an hour before your flight, and walk off your plane directly to your destination. I’m not here to sell you on this. r/onebag is a community built around this and a good place to learn more.

As to why I own so few things, I’ve never really owned much, so once I started traveling this seemed like the natural evolution of my lifestyle. Because it’s so ordinary to me, it always seems strange to take photos of my stuff like I’m some sort of travel influencer.

Because I own so few things, I’ve taken the time to optimize each thing to be the best possible: carrying a 4oz jacket instead of a 1lb jacket can improve a trip. However, it’s worth mentioning I don’t take part in the consumerist side of the travel/hiking communities, which focuses more on expensive brand names than practicality. Buy only what you need; a $100 setup is nearly as good as a $10,000 setup. Sometimes spending more will get better quality or versatility, but it’s never worth obsessing over. Remember, the perfect travel bag doesn’t exist (relevant XKCD).

In terms of the nomad lifestyle, while I prefer fast-paced nonstop travel, it’s not great for productivity, finances, and friends, so I now stay in cities for longer periods. This allows me to maintain social relationships and explore cities deeper. It has also given me the opportunity to explore “zero-bag” trips, in which I travel with just the contents of my pockets. In the long term, while I’m sure I’ll still be traveling like this when I’m old, living with just six pairs of socks will end whenever I settle down and build a homebase. Likely not soon though.

With exposition done, here’s the list of everything I own:


Packing

  • Aer Slim Pack. In 2020 I made a custom 10L bag, but it wasn’t very durable so for the moment I’m back to tech bags (MYOG bag v2 coming soon). At 9L this bag has the perfect storage capacity for all my stuff minus hiking gear, and falls well within the ‘personal item’ size requirements of even the most strict budget airline. I permanently keep an Airtag inside and attached some Nite Ize S-biners to the zipper pulls to lock the bag from casual theft.
  • Rains Pencil Case. This is the closest thing I have found to the perfect dopp kit. I use it primarily for toiletries, but also for storing first aid and random small things. It’s the perfect size as long as I only buy the “travel size” version of things, which I do anyways. Seems to be permanently out of stock now as Rains updated their product lineup to more prominently display their logo.

Tech

  • Macbook Air M2 13″. My 12″ ultralight Macbook finally got slow enough that I caved and bought one of the newer models. The verdict is as expected, it’s a pretty awesome computer but my backpack is now noticeably heavier. The magsafe port also complicates my charging setup. Until Apple releases a new lightweight laptop though I’m stuck with it.

    Standout apps: Pixelmator Pro, Chrome w/ Adblock, 1Password, Privacy, Carrd, Notion.
  • iPad Pro 11″. Super versatile, great for reading, drawing, painting, note-taking, 3D-modeling, and much more. I use it with an Apple Pencil and a textured screen protector that simulates the feel of drawing on paper. I’m still on the search for the perfect iPad stand. May upgrade to the M4 iPad with the Pencil Pro at some point.

    Standout apps: Procreate, Shapr3D.
  • iPhone 15 Pro. 256GB in black titanium. A great-looking phone with an amazing camera, but still rarely gets past noon without the battery dying. Kept sans case since AppleCare is only $10/mo. I also keep a ‘modular’ iPhone 7 in my backpack for when I need a backup or a phone with a physical SIM.

    Standout apps: MyRadar Pro, Vinegar, Arc, Gaia GPS, Cash App, Future (saved me $500+ just on NYC transit).
  • Apple Watch. I use my Apple Watch extremely passively, relying on it for things like sleep tracking and tapping my wrist when getting a call, but rarely actually looking at it. I break my watch frequently, so my current one is an S4 I grabbed off eBay for $150; I’ll upgrade to current gen whenever there’s actually a redesign. Worn with a woven nylon band.

    I’d love to switch to the Ultra, since a lot of the features seem purpose-built for my adventures, but it’s too bulky for my wrist. That Alpine band with the G-hook looks tempting though.
  • Airpods. 3rd generation. Switched to these from Airpods Pro since I don’t like how silicone headphones isolate me from the world – it’s too easy to not hear someone talking to me or a car coming, even with transparency mode.
  • Anker PowerCore. Minimalist, matte black, lightweight, and small enough to fit in my pocket if I need to go without my bag. At 20,000 mAh it carries one full Macbook charge and can charge all my stuff via USB-C at 30W, as fast as a wall outlet. No longer sold though.
  • SanDisk Extreme 2TB SSD. Pocket-sized and indestructible, contains a backup of my digital files so I don’t need to rely on the cloud. Also contains a folder with hundreds of my favorite movies, shows and audiobooks.

