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In January 2015 we switched to carry on only with sub 10KG (22lbs) in our carry on backpacks. We discuss the ups and downs of minimalist travel as well as our ultimate minimalist wish list for if we were starting from scratch again as digital nomads. 

In the Minimalist Travel episode:

Feature Topics in this episode:

  • Tips and tricks for getting on the plane with more than your cabin baggage allowance
  • Backpack suggestions for minimalist travel
  • Things we miss now we travel with less than 10KG of baggage each
  • Essential items for digital nomads that you just can’t live without
  • What’s on our minimalist travel packing list

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Weblinks from Minimalist Travel Episode

World Nomads Insurance – Specifically designed for digital nomads, flashpackers, adventure & long term Travellers – Get a 5% Discount with our coupon code: FOOD5

Minimalist packing list on Backpacking 4 Beginners –

Cabin Zero – carry on backpacks we travel with


Osprey Fairpoint


Tortuga backpacks

Lems Shoes

Macbook Pro 13 retina

Macbook air 11

Break down in Gobi Desert Article

Basic Transcript for minimalist travel episode

  • This transcript is based on the content we use to record the episode and as such is unedited and does not contain all of the content from the episode. We suggest you listen to the podcast instead 🙂

In this episode we talk about the realities of carry on only travel.

We went carry on only in Jan 2015. We’ve done winter, spring and summer travel and our packing priorities have adjusted as we go along.

We haven’t paid for baggage or waited in line to check a bag once! We just walk straight through security. Less hassle. Less heavy weight to cart around.

But, it’s not all rainbows. There have been challenges. We have lost a couple of things at airport security, but after 10 months we have got it down, are now carrying even less stuff and are pretty damn happy about being lightweight travellers.

So, we want to talk about, what worked, what hasn’t worked. How it is to live with 10-12KG of luggage full time and help you decide if you should go carry on only or stick with that big backpack.

This Podcast is in conjunction with our ultimate dream minimalist packing list which just got released.

Essentially, if someone gave us $5,000 each to start from scratch, what would we buy to be the most optimal minimalist travellers on the planet?

Hey Everyone!

Thanks for joining us 🙂

This is the news. We are in Bangkok and we are making plans to move to Chiang Mai for 6 months. It’ll be the longest we have been in one place for almost 3 years.

We said a few episodes back that we wanted to move to chiang mai, but it got put on hold so we could come live by the beach in Koh Samui and talk at the Koh Phangnan blogger retreat. Which was awesome! Thanks again to Dave Brett for setting that up.

So, we are Chiang mai bound, but first we have to head out of Thailand and get a new visa… So watch this space, if you are living in Chiang mai, we look forward to meeting you soon!

But, today we are talking about travelling the world with just the bare essentials. We’ve been living for 10 months with about 12KG each. Thats about 27 pounds. And… well, we haven’t missed much.

But, one of the problems we did face was, in order to go truly streamlined you need the latest lightweight travel gear… Which cost a lot. So we pitched and got some great stuff, but not all of our old clunky stuff could get replaced.

I’m still carrying my 2010 Macbook pro. It weight like 4KG in the case. Nightmare. That’s like a 3rd of my stuff.

however, Megs did manage to upgrade to a macbook air 11 inch with weighs less than 2 pounds. Amazing! We had to pay for it… but it was worth.

Once we get some more money in the piggy bank we’ll be getting me a 13 inch macbook pro retina. Because of all the audio, video and photo editing I do, I just need that extra power that the air can’t handle.

Now, we don’t want to go into detail about every little thing that is on our perfect packing list, we have an article for that which you can check out at which will redirect you to our backpacking 4 beginners site.

This article is aimed at backpackers rather than digital nomads, so on this episode we want to talk about a few of the digital nomad related things we have to take into consideration, also some additional backpacks that are not on the article but are specifically for professional travellers.

Plus, the positive and negative elements of being carry on only.

