One Bag Travel Packing List – For Minimalist, Indefinite Travel

Can’t figure out how to pack everything you need into one bag? That’s why we sat down to write this post… after one bag living out of a single 40L carry-on backpack for close to a year, we’ve learned a lot of great techniques we’ll share in this post to help optimise your and save space when travelling, alongside a packing list, that will cover everything you need for travel anywhere, that all fits inside one carry-on sized bag.

P.S. We’ve just finished a trip around the world and didn’t miss a single thing we didn’t pack or run into an issue of needing something we didn’t have enough space to bring. It’s worked out perfectly… and we actually dropped a lot of weight from our bags.

One Bag Travel Packing List Quick Checklist (TL;DR)

Here’s the only one bag travel packing list you’ll ever need:

How To Pack Everything in One Backpack for Short Trips & Indefinite Travel

To travel the world indefinitely take as many lightweight clothes as you can fit, but don’t go overboard! Wash your clothes consistently throughout your travels. We would advise that you pack lighter and wash more regularly, over packing heavy. Create a routine of washing your clothes each night in the shower. OR make use of the many launderettes you will find in many countries around the world.

A smart traveler thinks about the climate they are traveling to first.

Are you going somewhere warm, cold, rainy? Pack for this. If the area you’re going will be warm when you get there, but get colder as you stay there, you can get away with taking less clothes and picking up items on your travels as it starts to get harsher.

In warmer climates, you can pack a few tops, few shorts, some shoes and sandals and get away with it. Your clothes will dry quickly in the sun and you won’t get cold. However, if you are going somewhere during monsoon season, beware that hand washing clothes and drying them during these conditions without a fan or hairdryer will take a long time.

In colder climatesfocus on bringing lightweight, quick-drying clothes that you can layer. Good materials are nylon/polyester mix. These dry quickly, don’t absorb smells, and are generally warmer than cotton. If you have a lot of money, look into merino wool. You’ll also want a warm jacket, but a large coat is going to take up almost all of your space in your bag. So ideally, you want to swap out most of your shirts for thermals that you can layer and bring along a good rain jacket, some water-proof trousers, and some warmer fleece-style jackets you can wear underneath, with gloves (Sealskinz are great waterproof gloves), a wooly hat, scarf etc. Make sure you also get waterproof shoes/boots( Nike makes fantastic gore-tex trail running shoes), and pack thermal socks.

If you are going somewhere arctic, pack accordingly: boots, ski jacket, thermals, scarfs etc.

Here is the man’s one bag travel packing list for indefinite travel:

  • Warm coat/jacket x 1
  • Waterproof jacket x1
  • Jeans x1
  • Joggers x2
  • Shorts x3 & Swim shorts x1
  • Tops x7 (2 polos, 2 T-shirt & 3 lightweight long sleeve)
  • Belt x1
  • Underwear and Socks x8
  • Shoes x 1 (ideally gore-tex waterproof)
  • Sliders/Sandals x 1

Here is the woman’s one bag travel packing list for indefinite travel:

  • Warm coat/jacket x1
  • Waterproof jacket x1
  • Gym shorts x2 & Gym leggings x1
  • Dresses x3
  • Jeans x1
  • Skirt x1
  • Belt x1
  • Long flow trousers x1 (best trousers for hot weather)
  • Tops x7 (2 playsuit tops, 2 T-shirts, 3 lightweight long sleeve)
  • Bikinis x2 & Swimsuit x1 (for pool areas)
  • Underwear and Socks x8
  • Shoes x1 (ideally gore-tex waterproof)
  • Sliders/Sandals x 1

What To Avoid Packing for One Bag Travel

In your one bag travel packing list, avoid anything bulky. Things like books, hard camera cases, large electronics, metallic water bottles etc. Swap out anything you can for a more compact version (E.g. collapsable waterbottle, or silicone water bottle.

Avoid packing multiple pairs of shoes. You should take multi-purpose shoes that are good for all weather. We recommend goretex waterproof trail running shoes because they are made for harsh conditions and have good grip for hiking etc. while remaining lightweight.

Safe space wherever you can. Can you remove a box? Some packaging? Swap out your towel for microfibre?

