My Carry-On Only Travel Packing List

Light travel gear laid on a hardwood floor make up a complete carry-on only packing list

The Lightweight Traveler’s Carry-On Only Packing List

 

I’ve been traveling light and using packing lists for years, and I’ll never take for granted how good it feels to travel ‘carry-on only’. Because I’ve seen how miserable traveling with excess can be. Picture this:

An exasperated traveler lurches helplessly down the sidewalk as they inch their overstuffed baggage toward the entrance of a distant hotel. Sensations of dread and regret overwhelm them as stunned onlookers can only gasp in shock.

We’ve all witnessed this poor, powerless traveler before. Hell, maybe once in a while, we’ve even become them. It’s not a pretty situation to be in, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

But here’s the good news: Baggage doesn’t have to slow us down. Traveling light is a choice. We don’t have to fight and struggle with our belongings every time we want to go someplace new.

That’s why I’m going to give you an up-close look at my 24-pound, do-everything, all-season travel setup. I want to show you precisely what a lightweight and practical approach to travel looks like.

So, take a look inside my bag. Check off the boxes of my carry-on only packing list as you get ready for your next adventure. Maybe you can transform your travel bag into something lighter and more mobile. Or, maybe you’ll find a game-changing piece of gear to help liberate your life on the road.

Lighten up. It’s a change worth making.

Packing Light: The Benefits of Carry-On Only Travel

A black backpack rests against a van in a driveway

Pack Light, Travel Right

 

I’ve preached to you that traveling light and utilizing a carry-on only packing list are of utmost importance, so let me tell you why. Why must everything fit in one bag? What’s wrong with checking luggage?

Traveling Light is Far More Comfortable

In the world of travel packing, less is more.

Less baggage to carry means more freedom and mobility. Less stuff to lug around means more energy to focus on the world around you. Less weighing you down means a more comfortable travel experience.

And, who doesn’t want that?

Checking Bags Doesn’t Always End Up So Well

I’ve seen and heard horror stories of checking baggage, and I want no part of the drama.

Friends have told me painful tales of bags getting lost and taking weeks to make it back to them. I’ve seen a relative’s luggage zipped wide-open with clothing spilling out as it rotated slowly along the luggage carousel. I’ve watched my girlfriend’s heart drop as she opened her checked bag, revealing a mess of scrambled and broken belongings inside.

While situations like these aren’t the norm, there’s always risk involved when you hand your baggage off to a set of busy strangers.

Packing Lists & Carry-On Only Travel Saves Time

Packing lists eliminate the stress and guesswork that often come along with organizing your luggage. By knowing exactly what to pack and what to leave behind, you’ll get ready for your travels much faster and more efficiently.

By choosing not to check bags, you’ll never have to wait around anxiously at baggage claim either. Just grab your bag, walk off the plane, and get moving.

Must-Bring Travel Essentials

There are certain things you will have a terrible time traveling without. IDs. Visas. Money. Cell phones. Medications. Important travel documents. The items below are likely to stop you dead in your tracks if you’ve left one (or more) of them behind.

While many of the items below (tickets, insurance info, travel documents, etc.) can be saved and accessed digitally, don’t forget to bring hard copies as well. If your cell phone or laptop dies or goes missing, you’ll be glad you did.

Check this list twice. Once after you’ve finished packing, and a second time right before you walk out the door.

Passport/Visa

ID Card/Drivers License

Wallet/Purse

Cash/Credit Cards

Cell Phone

Tickets

Medications

Insurance Documents

Copies of Passport/Visa

Maps/Guidebooks

Travel Itineraries

Travel Reservations

Nexus 6p cell phone

Cell Phone: Nexus 6P

The Nexus 6P has been my loyal travel companion for the last two and a half years. While I’m likely to upgrade to a new phone soon, I’ve been impressed with how well the 6P has performed. It takes wonderful photos, navigates offline along my treks, and has loads of storage. The battery life? Meh.

Simple black wallet

Wallet: Herschel Charlie

The thinner the wallet, the better. That’s why I love the Herschel Charlie. Its minimalist design makes it barely noticeable in my pocket. The wallet is simple, easy to access, and holds everything I ask of it. What more could you ask for in a travel wallet?