So, first, backpacks. And please remember, if you want to help support our podcast, don’t look these up on google, simply go to our packing list travfree/packing and click on the links. We make commissions from Amazon, but as always, we don’t recommend shit. We suggest the right options or the ones we use ourselves.

Not only will it be easier using our list than searching everything individually, it’ll be helping us out. Cheers!

So, Obviously your pack needs to be light and it needs to be within the specific max dimensions of any airline. It’s important to remember that some airlines are more strict than others.

As we save money by flying budget when going short haul, we chose AirAsia, easy jet & Ryan air as our benchmarks.

I’m not going to bore you with numbers. It’s boring and you won’t remember. numbers are on the article.

The important take aways are:

7KG in your main pack, and a side bag which could be a laptop, large DSLR camera or Handbag.

They rarely weigh your packs, but you should try and meet the restrictions the best you can.

With easy jet, their is no weight limit as such. Just size. But you can’t take a side bag. So, you have to leave enough space in your main pack to be able to put your laptop in if you are on a one bag only airline. But be able to carry it separately if you are on a weight restriction airline.

This we have done.

Now we are in SE Asia we have ditched all our winter stuff. Which has made travel way easier. In europe for winter and spring we actually had a large shopping bag that was always full of winter clothes, umbrellas, water and snacks.

Here is the trick we used to stay carry on only with so much more than the 7KG limit.

Almost everything in the giant shopping bag could be legitimately held, worn or tied around our waist while we boarded the plane.

Coat on our arms, umbrellas and water bottles in our hands, sweaters around waists. Coming to Asia, although we swapped out T-shirts for lighter fabrics and such, our main packs have not changed in contents too much. We just ditched the massive extra bag of winter gear.

So, yes, we flew a lot with way more than 7KG and we got away with it by being sneaky and re-distributing cunningly.

But speaking of “getting away with it”, we didn’t get away with everything. Although our penknife made it through UK and spanish security without issue, because strictly speaking it is TSA approved size, it got confiscated in Morocco.

We replaced it in romania with a corkscrew. That made it through Romanian and Russian security… but not Bangkok. Possibly after the recent bombing, they are on high alert. Who knows.

Other than that, apart from water getting confiscated and a few unhappy officers because we were pushing the limits of how many 100ml bottles we had… we haven’t had any dramas.

We replaced our full size tripod with a mini tripod, because we know asian security sometimes have issues with large tripods and long umbrellas. Obviously the mini tripod is tiny and weighs a lot less. so thats good too.

So, overall, if you follow our list, you shouldn’t have any issues at security. Though we take no liability!

So, which backpacks do we recommend?

For regular backpackers, on our article we suggest The Osprey Fairpoint 40 – which is the higher end option and well though out.

The Ebags Mother lode which is cheaper and with some neat functions and extra pockets. go take a look.

Also, Cabin Zero, which is the pack we use but seems to mainly be available in the UK. Cabin Zero is a small company and the bag is super light and designed exactly to meet ryan air’s small size restrictions while still being a 44L pack. It’s real simple and is front loading, not top loading. easier to pack and find your stuff. Some of the other packs are front loading too. It’s also sub $100 price range.

Cabin Max is a budget option. Maybe not as good if you are going long term as its cheap, but might be fine for a shorter trip. We haven’t used it.

But, they are the packs for everyone. If you are digital nomad and want a business long term travel cabin pack, the most popular two options are Tortuga and minaal. Links in the show notes travfree/059 as these are not on the packing list article.

These are really expensive. The cheapest Tortuga is $175. The Minaal is like $300. But, allegedly, they are the best. We haven’t used them but I think when our Cabin zero is done, we may upgrade as all the extra functionality is designed specifically for digital nomads, by professional travellers.

So that;s packs.

A quick tip on shoes. We see so many backpackers getting around with walking boots. They weigh a ton and they stink. Get lightweight, breathable walking shoes.

We have Lems Barefoots. They give you a natural walking experience. This means no complicated soles or arch support. You need to wear them for a few weeks to get you feet used to them, but they are so lightweight, they even roll up. They don’t get stinky.

