Travelling by plane, whether for business or pleasure, is a reality in many people’s lives. While some people seem to bring their entire wardrobe every time they fly, others have mastered the art of ultra-light travel.
What should you pack to travel light? I’ve been traveling for most of my adult life and have learned that it’s possible to travel for a long time with just a few pieces of light, breathable clothing. By packing strategically, I’m able to bring carry-on luggage only. It’s the best way to avoid expensive baggage fees and the risk of an airline losing our bags.
If you’re thinking of travelling during March break, start planning your vacation and learn how to travel light!
Read also: Our favourite clothes for flying
Ultra-Light Travel Clothes
When deciding what to pack for ultra-light travel, it’s important to be selective. You won’t need to bring absolutely everything. I like to pack clothes that are both comfortable and look good in any situation.
Your choice of jacket will of course be determined by the weather and your destination. There are two details to look for in a coat: its warmth and packability, so you can tuck it away when you’re not wearing it. That’s why the Cerium LT Hoody by Arc’Teryx is one of my favourites – and one of our best sellers. Arc’teryx makes stylish, highly practical apparel, and this jacket is no different. It is also versatile enough to be worn anywhere.
It’s warm enough to be used on trips to the mountains thanks to it’s goose down filling. In the city, the Cerium LT Hoody’s minimal styling looks great with any outfit and the DWR coating protects you against light showers or snow. And when you’re rushing through the airport, you can easily compress the jacket and pack it into your carry-on bag. You’ll see, it hardly takes up any space.
My hiking pants have quickly become one of my travel essentials. When I fly, I wear a pair of Lefroy pants by Arc’teryx and I think they’re perfect for the plane. These lightweight and flexible pants are very comfortable and help make even the longest flights a bit more pleasant.
The Lefroy pants are also extremely practical. Made from a breathable blend of Aequora AirPerm fabric, they offer great freedom of movement for running after the bus or squeezing into cramped trains. They’re even classic and elegant enough to be paired with a casual jacket for hanging out in the neighbourhood’s hottest café.
Shoes are an often overlooked part of the travel wardrobe. They can, however, play a big part in travelling comfortably. Steer clear of your run-down everyday shoes with worn-out soles that no longer offer support. I like to wear a lightweight, breathable shoe that slips on and off quickly when going through airport security. I find that the Old Skool shoe by Vans does all this and more.
Much more comfortable (in my opinion), than regular Vans shoes, they are light, easy to pack if needed and fit nicely with jeans, shorts, pants or a dress.
On longer flights, it’s very important to get up, walk around and stretch your legs. It helps prevent stiff muscles and boosts circulation. The socks you choose to wear also make a difference. I always wear compression socks on flights. The CEP pro + Ultralight socks for men and women are a good option.
Super light and comfortable, they are a great way of improving circulation, which keeps your feet from swelling. They are also among the best running socks on the market.
On long trips, I like to wear a merino wool baselayer. No matter the weather, it is often fairly cool and very dry on the plane. Merino wool has the unique ability to regulate your body temperature. Smartwool and icebreaker dominate the merino wool clothes market. I personally swear by the 200 Oasis baselayers, which I have been wearing on my travels for years.
Minimalist Backpacks, Luggage and Suitcases
Any traveller will tell you: a good backpack is the cornerstone of minimalist travel. A minimalist backpack should allow you to bring all your personal effects, fit in the overhead bin and adapt to almost all situations.
The Planing backpack by Patagonia fits these criteria. 30L is large enough to pack all your essentials for a weekend away. The well-designed interior of the backpack makes organizing your things easy and allows you to access them quickly. Made from a tough polyester ripstop that’s finished with a weather-resistant laminate – this pack from Patagonia is great for any adventure. The padded shoulder straps will keep you comfortable on your travels.
Arc’teryx is featured in our list again with the Blade 28L Backpack. Fantastic for city visits, this slim backpack matches all your outfits with its muted colour palette and minimalist look. The clamshell design makes it easy to access your stuff on the road or once you get to the hostel.
I personally couldn’t travel without my duffle bag for certain trips. When I leave for a weekend, or even longer, it’s the best way to carry my stuff. Perfect to bring on the plane, these convertible bags can also be slung over your shoulder for more versatility.
The North Face makes equipment that’s allowed me to explore every corner of the world no matter what the conditions are. I never tire of my Base Camp Duffle Bag. Offered in many sizes (X-Small, Small, Medium, Large or X-Large), it’s probably one of our most durable and reliable bags. Ideal for treks or camping in various conditions, it’s also one of my favourite models for the plane. The XS and S sizes are small enough to be considered carry-on luggage.
If you want a stylish duffel bag that will last a lifetime, check out this Duffle bag by Filson. The American company has been making tough, long-lasting products since 1897. The twill fabric of the duffle bag will stand up to any abuse it receives. The leather straps and handles add to this classic bag’s timeless look.
A rolling suitcase can be a great choice for city trips, when you want the freedom of not carrying a backpack. Better suited to zipping through airports than on the uneven pavement of Europe’s capitals, they are nevertheless to be considered for your next trip. I particularly like the Subterra Wheeled Duffel by Thule, which is both durable and carry-on size.
I started using packing cubes this year and can’t believe the difference they make. They’re smaller bags that go in your backpack and allow you to organize your belongings. I like to organize by type. Shirts in one cube, socks in another, for example.
On a 3-day trip, I like to organize by outfit. This means I can quickly pull out a complete change of clothes to go meet friends or catch up with clients. The Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set by Eagle Creek also compresses your clothes, fitting more into your carry-on luggage.
Ultra-Light Travel Accessories
When travelling light it’s important to only carry crucial items. Space and weight are often at a premium so it’s best to only pack things you need and use on a regular basis.
Hopping between cities and countries can be thirsty work. Keeping hydrated will make you feel better in the short term, and is also proven to help combat jet lag. It’s also essential to drink water on the plane as the air is very dry. The 24 oz. Standard Mouth Water Bottle by Hydro Flask is perfect for travelling. It keeps drinks cold for 12 hours and hot drinks warm for 6 hours. It’s also better to carry a reusable water bottle than to buy plastic bottles.
There’s nothing better than having a hot shower and brushing my teeth after a long day of hopping on planes, trains and taxis. A compact toiletries bag with enough room for all my essentials is a must-have. In my opinion, the Base Camp Travel Canister from The North Face is one of the best available, and my go-to when I’m on the road.
One of the best ways I free up some space in my luggage is by swapping a regular towel for a packable towel. Opting for a microfiber towel will completely change the way you pack. I’ve been using the PackTowl models for a few years. They dry quickly and are great for travelling.
You will hopefully enjoy sunny days on your travels! I like to choose a reputable brand and a polarized lens. The Reverie sunglasses by Oakley have an ultra-light and sleek frame that’s made for an active lifestyle.
Ultra-Light Travel is Simpler Than You Think
If you ask me, ultra-light travel is the best way to really enjoy a vacation. We keep the essentials without having to carry our entire wardrobe on our shoulders. It also makes things easier at the airport. Simply not having to check your luggage is a great incentive to travel light.