Chargers

  • Apple USB-C Cable. 1-meter braided USB-C to USB-C cable. For charging my iPhone, Macbook, iPad and battery – everything except my Airpods and watch.
  • Apple Lightning Cable. 1 meter USB-C to Lightning. For charging my Airpods. I can’t wait for the day I can get rid of this cable.
  • Maco Go Charger. For charging my Apple Watch. Though my 2019 custom charger was great, the Maco Go is much smaller, lighter, and better-looking. It does charge a bit slow though.

Clothing

  • Montbell Plasma 1000. The Japanese version, which comes with pockets. Objectively the world’s best down jacket by weight-to-warmth ratio. Literally weighs less than my phone and can fit in my pocket. It’s unreal. When layered with a hoodie I feel comfortable in any weather.
  • Amazon Essentials Hoodie. I’ve tested dozens of hoodies, including recently a custom-tailored one. But they always get destroyed on hikes so I’m now back to the cheap Amazon brands.
  • American Apparel 50/50 Shirts. Six when I’m on the move, double that if I’m staying somewhere for a while. I prefer 50/50 cotton/poly over triblends as they’re more durable. I’m not a fan of merino due to durability and price – frequent outdoor adventures mean I rip my shirts often.

    I pack my shirts by rolling them around my socks and underwear into compact ‘day rolls’, which prevents wrinkling, eliminates decision-making involved with getting dressed, and makes packing as simple as tossing the rolls into my bag.
  • Darn Tough Socks. Six pairs. Darn Tough merino socks are so indestructible that if they rip the manufacturer will ship you a brand new pair. I’ve literally walked over 4,000 miles with each pair I own and they still look brand new.
  • Uniqlo Airism Boxer Briefs. Six pairs. Rated as one of the best pairs of travel boxers for good reason. Don’t get the low-rise or seamless ones though.
  • Western Rise AT Pants. For most of the past decade I’ve traveled, hiked, and even run with Levi’s jeans, since I prefer heavy-duty jeans over “travel” pants. So when WR’s founder asked if I wanted to try their gear I figured it would be more gifted gear to pass on to friends. However, I ended up loving their AT pants which use a heavier material that even now after several years is still holding up incredibly.
    • Worn with a minimalist Grip6 belt, which I’ve been loving more and more each year. I don’t know why these belts aren’t more popular.
  • Western Rise Evolution Shorts. Like the pants, I was pretty apprehensive about ‘travel shorts’, especially since I’ve never been a person that wears shorts. After realizing that my legs really need a tan I’ve decided to make the lifestyle change and now own my first ever pair.
  • Italic Latitude Joggers. For running, sleeping, doing laundry, or any scenario that I’m not wearing my pants – which really isn’t very often. These joggers from Italic are very much my vibe: black, minimalist, and practically-designed with well-placed pockets.
  • Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 GTX running shoes. Matte black. I’ve worn virtually every shoe brand and only Nike makes running shoes that can last 5,000 miles – most other brands barely reach 500. Though I’m very tired of their yearly release shtick that discontinues every design after a few months, so apologies in advance if you can’t find it. On the laces I have a few Nite Ize S-biners, useful to latch my shoes to my bag or belt when at the beach.
  • Arc’teryx Alpha SL Gloves. I recently became a glove person after another decently cold NYC winter. They’re particularly useful for my outdoor adventures and mountain climbing, but also for bad habits like preventing me from putting my hands in my pockets or picking at my nails.
  • Merino Buff. Near-limitless uses while traveling. I mostly use it as a face mask for cold weather and as a sleep mask for planes and buses, but I’ve also used it as a scarf, bandana, pillowcase, and more. Definitely one of the best pieces of travel gear I own.

Miscellaneous

  • RE:FORM RE:01 wallet. A super-thin minimalist wallet with a magnetic pouch for an Airtag and small items. Much thinner than my previous wallet, which was custom-built. The material RE:FORM uses is insanely durable, I’ve been using it for several years and it still looks brand new. Disclaimer: the founder sent me this wallet.
    • Amazon Prime credit card. A decent card that gets 5% back on some stuff and 1-2% on the rest. The fact that it’s a metal card with a minimalist design and no annual fee was a big selling point for me, and it saves me a lot at Whole Foods.
    • Revolut debit card. Free ATM withdrawals while traveling. Most other cards have pivoted to add fees for international ATMs, Revolut is the only one I’ve used that hasn’t (though I’m sure they will eventually). ATM map link since the app’s map is rarely accurate.
    • Cash card. I use this card for the offers, which have saved me thousands of dollars. Recently the app changed its demographic to gen z brands that I don’t buy, but it’s still great to get 10% off fast food and it frequently has Uber/Lyft promos.
    • Airtag. I’ve never lost my wallet before but Airtags are great for peace of mind.
    • Plus my ID, health insurance, bank cards, library card and emergency cash.
  • Ray-Ban Stories. Wayfarer style, stored in a small custom microfiber pouch from a defunct eyewear startup I used to run. I rarely wear sunglasses but they’re still good to have on hand for long-term eye health.