We had Merrels before, which are also good, but I prefer Lems now.

Those and flip flops are all you need. Though megsy has a little pair of ballet flats too for nicer occasions. For colder weather, just wear very thick socks. For getting through snow… Go to a different destination. Snow is cold num-nuts.

What we are glad we over packed…

I’ve seen a lot of packing lists that have like 4 pairs of underwear. Unless you are captain inside out and like to ware dirty underwear day after day, I suggest at least 6 pairs. I think it says 5 on our article. I actually have 8 pairs right now.

Laundry day just comes around so frickin often if you only have a few pairs. But it is really up to you. Underwear does not weigh much! So you don’t need to skimp.

I love my DSLR camera. Swapping that out for a mirror less would mean less weight, much less weight. So, when the coffers are full, or Sony is knocking on my door, I may get to swap out for a brand new mirror less. One day! But, for now, I’m glad I have the DSLR, photography is so integral to our blog and even when we pitch companies. Using a compact or smartphone would seriously hamper our chances of blogging success.

We talked about laptops earlier. I’ll be happy to go for a macbook pro, rather than air just because of the extra power. But, if you don’t do lots of video and audio editing, stick with the air.

As a blogger, I think you need more than a basic chrome book – though that is a sub $200 option that is perfect for regular backpackers.

A couple of other awesome accessories. Flat pack toiletries case. You know how freaking annoying it is when you are digging around a toiletries case and can’t find anything! Well the flatpack is the solution. it rolls up, but when you open it, everything is just there and on display.

We have a shitty old one but i want to replace it with the Ebags flatpack.

Also, Gaffa tape. The most useful all purpose fixing device on Earth. I’ve got through a lot of this fixing bags – even fixing a car radiator hose while traveling across the Gobi Desert. You may not use it everyday, but when you do need it, it could save your life… literally. Get the compact rolls, not the huge ones.

So, what has worked, what hasn’t worked well? And what do we miss?

Megsy: I really wish we had ditched the video camera ages ago and upgraded to a fancy new smart phone that I can do it all video and pics for social media etc. But when we started smartphones are not what they are now…. we will upgrade one day.
I miss pretty lacy underwear – but they are just not really practical. Especially in hot climates. I miss variety in what I get to wear – naturally I don’t have massive selection and I miss my memory foam pillow
But yeah just pack more underwear people – trust us it’s worth it

Tommo: Having to refill all those little hundred ml bottles is a pain in the arse. Honestly, other than that, I just want to swap out my DSLR for mirror less and replace my MB pro. Then I will be travelling even lighter!

I do prefer real towels to travel towels. But we would have travel towels even with a regular pack as they dry quicker. Plus, a lot of places we stay have regular towels and if we stop for more than a month we sometimes splash out the $10 to buy a couple of towels!!

The funny thing was, when we repacked for hot weather and ditched all the cold weather gear, it was even more liberating than when we first went carry on only. The more we ditch, the better I feel about it all, and the less my shoulders hurt.

Repacking at the airport is a bit annoying. But we are doing that less now as we downsize further.

We;ve even ditched our business cards and now have a rubber stamp instead!

I miss my penknife that the nasty man in Morocco took off me. We still haven’t figured out how to open a beer bottle with a lighter. On the plus side, all the wine on sale in Thailand seems to screw cap.

Travel Homework

It’s time to minimalize your travel life! If you are getting ready for your trip, start with the right foundations, get the right stuff from day one and travel even more lightweight than we do.

Check out for the full packing list and for all the rest of the show notes.

Love this podcast? Why not pin it on your favourite travel Pinterest board?

In January 2015 we switched to carry on only with sub 10KG (22lbs) in our carry on backpacks. We discuss the ups and downs of minimalist travel as well as our ultimate minimalist wish list for if we were starting from scratch again as digital nomads.

DISCLAIMER: We are affiliated with, World nomads, – companies we love and support. Some other links may also be affiliate link – these links help support the podcast financially. All our opinions, as always, are our own.


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