October 18th, 2017
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for mentioning any brands, these are genuinely my clothes. The prices given are based on what I paid and should be taken as a rough guideline only.
Part 1 // Part 2.
Now here's a little trick to speed up the drying process. You'll need a towel when you travel, but even those microfibre travel towels don't pack up all that small or dry all that quickly. A swimmer's towel, however, does the job so much more efficiently.
This towel is roughly the size of a normal face towel, but will dry your entire body in no time. Then simply wring it out and it will be dry enough to put back into your bag. You can also roll your clothes up in it and squeeze any excess water out which will more than halve the time it takes them to dry. And then, at the end of it all, I pack this tiny towel into a case originally intended to house earphones.
This thing is less than 3 inches squared and can comfortably fit the towel. Within this tiny box, you have something which dry yourself and your clothes, and the towel itself doesn't even require time to dry. This Maru towel is under £10 ($13) but I'm thinking of upgrading to the Speedo version which is £14 ($19). If the towel gets a bit smelly, just wash it in the shower with you. Then wring it out and dry yourself off with it.
Now, shoes are an important part of your packing list. They are usually bulky and heavy, so my advice is keep shoes on your feet, not in your bag.
Obviously, certain activities require certain shoes, so there may be no way around it, but I like to try and stick to one pair. When I travelled around South America, I only bought a pair of hiking shoes. This was great for trekking in the mountains, but not so great in the bars in town.
So this time, I've switched to black Nike running shoes (around £55 or $73). These are the most versatile shoe I can find. They can handle rough terrain, whether running or walking, and still look casual enough for city centres. I like how breathable this pair are, with a wider toe section to stop your socks becoming drenched in foot sweat.
I've had these almost a year, wearing them almost everyday, and they've held up well. Spending more on a shoe will ensure high quality, but I don't believe anything over about £60 ($80) is anything more than branding. This is a solid shoe and won't take up space in my bag, since they'll always be on my feet.
So that's all the clothing I will bring. All that's left is toiletries and accessories. A water bottle is essential. I've gone for a Craghoppers aluminium bottle. It's pretty battered, but I use it everyday and it still going strong. It also weighs almost nothing when empty. I've never had a bottle that's quite this light and sturdy. And I only paid £6 ($8).
For bathroom stuff, I use the Eagle Creek Pack-It Slim bag, which costs £20 ($27) and comes with a really handy hanger and mirror. The mirror is mostly useless, but I love how this rewards you for packing less. You can fit a lot in, but the actual toiletry bag will be slimmer if you pack less.
I stick to a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair stuff, deodorant, bodywash and a beard trimmer. Although the beard trimmer isn't necessary for me if I'm travelling for less than four weeks.
So, the main backpack: an extremely important part of packing! I used to use a 55 litre Osprey rucksack, but now I'm using the 32 litre Jack Wolfskin J-Pack-Deluxe, which doesn't need to be checked in at airports. All my stuff would comfortably fit into a 20 litre, but it's nice to leave some room for food or souvenirs you pick up along the way.
This bag was £75 ($100), so not too pricey compared to other brands out there. For my purposes and body size (I'm a little over six foot) it's perfect. There are loads of pockets for organisation, including a designated padded case and pocket which comfortably fits my 15" laptop. I definitely want a thinner, lighter 13" laptop for travel, but it's great to know this bag can house a 15.6".
There's also a built in rain cover for sudden downpours that is of a really high quality. This bag's been through a lot and it's definitely durable. Most importantly, it holds my entire packing list with ease and has lockable zips for safety.
I've taken out what I'll wear on the plane: jeans, shoes, leggings, socks, tshirt and Patagonia jacket. I'm using an Eagle Creek Pack-It Half packing cube (£13 or $17) which is holding my Craghoppers hoody, a pair of boxers, a pair of socks, a t shirt, my Nike baselayer as well as my deodorant and beard trimmer. All the other toiletries are in the Pack-It Slim bag and the towel is in the earphones case.
With the water bottle and chargers for my phone and beard trimmer, the bag is barely half-full. (I'm assuming my phone, wallet and passport would be in my pockets.) This leaves space for a laptop and charger or other accessories such as a hat or headphones. It's great to have a solid base of essential items and then have enough space to add anything else if I fancy. But once more, lighter is always better.
So that's my entire, ultra-minimalist packing list for a cold travel destination. I could pack less if I visited a hot, equatorial country, but the Eastern European winter isn't stopping me from fitting everything into a carry-on. Most of the items are affordable, especially considering how few I have. Spending that little bit extra for high quality materials allows me to take thin, but warm clothes so that I can be light on my feet. It's all about prioritising quality, so you can reduce quantity.
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