Leather passport holder

Passport Cover: J.Crew

I’m glad I received this passport cover as a gift because I would’ve never thought to buy one for myself. It’s durable leather construction shields my passport from the harsh rigors of travel. In addition to protecting my cherished passport, my cover can store important documents as well.

Carry-On Travel Bags

Travel luggage on a hardwood floor

Carry-On Travel Bags

 

Carry-on only travel begins and ends with the luggage you bring along. Make sure your main piece of travel baggage abides by the carry-on size guidelines of the airlines you’ll be using, and you’ll be in great shape.

The age-old question of, “Should I use a rolling suitcase or a backpack?” is entirely yours to answer. Do some careful research and make a choice the best suits your style of travel. I use a backpack simply because I can move around easier while wearing it.

Don’t forget to bring a packable daypack, which can double as a personal item for carry-on travel. It’ll also come in handy for day trips after you’ve settled at your destination. 

Main Travel Backpack

Daypack

Camera Bag

Black carry-on only backpack

Backpack: Osprey Porter 46

Osprey’s Porter 46 is comfortable, functional, and durable. I love using it as my main travel bag. That said, it exceeds some airline’s carry-on luggage limits, although I’ve never had a problem carrying it on. Consider the Farpoint 40, if the Porter 46’s limitations give you pause.

Packable grey daypack

Daypack: Matador FreeRain 24

I fell in love with this daypack’s features before I ever ordered it. It packs down small, is completely waterproof, and is very lightweight. I’ve been happy with the bag for the most part, but the stitching has come apart along the zipper. It’s a great bag otherwise.

Black camera bag

Camera Bag: Denali

This minimalist camera bag fits my Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera, two lenses, and its spare batteries perfectly. That’s all I could ever ask of it. If my camera and lens kit were any larger, I’d be forced to go searching for another bag, but for now, I’m good.

Lightweight Travel Luxuries

Lightweight travel packing items (speaker, headphones, water bottle) on a hardwood floor

Lightweight Travel Luxuries

 

Below are the non-essential odds and ends that always find their way into my bag anyways. Sure, I don’t need to pack a single one of these items, but that’s not the point. This particular gear enhances my life of travel enough to warrant a permanent spot on my packing list and in my carry-on bag.

Ask yourself, “Which items truly make life better while traveling, and which items can I leave behind?” Carefully construct your own lightweight list of travel luxuries and, if ever in doubt, live by the timeless moniker, Less is more.

Water Bottle

Earplugs

Travel Locks

Towel

Packing Cubes

Headphones

Battery Bank

Headlamp

Bluetooth Speaker

Blue collapsible water pouches

Water Pouch: Sawyer 32 oz

If you’re a frugal traveler, you know that paying for water can bust budgets. That’s why I always carry my Sawyer 32 oz backpacking water pouches. And, when I find fresh water, I pounce and fill these bad boys to the brim. Using them keeps me away from single-use plastics as well, which is a good thing.

Lightweight earplugs to pack for travel

Earplugs: Howard Leight

I’m an earplug snob. Sure, it sounds a bit ridiculous, but I’d rather listen to a stranger snore all night than toss and turn while wearing uncomfortable earplugs. I’ve tried out several brands, and I’ve finally found my forever-plugs, the Howard Leights. They’re comfy and effective. Second-to-none.

Black luggage locks

Travel Lock: TSA-Approved Padlocks

I’m no travel lock expert, but I can tell you that these sturdy little padlocks get the job done. They’re well-built and make it easy to set a unique 4-digit combo. They’re TSA-approved, which means airport security will use keys, not lock-cutters to see what’s in your bag.

Mini Microfiber towels

Mini-Towel: Lightload Microfiber

Since the vast majority of hotels and hostels offer free towels, I never pack a full-sized towel of my own. I do, however, pack one of these ultra-compact Lightload mini-towels for the rare occasion that I can’t get my hands on a towel when I need one. 

Three packing cubes

Packing Cubes: TravelWise

Organization is key in the carry-on only lifestyle, which is why any sane traveler must include a set of packing cubes on their list. I use two cubes while I travel – one for my clean clothes and the other to store my dirty ones. Without this simple organization, my bag would be a disaster.

Black Sony headphones

Headphones: Sony Xtra Bass

While compact earbud-style headphones might be more practical for carry-on only travel, the Sony Xtra Bass’s have found a stable place in my packing list anyways. I love the feel of over-ear headphones, and this pair puts out deep, quality sound at an approachable price.

