Category Archives: Minimalism

“10 Years of Packing Light”

Uri Fridman of Pack Light. Go Fast. reflects on 10 years of packing light.

In the beginning it was hard. I was still in the “what if…” mindset. I would pack extra shirts or bring every toiletry I owned; and while experience plays a huge role in learning to pack light, the mindset is also very important: you have to tell yourself that you’ll be fine if you don’t bring that extra pair of shoes or that extra hat just in case it is cold.

I started experimenting with washing things at hotels, with bringing clothes that can be worn during business meetings and that would also be comfortable enough to wear after that. I began making lists of things that worked and things that didn’t. However the most important thing I began doing was to learn from the previous trip, just like I did in the military.

I applied the same focused effort I applied so many times when I was preparing my gear to climb or to go on a patrol, only this time I was focusing on how light I could go the next trip while still being able to perform properly.

It took a lot of trying, correcting, trying again and yes, sometimes I had to run in the middle of the trip to get that item that I needed and I didn’t bring. It was all part of the fun. That’s how I saw it, a fun thing to try and in doing so it made my trips better, simpler and I began enjoying the business trips as well, since I wasn’t being weighted down by a carry on, a main suitcase, the suit bag, the computer bag… I was traveling now with one bag, big enough for all the things I needed, but small enough that could be used as a carry-on.


Two Weeks, One Bag


I’m off on a two week trip for work. The first week will be in an office setting in the Bay Area, followed by another week at a political tech conference happening on an island a couple hundred miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia. On my flights to the West Coast, I’ll be wearing jeans, a t-shirt, button down, socks, underwear, and a Patagonia Houdini jacket. I’m wearing a pair of black Keen slip-on shoes that work for business settings, but are waterproofed and comfortable for walking long distances in. If I get to do any hiking around the conference, these shoes should be able to handle it without too much trouble.

I have packed:

  • Another pair of jeans
  • 3 button down shirts
  • Scottevest Q-Zip pullover
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 3 pairs wool socks
  • 1 pair of board shorts
  • Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt
  • MacBook Air
  • Kindle
  • Assorted Chargers
  • Toiletries, including laundry line & detergent
  • Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil backpack

It’s all packed in my Tom Bihn Tri-Star, which may be the perfect lightweight travel convertible bag. Normally I use a shoulder strap, but due to a tight connection today, I’ll rock the backpack straps and be able to get through the crowds quickly.

I’m taking a bit more clothes than I’d normally take, but given that I’m spending two full weeks in work settings and one of them in a conference, I want to have a bit more flexibility and less repetition than I’d normally be comfortable with. I didn’t weigh the bag before I left, but I’d guess that it comes in between 10-15 pounds.

78 Square Foot Apartment

The design here is less remarkable until you get to the desk/closet space. And the space is made smaller by the fact that there’s no bathroom, but a shared one with other apartments in the building. But still, pretty impressive.

The Cube Project

Via Think Progress, this is a really cool design project – a 10 x 10 x 10 house cube. It’s really advanced, green built and visually quite nice. Sadly with only 2 meters of head height throughout the cube, I probably would not fit in it. I also worry a bit about the odor of a composting solid waste toilet.

I think the green efforts are really cool, but the reality is this is more of cramming things in vertically than, say, designing things that fold on top of themselves or reuse the same space for different functions. Almost all of this is statically positioned. Of course, as a concept, the point is that we can live in much less space, in homes built for less money with green materials and designed to use much lower amounts of energy.

10 Days, 1 Bag Debrief

I’m back from my 10 day work trip to Minneapolis and Madrid. Things went well, especially in terms of the clothing and gear I brought with me. Packing light was the right call and I definitely brought the right stuff. Everything I brought with me was used at least 3 times, from nice button down shirts to my Trail Maker shorts (for the gym), to my Patagonia Houdini jacket. It would have been great to not have my MacBookPro, but even with that added weight, my pack was manageable.

The highlight of the trip was my arrival in Madrid. From the moment I set foot off of the plane, it took me just under 30 minutes to reach the hotel: 5 minute walk from the plane to the Immigration, 1 minute at Immigration, 5 minutes to get a cab, and about 15 minutes to get to the hotel, not far from central Madrid. Simply unbeatable.

