Life In A Backpack: An Exercise in Minimalist Living

100 Items or Less

When was the last time you considering the things you carried.

I’m not talking about emotions and the past, I’m talking about the objects in your life.

Even if you don’t carry them around with you everywhere you go (as I do) – you carry them with you in life.

Possessions weigh on you by attaching you to the world, to a place, to things.  The modern brand of Western consumerism driven by the cradle-to-grave philosophy encourages status by possession and not status by merit.  And when those possessions are no longer interesting it’s time to stuff them into corners and leave them forgotten.

Yet they are still there.  They weigh upon your freedom.

Examine the things you carry with you in life.

Are they necessary?  Do they contribute to your life in a meaningful way?  Are they just a way of showing status to others?

Cut the cords of attachment to possessions, reduce the clutter, and go on with a minimalist living.

My Minimalist Living Story:

Recently I re-considered the things I carry when my suitcase died.  I sought out a replacement and settled on the 22″ E-Motion 4.0 Trek Pack Plus.  It is quite a bit smaller than my old suitcase which forced me to minimize.

And so my 100 Item Challenge is underway.

My initial list was around 90 items.  I was already under 100 items – a surprising fact.

So, when I ended up in Maine for a week long respite from the world, I thinned down my travel gear once more and below is the final list.  Some of the items are listed as collections which made the challenge a little easier.

My final total: 77 items.

  • 4 Ties
  • 3 Scarves
  • 1 Belt
  • 1 Set of Suspenders
  • 1 Pair of Florsheim Dress Shoes
  • 1 Pair of White Leather Keds
  • 1 Hat
  • 1 White Linen Jacket
  • 2 Pairs of Dress Pants
  • 1 Pair of Jeans
  • 1 Pair of Shorts
  • 10 T-Shirts / Short Sleeve Shirts
  • 5 Dress Shirts / Long Sleeve Shirts
  • 2 Sweaters
  • 1 Black Pin-Stripe Vest
  • 1 Sweater Vest
  • 7 Pairs of Boxer Briefs
  • 7 Pairs of Socks
  • 1 Travel Towel
  • 1 External Hard Drive with Cable
  • 1 MacBook Pro with Cables, Extra Battery and Bluetooth Mouse
  • 1 iPhone 3G with Cable and vModo Duo Headphones
  • 1 Extra Internal Hard Drive
  • 1 LED Flashlight
  • 1 Wallet
  • 1 Washboard with Thimbles and Brushes
  • 1 Book Collection
  • 1 Pen Collection
  • 1 Journal
  • 1 Moleskin Pocket Reporters Notebook
  • 1 Pad of Graph Paper
  • 1 Pad of Yellow Notepaper
  • 2 Small Pilates Balls
  • 1 Set of Exercise Bands
  • 1 Bar Soap
  • 1 Shaving Kit (Merkur Safety Razor, Brush and Shave Soap)
  • 1 Stick Deodorant
  • 1 Bottle of Pain Relievers
  • 1 Toothbrush
  • 1 Container of Hel Gel
  • 1 Passport
  • 1 Thermos
  • 1 Victorinox 22″ E-Motion 4.0 Trek Pack Plus
  • 1 Chrome Metropolis Messenger Bag

What Do You Carry?

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  • This is the great blog, I'm reading them for a while, thanks for the new posts!

  • I'll post the same information to my blog, thanks for ideas and great article.

  • Nice list Carl! It's so funny I just realized that you are a dancer as well. I'm currently living out of two backpacks as well and dance professionally for a living when I line up work. I also teach pilates so have lots of change of clothes unfortunately comes with the work. That or a lot of loads of laundry. It's great to see someone like myself out there! I can definitely relate. Half my bag is full of tops and bottoms that double as workout and normal wear. For us ladies, leggings and tights go a long way and layer is your best friend. 2 pair of yoga pants, spandex shorts, two leotards, two pairs of leggings and tights...along with the rest of my normal clothes....3 pair of different style/color jeans, one coat, hoodie, shirts, socks and some bikinis thrown in. Oh ya and ballet shoes and yoga mat. I'll be lightening my load soon though when I head north into the sun...I'm hoping to get rid of half of it and just buy what I need up there. The lighter the better! Fun read...thanks!

  • footbare

    I'm a bit confused how this can be considered minimalist travel. Travel requires minimal living, so in the realm of travel, this seems like a pretty average to heavy load. I understand if your job requires you to wear nice clothes, but 4 ties and the myriad of other nice clothing seems excess. Can you really make a case for needing this much stuff. I feel like you should be able to reduce this list quite a bit and still travel very comfortably.

  • As Colin already said I am a performer and at a typical dance weekend I can easily go through nearly all of my clothes considering performance, competitons, teaching and social dancing. It is an incredibly physical activity yet also an artistic activity so having nice clothing is actually a part of my job.

    I could make do with less I'm certain or at least less dress clothing but part of who I am includes a sense of fashion. I am not an ultralight traveler, nor do I particularly care to wear the standard "backpacker" gear when I'm working as a dancer. It's just not practical, aesthetically appealing or in who I am.

    And ties are probably the least weighty objects on my list. They make it much easier to look good and change up my look wthout adding bulkier items like shirts, jackets, etc.

  • I think just about any list can be reduced further, but since Carl performs for a living, I would imagine that he's got the minimum number of clothing items necessary to make his living included on the list.

    Makes me feel fortunate that all I need to do my job is a laptop :)

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