Travelling Light: Minimalist Backpacking + FREE checklist

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Last August my husband and I went on our first big trip together to the UK as a sort of belated-honeymoon trip— and it was amazing.

Over about 10 days we saw London, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, York, Edinburgh, Inverness, Skye, and Glasgow, with some of those stops being a couple days (you can check out photos from our trip here). We've got ourselves a BritRail pass and enjoyed train rides around the countryside to get from place to place. We're got all of our food from the bounty of the grocery store each day, with the exception of some coffees and teas and a few must have meals (pub meal, fish and chips). 

I'm took a 38L backpack (the Osprey Kestrel 38, by the way) and I think Adam's was 60L. I'm a small gal myself, at about 5'3", so a large backpack is not only heavy on the back, but a major downer on a trip spent mostly on foot. While we were there, the temperature ranged from about 25 in London, 12 in Inverness, and down to around 8 degrees at night, and since we were in Great Britain, we got rained on at least once (but surprisingly, only the once. Thanks, Glasgow!).

Travelling light was such a huge part about why this trip was really enjoyable— I couldn't imagine walking the 20+ km a day we did with more weight on my back. So here's what's we brought.

Toiletries

  • Small bottle facewash
  • Small bottle shampoo
  • Dry shampoo
  • Body wash (also in Adam's pack)
  • Fragrance free baby wipes
  • Some cotton pads for removing makeup
  • Concealer, lip balm, Clinique Chubby Stick which I use as blush
  • Brush
  • Hair elastics and clip
  • Moisturizer with SPF
  • Deodorant
  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste (although these will actually be in Adam's pack)
  • Nail file & clippers

Clothing

  • Undershirt
  • 2 t-shirts
  • Wool sweater
  • Five pairs of thin socks
  • Jeans
  • Black pants
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (one thicker, and wool)
  • Hat
  • Raincoat
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras
  • Scarf
  • Good walking shoes/boots (my Blundstones)

Extras

  • Minuscule first aid kit
  • Birth Control
  • BritRail passes, passport, wallet
  • Camera, camera charger
  • iPad, iPad charger
  • Ear plugs
  • Minuscule compact umbrella
  • Allergy meds
  • Water bottle
  • Wool blanket

While we're there, we will be picking up a fork, knife, spoon, and plate from somewhere cheap like Tesco.

 

Not pictured: the stuff I'll be wearing, the stuff in Adam's pack, the camera I'm using to take this picture.

Now, this might seem like a lot, but it actually only takes up 60-70% of the backpack, which is the amount experts recommend to have enough flexible space for manoeuvring, finding your belongings, and the inevitable build up of Stuff as you travel. This backpack weighed a whopping 12.5 lbs (5.7 kg), and was incredibly comfortable. We also brought a smaller day pack in Adam's backpack we used while we were travelling around during the day after we were able to check in to our respective hostels.

Is it really possible to travel with this small amount of stuff? The list may seem long, but when you actually look at it, and get it all in the backpack, it's not much. Of course, some of this stuff will be on my person at all times. My big wool sweater, boots, and a set of clothing were never in this pack. The essentials are all here. I made sure to leave room for anything I picked up along the way (although the only things I purchased were a necklace, a card, and some incense, so, no space wasted there), but I took a good hard look about what I considered essential.

Did I bring some makeup? You bet I did. We're going to be absolutely exhausted for many parts of this trip, and it did wonders for my self-confidence to be able to hide the dark circles and add some colour to my cheeks. What did I bring? A Clinique stick concealer, a Clinique Chubby Stick lip balm (which I also use as an excellent blush), and Vaseline lip balm. That's all folks, and it was enough to make me feel a little bit brighter after a night with very few hours of sleep.

Did I wear the same few clothing combinations every day for a week and a half? Yep. Would I ever see these strangers again? Nope. If I were somewhere really hot, washing these clothes or bringing an extra t-shirt might be more of a priority, but the level of backpacking sweat here was minimal.

One of the bulkiest items I brought was the rolled up wool blanket. It's about the size of an average couch throw, and isn't particularly heavy. But it's one of the most useful things I brought. It served as a picnic blanket, a very large warm scarf for unexpectedly cold weather (or, since we prepared for it, expectedly), an extra blanket in an under stocked hostel, or a screen in a very crowded one, a pillow and blanket for the flight, and a cushion for many train journeys. As a person who is nearly always cold, I was my best friend. And the great thing about wool is that it keeps you warm wet, or dry.

 
 

What are your backpacking essentials? Am I missing something here that you would never leave without? Let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Adventures!

xx


Are you ready to head out on your first backpacking trip, but you'd rather not be weighed down by the pack? Here are my minimalist backpacking essentials for an awesome trip without the hassle.