Unfortunately while my gear was great, my travel situation was not. Originally my plans included seven flight segments in 10 days, going from DC to Minneapolis to DC to Madrid to Newark to DC. But United’s system outage two Friday’s ago lead to one of my flights getting cancelled. It ended up not affecting my ability to get to Spain on time, but meant I had to spend about 5 hours sitting around the Minneapolis airport. Coming home, weather in the midwest and south caused a domino of cancellations of Continental flights. The end result was me spending 9 hours in Newark airport waiting to get back home to DC. For a while it looked like the late flight I had been rebooked on might get cancelled after multiple delays, so I was mentally preparing for either legging it to get a late train to DC or spending the night at a hotel near the airport or in NYC.

While spending extended, unplanned stretches in airports is a bummer, I was never worried about what it would mean for the stuff I had with me. I had no checked bag, so if an overnight or alternative travel situation arose, I didn’t have to deal with getting a checked bag back. I was light so if I had to run for a train or bus, it wouldn’t have been a physical problem. I had plenty of clothes, plus stuff to wash the things I was wearing, so all I would need would be a sink and I’d be clean and fresh for whatever came next. In fact, the stuff I had with me would allow me to travel for days or weeks beyond what was planned with absolutely no additional stress or effort. This is the real virtue of packing light and packing the right things for my needs.

One last note. The GoLite Jam2 is a great backpack. I never filled it more than half way, though it would have been easy to over pack it. I didn’t do much shopping, though had I, I would have had the space needed to bring things home. While the roll-down, top-loading isn’t ideal for repeated access, it worked fine for my situation. It also allowed me to collapse the part of the pack that I wasn’t putting things in, making it feel smaller than the 50L that it actually is. I still think more purpose-built bags like the MEI Executive Overnighter or Tom Bihn Tri-Star are better for this sort of business travel, but the GoLite is definitely good in that you can use it for this stuff, but then do actual hiking and camping with it. Since having multiple applications of one bag is appealing to a lot of folks, this might make the GoLite actually a better carry-on pack than some of the high end, US built traveler bags.

Ultralight Packing for a 10 Day Business Trip

I’m on my way out the door for a ten day work trip involving seven flight segments taking me from DC to Minneapolis to Madrid (by way of DC) and back to DC. I’ll be at two conferences for work – Netroots Nation and the UNI Communicators Forum – and sadly I’ll have a fair amount of work to do while on the road outside of convention hours.

Unpacked Items

Laid out to be packed

I’d recently ordered a Tom Bihn Tri-Star bag, but sadly it is on back order and hasn’t arrived in time for the trip. Instead I’ll be using my GoLite Jam backpack. It’s a 50L frameless pack which I’ve never used for work travel before. The good thing is the top is a roll-down enclosure, so I can dramatically reduce the size of the pack to the space that I’m actually filling with my stuff. I would say that I’m actually only using about 30L of the pack.

Here’s my packing list:

  • 3 button-down shirts
  • 3 quick drying t-shirts (1 extra for lots of gym use)
  • 1 pair lightweight black  pants
  • 1 pair Patagonia Trail Maker Shorts (for gym and walking around)
  • 2 pairs lightweight socks
  • 2 pairs SeV Travel Boxers
  • 1 pair running shoes
  • 15″ MacBook Pro
  • Kindle (easier on my bad eyes than the iPhone)
  • Toiletries (including laundry detergent) in a Tom Bihn 3D Clear Organizing Cube
  • Clothes line
  • Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack (Stuffs down tiny, but can hold my MBP & then some)
  • Power cords & European plug converter in a Tom Bihn Snake Charmer
  • Passport & travel documents
  • In the picture there’s a pair of camouflage cargo shorts. At the last minute I decided to leave them behind & use the Trail Makers more
All packed

All packed. The cat stays.

