Packing a “Go Bag”

A lot of people (myself included, as recently as a year ago) consider travel to be stressful. Culture and societal expectations have imposed a very particular style of travel upon Americans. We try to cram a busy itinerary into the few days we get for vacation in a year. Marketing encourages us to book luxurious vacation packages full of expensive reservations.

A Different Way

I’ve come to learn that travel need not be so stressful. By reducing the need for advanced planning, I have found that travel is easier and I am able to travel more frequently.

Accordingly, I try to avoid travel that requires reservations. I opt for road trips or hikes instead of riding on planes, trains, or boats. I sleep in my vehicle or camp out in a forest instead of staying at hotels. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to overcome the rigors of packing for a trip.

My Go Bag

This is my Go Bag. It’s all I take with me when I go for a weekend road trip. Without dog food or water, it weighs about 10 pounds. Believe it or not, I still consider this over-packed.

Because of my travel style – outdoors without much interaction with other people – I’m able to skip over some of the heavier and more expensive travel customs. I pack very little clothing – mostly just changes of underwear since sweat can make that stuff funky in no time. I no longer pack books or electronic devices for entertainment. If the destination or journey isn’t enough to keep me entertained, then I need to come home.

The Benefits are Obvious Once You Try It

Travelling as a minimalist comes with so many benefits. Not only do I spend less time packing, but I also spend less time unpacking. I’m not lugging an 80 lb. suitcase behind me. My bag is light and portable, which makes me more mobile. A smaller inventory means I can worry less about forgetting things, losing things, or someone stealing my things.

Considerations for Minimal Packing

Minimalist travel isn’t for everyone. People travelling with small children or pets, those with medical conditions, and people traveling on business may be required to pack more than what I need to pack. On the other hand, I’ve heard stories about a guy who packs nothing but the shirt on his back and a toothbrush in his pocket. In comparison to him, I over-pack.

But whether you need to pack four suitcases or just a toothbrush – I think we can all agree that the less we have to pack, the better. Here are some things to consider…

  1. Are you packing an item for “just in case” or “just for when”? For example, let’s say you’re planning a trip to Alaska in the summer. For the most part, you expect the temperatures to be comfortable, and you’ll be spending a lot of time inside a warm and cozy log cabin. But you think it’s likely and possible that you’ll also venture outdoors into areas that are still covered in snow. Packing a coat or jacket in this case would be “just for when”. On the other hand, packing a winter coat for a trip to Hawaii “just in case” hell freezes over would be absurd. But you’d be surprised how many people do it!
  2. “Just in case” items are okay if they’re really important and/or too expensive to purchase while you’re on the road. If you have a history of heart problems – maybe you carry around a defibrillator with you. Even if the likelihood of you needing it is extremely low, it’s a sort of device that is critical to saving your life, and not something you want to stand in line at a drugstore to buy while you’re having a heart attack. On the other hand, if you’re packing a permanent marker so you can get Brad Pitt’s autograph during your next trip to Los Angeles… they sell markers in Los Angeles, they’re not that expensive, and you can bring it back home with you to re-use for other purposes. The likelihood of you cornering Brad Pitt is pretty low, and if – god forbid – you are able to pin him down but don’t have a marker for him to use – it’s not a fatal condition.
  3. Next time you return home from a trip, separate your luggage into three piles: stuff that you used during your trip, stuff that you didn’t use during your trip, and stuff that you acquired during your trip. Given what is in each pile – how could you have packed differently to lighten your load?
The Contents of My Go Bag

Having a pre-packed “go bag” with minimum essentials means having the freedom to “get up and go” whenever and wherever you want.

Keep in mind that my go bag is designed for me and the sort of travel I prefer to do. Most commonly, I travel weekend road trips with a dog and no one else, and sleep in my vehicle. The contents of your bag will differ from the contents of my bag depending on your needs and style of travel.

  • 2 water bottles
  • leash, dishes, food, and water for the dog
  • 2 pairs of underwear
  • pillow and blanket
  • cell phone charger
  • knife
  • notebook and pen
  • deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste
  • optional: spare shirt and pair of shorts, travel towel, soap, and razor

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