How To Choose The Best Travel Backpack (Carry-on Suitable)

For one bag travel, you want a bag that covers these points:

  • Carry on size dimensions 50 x 40 x 20 – 40L spaces
  • Strong, sturdy frame that doesn’t misshape when you pack it with clothes, a travel bag without a good frame may cause problems at check-in
  • Good back and shoulder support (make sure you buy the correct gendered bag, women’s bags sit higher up to support their frame better)
  • Mesh straps and back support to allow breathability and stop sweating
  • A hip belt. You’d be surprised how much pressure this takes off your shoulders and distributes weight evenly
  • Multiple compartments for bottles, laptops, electrics and easy-access items. You’ll be on the move a lot traveling and when you’re tired having compartments for certain items makes everything so much easier. Trust me! Me and Harry had 4hrs sleep on our way to Thailand and it was so much easier knowing where everything was we could easily find it all when hungry, tired, and annoyed.
  • A security system to stop pickpockets and thieves
  • A reputable brand name with a warranty and a great track record of customer support
  • A bag that fits you well – try it on in-store (this is a must)

Recommended bags for packing your entire life into:

  1. Osprey Farpoint 40L (Men) & Osprey Fairview 40L (Women)
  2. Tortuga Outbreak 35L (popular on Reddit)
  3. Osprey Trek 55L (better suspension system for back, but less likely to get away with as carry-on luggage)
  4. Tortuga Setout
  5. Patagonia Black Out

Our Choice

osprey farpoint and fairview 40 one bag

Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40

Optimising for Space & Weight | How To Fit More in Your Backpack (The Tardis Effect)

Vacuum Bags vs. Packing Cubes

The best way to optimise for space for one bag travel, is using compression clothing cubes or vacuum bags. These will help to reduce the size of your clothes which are what take up the majority of the space in your bag. Furthermore, if you’re bag is over the weight of an airline, you can remove one of these compression cubes and take it on board as a personal small bag.

vacuum bags vs compression cubes one bag travel

Our packing cube left and vacuum bag bought from Lazada in Thailand (like Amazon but Thai’s version)

Vacuum bags are definitely better for creating space in your bag, but create a weird shape that won’t fit into a packing cube and don’t alter the weight of your bag. So if you were banking on taking out a packing cube to reduce weight at airline weigh-in, then you won’t be able to do this.

However, weigh-ins are extremely rare even on budget airlines, and in our whole travel with 10 flights, we were not checked for weight once. For long haul economy you should also have 25kg checked luggage as well. This is why long-term, pick a continent to travel through style travel is best – once you’re in the continent, connecting flights very rarely check your weight and you can get buses or trains in between countries.

Another thing to note about the vacuum bag is that it needs a hand pump to be used, so you’ll have to find space for that too. It’s better just to try pack light without all the extras!

Choose Light Clothing Materials

Older fabrics like cotton, wool etc. weigh a lot and take up more space as well as crease when folded. To optimise space further, you can choose synthetic materials like polyester, nylon etc. These are very cheap fabrics, dry extremely quickly, are light, don’t crease, and, something like a nylon polyester mix, will not retain smells.

We personally packed some nylon clothing for this. Most gym wear brands sell nylon clothing and have now started to sell more smart-looking fashionable stuff to wear. For instance, you can get polo tops, smart trousers etc. which you can potentially double up for daily clothing and smart casual events you’ll inevitably be going to.

If you’re on a budget, nylon is the best because it’s extremely cheap and the clothes last forever. We’re personally still using the same 3-4 shirts we took and the 2 pairs of shorts we took still, look and smell fresh, with no rips, they were worn to oblivion and washed around 2-3 times per week.

Wearing the grey synthetic top I have and the black synthetic polo. Polo is smart, you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s a gym polo unless you looked at the logo on the arm.

We also took 2 extra cotton tops but I pretty much wore these two and some really lightweight Hawaiian tops I picked up later on in the travels.

You can get other, more expensive materials like merino wool which have the same properties as nylon – they don’t crease, don’t smell, hold shape etc. Merino wool is also the best pick for cooler climates because it is naturally a very warming material.

One big problem with synthetics is that they are microplastics, and they have endocrine-disrupting chemicals in them. This means that wearing them *might* affect your hormone production, but whether that’s actually proven or true is up for discussion. I did my bloods before and after I went traveling and didn’t notice much change to my hormone production and am still healthy, so I don’t think it really affects it all that much. However, if you’re really into health, and optimising your testosterone or estrogen production, it’s something to keep in mind. Your options will be merino wool or cotton – the expensive and the heavy, but totally natural.

