Tips on how to travel with just a backpack!

I never would have guessed I’d be able to travel with just a backpack. I thoroughly enjoy having access to all my stuff as well as options but throughout the year travelling mostly with just a backpack I have come to realize we need much less than we think we do.

If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, here is a list of my tips and suggestions on how to make the most of your backpack travels. Now that I have done it for a year, going forward I’ll likely only ever travel with a backpack when possible. You’ll only pack the essential and save a lot of time and money by not having to pay for baggage or wait around for your luggage!

Note: In addition to a travel bag, you can also bring a day bag onto an airplane, which is considered a personal item.

1. Find the perfect backpack

Osprey 40L Fairview backpack
Osprey Fairview 40L

Most importantly you first need to choose a backpack for your adventures!

I would highly recommend purchasing a travel specific bag instead of a hiking bag, which is what I see a lot of travellers carrying. If you’re not planning on doing lengthy, multi-day hikes then a hiking bag is not necessary. Travel backpacks are designed specifically for travelling. They open like a regular suitcase where you can easily access all items in the bag whereas hiking bags are top-loading which makes it more difficult to access the contents.

My go-to travel bag is the Osprey Fairview 40 liter (Fairview is the female version, Fairpoint is the male version). I chose the 40 liter as it is carry-on compliant with most airlines, typically bags over that size will be need to be checked. Osprey is a great company and I love that they stand behind their product. If for any reason something happens to your bag  (i.e. tearing, a broken zipper, etc.) they have a lifetime guarantee policy, just send your bag in and if it can’t be fixed it they will send you a replacement!

The bag comes in S/M or M/L; it’s important to get the size that fits right for you. I would recommend going into a store and trying it on for comfort before you purchase. It has adjustable straps at the top and bottom and also offers hip support to help carry the weight on your hips instead of in your shoulders and upper back.

I also really like that there is a flap that allows you to zip up the shoulder straps to prevent them from getting caught during transport. It also features a single shoulder strap on the outside of the bag that allows you to carry it like a side bag. It has a main compartment for larger items, a second compartment for smaller items, and a built in laptop holder.

2. Travel cubes are key

This was my first time travelling with cubes and I cannot believe I’ve gone my whole life without these! For someone who loves organization I cannot stress enough how great these are to travel with. They are lightweight so they won’t add any bulk to your bag but they will save you a lot of time packing and unpacking.

I bought mine on Amazon and while they aren’t the highest quality they have been great overall. For my set of 8 I paid around $20.00. If you’re on a budget try going for one of the cheaper options to see if you like them before investing more money into higher quality cubes.

These cubes will also help you cut down on what to pack as they can only fit so much.

3. Toiletry Bag

Toiletry bag

This particular toiletry bag is great because of the different compartments and the fact that it can be hung, which helps save countertop space. Having compartments helps you organize your products instead of having everything in one big bag and never being able to find your poppy pin, hair tie, razor, etc! You can find this bag on Amazon here.

Get a bag that is waterproof in case of spills and make sure each compartment has a specific purpose so you know exactly where everything is.

I also have my liquids in their own bag within a large Ziploc bag (tip: Ziploc bags are really great for travelling) as no one wants to deal with the headache of potential spills (note: bring extra Ziplocs just in case!). Don’t forget all liquids must be 100ml or less if you are not checking your bag in!

4. Electronics

Only bring what is essential as electronics can take up a lot of space and add quite a bit of bulk and weight to your bag. If you don’t really need your laptop then leave it at home. There is no point in having it taking up extra space and weight if you’re not going to use it. But if need to bring it along try and get a backpack with a built in laptop holder to avoid having to put your laptop in a sleeve as well.

Note: If you plan on checking your bag then make sure to put your laptop in your day bag. Never check valuables!

If you’re planning on bringing a big camera, I would highly recommend putting that in your day bag as well! All the chargers and cords can go in your larger backpack.

5. Miscellaneous items

After clothing, toiletries, and electronics all other items are miscellaneous. Some of the things I would recommend packing are:

  • Packable rain jacket/poncho
  • Packable light jacket
  • Sleep sack (this is great if you’re staying in more questionable rooms)
  • Microfiber towel (much thinner than a traditional towel and dries faster)
  • Small scarf
  • Packable duffel bag (this is great to have if you end up buying souvenirs and have no more room in your backpack, you can end up carrying the duffel bag as carry-on and check-in your backpack)

I try to buy things that are already packable so I don’t have to pack them into another pouch since they already come in one. This helps keep things organized as everything has its own container.

6. Shoes

I am shoe obsessed and I always assume I need way more shoes when I travel than actually do. Leaving behind my 50+ shoe collection back home, I have come to realize I don’t need more than 1 pair of runners and 1 pair of sandals. You will never have to pack your runners as you’ll wear those on travel days, so just find a thin pair of sandals or flip flops that match most of your outfits. Plus, the less shoes you bring means the more you can buy to bring home!

How it all fits!

Here are all the items I travel with and how I pack them up!

image of how all items fit into the backpack

Travelling for a year with a backpack has been great! It can be challenging at times when you want to buy things to bring home but space is limited. Overall you feel more independent and not held back by your things. It’s been a clear message to me that we truly don’t need much to live and too much stuff just serves to get in the way and clutter your mind and life.

You may think it’s impossible for you but I challenge you to try it out at least once. Who knows what lessons you could get out of the experience!

If you’re used to travelling with a backpack I would love to hear any of your tips or recommendations!

Travel safe and have the best time,


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