The following minimalist packing list was submitted by Katie Corbridge. Photography by Alice Xue.
On a train from Zagreb to Budapest I was discussing packing light with a fellow traveler and seasoned backpacker. Her recollections about the demands of the past were enlightening:
“When I was backpacking, back in the 90s, we only ever brought a small bag, because you had to keep your belongings with you at all times. You couldn’t trust stowing it under the bus, and we had to walk so much from place to place, we learned to travel with just a small backpack.”
This list is inspired by her and my two month long backpacking trips around Europe, where I traveled from chilly London to sweltering Croatia in a single trip.
Welcome to the World of Minimalist Packing
You can do it, I believe in you. You will compile a packing system that is stylish, compact, and functional. Because you’re an independent woman who don’t need no 60L pack!
First things first. The backpack. No need for fancy bags because we’re packing really light and you won’t require extra support from hip belts. My go to is the Fjallraven Kanken Original, 16L in all. It’s lightweight, stylish, durable, and has a clamshell opening for optimal organization. In addition, I always bring along a day bag which is usually a cross-body purse for city slicking. I also bring my favourite packable backpack or tote for hiking and picnics.
PRO TIP: If you haven’t already heard, packing cubes are the holy grail of packing supplies. This packing list hinges on them. Don’t think, just get some. Grab a cube, fill it up, and if something doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come on the trip.
Before we get to the list, here are three golden rules you should ask yourself while packing:
- Do I love this item?
- Is is lightweight?
- Does it do double duty?
Every item on this list must adhere to your new packing mantra. Ommmm, say it with me now: “This is an item I love, this is light weight, this does double duty.”
Travel packing should be for everyone, so there’s no need in this system to stock up on expensive gear and fabrics. But here are some worthwhile investments that I never travel without and fit into my packing mantra: Patagonia women’s baggies, Merino wool sweater, and an Ultralight Down jacket.
Okay, let’s do this.
Note: This ultimate minimalist packing list is suited for 5°C – 30°C (40°F – 85°F).
Pack in a double sided clean/dirty packing cube:
- 1 tank top: I pack something made of sweat wicking material.
- 1 sleeping shirt: a small tank top will do.
- 1 sleeveless top: a chance to pack something a little fancy.
- 1 t-shirt: I told you we were going extra light.
- 1 long sleeve: Merino wool or thermal. Merino wool doesn’t get stinky.
- 1 blouse: a chambray blouse is the Swiss army knife of clothing.
- 1 sweater: highly suggest Merino wool.
- 1 dress/romper/skirt: consider something knee length for places of worship.
- 1 pair of pants: they can take up the most amount of room for a single item, choose wisely.
- 1 pair of shorts: I love my Patagonia baggies, quick drying, with an old school cool vibe.
- 2 bras: I pack a sports bra and underwire, but you do you, girl.
- 5 pairs underwear: I suggest 2 thongs, 2 panties, and 1 boy short. Continue to do you.
- 2-4 pairs socks: depending on your choice of shoe.
- 1 bathing suit: consider a bikini top that can double as a bra.
- 1 scarf: I pack a square scarf about half the size of a pashmina.
>>See why it’s worth getting fast-drying women’s underwear.
Shoes and Outerwear
- 1 pair of shoes: I would suggest sneakers over boots, but ultimately it depends on what climate you’ll be spending more time in. Nikes, Converse, Blundstones, and Birkenstocks have all been excellent travel buddies.
- 1 pair of open-toed shoes: The one, the only, Crocs Sexi Flips. I wear these in hostel bathrooms, nice nights out for dinner, and I literally climbed a small mountain in them.
- 1 packable down jacket: UNIQLO makes great down layers that won’t break the budget.
- 1 packable windbreaker: whether it be a North Face windbreaker, or your favourite light jacket. As long as it packs up small and you love to wear it.
Pack in a small packing cube:
- Face cleanser: Dry skin? Try an oil-based cleanser and you won’t need moisturizer.
- Sunscreen: Because of my acne prone skin I pack one for face and one for body.
- Lip chap: Bonus points for SPF versions.
- Tea tree oil: Acne spots, deodorizer, disinfectant, insect bites, you name it.
- Soap: Dr. Bronners is a cult classic for a good reason.
- Mini loofah: Let me make the case for a loofah. Although it seems like a superfluous item, it packs down small and elongates the life of your soap ten-fold.
- Pack towel: Essential for minimalist packing
- 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner: Lush solid shampoos are great. I pop mine in a ziplock.
- Deodorant: I personally use Dr. Mist which is a great natural option that actually works.
- Mini hairbrush
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Nail clippers
- Diva cup: become a convert.
Optional & Speciality items:
- Any medication: I always carry pain killers, gravol, pepto bismol, and ginger chews.
- Glasses, contacts, contact solution
- Mini mirror
Pare down to your three most used items. For me it’s:
- Red lipstick
- Liquid Eyeliner
>> Check out these beauty packing hacks to help you pack less.
Packed away in a small but accessible pouch:
- Pad lock: for hostels
- Knife: I have a plastic one that can go through security.
- Collapsible cup: I love these, they have come in so handy!
- Hand sanitizer/wet wipes: for them questionable public bathrooms.
- Cords and Adapters: and electronic paraphernalia
- Altoids tin: great for packing minutiae like band aids and sim cards.
- Headlamp: for navigating your hostel without waking everyone up and receiving stink eye.
- Duct Tape: I wrap some around a pencil for emergency quick fixes. Also great for blisters.
- Collapsable tote or backpack
- My buff!
>>See how Brooke traveled for three weeks with a 12L handbag.
In My Purse
- Water bottle
- Journal (and Pen): my travelers notebook allows me to store my important documents.
- Reading material: I prefer physical books, but e-readers are better for traveling.
- Small pouch: where I carry extra medication, lip chap, headphones, you know…day to day stuff.
For Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
All this fits in my pillow’s travel pouch:
…and Voila the end result, with all the pieces assembled in the bag! As always I wear my bulkiest items while in transit, but both jackets fit in the bag with room to spare!
About the author: Katie Corbridge is an actor, producer, and packing nut born and raised in Toronto Ontario. She’s traveled around Europe and the US several times, and her bag seems to just be getting smaller. When she’s not working or collecting travel souvenirs she’s collecting ghost stories for her up coming podcast, Jitters. Photography by Alice Xue.
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using them, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps to keep this site running – thank you!
Join the Her Packing List email community!
Subscribe to get our latest packing lists, gear deals, and travel news by email.