Here is a quick guide to lightweight travel fabrics:

  • Best & most luxurious – merino wool
    • Lightweight
    • Keeps shape
    • No creasing
    • Warm
    • Expensive
    • No smell
    • Dry quick
  • Cheapest & best – nylon
    • Cheap
    • Lightweight
    • Keeps shape
    • No creasing
    • Warm
    • Not very breathable
    • Pretty stain resistant
    • No smell
    • Durable
    • Dry quick
  • Cheapest runner-up – polyester
    • Cheap
    • Lightweight
    • Keeps shape
    • No creasing
    • Not breathable
    • Durable
    • Can smell bad
    • Uncomfortable
    • Dry quick
  • Worst but natural – cotton
    • Nice feel
    • Breathable
    • Dries very slowly
    • Can smell bad
    • Heavy
    • Creases
    • Rips easily

Avoid Packing Hard, Un-foldable or Un-collapsable Items Where Possible

Another way we found to optimise space is by minimising the amount of things we took that weren’t collapsable. We did initially take some metal, double-walled thermos bottles (which were fantastic for keeping water cool in hot climates and every sip was beautiful), but we decided to drop them eventually because they took up so much damn space.

Anything that can’t be folded, or squashed to make it smaller, try to avoid. These take up a huge amount of space so don’t underestimate dropping something like that from your bag and the difference it can make.

Avoid packing hard things like:

  • Hard camera cases/boxes – try to opt for a soft case or a pouch you can store your camera equipment in
  • Toothbrush holder – just don’t use this, it seems like a nice idea to keep your toothbrush clean, but just chuck it in a separate pencil case or bag
  • Metal/hard plastic water bottle – opt for a silicone foldable water bottle. Doesn’t contain microplastics, lightweight and takes minimal space
  • Too many books – heavy, take up a lot of space, if hardcovers are difficult to pack
  • Extra shoes – try keep to 1 pair if you can, or if you really need extra running shoes, get those toe style running shoes as they’re easy to pack
  • All boxes/cases – these will hog extra space and are not often needed
  • Multiple plug adapters – try to get a travel adapter that is has multiple plugs on it, or a compact multi-plug
  • Electronics – keep them to a minimum. For instance swap out over-ear headphones for in-ears, try to get rid of things like hair straighteners, hair driers etc. (sorry ladies)

Hacks That Will Make Your Travel Experience Significantly More Enjoyable

Pack Important Things At The Top

Keep your important documents and things at the top of your bag For example: passports, tickets, first aid kit, cough sweets, electrics you’re going to use. Doing this makes it easy to get what you need quickly, rather than having to turf through all your clothes and items while you’re in the queue or on a flight.

Also when going through security, you have to take all your electronics out. Make sure you know where these are and they’re easy to get to. If you’re travelling a long time you have to do this a lot and streamlining the process really helps make airport security life easier.

Keep A Sleeve For All Your Important Documents

All visas, passports, and tickets should be kept in a small, durable sleeve or in a pencil case. This makes it easy to access when needed, and you know exactly where all your legal identification is. For flights, bus trips, and train journies that cross borders you’ll have to show these kinds of documents a lot, so it makes it much simpler if you know where it all is and if it’s all kept in one place.

If we’re honest, we didn’t use anything special to store these documents, a simple see-through, clear pencil case will do. The only downside to this is you’ll have to fold your visas to fit in the pencil case and border control dislike this sometimes. They never rejected us, just told us not to fold the visa in the future.

Use A Small Shoulder Bag

Getting a shoulder bag you is very useful for travel. You can store small amounts of money here for when you’re in markets, and when you’re in the airport you can store the sleeve with your tickets, passports etc. which will make security and border control much quicker.

It’s also fantastic for short adventure trips out for the day where you don’t need to take much apart from keys, money, sunglasses, suncream, and maybe your phone.

We personally used this fake shoulder bag we picked up from a market in Laos for something like £3. It’s lasted the whole trip, is very comfortable, good enough size for a small action camera, tripod, money, and a little more.

Some people might be a little worried about getting robbed with a shoulder bag, but we wouldn’t worry about it. Just keep your wits about you. We’ve been to places that were considered the most dangerous parts in Pakistan, been on the local train, general class train in India, done a lot of “dangerous” stuff. Don’t listen to the fear mongerers trying to sell you security belts.

Electrics Case

A cheap zip-up case with all your charging cables, USBs, memory cards, headphones and more is fantastic for long flights, bus journeys etc. You know exactly where everything you need for entertainment or work is. Keep it packed at the top of your bag, and it’s easy to get out, boot up a movie or listen to some music.