The tshirts, socks, Trail Maker and underwear are packed in a small Tom Bihn packing cube, which is also the center of a bundle for the pants and button down shirts. I’ll be wearing a Patagonia Houdini jacket, another t-shirt, underwear, socks and jeans. I’ll also have a pair of black Keen Denver slip on shoes, which are great for walking around and look quite professional, and I’ll wear a belt with plastic buckle so I don’t have to remove it at airport security. The other things on my person:

  • Wallet
  • iPhone
  • Handkerchief
  • Sunglasses
  • Ear buds

I’m really bummed out about having to take my MacBook Pro. I’m waiting for the new MacBook Air to come out before getting a light-weight computer, so I’m stuck until then. I’d hoped to just work off of my iPad, but the reality is that I have too much going on for me to function on an iPad and iPhone for 10 days. The result, unfortunately, is about an extra five pounds plus when you add in the power source. I hate carrying my MBP when I travel, but I’ll just have to be even more judicious with my packing choices to compensate for some of the added weight. What’s particularly frustrating about the MBP for me is that were I doing the trip with an iPad instead, this would likely be my longest, lightest work trip yet. Oh well. Hopefully Apple releases the upgrade MBAir some time soon, so problems like this will be greatly mitigated in the future.

Still, this whole pack weighs in at just over 15 pounds, so not too bad given I have a 15″ MacBook Pro. The top of the backpack is rolled down as far as it can go – reaching the top of padding. If I need anything else, I can buy it and have plenty of room to bring it back with me.

Boat Inspired Mini Apartment

This is a really cool, interesting, and remarkably well designed apartment in Barcelona. It actually reminds me a bit of the super well designed hotel room I stayed in at the Mitsui Garden Hotel in the Ginza District of Tokyo. The space was tiny, but drawers were built into the beds and walls in such a way as to make it feel incredibly open and accessible.

Via Lovely Listing

60 Days Staying With Strangers

My friend Adam’s niece Sarah is about to graduate from NYU’s Film School and made this documentary about traveling for sixty days with her friend Greg and staying in a different stranger’s home every night.

It looks like an interesting, exciting, and heartwarming project, as well as a remarkable example of what is possible when you’re willing to really embrace the uncertain in travel.

Ultra-minimalism: 15 things

Photo by Andrew Hyde

Dan Patterson of ABC News Radio has a really interesting interview with Andrew Hyde, a tech entrepreneur who has sold all of his possessions and traveled for two years. He now is back in the US, but travels with only fifteen possessions. The audio of the interview is here:

Andrew Hyde Interview

It looks like his count is more by item type than individual, which is obviously not a big deal given how extreme his minimalism is, but the photo above looks like he has:

  • Backpack
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (plus wearing 1)
  • 2 pairs socks (plus wearing 1)
  • T-shirt
  • Jacket
  • Shorts
  • 2 underwear (plus wearing 1)
  • Shoes
  • iPhone
  • Camera
  • Sunglasses
  • Wallet/passport
  • Toiletry Kit
  • Towel
  • Chargers
  • Laptop

For what it’s worth, while I can’t really imagine living permanently with this number of things, this sounds like a pretty perfect packing list for travel. This is only slightly more stuff than I had with me when I did my No Baggage Challenge for Charity with Scottevest gear. The think which looks most immediately appealing to me about Andrew’s kit is that it looks like there are a lot of natural fibers in his clothing. My biggest problem with quick-drying travel apparel is that it’s mostly polyester or polypropylene, which while convenient, isn’t as comfortable as good old fashioned cotton. If I could find a set of travel clothing that was more reliant on breathable, natural fabrics, I’d probably be a happier traveler.

Anyway, listen to the interview with Andrew Hyde – he’s clearly an interesting person who’s found a great model for livable minimalism and technomadia.

(Via Technomads)

90 square feet in NYC

90 square feet on the Upper West Side of New York City. Definitely minimal, but it feels awfully cluttered and not actually minimal enough. Or rather, it doesn’t seem intelligently designed. All the storage is wire racks, so everything is out in the open. Lastly, for $700/month, I’d just move to an outer borough and have an extra couple hundred square feet. All that said, at least it’s a good example that you can live minimally and well at the same time.