    I used camera glasses frequently in 2016-2019, and frequently find myself browsing through my old ‘memories’ like I’m living in a Black Mirror episode, so I had to check out Facebook’s attempt. It’s nothing special.
  • True Utility Keytool. Probably the world’s most compact bottle opener and multitool. Bought it over a decade ago and it’s been on me every day since. Not much else to say, except that over a thousand people have bought it from this Amazon affiliate link.
  • A.Brolly Umbrella. Weighs less than 90g and disappears in my bag. It’s a bit harder to deploy than a normal travel umbrella but the weight savings make it worth it, it feels like you’re holding air. It’s also obviously not the most durable umbrella.

    During rainy seasons I’ll buy a slightly more durable one, often this one.
  • Matador Nanodry Shower Towel. Small enough to fit in my fist but also large enough to work as a beach towel. Dries incredibly quick and lasts years. Rarely used though, as I typically stay in places with towels.
  • Dopp Kit. As minimalist as a toiletry kit gets. Most items get cycled out every month or two. All stored in the Rains pencil case, along with first aid and other small items.
    • Marvis toothbrush. Or a regular toothbrush when inconvenient to replace.
    • Marvis jasmine toothpaste. Or regular toothpaste when inconvenient to replace.
    • Generic floss
    • Generic razor
    • Generic deodorant
    • Generic tweezers
  • First Aid Kit. My FAK has reduced in size over the years and now contains just the bare necessities. Everything is stuffed in a repurposed Altoids tin, which does get annoying to restock, so I may go back to prepackaged Coleman kits next time I run low.
    • Advil
    • Bandaids
    • Antiseptic and alcohol wipes
    • Condoms
  • Miscellaneous small things. Crammed in my FAK or in random pockets around my bag.
    • Atoms Mask. A black Atoms mask, with the logo removed for a brand-less aesthetic.
    • Plastic ballpoint pen. Very useful on planes when they hand out immigration forms.
    • Tech kit. SIM card remover, iPhone teardown tools, Apple Pencil tips, Airtag batteries.
    • Also my passports and various papers

Outdoor gear

The stuff I toss in my backpack for lengthy hiking trips, like parts of the PCT or mountains around the US and Mexico. I haven’t done any trips outside of weekend hikes recently so most of this gear needs to be upgraded to be more ultralight.

The most difficult part about traveling with backpacking gear is keeping it airport-friendly. Knives, fuel, tent stakes, and tent/trekking poles aren’t allowed in carry-on, and while carbon fiber stakes and poles can usually sneak through, it’s not reliable.

This setup weighs 4.4lbs/2kg and should drop to 3.5lbs/1.5kg with the mentioned upgrades. When optimized for volume, a full UL backpacking setup can use less than 10L of bag space.

  • 3F UL Gear tent. The best affordable ultralight tent ($70 when I bought it). I eventually want to replace it, but my commitment to staying compact in addition to ultralight rules out most UL tents as they’re typically made out of bulky DCF. The Lofoten 2 is appealing but I’m hoping eventually I’ll find the time and resources to build my own.
  • Sleeping bag. Unknown brand. Technically a liner but it works well enough for me. If I ever plan a trip to somewhere really cold I’ll replace it with something better.
  • Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite. An ultralight sleeping pad that weighs less than my phone. Size small, which doesn’t cover my lower legs but is worth it for the volume and weight savings.
  • Nitecore NU25 UL. An ultralight headlamp that weighs virtually nothing, fits in my pocket and is charged via USB-C. Although it is objectively the best headlamp, it feels like cheap plastic.
  • Portable kitchen. Everything but the fuel fits within the mug, which is also the perfect size to cook a packet of ramen. May switch to an alcohol stove eventually.
  • Sawyer Mini water filter. Probably the most important thing on this list and arguably the only thing I couldn’t survive without. Useful to have on hand even when not hiking, you never know when the water will be sketchy.
  • Smartwater 1L bottle. Two, one carries sanitized water with a sports cap to backflush the water filter while the other carries raw water with the filter on top.

Gear to add

Gear I’m considering adding to my kit, just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  • Insta360 X3. 360 cameras are amazing for unique POV and third person shots.
  • DJI Mini 3 Pro. I love flying DJI drones. Never traveled with one due to size. This solves that.
  • FLIR ONE Pro. Thermal camera. Useful for very specific tasks.

Thanks for reading! :)

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