This has by far been one of the most useful things we bought and it was £5 on Amazon. You could probably get a cheaper one at a market in the country you are travelling to. This has lasted us a complete year and there have been no problems with it, or any breakages.

Medical Kit

Keeping a medical kit with everything you need for hygiene and medical situations is great for long journeys. If you have a headache, you know where your paracetamol is, and can grab it and take it quickly without having to trawl through your bag. You can make your own medical kit by getting a bag, and filling it with the essentials like bandages, anti-septic, cough sweets etc.

When flying on a long trip we found having cough sweets in this bag was a great addition. If you have to still wear masks on flights, your throat gets dry and clogged up, sometimes water just doesn’t cut it. So a cough sweet and some water is what you might need.

Carry-on Travel for Men & Women

Below is our one bag travel packing list for a trip we took to Asia for 8 months of travel.

One Bag Clothes Packing for Women

  • Gym shorts x2 & Gym leggings x1
  • Dresses x3 (don’t need that many)
  • Jeans x1 & Skirt x1 & Belt x1
  • Long flow trousers x1 (best trousers for hot weather)
  • Tops x5 (2 playsuit tops, 2 T-shirts, 1 long sleeve & 1 gym top)
  • Bikinis x2 & Swimsuit x1 (for pool areas)
  • Underwear and Socks x8

One Bag Clothes Packing for Men

  • Jeans x1
  • Joggers x1
  • Shorts x2 & Swim shorts x1
  • Tops x5 (2 polos, 2 T-shirt & 1 long sleeve)
  • Belt x1
  • Underwear and Socks x8

Carry on Travel for Women

one bag travel packing list total bag
  • 2 clothes cubes (In the end took only the big one with everything)
  • First Aid Kit (Homemade)
  • Medium Travel Towel
  • Beauty Bag & Wipes
  • Tripod
  • Few books and pens
  • Laptop, Ipad, Chargers
  • Two shoes (Wear trainers on travels)
  • Electric compartment case
  • Water bottle (Not displayed)

Carry on Travel for Men

one bag travel packing list electronics
  • 2 clothes cubes
  • Water bottle
  • GoPro compartment box
  • Laptop, Charger & Extended Hard Drive
  • Few books and pens
  • Beauty bag
  • Sliders
  • Resistance band
  • Medium Travel Towel
  • First Aid Kit (too, in his bag, not displayed)

First Aid Kit (Homemade)

one bag travel packing list medical kit
  • Variety of pills
  • Gloves
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Anti-Bacterial Wipes
  • Wrist band
  • Vaporub
  • Cough Sweets
  • Variety plasters and blister plasters
  • Deep heat cream
  • Bungy cord


one bag travel packing list toiletries
  • Soap
  • Deodorant roll on
  • Skin products
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Minimum make-up
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Inhaler
  • Tweezers x2
  • Nail clippers
  • Headbands
  • Needle and Thread
  • Shaver


How can I save space packing clothes for one bag travel?

The best method to pack clothes is the bundle method. This allows you to pack your clothes in a compact way and packs them in a way that prevents your clothes from creasing.

What is the best lightweight clothing material for one bag travel?

The best material for minimal travel is merino wool. It is the most expensive, but provides warm, crease-free material that is exceptionally light, dries quickly, and does not absorb smells. If you are on a budget, a polyester/nylon mix is the next best option to merino wool, with all the same properties but not as comfortable to wear.

Backpack vs. Suitcase?

Traveling with a backpack is better for travelers who are more adventurous and on the move. You can take your backpack across all terrains and you’ll never lose it on a flight, but your clothes will crease and it can get tiresome carrying that heavy bag (it also isn’t stylish). Traveling with a suitcase provides better protection for clothes, gadgets and electronics. They’re also better for keeping clothes smart, which is why we recommend them for those who are not moving from place to place much. However, you can lose your checked luggage quite easily, the roller wheels will not go across all terrains, and they are more difficult to transport.

How long can I travel with just one carry-on bag?

If you take enough clothing for a week, you can travel indefinitely with one bag forever. Just make sure you are doing laundry or washing your clothes by hand and hanging to dry every time you get a chance.

Will a hiking pack fit in the carry-on compartment?

Any hiking pack up to 55L is suitable for most airline carry-on requirements. 40L is recommended to stay in all budget international and domestic flight guidelines.

Why travel with only a single bag?

The cost of checked luggage can mount up when using more than one bag for travel, and it’s much more difficult to be location-independent. With one bag, you can pack up and go anywhere. It’s lightweight and you can get off the beaten path a lot more to experience real adventure travel.

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