Minimalist Packing Guide: How I Fit 2.5 Weeks of Stuff into a Personal Bag
Packing might be one of the most stressful parts of going on a trip. With so many questions — do I bring this shirt or that one? Will I need 3 pairs of shoes or 4? — it can truly be overwhelming deciding on what to bring for your next adventure.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there.
Luckily, I have gotten into the mindset that if you pack with a minimalist mindset you can usually get away with a lot less stuff, which may not only save you some money (checked bag fees are kind of ridiculous), but it will also likely save you some stress — especially on those long travel days.
But what do I mean by a minimalist mindset? Well, basically it means you only pack items that can be a) worn with almost everything else you bring and b) are hardy and versatile enough to be worn in many different landscapes and situations. In this case, I was focused on minimally packing for a 2.5-week trip to sunny, tropical Guatemala.
While the packing list below was tailored towards that specific trip, it could easily be followed for many other short(ish) adventures. Really what it comes down to is packing items that you will actually want to wear, can wear in many different situations, and will hold up to many days of traveling.
In short: find strong basics that work, and run with it.
If this sounds like something you could be interested in, then keep reading for my Minimalist Packing Guide below.
TOP TIPS FOR MINIMALIST PACKING
1 | Consider following the 54321 Packing Rule: you can make 5 good outfits from 4 tops, 3 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shoes and 1 dress (if you are a female).
I sort of followed this rule but added just a few extra pieces since I was planning to be in Guatemala for 2.5 weeks. In the end, I brought 7 shirts (including 2 for activities like hiking and running), 5 pairs of pants (including tights), 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 dress.
2 | Know what activities you are going to do and plan accordingly: this seems simple enough but honestly having even a basic outline of what you are going to do during your trip will really help you narrow down what you need to bring.
For me, I knew my trip would mostly be spent in Antigua and Lake Atitlan and there would be one big outdoor adventure: hiking Acatenango. So I made sure to bring shoes I could wear up the mountain (my trail running shoes) and a set of warmer active clothing for the one night up on the volcano (I packed my trusty Mammut jacket and a pair of tights).
Likewise, because I had no plans to make it to the coast (unfortunately) I only packed one swimsuit — which was enough even during my time at Lake Atitlan and in Semuc Champey.
WHAT I PACKED | CLOTHING & TOILETRIES
| 1 thicker jacket (Mammut), this came in so handy for nights out on the town (it gets surprisingly cold in Antigua at night) and for hiking adventures (like up Acatenango Volcano)
| 1 button-up shirt: great for sun protection and to wear when it isn’t too cold but also not too hot outside
| 1 long-sleeved sun shirt: great for hiking and outdoor activities, fast-drying when wet
| 1 short-sleeved active shirt
| 2 t-shirts (both had to be soft and nice): made sure that they were in colors that didn’t clash with anything else that I brought
| 2 cute tops: for when I was feeling fancy
| 1 pair of jeans
| 1 pair of tights: which I also wore as PJs in the dorm room and during the hike up Acatenango
| 2 pairs of nicer shorts: comfortable but still a bit classier than my running shorts
| 1 pair of active shorts: never leave home without one pair of comfortable active shorts
| 1 short flowy dress
| 1 swimsuit
| 8 pairs of underwear
| 2 pairs of socks: one shorter pair for running/walking around town and one thicker pair for hiking
| 1 set of running/hiking shoes: I brought along my trusty Altra running shoes and they handled everything really well
| 1 sports bra
| 2 regular bras, including one that could also work as a tank top
WHAT I PACKED | GEAR AND MISCELLANEOUS
| My trusty Canon camera with a 50mm lens
| Extra camera lens (that I couldn’t actually use) 🙁
| GoPro 9
| My very handy Kindle
| A green felt sun hat and 1 pair of sunglasses
| LARQ water bottle: super handy when drinking ~questionable water
| Microsoft Surface laptop & charger (+ an iPhone and USB-C charger): because I had to work during my trip to Guatemala
| Notebook: great for journaling and keeping travel notes in
| Toiletries: a bar of face soap, a small bottle of body lotion, face oil, ChapStick, my handy wooden toothbrush, a small bag of medication, the tiniest bit of make-up
MY REVIEW ON MINIMALIST PACKING | WHAT I LOVED AND WHAT I WOULD CHANGE
| I loved that I was able to get my bag through as a FREE personal item — even on Frontier Airlines. I honestly didn’t expect them to allow it, but am very glad that they did (I saved at least $100 bucks each way).
| I liked not having to lug around a big, cumbersome bag — especially on those long travel days. Just having the simple backpack made it so much easier to get around and work in the airport when I needed to.
| There are really only two things that I would probably change about this packing setup. The first would be to bring one more pair of pants — especially a comfortable, lightweight pair. While I definitely got by with just my tights and a single pair of jeans, it would have been nice to have an extra pair for those awkward in-between times (like at night or on the bus).
Secondly, if I had the space, it would have been nice to carry a small extra bag (like a canvas tote bag) for when I was just walking around town and didn’t want to carry either my backpack or my phone, wallet, water bottle and camera in my hands.
| Quick disclaimer here: I did end up having to buy a few things once I arrived in Antigua, Guatemala. This included toothpaste, a small bottle of sunscreen, and a small towel for showering.
While it might be a bit daunting to pack so little for a longer(ish) trip, in the long run, you will likely be very grateful for the ease of just having a single backpack with you — especially on those long, stressful travel days. If you are fine with re-wearing your clothes and having fewer options, then I highly recommend trying a more minimalist packing set-up.
Hopefully, this packing guide will be a great starting point for all of your upcoming trips. If you have any questions or comments about what I brought to Guatemala (or about anything else packing-related), then please feel free to leave them below or reach out to me directly.