This article was originally written in 2017 and has been minimally updated.
In early 2017 I was browsing slickdeals.net and came across a non-stop roundtrip ticket to New York City for only $104 from Denver. Having visited NYC the previous summer, I was eager to return and experience more. The only hitch? The ticket was through Frontier.
Having never flown with them I had only stories to go on about how they charge extra for everything (seat choice, carry-on bags, snacks, etc.). I bought the ticket on the condition I only bring one bag that could fit under the seat in front of me. (You only pay extra if the carry-on bag has to go in the overhead compartment.)
I almost always avoid the hassle of checking a bag, but I usually bring a change of clothes for each day. Sometimes I don’t even know exactly what I will need. What if I end up wanting to wear that dress shirt and not this one? Minimalist travel really makes you consider exactly what you’ll be doing and every item you’ll be bringing. The challenge of 7 days in NYC left me with figuring out how to minimize my usual packing list even further.
I did a quick google search and came upon this fantastic article by Regev Elya entitled “Minimalist Travel Gear Packing List: Luggage & Bags Not Needed.” He does such a wonderful job of listing different multi-day-wear clothing that I won’t bother trying to top it right now. The point of this article will be to detail my experience traveling with less and using some of his suggestions.
- Kelty Dillon 32L Backpack
- Jack Wolfskin Stormlock Air Softshell Jacket
- Wool & Prince Button Down – Solid Black
- Icebreaker Tech T Lite
- Woolx Men’s Outback Short Sleeve T-Shirt 160g Ultra Lightweight
- Makers and Riders Ultra Lite-Weight Washable Wool Pants
- Express Shorts
- Old Navy Shorts
- Salomon ActiveDry Running Shorts
- Woolx Men’s Basix Boxer Briefs x2
- Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Micro Socks (No show) x2
- Smartwool Anchor Line Socks (Dress Socks)
- Reversible Belt
- Vans Shoes
- Shower Flip-Flops
- Phone charger
- Laptop and charger
- Ray-Ban New Wayfarer’s
- Combination Lock
- Hygiene Kit (Travel Tooth Brush & Tooth Paste, Baking Soda Deodorant, Dr. Bronner’s Organic Mild Liquid Soap)
I ended up purchasing some of these items for the trip. In the short term, paying for the carry-on bag would have been cheaper but I enjoy traveling and can re-use these items going forward. (Indeed I already have on a CA trip I took right after NY.) I’m always a fan of being able to take less with me.
Kelty Dillon 32L Backpack
I’ve been using this bag since 2012 on trips through North America and Europe. It can hold a lot, contains a nicely padded laptop sleeve, and has held up remarkably well. Now that I am traveling with less though I may look into getting a smaller bag (maybe 20L). For what I brought, this bag was too big.
Jack Wolfskin Stormlock Air Softshell Jacket
Lightweight, wind resistant, and sheds water easily. Perfect for spring weather, but it doesn’t have a hood which sucked during a downpour without an umbrella.
Wool & Prince Button Down – Solid Black
I really like how this looks and how wrinkle resistant it is. Odor has not been an issue with it though I’d advise caution in regards to sizing. I normally wear medium but had to get this in a small for it to fit right.
Icebreaker Tech T Lite – Blue
I bought this last summer for backpacking and while it dries quickly, I prefer the Woolx Outback shirt as it can be worn longer.
Woolx Men’s Outback Short Sleeve T-Shirt 160g Ultra Lightweight- Black
Great shirt that can be worn for days and dries quickly. As with the W&P Button Down, I had to get this in a small as well.
Makers and Riders Ultra Lite-Weight Washable Wool Pants
I love these pants. Despite the high cost and having to get them hemmed, they look great (with dress shirt or without) and can be worn for days. I wore them for 4 days without any issues. They also don’t wrinkle!
Express Shorts + Old Navy Shorts
These were shorts I had readily available though next time I’ll take something else. Each lasted only two days before starting to smell.
Other options I’ve seen are board shorts because you can get them wet and they’ll dry fast. Will have to find ones with pockets that still look decent enough to wear places besides the beach. Or shorts with a decent percentage of merino wool.
Salomon ActiveDry Running Shorts
This is another item I took backpacking last summer. They have underwear built in and dry quickly, but only a tiny back pocket so I used them as shorts for lounging around the hostel.
Woolx Men’s Basix Boxer Briefs x2
I bought these in different colors (blue, yellow) to easily differentiate between the two pairs. I’m very satisfied with how they worked out.
Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Micro Socks (No show) x2 + Smartwool Anchor Line Socks (Dress Socks)
They worked alright but next time I will look into something that can last longer before developing an odor.
It’s not an ideal packing item but I stayed in a hostel with a shared shower, and some people don’t care for their feet.
Laptop and charger
I wanted to get some site work done while in NYC so I brought my laptop and worked from Columbus Circle’s underground mall and food court. The laptop I use has about 10 hours of battery life. Next time I will evaluate whether or not I need the charger as I didn’t use it on this trip.
When staying in a hostel it’s a good idea to bring one to lock up possessions.
Baking Soda Deodorant
I’ve taken a lot of flak for this one but after hearing about it I had to give it a whirl. A box of Baking Soda is only $0.55, has the potential to last awhile, and doesn’t contain aluminum, unlike most deodorants. I used it for a week or two before the trip and was pleasantly surprised how well it worked. It does a great job of blocking any odor.
I began the trip with just Baking Soda but after it left some white marks on the Black Woolx Outback Shirt (that washed out easily) and chafed my armpits, I moved on to Arm & Hammer Essentials Solid Deodorant. It’s free of aluminum, uses baking soda as its base, and doesn’t leave marks. It’s worked well thus far.
Since writing the post I have stopped using the Arm & Hammer deodorant as I found it to be inadequate.
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Mild Liquid Soap
I used this backpacking last summer as well. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Mild Liquid Soap is great for travel because it has so many uses (shampoo, body wash, detergent, etc.). Unfortunately, while it works for all of these, it doesn’t excel at any of them. My hair dried out and it didn’t work with clothes as well as regular detergent. (At night I would wash the boxers and socks from the day in the sink using this as detergent. By morning they were usually dry.)
This was a successful test proving I can travel with less than I thought though next time I can pare down a little more and be fine. Try this for yourself the next time you travel and let me know how it goes!