I’m out for a 10-day trip to NYC and Las Vegas, and my bag is smaller than a breadbox. Here’s how to pack when you have no idea when you’ll be back.
Here’s the full gear list:
Minimalist shoes make perfect travel shoes if you allow yourself a few months to build up strength in your feet. With no padding or cushioning, they pack down almost completely flat and weigh very little. I love my Gobi’s for all of these reasons, and because I can stay comfortable and pack light without looking like a hopeless tourist. These ones are particularly durable; mine are starting to look “worn-in” but they’re holding up fine everywhere.
The ultimate travel goal is to bring one pair of pants for everything. I’m pretty sold on the Prana Stretch Zion’s. Stretch is subtle, but I consider it essential to long-term comfort. I spend too much time sleeping, sitting cross-legged, mounting bicycles, climbing, and hiking to bring a pair of nylon pants that don’t move with me.
These dry so fast, I don’t carry rain pants. They’re so comfortable, I wear them in 90º heat and -18º northeast winters. The side pocket is perfect for things you don’t want to lose with two zippers, and the snaps on the bottom let me roll up the cuffs at the rock gym. I can’t speak highly enough of these. One flaw: the built-in belt can slip a bit, so get the right size or consider cutting it off to use the belt loops with your own belt.
I usually wear Merino wool underneath, so I only have to wash them once every few days. If this is too “camper” for your personal style, try the Ministry of Supply Aviator Pants. Not quite as comfortable, but definitely more innocuous.
This 8oz fleece is a bit hard to find, but they’re likely due for a re-release next fall. 8oz is about half of what most fleeces weigh, and this fleece feels positively airy. With a raincoat, I can stay comfortable down to 30º. I like the softness, too; it’s perfect for sleeping. A lack of pockets and extra features keeps weight down and prevents your outfit from looking exceptionally busy.
Bringing a bed with you is pretty practical when your hosts fluctuate from day to day. For just a bit of weight, I’m ready for sleeping anywhere, including airports on long layovers. I use the Cocoon travel pillow and silk travel sheet coupled with a Thermarest Prolite Sleeping Pad for a full portable bed that weighs just one pound (less weight than my shoes).
Part of traveling on the cheap is keeping food costs down. I do this by using supermarkets. This is obviously an American spread, but you can do this virtually anywhere. Eating out constantly costs 2-3x more than buying food the old-fashioned way.
I saved a lot of money with this shopping trip (totaling around $45) because all of these foods are high-calorie and highly nutritious. This is about 4-5 days worth of food.
These are great travel shorts, which double as a bathing suit. For a weekend in 50º New York and 70º Las Vegas, these and the Zion pants complement each other perfectly. Again, I’m going with Prana here for the stretch. It’s an intuitive fabric that is most comfortable for me when my itinerary includes 2-day train rides or 5-hour flights.
A good raincoat can turn a 2-hour wait for a bus from a nightmare into an adventure. Being wet is no fun, and since rain is an inevitability, I simply plan for it and make it part of my trips. The Gore-Tex Menace is dead, and companies are getting more and more leeway to develop their own proprietary waterproof-breathable fabrics. Polartec NeoShell is my personal favorite; it has just a bit of stretch, a face fabric that feels like a softshell, doesn’t make noise, and is ultralight (this jacket is only 11oz). I have stood in pouring rain for hours and it still won’t wet through.
Plus, the price on this particular coat is right; it’ll serve just as well as high-end raincoats three times the price.
A flexible water bottle weighs much less than a conventional one, and being able to fill up without paying another $2.50 for water saves a lot in the long run. I can fold this one into wallet-size so I forget I have it until it’s needed.
This little bag is a great addition to my kit. It’s an organizer in the pack and a camera bag outside the pack, and is low-profile enough not to attract attention. I keep my passport, camera, and notebook in here, along with a mini first-aid kit (bandages, gauze, and Aleve), a bandanna, a headlamp, and some zip ties.
Lightweight nylon at less than 5oz, this travel shirt is pretty generic- but that’s not a bad thing. A simple nylon dress shirt has a lot of utility in a one-bag travel list. it’s sun protection, bug protection, good-looking enough for formal events, and comfortable to wear all day.
I’ve lauded Merino Wool before. I use three Merino Wool shirts and nothing but merino socks and underwear when I travel. it simplifies going several days in the same outfit- you don’t necessarily need to do laundry, and when you do, everything dries quickly so you can get back out there.
These are also extremely comfortable when you’re sitting for long periods of time. They’re moisture-wicking, because sitting on an airplane can be a perspiring experience. I have a hard time wearing anything else, now that I’ve converted, so invest cautiously.
Altogether, I think my gear list for this trip totaled about 15lbs, plus the food and some water. Here’s the complete list!