If you’re up for the challenge of traveling with just a small backpack on your next trip, read on for our men’s carry on packing list!
“That’s all you’re traveling with for the ENTIRE YEAR?” I often hear this question when I show up at the airport with just a backpack. People are fascinated by the fact that I travel full-time with carry-on luggage only.
Traveling with just a carry-on backpack is much easier than you think!
Any females in the house? Check out our female carry on packing guide!
This post contains affiliate links.
Why Carry On?
Last year, when I started planning for my one-year travel adventure with Remote Year, I became obsessed with figuring out how I could travel with nothing but carry on luggage. There are a few reasons why I chose to travel with just a small backpack.
First, it saves time. You never have to check luggage, worry about an airline losing your bags, or stand around a conveyor belt waiting for your luggage to spit out amidst the masses.
Second, it saves money. You’ll avoid the checked bag fees many airlines charge, and you won’t waste money on all the stuff most people pack but never use.
Last, you’ll have more flexibility and can be spontaneous since you’re not dragging around 50 pounds of luggage.
I started my journey with a 30-liter Osprey Porter backpack and an over-the-shoulder satchel. This worked well at first, but I quickly realized I wanted to travel even lighter. So, I ditched the satchel; now I travel with just the 30-liter Osprey backpack.
To Travel Carry On Only, You Need to Commit to a Small Carry On Backpack
Find a backpack you like under 40 liters and get rid of your other luggage. This might seem extreme, but it will force you to bring only what you really need. Since you are traveling light, you will be able to focus on top quality purchases.
Make sure you get a durable, high-quality backpack with good zippers. I personally like the Osprey line of bags; they are tried and tested, and mine still looks brand new after 9 months of nonstop travel.
Men’s Carry On Packing List
Ditch the Packing Cubes for a Compression Sack
When I first started traveling, I had traditional packing cubes. While they are great for organizing your bag, they don’t create more space. Even the packing cubes that have a little compression don’t do the job very well.
I cut the amount of space my clothes take up in my bag in half when I ditched the packing cubes for a compression sack. Compression sacks are top loading and have straps on them that you can really crank down on to compress your clothes.
My 6 shirts, 4 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of shorts, 3 pairs of socks, 1 pair of pants, and raincoat all compress down to the size of a volleyball with my small 10-liter Sea to Summit compression sack. This has been a huge space saver for me.
Travel With Just Two Pairs of Shoes
I travel with one pair of flip flop sandals and a pair of black tennis shoes. I use the sandals in warmer climates as my daily shoe. The all-black tennis shoes are the real key to limiting the number of shoes you need to pack.
I ordered my black shoes from Nike. They have a customization option where you can change the colors of different parts of the shoe. When you go through the options, don’t get tempted by the array of colors; make them all black. That way you can use them for running or for hiking, and because they are all black, you’ll be able to use them in more formal situations.
I’ve never had a problem getting into fancy restaurants or night clubs because no one ever realizes they are tennis shoes. So, ditch all your other shoes for a pair of all-black tennis shoes, be prepared for almost every situation, and save a ton of space.
Embrace Merino Wool Clothing
Merino wool is the minimalist traveler’s best friend and belongs on the top of men’s carry on packing list. There are a few reasons for this. First, it’s antimicrobial, so it doesn’t smell. You can wear it for weeks without ever having to wash it. When you do wash it, you can simply throw it in a sink with a little lavender oil, and it will be good for another few weeks.
Second, because it’s both breathable and insulating, you can wear it in hot and cold climates. Third, it dries really quickly. Finally, it is wrinkle-resistant, so it’s ready to wear when you pull it out of your bag.
Since merino wool is easy to care for, wearable in all locations, and resists smells, you can pack less clothing. This saves lots of space in your bag.
Here are some favorite merino wool t-shirt brands:
Don’t Pack Stuff You Can Buy
You can buy toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant in any country you go to. You don’t need to waste space in your bag with these kinds of items.
Wear The Bulkiest Items on Your Travel Days
This is a simple but effective way to save space. I like blue jeans, but they take up a lot of space in a backpack. So, those have become my travel day pants. Most plane rides are cold, so wear some of your bulkier clothing to save space.
What do you think of our men’s carry on packing list? Would these tips work for you? Would you consider traveling with carry on only? If not, why? Do you have any other tips you use to save space? If so, share them below!
By Kevin Martin