While I haven’t quite given up processed foods yet, I had to apply my new-found minimalism to travel. Suitcases are not my friend. I don’t have the apparent muscle strength required to carry them, and dragging anything with wheels up a flight of stairs is my idea of hell. On the other hand, backpacks can be painful too — especially when they’re not suited to your size, or over-packed. Sara and I took a backpack each to Comic-Con 2011. We wanted to be able to jump off the plane and head straight for the San Diego Zoo, since we were arriving in the morning. We jammed the backpacks full of heavy clothes and books and then walked around San Diego with them for hours. Needless to say, our backs didn’t let us forget it that weekend at the Con.
When I started planning my fall 2011 China trip, I was determined not to repeat the experience. There had to be a better way. Fortunately, I found a goldmine of advice about light and ultralight backpacking online (see resources below). In the end, I had to go ultralight, and now it’s the only way I’ll travel. The three basic principles are: 1) eliminate any “what if” stuff (you can always buy extra toothpaste etc.), 2) wash your clothes often, if not every day, and 3) be prepared to spend on light, durable, high quality gear. Minimalism, ironically, is not a budget philosophy.
Here’s what I packed on two recent trips. I’ve noted what worked and what didn’t work. On both trips I fit everything I wasn’t wearing into the 19-liter Tom Bihn Synapse backpack*.