Black battery bank

Battery Bank: Anker Powercore II

My trusty little battery bank bails me out time and time again on the road. It’s durable and compact, and will fully charge my cell phone twice before it runs out of juice itself. As a traveler and blogger, I’m grateful for every instance that it’s kept my precious phone from dying.

Packable lightweight travel headlamp

Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot

I don’t use my headlamp frequently when I travel, but it’s sure nice to have around when I need it. Whether I’m packing up camp on the Huemul Circuit as pre-dawn winds howl or drunkenly night fishing on the North Shore of Hawaii, my headlamp always shines bright and leads the way.

Black Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth Speaker: JBL Flip 4

Do I need to pack a Bluetooth speaker? Well, no. That’s why I choose not to bring the Flip 4 on many of my trips. That said, this speaker is compact, waterproof, and sounds great. I won’t hesitate to bring it along on the trips where I might feel the need to rock out sans headphones.

Lightweight & Packable Travel Clothing

Travel clothing spread across floor for reference as part of carry-on only packing list

Lightweight & Packable Clothing

 

The biggest hindrance to packing light is the traveler’s tendency to bring far too many clothes along. Few things make me cringe more than witnessing a fellow traveler fight and struggle with a bag that is bursting at the seams with clothing.

Avoid being that traveler by packing a lightweight and durable set of clothing for your next carry-on only adventure. Stay away from the heavier cotton-based materials (like denim!) to experience the true joy of packing light.

I bring a maximum of six shirts and two pairs of travel pants for every trip I take, and I usually manage not to come across as a scruffy and stinky drifter. How? I pack clothing made from highly-breathable materials that stay fresh longer than cotton. I pack mostly dark colors that hide the constant smudges and stains of travel.

And, yes, I utilize laundromats or sink-wash my clothing before it’s reached its limit.

Sweater/Jacket

Travel Pants (2)

Sandals

Rain Jacket

Athletic Shorts

Button-Up Shirt

T-Shirts (4)

Underwear (5)

Socks (5)

 Belt

Blue fleece sweater

Sweater: Tesla 1/4 Zip

I know what you’re thinking. Does Tesla really make clothing?! They do, and it happens to be well-made and affordable. My 1/4 zip sweater is super-comfy, keeps me warm, and packs down small. In many ways, it’s the perfect travel sweater. Thanks, Elon.

Khaki travel pants

Travel Pants: ExOfficio Sol Camino

Lightweight and practical pants are essential for carry-on only travel and my Sol Caminos check off all the boxes. They pack down small, sport secure zippered-pockets, and convert into shorts. Thanks to them, my uncomfortable days of traveling in bulky jeans are far behind me. 

Athletic sandals

Athletic Sandals: Chaco Z1

My Chaco Z1s are beefy, versatile, and well-built. Their thick, durable soles give the support and stability of a hiking boot while allowing the breathability and convenience of a sandal. These are heavier and take up more space than flip flops, but they do so much more. 

Black lightweight travel packing rain jacket

Rain Jacket: Marmot Precip

While this isn’t my favorite rain jacket for trekking and backpacking, it works well as a lightweight travel jacket. It blocks rain nicely, but it also keeps me warm when worn as a shell with my Tesla 1/4 zip sweater when life on the road gets chilly.

Black gym shorts

Athletic Shorts: Naviskin 5″

A good set of workout shorts will always have a place on my carry-on only packing list, and these are my absolute favorites. They’re feather-light, fit comfortably, and dry quickly. They double as a swimsuit too, for all my ocean, lake, river, and hot tub adventures.

Blue button up travel shirt

Button-Up Shirt: Columbia Silver Ridge

While this is my main shirt for multi-day trekking and hiking, it’s stylish and practical enough to use as a stand-alone travel shirt as well. I don this shirt when I need to transform from ‘scruffy budget backpacker’ to ‘respectable, cultured traveler,’ and it works like a charm.

Backpacking shirt for carry-on only travel

T-Shirts: Next Level

These Next Level t-shirts are perfect for my minimalist style of travel. They’re a blend — 60% cotton, 40% polyester — which makes them soft and breathable without stretching out or losing their fit. They’re very affordable too, so if I stain, rip, or lose one, it’s not the end of the world.

