Travelling with a 20 litre backpack 5kg, ultralight minimalist packing

It’s time to revive my travel blog! Mostly because I’m mega excited about my 20 litre backpack. So to summarise I will give my full packing list and gear choices. In a few days I will post breakdown of my trip, which could not have been booked without the amazing site The Man in Seat 61: 👌 all the info you need to book a Trans-Europe train journey.

Back in 2015 I travelled to Asia with the 35 litre Lowe Alpine Eclipse weighing 7kg, read my original packing list post. It was reasonable but I did reduce along the way, posting stuff home, read about that drama here.

The gear detailed in this post would be the same that I would take for a 6 months or year trip so don’t let the week in Europe trip dissuade you. I won’t need to wash this time but for a longer trip that’s what I’d do.

It has always been my dream to travel with the bare minimum and last week I acquired a deuter speedlite 530, 20 litre bag. Just a note here, I am a serial thrifter, car booter and charity shopper so this was of course second hand.

Deuter speedlite 530, 20 litre bag:

It’s very basic inside with no pockets which is fine for my purpose. There is a front section where you can stuff you coat or jumper. It also takes a water bladder but I won’t use that for this trip.

I say it seems good quality and even worth the money new, although I paid next to nothing for it.

What I can fit inside:


-7 t-shirts:

-3 are ROHAN ultra silver T excellent, thin, roll to a tiny tube, not cheap at £30 a pop but I got one in charity shop (which is how I discovered them).

-2 are Quechua from Dec4thlon but I got in a charity shop

-2 other similar cheap equivalents

-2 pairs of shorts:

-One grey and one tan from Dare2Be. Love these, they don’t crease too much and look like normal fitted shorts but are light. I can’t stand cotton or cord shorts anymore. Also deep pockets.

-7 pairs of underwear:

-4 pairs are Under Armour, high quality technical wear, actually branded as shorts but are great underwear

-3 being other brands but similar long leg so no chafting

-1 pair of black patterned swim trunks by Speedo that pack into a pouch that doubles as a back pocket

-1 grey merino wool jumper – bought in a car boot for £1.50 about £30 new but worth it

-5 pairs of trainer socks but hope to be in flip flops most of the time

Other items (shown in images below):

-iPhone and chargers



-Travel adapters

-Wash kit (in detail below in next section)

-Notepad and pens

-Book – Death in Venice! As will be going there!



-Waterproof or umbrella (can’t decide yet but both would actually fit if I wanted them)


-Flip flops

-Travel towel

-Travel neck pillow from Muji love this as it clips shut in a ring for the traditional U shapes neck pillow but also goes flat as a sausage (as pictured below)

-Hidden waist money pouch

-Obvious stuff like passport and money

How I’m packing.

So I have a handful of packing cubes, many I’ve had for years. I could say if you have to use compression cubes you are packing too much. Also they shrink size but not weight, so you will be filling your bag with more weight than it is designed for. They seem to work for some people though.

My cubes are pictured here with contents:

I mainly use Travelon cubes which I buy from a shop called Lakeland but can also be bought from Amazon. I like them because they hold a rectangle shape and slide in and out nicely.

Pants split into two, socks in another, my seven t-shirts split into two. Shorts, one pair I will wear and the other loose. Jumper loose and swim trunks loose.

Other cubes hold my chargers, and outside is the power bank which is a must for an iPhone, as much as I love them the battery life is sh*t.

One cube is my wash kit which I will outline next, as it is very minimalist and may give you some ideas.

Wash Kit (in smallest Travelon cube):


-Packable flannel (outside)

-Foldable toothbrush

-Mini travel toothpaste

Salt deodorant! Best thing ever! I discovered in Thailand and use all the time, at home as well. One stick lasts a year! And costs approx £4 and huge saving and environmentally it cuts down on a lot of spray cans or plastic deodorant sticks

-Universal travel plug (not pictured)- I recommend the flat kind because some traditional plug shaped ones don’t fit all sinks

-Travel clothes line (not pictured) – basically a piece of twisted elastic – needs no pegs

-Clothes washing soap sheets

-Mini razor set

-Ear plugs

-Eye mask

-Folding mirror

-Scissors and nail clippers

-Mini Nivea cream and a bar of soap

All fits in this fab tiny cube! The size of my hand.

I am also taking a zip case of games for the train, Hero Realms, Dobble and Pit. Will also add some dice for Yahtzee.

If this wasn’t being packed I could take more items, for example one pair of jeans if it was going to be colder.

Finally I will be taking my awesome ROHAN Transit 10 litre satchel. Which holds tons!! I actually won it at the Travel show at Olympia last year. I’m still counting this as a 20 litre holiday as this bag actually fits inside my main rucksack. I will have it out for airport and daily use. Also we will be going to the spa baths in Budapest! So will need swim stuff and a towel with me during the day.

The only things I would add if this was my RTW packing list would be:

-Silk sleeping liner – I used this so much much in Thailand, rectangle not the mummy shape as then it can be used as a sheet and even a towel when desperate, packs the size of a fist.

