Hi! I’m Alek, the creator of OneBagNomad.net.
I’ve been exploring the United States and the world for half my life, embracing the spirit of one bag travel.
One Bag Travel
Traveling the world for extended periods of time using ONLY what will fit into a carry-on backpack.
The philosophy behind one bag travel is giving yourself the freedom to enjoy your trip by not packing that which we don’t need. We all often pack things we never end up using or could have gone without. It’s about going for a more minimalist approach and traveling a little lighter.
My personal motto is “Lighten your load, free your mind.”
Disclaimer: True one bag travel is not for everyone. Depending on how minimalist you want to go, it can be a relatively hardcore style of travel. You’re literally living out of your suitcase. You might be wearing clothes for two days or more. Hell, you might need to wash them in the sink in a pinch! It’s absolutely not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine! The good news is that one bagging does not have to be super minimalist, and there are packing styles for all travelers and all destinations.
My guess is if you’re reading this, you love to travel and you want to get out there and see more of the world, with a lighter load and a freer mind, and save money in the process. Read on to find out how you can do just that.
Why You Should Try One Bag Travel
Despite the sacrifices you’ll have to make, there are many advantages that come with one bag travel:
- You’ll save money – No more checked bags!
- You’ll have more freedom – No more waiting on baggage claim; just grab your bag and go
- You’ll travel lighter – Focus on enjoying your journey, not keeping track of your stuff
- You’ll be more agile – With a backpack or duffel, you’ll keep your hands free and navigate uneven terrain more effectively
- You’ll travel more securely – Your bag is always with you; no risking the airline losing your luggage
How to Become a One Bag Traveler
So, you’ve decided you’re ready to give one bag travel a shot. Great! You won’t regret it. But, there are a few steps you have to take to make sure you’re doing it the right way.
Get a Good Backpack (or Duffel)
This is really the first step to becoming an effective one bag nomad. You’re going to want the best bag that you can afford.
A lot of people swear by duffel bags for traveling, and they are objectively insane. Kidding! There are advantages to the duffel bag, and even some backpacks that can be used as duffels. I do think a nice weekender bag is a great staple of anyone’s wardrobe. However, I personally almost never travel with them. I just don’t find duffel bags comfortable to carry, so I focus primarily on travel backpacks.
Backpacks are better because they are much more comfortable to carry and they keep your hands free. They distribute weight over both shoulders, and this can be lessened with the use of sternum straps and hip belts.
You can learn more about what kind of bag to get in my article How to Choose the Best Backpack for One Bag Travel.
Get the Right Gear
In addition to being a one bagger, I’m also a budget traveler (the two often go hand-in-hand).
Having said that, I also believe in investing in quality. Better to spend a bit more on the front end and have equipment that will last for years and years.
Packing cubes are an absolute must. It helps keep all your clothes rolled or folded neatly and compressed so they take up less space. Maybe invest in some Merino wool clothes (you’ll hear this stuff come up time and time again in one bagging). Merino wool offers incredible insulation, light weight, and odor control. Unfortunately, it’s also not cheap.
You can get an idea of the basics you’ll need at Essential Travel Gear.
Get into the One Bag Nomad Mindset
Alright, you’ve got your bag, you’ve got your gear, now you need to put it all to work. Being a good one bagger isn’t just about having the right stuff, it’s also about knowing which stuff to bring.
I mentioned earlier my own personal motto: “Lighten your load, free your mind.” However, most one baggers live by this mantra: “Don’t pack your fears.”
“Don’t pack your fears”
Only pack what you need, not what you fear you might need.
In other words, don’t be afraid to leave some things behind. Don’t be afraid to leave the shampoo and conditioner at home if you can buy them at your destination for a fraction of the cost. Don’t be afraid to bring three shirts instead of five when you can do laundry on the road.
Keep It Light!
Finally, it’s very important to pack a weight that you are comfortable carrying.
I personally try to keep my loadout to 20 pounds, maybe 22 lbs (10kg) at the very most. I also use a 26-liter rucksack, so this is a little easier to accomplish. Ladies and smaller men should definitely be able to achieve loadouts well under this weight.
My Packing List
To give you a better idea of what a typical loadout is, I’m outlining my personal packing list for my most recent trip to Peru below: I traveled for 2 weeks out of my 26-liter backpack with no problems.
- GoRuck GR1 26L travel backpack w/ sternum strap
- 13″ Asus Zenbook laptop plus charger and soft case
- DJI Mini 3 Pro drone plus controller, 4 extended batteries, and charging hub
- Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera w/ Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime lens plus batteries and charger
- Lowepro GearUp Creator Box XL II (holds my drone and camera equipment and fits into the backpack)
- Gossamer Gear Shoulder Strap Pocket (perfect for easy access to passports and other essentials)
- 2TB solid state external hard drive
- 10,000-mah portable power bank
- Portable Wi-Fi router
- Phone and charger
- Anker Soundcore X10 Sport Bluetooth earbuds
- 2x Eagle Creek Spectre packing cubes
- 3 T-shirts
- 1 polo or short-sleeve button-up
- 1 long-sleeve button-up
- Dearborn Denim Technical Pants (good for hiking and dressing up)
- Kuhl hiking pants
- Swimming trunks
- Belt w/ hidden money compartment
- Sneakers that are sturdy enough to double as trail shoes
- One week’s worth of socks and underwear
- Travel towel
- Casio G-Shock Mudmaster (features world time, compass, and other functions)
- 750ml flat water bottle
- Contact lenses and case
- Glasses and case
- Small travel lock
- Travel toothbrush
- Minor toiletries (most can be bought when you reach your destination)
- Small first aid kit
- Black Diamond Spot Lite 200-lumen headlamp
And that’s it! That should be enough to get you started on this exciting new chapter in your travel life. Good luck, and safe travels out there!