Black boxer briefs

Boxer Briefs: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go

The Give ‘n’ Gos are my go-to everyday boxer brief. Travel, hiking, blogging, you name it, they get the job done. They’re comfy, breathable, and odor-resistant, which make them especially great for travel. Never underestimate the importance of a good set of undies.

Black athletic sock

Socks: Darn Tough No Show

Darn Tough makes the most comfortable and durable socks I’ve ever put on, hands down. They’re a perfect blend of Merino wool, nylon, and Spandex that keep my feet feeling fresh and comfortable during the throes of travel. Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.

Travel belt with hidden money

Travel Belt: Jasgood

Nobody has ever pickpocketed me before, and I aim to keep it that way. By using this zippered money belt, I’m able to keep all of my big bills and important documents hidden safely away from thieves. This belt, along with my pant’s zippered pockets, make it really difficult to pickpocket me.

Cold Weather Travel Clothing

Gloves, hat, long underwear, socks, and down jacket on hardwood floor

Cold-Weather Travel Clothing

 

Sometimes travel will take to you to chilly destinations, so you’d better be prepared with warm, lightweight, and packable travel clothing when the conditions are downright cold.

With all the warm and well-made winter gear on the market, there’s no excuse to let cold weather cheapen or derail your trip. And, no, preparing for a frosty weather adventure doesn’t mean you have to ditch your carry-on only travel mantra either.

The five pieces of clothing below help keep me toasty when the temperature drops and bitter conditions set in. As a whole, these items pack down very small and weigh less than 1.5 pounds (700 grams) combined – a small price to pay for warmth and comfort.

Winter Jacket

Long Underwear

Warm Hat

Warm Socks

Gloves

Black down jacket

Down Jacket: Arc’teryx Cerium LT

The Cerium LT is the warmest down jacket I’ve ever owned, by a long shot. It keeps me comfortable into below-freezing temperatures and is a must-bring on all my cold-weather backpacking adventures. It’s insanely lightweight and packs down conveniently into its built-in stuff sack.

Black long underwear

Long Underwear: Patagonia Capilene

I love my lightweight travel pants, but they don’t always keep my legs warm when temperatures drop. That’s why I bring these along to all of my cold weather travel destinations. They provide an extra layer of warmth and take up barely any room in my bag.

Black fleece beanie

Warm Hat: Carhartt Knit Beanie

This fleece beanie is a staple of my cold weather outfit, whether I’m traveling or not. I love it not only for its warmth and comfort but also for its affordable price tag. When I lost my first Carhartt beanie, I had zero hesitation in replacing it immediately. 

Grey wool sock

Warm Socks: Smartwool Extra Heavy

My travel shoes often need a little help insulating my feet in frosty weather, which is why I pack a pair of Smartwool Extra Heavy socks when the temperatures call for them. These socks are ultra-warm, though, so consider a pair of Darn Tough Hikers if your feet tend to run hot.

Black waterproof glove

Gloves: Sealskinz Waterproof

I bought these waterproof gloves solely for hiking and backpacking, but they’ve proven to be a great travel glove as well. They’re compact, stylish, and comfortable and keep my hands toasty warm on even the coldest winter days. 

Travel Photography Gear 

Lightweight travel photography gear

Travel Photography Gear

 

It’d be an absolute pity to travel the world without quality photography gear to capture all of life’s vivid moments on the road. Not only do I cherish the thousands of memorable photos my camera has taken, but these images enhance my blog and bring it to life for you, my beloved reader.

Don’t worry. It’s entirely possible to pack a top-notch photography setup without sacrificing your lightweight, carry-on only travel dreams.

Nearly every single photo on this blog was captured through the camera and lenses I’ve listed below or with my trusty Nexus 6P cell phone. My setup is compact and portable and has found a comfortable place in my lightweight packing list for years to come.

Camera

Extra Lenses

Tripod

Camera Bag

Extra Batteries/Charger

Black and silver olympus camera

Camera/Lens Kit: Olympus O-MD E-M10

After tireless research into mirrorless travel cameras, I bought the Olympus O-MD E-M10 in 2015, and it’s been a proud part of my carry-on only packing list ever since. It’s sleek, durable, and effortless to use, and reliably captures high-quality photos.

Black camera lens

Prime Lens: Sigma 60mm F2.8

Behold, the best lens in my bag. It’s a prime (fixed) lens, which means it doesn’t zoom, but it makes up for this lack of versatility by taking professional-quality portraits and striking close-ups with ease. My photography kit would be incomplete without it.

