August 3, 2023

The Minimalist's Guide to Packing an Overnight Bag

The Minimalist's Guide to Packing an Overnight Bag

How do some people fit everything in a single bag?

Packing light always seems easy, especially for overnight and weekend trips. After all, you'll only be gone for a few nights—how much can you really need?

But if you've ever been on a trip and forgotten something at home, you know how annoying it can be to arrive at your destination only to open your bag and realize you don't have what you need. That's why it can be hard to pack light, even for quick trips.

No matter where you go or for how long, there's a sense of comfort in having everything you could possibly need in your bag. But the last thing you want is to be the person that lugs around a giant suitcase of things you probably could have left at home. And that can make packing an overnight bag a balancing act.

You want to ensure you don't forget anything you need at home without overstuffing your bag. That's why so many lists of travel tips recommend using an overnight packing list like the one we've outlined below. While you may have to make adjustments depending on your intended destination and trip length, it's a good starting place for any overnight or weekend trips you might have planned.

12 Travel Essentials to Pack For An Overnight Trip

Use our travel packing list as a starting point for your own—feel free to add or remove items based on your travel plans and preferences.

It's important to note that our list is for a true overnight trip—if you are traveling for more than one night, plan to pack additional items for every extra day of your trip.


  1. A single pair of pants
  2. One clean T-shirt or long-sleeve shirt
  3. A set of pajamas
  4. One clean pair of underwear
  5. A pair of socks


  1. Toothbrush and toothpaste
  2. Deodorant
  3. Hairbrush and styling products
  4. Contact lens case (and solution) or glasses case
  5. Any prescription medications


  1. Cell phone
  2. Portable charger and adapter cables

    Optional Extras

    Packing these extras would technically disqualify you from meeting the strictest definition of a minimalist traveler—but depending on where you're going and what you have planned, they might be essential items to add to your packing list. I

    f you can leave these items off your list, you're bag will be lighter. But if you plan to use any of these items on your overnight excursion, don't forget to pack them!

    How to Avoid Overpacking

    Using a checklist to guide you while you pack helps ensure you don't forget anything important while helping you avoid overpacking. But it isn't the only thing you can do to limit how much goes into your overnight bag.

    Pack only what you truly need

    The key to traveling light is packing only what you need—and nothing more. And while using a minimalist packing list is a good start, you can pare down your checklist even more if you plan ahead.

    Consider researching the weather at your intended destination so you can plan accordingly. Knowing what the weather will hold will help you pack exactly what you need and eliminate worries like whether or not you should toss an umbrella in your bag.

    Evaluate what you'll be doing while you're gone and see if there are any items you can eliminate. Let's say you're sleeping over at a friend's house to reduce your morning commute before an early work conference. While you can't leave out your blazer or laptop to save space in a small bag, you can wear comfortable clothes (like leggings or sweatpants and a big T-shirt) on your way over. That way, your day clothes can double as pajamas.

    Choose the Perfect Overnight Bag

    If you're notorious for overpacking, your luggage might be part of the reason why.

    Choosing a bag that's bigger than you need will give you plenty of extra space if you’re hoping to bring home souvenirs you pick up while traveling. But before you even leave, all that empty space in your bag could make you feel like you're forgetting something. And that increases the chance that you'll pack something you don't really need at the last minute—which means you won’t have space for those souvenirs after all.

    So, what is a good overnight bag?

    When it comes to packing for a short trip, backpacks and duffel bags are usually the best option for minimalist travelers who want to travel light without sacrificing comfort or convenience. They provide plenty of space while still being easy to compress down if need be, making them incredibly versatile. Plus, they're much easier to carry around than a bulky, wheeled suitcase.

    Here are a few of our favorite overnight bags:

    Don't overthink things

    It can feel like you've forgotten something at home when your bag is so light. But don't overthink it—especially if you'll only be gone for a single night, you probably won't forget anything at home. Even if you do, chances are you'll be able to make it through the night without (and you'll never forget to pack whatever it was again). That said, if there's anything we've forgotten to list in our packing checklist, help a fellow traveler by letting us know in the comments below!


    Tirod - June 28, 2024

    Really minimalist suggestions: no bigger than a TSA carryon. Merino underwear will last twice as long as the trip with no spares,and can be washed if needed. Gym clothes can be a swim suit or jammies, avoid cotton, loose fit. Water shoes work as slippers. Bring ziploc bags for wet items.
    A good pair of walking shoes works both days, choose complementary colors for the 2d day that work. Packing cubes are a big clue there is too much!
    Chargers & cables are lighter than a powerbank, a paperback smaller than a tablet. I charge a phone 4-5 days apart, a tablet 3-4 days – minimalst use.
    Yes, we do go too far frequently, but much of it is lifestyle, not necessity, and a lot can be weeded out. Consider most of what we take didnt exist before our parents were born – annd they did fine without it.

    gordon - January 9, 2024

    Overnight is a change of shirt and undies, plus toothbrush + whatever you pack to amuse you. You could almost go with a small cafe bag, but the daylight backpack is more than large enough. 30 litre bags for one night is for going camping…

    Cathy Anderson - August 27, 2023

    Please change the picture that goes with this article! Looks like an A45—all you need for 3 months on the road, much more than you need for an overnight!

    Chris - August 17, 2023

    Those bags are all way too big for an overnighter! I usually just use my DLBP or Paragon if I’m doing one night.

    Dean Johnson - August 11, 2023

    Just added a Synapse 25 to my Synapse 19, so that I can more gracefully handle 1+ nights away. They are identically outfitted and the 19 is now just for trips up to my office (83 miles away)

    Leave a Comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.