-Travel hammock – for Asia or beach trips, same size as above and a luxury really but something I like to have, most hotels in Thailand had them included and this would not be useful for Europe anyway.

So excited as this will be the lightest I have ever travelled, it’s only 5kg!

Related posts: lightening the load and the Thai postal system.

Packing light, 35 litres for three months in Asia.

Lightening the load – stuff I posted home – packing light update

I thought I would update you with my adjustments to my packing and my experience with the Thai postal service.

See here for my original packing list post.

It was hard to decide if I should ditch the things I didn’t need and they buy them again at home or to post them. In the end I decided to post because I wanted to get rid of my grey fleece but I like it too much to just dispose of it here. It cost about £28 (that’s 15,00 baht) to post the box but I think it would cost me about £50 to buy those things again in England, so I think it was worth it.

Everything arrived home fine and very quickly so I posted a second box a few weeks later. I had a hectic rush to get to the office before it closed for the night as we were getting the train North the next day, (I will post a link here when I have written that days blog post).

For the first box, read this post for my experience posting from Ko Samui. 

So in total I have posted home the following:

Box one – 22/06/15:

one T-shirt

-my second pair of sunglasses

-some keyrings I bought for souvenirs

-my zip off camping trousers

-my charger and adapter for my iPhone which no longer the works

-my grey camping jumper

-spare face buff

-mozzy head net

-two small travel books on Thailand

-my thin gloves – what was I thinking bringing gloves to Thailand?

-two pairs of hand knitted merio wool socks which I made and sneaked in (they were not on the original packaging list) :p

Box two – 13/07/15:

-new hammock that I bought in Ko Phangan

-my large toiletries bag (I decanted a bunch of liquids into smaller bottles and left any I didn’t need in the travelers swap drop bin in the hostel)

-a few small bits like a flannel from my wash kit

-my expensive North Face waterproof which I didn’t use once and is too expensive to loose (I didn’t post it in the first box in case it wasn’t a reliable system)

-my red packing cube

-all the items from my red packing cube, my dress shirt and my rash vest for watersports

So less items than last time but it cost the same because the hammock was cotton and quite heavy.

I think I will post another box home before I leave Thailand, with a few things I have bought and some books which I don’t want to sell back to the second hand bookshop because I liked them too much :p

I was going to post a box just full of Christmas presents, (which I haven’t bought yet) but I now I think I will buy those souvenirs on my last few days in Bangkok and check them into the hold of the plane (my main bag will still go as hand luggage).

Anyway I have to agree that light is best, this is the lightest I have ever traveled and my bag always gets put inside of the mini van while other people’s bags get thrown on the roof rack and I can fit it in all the hostel lockers, even the small ones (some are big and my friends had no problem but many are swimming pool locker size). So a success.

Next up: days twenty and twenty-one.

Previously: days eighteen and nineteen.

Packing light for Thailand – 7kg into a 35 litre pack – updated

So here is my packing list as promised. A must for any travel blog. I love reading these, they are so additive and many of my friends who travel seem to agree with me.

Having said that, speaking to several people of my parents generation this week, I have discovered that they seem to think it is a daft idea, why would you want to know what other people are packing…

Anyway here’s the rundown.  I went to America in 2010 for three months and did Camp America.  I took an 80 litre euro hike pack that wasn’t fitted properly and ended up donating it to a Goodwill store and buying a 65 litre pack which fitted me correctly.  I still had waaay too much stuff.  Ok so for camp you need more clothes than travelling as you can’t wash your clothes in a sink (ours went in the camp laundry) and you may need to change clothes several times a day due to messy activities, but anyhow…

In 2012 I took my 65 litre to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  I took loads of stuff I didn’t even unpack, and we rented all the gear anyway, really cheaply.  Apart from the climb we only stayed in three hotels and were driven between these so it wasn’t too bad.  But I still got fed up with my pack. I have read more ‘packing light’ blog posts than I can count.  I have deduced that if you buy a small pack, max 40 litres I’d say, then you can’t take much due to space.  Also don’t pack things ‘just in case’ you can buy EVERYTHING and I mean that, worldwide.  I saw Head and Shoulders and Colgate in Tanzania, as well as many more brands, extra socks, any type of clothing, everything.  For women it might be a little different for toiletries in rural areas but basically don’t be a Boy Scout and try and be prepared for everything.

Carry on only: I will be going carry on only for the first time.  I cannot personally claim to have experienced the merits of this as I have never had trouble collecting my checked in luggage, but the idea is that you can get off the plane and off you go.  No waiting around. This means no pen knives and only carry on liquid sizes.  If you need it, buy it when you get there, full stop. I have a 35 litre pack and it weighs about 7kg when packed.

My list is below.  Some people’s blogs guide you through exactly what to pack.  But I will just say; firstly you should shop in your own wardrobe before buying any technical gear.  You can mostly wear normal clothes anywhere, just research the country and find out if you need long sleeves, trousers for modesty, jumpers for the evening, gloves for that cold morning hike you’ve planned etc.