Lightweight packable travel tripod

Tripod: Ultrapod II

The Ultrapod II is one of the most compact and affordable travel tripods on the market, which is why adding it to my travel photography setup was a no-brainer. Sure, its short stature limits its capabilities, but it does everything I ask of it (and nothing more).

Camera batteries that are carry-on only compliant

Extra Batteries: Powerextra

There are few worse situations while traveling than missing out on a wonderful photo-op because of a dead camera. That’s why I never travel without two fully-charged batteries at my disposal. These cost less than a fifth of the price of Olympus’s official replacement batteries.

Connectivity & Organization Items 

Computer gear on a hardwood floor that is part of a carry-on only packing list

Connectivity & Organization Items

 

Travel blogging is my passion, and my professional life revolves around it. To leave on a trip without the necessary tools to blog would send me into a spiral of panic and sadness. Nobody wants to see that.

Thankfully, I’ve found a place in my carry-on only packing list for each essential piece of my lightweight blogging gear. That’s right, I can fit the entirety of my personal and professional needs into one bag and carry it onto an airplane. That’s freedom.

Here’s my simple, powerful, and efficient travel blogging setup that allows me to live a lightweight and mobile life on the road.

Laptop

External Hard Drive

WiFi Signal Strengthener

Laptop Case

Pocket Journal

Pen

Travel Adapter

13 inch laptop

Computer: MacBook Pro 13″

Travel blogging could get annoying quickly without a fast and reliable computer, which is why I invested in the MacBook Pro 13″. This trusty machine has the speed and power to answer all my blogging needs. It’s portable, durable, and lightweight and has never let me down.

Portable external hard drive

Hard Drive: 4 TB WD My Passport

In the dreadful event that my laptop disappears or gets damaged, it’s imperative to have its valuable contents backed up. Thankfully, I can do so with my trusty external hard drive. Backing up my computer’s important files gives me security and peace of mind.

USB WiFi strengthener

WiFi Signal Strengthener: OURLiNK Dongle

Finding a solid internet connection on the road isn’t always easy, which is why I always carry this little device. This tiny USB plug-in connects to WiFi networks, strengthens connections, and improves internet speeds. A win-win for travel bloggers like me.

Turquoise laptop case for travel

Laptop Case: ProCase

Protecting my MacBook Pro while I travel is mandatory. That’s why I carry this generously padded and water resistant case. I love its external pocket and slide out handle, which both come in handy for digital nomads like myself. Tip: order one size down.

Leather bound pocket journal

Pocket Journal: Moleskine Soft Cover

I’m a forgetful writer, so my pocket journal is one of the most valuable blogging tools I carry. It has a thick leather-like cover and durable pages that hold up to the relentless abuses of travel. With it, I capture fleeting details that otherwise might fade from my memory.

Oval shaped pen

Pen: Fisher Space Bullet

I’d be doing my journal a disservice if I didn’t bring along a suitable pen to go with it. The Fisher Space Bullet is sleek, reliable, and versatile. It uses pressurized cartridges, which allow me to write at any angle or livable temperature, and even underwater.

Travel adapter with many ports

Travel Adapter: Worldwide All-in-One

I can’t keep track of the different types of wall outlets during international travel, so I bought this handy all-in-one travel adapter. By carrying it, I don’t need to worry about foreign power systems or voltages. I simply fold out the proper plug-in and pop it in the wall.

Travel Toiletries

Assorted travel-sized toiletries laid out on a hardwood floor

Travel Toiletries

 

Remember when I said that I usually manage not to come across as a scruffy and stinky drifter while I travel, despite carrying minimal clothing? My lightweight travel wardrobe deserves a lot of credit, but my compact and high-quality toiletries set should get some recognition too.

I’ve somehow managed to squeeze all of my hygienic travel needs into a small and durable toiletries bag that weighs almost nothing. My lightweight little kit packs perfectly into my carry-on only bag and leaves ample room for the rest of the travel gear on my list.

I pack only TSA-approved liquids that are 3.4 oz (100 ml) or less and, by doing so, free up plenty of room for the rest of my lightweight travel gear.

