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The Ultimate Guide to Travelling Light

You know you need it.

Minimal travelling is that one thing that everyone likes the idea of but that no one really wants to do. Just thinking of having to fit all your stuff in one regular sized backpack seems daunting and too complicated to bother with. Now, I personally think that travelling light is the best and only way to travel. It means less weight to carry and less clutter in your hotel, hostel, or even tent. So if you adhere to the philosophy but struggle to apply it to your travels, read on.

Where and When?

In other words, evaluate your needs. Where are you going and when? You won't take the same things on a trip to Greenland in the winter and on a summer vacation in the Maldives. Go look at the average temperature for the place you are visiting at the time you are going. Very hot weather will require light clothing while you will probably want to put one some thin and thick layers in wintry temperatures.

  • Hot: Light clothing
  • High UV index: Long, light clothing
  • Windy: Good outer layer or windbreaker
  • Rainy season: A light raincoat
  • Cold-ish: Layers of long, thin and thick clothing
  • Wintry: Warm outerwear and long, thin and thick clothing

Always bring a good sunscreen (yes, even in the winter) because you never know when the sun will decide to show its face (bring bug repellent in warmer regions!).


Which activities are you planning on doing and how many times will you be enjoying them? Here are some categories to look at:

  • Sports that don't require specific equipment
  • Sports that require you to bring specific equipment
  • Bars and clubs
  • Fancy dinners
  • Going to the beach
  • Cultural activities
  • Any activity that has a dress code (visiting a mosque, for example).

Make a capsule wardrobe.

If you don't know what a capsule wardrobe is, you're missing out. For those of you who have yet to discover the beauty of capsules, keep on reading this section (the rest know what to do).

A capsule wardrobe is basically a minimalist wardrobe where every or most items can be mixed and matched. If you need both dressier and sports clothing, feel free to build two smaller capsule wardrobes. The task may seem a bit too complicated to bother with but, if you follow the steps listed here, it'll be a breeze.

1. Decide on the amount of clothing you need.

Divide them into categories. How many pairs of pants? Shorts? Skirts? Dresses? Tops? Cardigans or outerwear? Shoes? Accessories?

Example: For 3 months in summery yet windy and cold-ish weather, I picked 2 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 dress, 6 tops, 2 cardigans, 1 jacket, 1 pair of shoes, and no accessories. That gives me 92 different outfits for day-to-day life with 16 items.

2. Choose a color palette.

It should consist of neutrals and 1 to 3 color accents that can be matched together.

3. Pick some basics.

Anything with no pattern and preferably neutral: black pants, white or black shirt, a pair of versatile shoes, etc. Pick everything depending on the style you're going for. Note: if you'll be attending dressier events, I would suggest taking pieces that can be dressed down or dressed up for more versatility.

4. Get your statement pieces in.

If you're going for patterns, choose either bottoms or tops, or else you'll have to find patterns that go well together, which may give you a headache. Colors are a bit easier but I would still stick with only one category, unless, again, it still goes with everything. Note: It's okay if there's one statement piece that you really want to incorporate but it doesn't match with EVERYTHING. The capsule wardrobe police won't come to get you.

5. Get in your activity-specific items.

Note: You don't need 7 bathing suits for a week at the beach.

6. Re-evaluate.

Make sure you didn't take too much or too little (you can calculate the number of outfits for an easier overview).

Take as little gear as possible.

If you're camping, you'll obviously need some activity-specific gear, like a tent or even a small stove. However, do try to downsize as much as possible. Don't bring overwhelming quantities of gear "just in case" and try to take smaller items when you can.

Try to ditch makeup.

Yes, I know. I'm looking at you makeup lovers out there but, realistically, how many times will you want to put your makeup on on vacation? If the answer is "every day," then don't worry: you're allowed to take some. However, I would suggest you take minimal, versatile items. If you want day and night looks, pick a small eyeshadow palette that can satisfy your needs. You may bring one item of each category if you really can't go out without your face on—it's okay.

Minimize your toiletries.

No, you don't need shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, hair treatments, body scrub, face scrub, face wash, face serum, eye cream, face cream, hand cream, body butter, and the rest. You know what you may need? One cleanser, one hydrating thing, and toothpaste. You don't have to go as minimal as this but be rational about your needs. My toiletry bag includes:

  • Something to clean both my face and body (a bar of natural soap)
  • Something to clean my hair (although you could wash it with soap)
  • One sugar scrub that I use all over my body and face (only necessary if you have very dry skin like me)
  • Some argan or coconut oil for hair and skin hydration, and makeup remover (you could use pretty much any oil or even aloe vera, which also treats sunburns)
  • Toothpaste (and my toothbrush, obviously)
  • Sunscreen (because, important)

No to Singe Use Items!

This means no cotton pads or swabs, no makeup removing wipes, and no bath bombs or such things, although I do understand the need for sanitary pads or tampons if you don't use a menstrual cup.

"How?" you say. All you need is a washcloth to take off your makeup (that you previously rubbed off with coconut oil) and wash your ears. As for bath bombs or other single use bath products, they're just not necessary. They'll still be there when you go back home.

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