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10 Amazing Minimal Travel Essentials, Tested

by , August 23, 2023

Whenever I travel, I keep my bag to one. Minimal packing keeps me light and agile (and saves a whole lot of time in transit). And when only carrying one bag, I make sure the contents inside are as versatile as possible, being able to run double or triple-duty when needed. Every piece packed needs to dress up when I need to be semi-formal and down when I’m getting that precious R&R. And, of course, have enough performance DNA to run or hike the day away.

And this process of selection is key to building a quality capsule wardrobe, so I’m always trialing new gear and switching in and out new pieces to optimize my setup. And so I tested the below on a recent two-week jaunt and each scored highly, making the trip run sweet and smooth, keeping me prepared for any scenario.

I hope you find some of them useful (and packable)!

Matador Freefly16 Packable Backpack (US$80)

Matador Freefly16 Packable Backpack

Many packable backpacks offer a bare minimum of features but Matador’s Freefly16 Packable Backpack is different. You get a host of useful features while still enjoying a lightweight and highly compressible form. The 16L pack is made with weatherproof materials, sealing YKK® zippers, and sealed interior seams to keep the elements at bay. Gear loops, side mesh pockets, and a zippered front pocket keep quick-access items tidy and close at hand, while the durable build includes UHMWPE-reinforced wear panels for added peace of mind. And the whole bag packs down snugly into a fist-sized compression sack, making it easy to store in larger luggage or a vehicle until needed. Versatile as a travel pack and daily hauler at your destination, this is a great pick for your next minimal packing trip.

Outlier Alienskin Billfold (US$88)

Outlier Alienskin Billfold

Super clean, tough, and minimalist, the Outlier Alienskin Billfold is perfect for carrying your cash and cards and avoiding pesky pocket bulge. It’s made with the last remaining pieces of Outlier’s now unobtainable Doubledyneema Alien Skin fabric, a super fabric that’s exceptionally light and strong. The simple design features one card pocket and one cash pocket, making it an appealing pick for minimalists who require a super slim wallet for travel.

Proof 72-Hour Merino T-Shirt – Performance Fit (US$88)

10 Amazing Minimal Travel Essentials, Tested

You’ll often find us recommending this tee – because it’s that awesome. As the name suggests, it’s designed to be worn for 72 hours straight while keeping you smelling and feeling fresh thanks to the wonder properties of merino wool including odor resistance, moisture wicking, and temperature regulation. However, the merino also features a nylon core, boosting the durability of this travel-friendly tee and ensuring it’s ready for urban streets, outdoor hiking trails, and wherever your travels take you. The performance fit keeps things stylish but comfy and ready to move, making this a solid staple for anyone’s travel wardrobe.

Proof Nomad Short – 7″ (US$88)

Proof Nomad Short – 7″

A pair of trusty shorts is always handy for warm-weather travels and Proof’s Nomad Short is a versatile one-bag choice. The short does a great job of blending urban-friendly styling with outdoor-ready performance, so you can embrace a variety of different environments and activities during your trip. It’s made with a breathable, soft, two-way stretch Japanese Toray twill that keeps you comfortable on the move and a DWR coating helps protect you from spills and showers. You also have a choice of pockets on hand which provide convenient storage for those smaller travel and EDC items you want to keep within easy reach.

Outlier OG Free Ways (from US$98)

Minimal packing list: Outlier OG Free Ways

Need a do-it-all pair of shorts? Look to Outlier’s OG Free Ways. These shorts are smart enough for city wear but versatile enough for a dip in the pool or venturing off the beaten track. They feature a durable four-way stretch construction and a Schoeller Ecorepel Bio treatment to repel liquids and dirt, helping keep travel laundry to a minimum. Burly front and rear pockets store smaller items while also allowing water to flow freely through when a cool-off session calls.

Lems Shoes Primal Pursuit Trail Sneaker (US$130)

Minimal packing list: Lems Shoes Primal Pursuit Trail Sneaker

Packing multiple pairs of shoes will eat into your luggage space fast. So the best option is packing (or wearing) a multifunctional pair that can adapt to several different environments. Enter the Lems Shoes Primal Pursuit Trail Sneaker. Built to hop nimbly between everyday and outdoor trail use, the shoe features a zero-drop construction with added cushioning and a wide toe box. It’s built with a moisture-wicking lining and PU synthetic upper with air mesh, paired with trail running lugs for active use. Add in the foldable, space-saving design and you get a seriously savvy shoe addition for a one-bag minimal packing list.

Outlier Futuredarts (US$175)

Minimal packing list: Outlier Futuredarts

Easy to dress up or down, the Outlier Futuredarts pant is a super clean and classy choice for trips that blend work and leisure. Moving smoothly between work meetings, nights on the town, or laid-back sightseeing sessions, the Futuredarts pant features long darts rather than side seams, resulting in a tapered, free-moving silhouette. Made with a durable and lightweight F. Cloth, the pant is breathable with inbuilt stretch and a DWR treatment. The pant provides five pockets for EDC and travel essentials and comes in a variety of colorways too.

Proof Moonweight Puffer Shirt Jacket (US$198)

Minimal packing list: Proof Moonweight Puffer Shirt Jacket

Jackets can really weigh you down on your travels – but not Proof’s Moonweight Puffer Shirt Jacket. A combination of graphene-infused polyester insulation and graphene-infused, water-resistant nylon keeps you warm without excessive bulk, offering excellent thermal regulation and odor resistance. The shirt jacket packs down small for easy portability, while the stylish aesthetics can move between urban and outdoor settings with ease. You also benefit from dual hand pockets and a chest pocket for storing smaller items.

Brandblack Specter X 2.0 Sneaker (US$240)

Minimal packing list: Brandblack Specter X 2.0 Sneaker

The Brandblack Specter X 2.0 Sneaker is a performance running shoe that will keep you comfy as you eat up the miles. But its city-friendly aesthetics let you reach for it on day-to-day rambles too. The shoes feature a breathable mesh, leather, and synthetic blend upper with cushioned high-rebound foam midsoles and chunky high-traction Vibram rubber outsoles that help you walk all day in comfort.

Mission Workshop Interval Microlight Windshell Jacket (US$265)

Minimal packing list: Mission Workshop Interval Microlight Windshell Jacket

The Mission Workshop Interval is a super lightweight shell jacket (140g / 5oz) designed for cycling, but it can also be your travel shell too. It offers wind and water repellency, odor resistance, and urban/outdoor flexibility in one. It features a stowable and adjustable hood, thumb loops, and a stash pocket, and dresses up nicely when the hood is stowed away. Constructed in San Francisco using Japanese-made, ultralight nylon, this is a highly flexible and premium fashion piece for outdoor hikes, bike rides, or scoping out the local cafes for a spot of lunch.

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