Toiletries Bag

Soap

Hair-Styling Product

Toothbrush

Toothpaste

Deodorant

Dental Floss

Glasses/Contacts

Contact Solution/Case

Ear Cleaner/Swabs

Razor

Nail Clippers

Tweezers

Pain Killers

Sleep Aid

Multivitamins

Packable toiletries bag as part of carry-on only travel list

Toiletries Bag: Sea to Summit ‘Traveling Light’

I used to travel with a bulky, oversized toiletries bag until I stumbled across this gem at REI. It’s simple and straightforward and weighs a measly 1.3 oz. All of my travel-sized toiletries fit comfortably inside this durable, breathable, and easy to clean bag.

Two bottles of liquid soap

Soap: Dr. Bronner’s

Dr. Bronner’s is an effective and versatile soap that boasts 18 different uses. I use it along my travels as an effective body wash, shampoo, and laundry detergent. It smells great and is full of healthy and sustainable ingredients. A little of this soap goes a very long way.

Foldable travel tooth brush

Toothbrush: Folding Travel Brush

What you see is what you get. This simple toothbrush folds into itself to save space and keep the bristles from collecting germs in my toiletries bag. As long as I rinse the toothbrush thoroughly after every use, it stays clean and germ-free.

Peppermind toothpaste

Toothpaste: Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint

I’m a sucker for Dr. Bronner’s products. Their toothpaste, just like their soap, is made from simple ingredients that have withstood the test of time. Some natural brands of toothpaste (like Tom’s) don’t seem to leave my mouth feeling completely fresh, but Dr. Bronner’s does. 

Stick of deodorant

Deodorant: Sam’s Natural

It took me years of searching and sampling to find an all natural deodorant that keeps my travel musk at bay. Finally, I came across Sam’s Natural, which boasts over 15 different scents of healthy and long-lasting deodorant that are full of natural ingredients you can pronounce.

Sleek, silver shaving razor

Razor: Dollar Shave Club

I stock up on Dollar Shave Club razors whenever I’m back in the U.S. because they’re affordable, convenient, and they get the job done. Yes, I’ve tried the mail-in alternatives (Harry’s and Gillette), and D.S.C. beats them in both price and quality.

Teeth flosser sticks

Dental Floss: Plackers Micro Mint

For whatever reason, I can’t stand flossing my teeth the old-fashioned way – with a string of floss and nothing else. Thankfully, someone invented these nifty little ‘Plackers’ to make dental hygiene much more bearable for struggling flossers like myself. 

Metal ear cleaner for travel toiletries

Ear Cleaner: Etereauty Ear Pick

Traveling with dozens of pesky Q-tips was an annoying travel reality until I discovered the wonders of the metal ear pick. Not only is my shiny new tool more compact than a handful of Q-tips, but it’s a far healthier way to remove wax from my ear.

Bottle of 5mg melatonin

Sleep Aid: NOW Melatonin

Getting a solid night of sleep on the road isn’t always easy. That’s why melatonin, a natural sleep aid, is an essential part of my carry-on only packing list. When a challenging sleep situation looms in my future, I’ll pop a 5 mg pill, put in my earplugs, and fade away to dreamland.

Bottle of multivitamin capsules

Multivitamin: Naturelo ‘One Daily’

My diet is all over the place when I travel, so I always pack daily multivitamins to ensure that my immune system stays strong. While I prefer eating fresh fruits and vegetables to swallowing capsules, at least I can guarantee that one way or another, I’ll be getting the nutrients I need.

In-Transit Travel Clothing

Clothing on a hardwood floor for carry-on only travel

In-Transit Travel Clothing

 

Whether I’m on a bus, train, or airplane, personal comfort is paramount when I’m in transit for long periods. This fact of life is why I’ve put together the most comfortable travel outfit possible from head to toe.

The clothes listed below will never actually make it into my fully-packed carry-on bag simply because I always sport them on the days that I travel. The rigors of being in transit are far more bearable when I’m wearing relaxed, comfortable travel gear.

Put aside your perfect set of comfy travel clothes the night before your trip and get ready for maximum comfort along your journey.

Long Sleeve Shirt

Sweatpants

Travel Shoes

Hat

Sunglasses

Wallet

Underwear

Socks

Grey long-sleeved shirt

Long Sleeve Shirt: Carhartt Force Extremes

In many ways, the Carhartt Force Extreme is the perfect ‘in transit’ top. It’s breathable enough to keep me from overheating in hot and muggy situations, but also substantial enough to keep me warm when the A/C is blasting down. It’s the best travel shirt in my arsenal.