My bag is a 35 litre Lowe Alpine Eclipse and is in the ‘trail running’ section of their website which means it is very light, less than 1kg. It also has a hip belt to take the weight off your shoulders, something that is not common on most bags that are 35 litres or less.



-Shorts – brown with black strip so they go with both colours
-Grey trousers – lightweight synthetic material
Black trousers – lightweight synthetic material – didn’t really need these, I could have used the grey pair on the only occasion I wore these and it would have been fine
Beige trousers – convertable zip off bottoms (lots of people dislike these but I have to see for myself if they are useful while travelling or not) – only wore once are are just taking up space in my bag
-Short sleeve t-shirts x3 x2 – synthetic material – update: only bring x2 not x3 didn’t need the third
Dark grey long-sleeve t-shirt – synthetic material – only used once at a temple, I could have used my dress shirt (see below next item) for this purpose
Long sleeve dress shirt – for evenings/smart occasions/temple modesty – only used once and I have now decided it isn’t worth carrying
-Tank top for beach and sleepwear
-Merino wool jumper light grey – I have read about the properties of this wool and how great it is for travelling – they cost about £45 but I got mine in a car boot for £1.50!  I’ll let you know if it is any good when I have worn it and if it would be worth buying new (or try ebay)
Dark grey camping fleece – but smart enough for evenings if needed – I love this fleece and I will have to carry it on this trip as I don’t want to dump it but one jumper is enough – update: actually posted this home
-Swim trucks – pack into a pouch
Black rash vest – for wearing underneath a wetsuit when diving and to stop me getting burnt on the beach – I can use a tank top for this purpose, not really allowed outdoor clothes in pools in England but no one minds here
-Microfibre underwear x7 x5 – update: from 7 to 5 as 5 is plenty
Waterproof North Face jacket – folds up small like a pack Mac but much more waterproof – this is my best waterproof and it is awesome but I haven’t worn it once so I have posted it home
-Socks x2 – high trainer socks one to wash and one to wear (I plan to be in sandles anyway most of the time)


-Deodorant – hard Thai deodrant stone (lasts 1 year)
-Toothpaste – tiny tube as I will buy out there
-Suncream – tiny tube as I will buy out there
-Ear plugs – a must for hostels
-Tiny travel laundry sheets
-Dr bronners peppermint hard bar soap x2 – for washing hair and body
-Lip balm

Medicine bag:

-Hydration sachets – just in case
-Imodium – just in case
Basic antibiotic – for Emergancy only – you can buy EVERYTHING out here, they even have a Boots Pharmacy
-Blister plasters – same as above – very useful
-Plasters – same as above


Black Toms – decided to leave behind, I will buy a pair of cheap espadrilles out there if I need them
Green closed toe sandals – turns out these were a bit worse for wear after Africa, I will buy some out there
-Flipflops – but can buy these


-Prescription Sunglasses
-Prescription Glasses
-Packable rucksack for use as a daypack
Packable Oyna brand shoulder messenger bag (packs down into a tiny pouch) – didn’t really use this, one daypack item is enough


-IPad mini – second hand from ebay in case it gets lost or stolen
-Chargers for everything
-Phone – my provider has locked it for 3G and 4G so it can only be used for WiFi so no internet charges – I will buy a cheap local one to use out there – I didn’t buy one as I didn’t need it
-Camera – point and shoot but with a good lens
-Universal travel plug adapter


-Large packable travel towel – Mountain warehouse about the size of an orange
Thin gloves – I thought I might need these for the North but I’m not even going to explain what a joke bringing these in this heat
Face buff – same reason as above plus I have my sarong
-Sarong type thing for use as a beach mat/towel/face buff
-Travel clothes line – basically a piece of twisted elastic – needs no pegs
-Travel sink plug – rubber not rigid – so it will fit any sink
Notepad and pens – I took a whole pencil case full (the multi coloured one pictured below) I would only take a couple of pens next time and replace when they run out
-Address book for postcards (and in case my iPad gets lost)
-Guidebook & phrase book
-Swimming googles
Roll of tape for repairs – got through Gatwick ok but not allowed through Dubai airport? and was taken off me at security, will buy if needed
-Head torch and spare batteries
-Silk sleep sack
-Money belt
Mozzy head net – posted home as I haven’t used it and there aren’t many mozzys here
Babour waxed cotton hat – from an Oxfam charity shop – lost on the plane out here and bought another hat in Bangkok

Seems like a lot but it all fits nicely.  Not much room to expand though… I organise it all in packing cubes, see picture below. Not pictured is my camera, blue north face waterproof and my jumpers which I will be wearing on the flight. I may do some posts later on reviewing some of my gear.

Check out this post for my itinerary for the first week. That’s all for now folks.

My packing list for carry only travel

Next up: first impressions of Bangkok

Previously: my Thailand itinerary

Related posts: lightening the load – stuff I posted home – packing light update.