Benefits of Lightweight Minimalst Backpacking (and How to Pack for Europe Backpacking Trip)

My sister Dani recently visited me for a week. We both live on the road, out of a small backpack, so you can imagine the excitement about lightweight travel and minimalist geekery that ensues when we get together. To celebrate our love of minimalist travel, we decided to plan Dani’s pack together for her upcoming Europe trip and to make a video of it. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to learn more about what’s in Dani’s pack and to watch our video, where we also talk about the benefits of lightweight travel and tips to help keep you on track.

Benefits of Lightweight Minimalist Backpacking

Why travel light? There are loads of reasons. Here are some of the reasons I choose to pack less.

Ease of Travel- With less stuff weighing you down, it is decidedly easier to travel. By carrying something manageable like the Deuter 28L daypack that I travel with, I never have to worry about checking baggage, making room in overhead compartments, or lugging around a lead weight on my back. A small pack will fit under the seat in front of you on an airplane and fully loaded only tends to weigh around 15-20lbs (depending on what you are carrying).

Since a small pack is much lighter and more comfortable, you can carry it on your back and go about your exploring without worrying about checking in at your accommodation or storing it somewhere beforehand. And if you do decide to store it in a locker or other safe space, it will be much easier given the size.

It’s about fun and adventure, not about your baggage! You always want to be ready to explore and since travel is after all about the journey (not the destination), it’s worth it to make that journey as comfortable as possible. Then you can see everything you want, navigating the local modes of transportation, such as trains and buses, without worrying about whether or not you and all your stuff will fit during rush hour. Halleluiah.

Save Money– With a small load, you don’t have to worry about checked baggage fees, or money for lockers or other storage spaces for your items. And if you do decide to lock your bag up somewhere, it will be less expensive for a smaller locker or space.

Also, you will save a lot of loot by not purchasing all the travel specific items that you thought you needed, but would never really use. Keep it simple and save.

Less to Worry About and Easier to Manage– When you are just traveling with the essentials, that means you use everything in your pack regularly. Becoming this familiar with your items has a lot of perks. It is great to know what you are traveling with and where all of your belongings are. Organizing your pack and locating items suddenly becomes simple and smooth.

Being Prepared Doesn’t Mean Having More– As long as you pack smart by packing what is essential for your trip, you will have everything you need. I have yet to find a backpacker that was more prepared than me, no matter the size of their luggage. Yet, I am consistently met by backpackers along my travels who realize they have not yet touched most of the items in their bags and wish that they had foregone all the excess items in exchange for space and weight off their back. They look at my mounted pack and cheery disposition with longing and confusion.

Feel Great with Less– Having less feels so good! It is fun to travel with less and to feel light and free. Everything can be kept neat and organized, which leaves you at ease to do what you set out to do and enjoy your epic adventure!

Tips for Packing Light

If you are still reading, you are probably pretty convinced of the benefits of traveling with less. If you are eager to start reaping the benefits, here are some tips and concepts that may help.

Pack Just What is Essential and Leave Behind the Excess– Identify what is essential for your trip, taking into account your unique preferences and needs, and leave behind anything that does not fall into that category.

If you are having trouble deciding if something is essential, try asking yourself a few questions such as: Do I need to bring this item with me? Will I use it consistently throughout my trip? Will it add value to my trip? Is there another item in my pack that will do the same job? Will I happily carry the full weight (physical and mental) of this item? Can I purchase it there instead if I find I need it? Am I packing it based on some fear that I will not have enough stuff? Is it truly essential? Usually if you are on the fence about something it is not essential.

Pack Smart– Pack comfortable, versatile, climate and activity appropriate clothing. Make sure all of your clothing falls into these categories. This doesn’t mean you cannot be stylish while on the go.

Leave accessories at home. Maybe you want to bring a watch, sunglasses, or a pair of earrings because they are essential for the enjoyment of your trip. If this is the case, choose one pair wisely that you know you will enjoy wearing consistently and leave the rest at home.

Limit expensive items. Unless it is one of your tried and trues, leave the item that cost you an arm and a leg at home. This way you won’t spend the whole trip worrying about the safety of said item.

Again, (I know I’m really driving the point home here), if it’s not necessary, don’t bring it. Leave the curling iron at home and enjoy the extra time and space in your day to explore.

You Don’t Need Many Travel-Specific Items– Most likely you are going to wear the same favorite clothing you wear at home and use the same items you use for your personal care daily, with some variations. There is a lot of travel gear out there that is easy to get sucked in to buying. I encourage you to ask yourself if those zip off pants/shorts or thermal T-shirt are really necessary for your trip. If they are, great, they are well worth it. And if not, you just saved yourself some valuable time, space and money.

There are a few items that I consistently travel with, which you can learn more about in my Essential Items for Lightweight Backpacking video at the bottom of this page if you are interested.

Don’t Plan for “What Ifs”– If you plan for every “what if” scenario you can easily fill up a 65 Liter pack with stuff you will never use. Instead, set aside a small about of “what if” money so you can purchase any items you find you need but did not pack when you are abroad. People most likely live in the places you are traveling to and get all their needs met within their home country. If you end up needing something, enjoy the adventure of asking locals where the best place to find said item is and visiting a local store.

Videos and Packing List

Watch Dani unpack and pack back up her bag, while I talk about benefits of minimalist backpacking and some tips to help you pack light. (Want to know what’s in Dani’s bag? Check out her packing list here).

Interested in what both Dani and I have found to be essential items for lightweight backpacking? Check out this video.