Black travel jogger pants

Athletic Pants: Brokig Joggers

A comfortable pair of pants is essential when I’m in-transit for long periods, which is why I always wear these ultra-cozy joggers during my travel days. They’re a 65% cotton, 35% polyester blend, which makes the material soft, stretchy, and breathable – the perfect combo for long hauls.

Blue running shoe

Athletic Shoes: TSLA Knit

Not only do I love Tesla’s 1/4 zip sweater, but their affordable and lightweight running shoes have won me over as well. I’ve put hundreds of hard-earned travel miles on these shoes, and they still look and perform as they did on the first day I laced them up. 

Brown cap

Hat: Carhartt Odessa

I’d feel naked along my travels without my trusty Carhartt hat. See, the cap and I have developed a brotherly connection over the years. The miles we’ve covered and the wild travel memories we’ve made together have only strengthened our bond. 

Tortoise shell sunglasses

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Square

I got lucky at a thrift shop years ago and scored a pair of these for only 20 bucks. What a steal. Since then, they’ve become a vital part of my travel outfit. These wide-lense shades block out light and allow me to catch sleep for long stretches in less than ideal situations. 

Black boxer briefs

Boxer Briefs: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go

As I mentioned before, these are my go-to everyday boxer briefs. That means I definitely wear them on days I travel. For women with undie-envy, check out the ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go Bikini Briefs, which are also lightweight, breathable, and highly-reviewed.

Black wool sock

Socks: Darn Tough No Show

These are such an exceptional pair of socks that I had to mention them twice. They work wonders for my feet on busy travel days, keeping them cozy, dry, and fresh. For a higher cut sock, check out the Darn Tough Hiker 1/4 Cushion

Live the Carry-On Only Travel Lifestyle

So, there you have it. An up-close glimpse at every single item inside my lightweight, portable, and versatile travel bag. Thanks to my carry-on only travel packing list, I have the freedom to go wherever I want and do as I please in the most efficient way possible.

Snow-capped mountains? Tropical beaches? Urban jungles? All of the above, please.

Now, it’s your turn. Take a step back and look inside your travel luggage. What do you see?

Is your baggage an overstuffed mess of clutter and confusion? Do you have a lightweight and ultra-portable ‘do-it-all’ setup like mine? Do you fall somewhere in between?

Whatever the contents of your bag look like, remember this: Traveling light is a mindset. It’s a conscious decision. Freedom and mobility are enjoyed by those who lighten their load.

Travel gives us the chance to experience our world in its most raw and unfiltered state, without unnecessary distractions. The baggage you bring along has the ability to hold you back or power you through your next journey.

Which will you choose?

Packing List for Hiking & Backpacking

Want to take an up-close look at my lightweight multi-day hiking and trekking setup? Click the link below to explore the top-notch gear I carry as I wander alone in the wilderness for days at a time.

My entire base weight weighs only 12.6 pounds.

Plan Your Next Carry-On Only Trip: Travel Tips & Resources

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Find cheap flights by searching with Skyscanner or Momondo. Both sites pull fares from a huge network of airlines to help you find an affordable flight every time.

Book Accommodation

Use Booking.com — my go-to booking website — to reserve hotels and hostels. Search Hostelworld to browse a gigantic database of affordable hostel options. Book with Airbnb to rent apartments, houses, or rooms from locals.

Rent a Car

Search RentalCars.com to compare prices among hundreds of car rental brands. Use Turo to rent cars, trucks, campervans, (and more) from locals.

Protect Your Trip

Travel is unpredictable. Use World Nomads to insure your trip against illness, theft, injury, and cancellation. They’re widely trusted among backpackers and travelers worldwide.

Travel Better

Browse through my complete list of travel and blogging resources that I use and recommend. See exactly which websites, apps, products, and services have helped me travel the world and maintain this blog.

Do you have any questions about my carry-on only packing list? What are some of your favorite lightweight travel items? Do you prefer to check or carry on your luggage? Let me know by leaving a comment below!


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2 Comments

  1. For too long I have sat at a tilt, with one side of my body precariously and painfully settled atop a bulky, firm wallet. Now, thanks to Noel and the Herschel Charlie, I can rest easy and flatly with no pain to my rear end while knowing my cards and cash are safe and accounted for.

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