The 7-kilogram minimalist
How to work and travel the world from a single carry-on backpack
For years I've been working remotely and traveling the world with only 1 backpack, weighing 7 kilograms (15.4 lbs).
Sunny beaches, hiking in monsoon rains or snowboarding in snow storms, this is the ultimate packing list.

Theory behind the 7-kilogram minimalist

Combining a minimalistic mindset with knowlegde on mountainering and survival skills provided the basic ingredents for me to start the 7-kilogram minimalist challenge. Gaining that knowlegde and practical experiences can be time consuming, to make your life easier I've wrote the basic theory here for you.

Minimalism

Simplifying my life implied applying minimalism. Even though I have been following minimalism with much interest for the last decade, it took me some effort to get there myself. For me, minimalism is about finding your core self, your own identity, becoming agile and stepping away from consumerism. Not only in terms of material things but especially mentally. Having less to worry about gives peacefulness and provides more time to focus on what really matters. The simplicity of not having options intrigued me. The answer to the question 'What shall I wear today?' is simple, the same as yesterday, unless the weather changed. Luckily we are living in a time where quick-drying clothes are available, so I can wash everything overnight and have a fresh start in the morning.

Climates

While embracing minimalism, one of my requirements was to be able to keep doing what I love to do, which mainly includes spending time outdoors, hiking in the mountains, running (also in the rain), biking in the mud, camping near a quiet lake, snowboarding off-piste, catching some waves on a surfboard. That means that my outfit should protect me from the wind and water (snow/rain) up to -15 degrees Celcius (59 Fahrenheit). But, at the same time allow for traveling in 35 degrees Celcius (95 Fahrenheit) with a humidity of 80% (hello Asia). In all fairness, I'm not planning to summit mount Everest, nor spending a winter on the Artic with this gear, but it works in the climate I encounter.

Layering Clothing

With a limit of 7 kilograms, you have to really think twice about what you bring, that naturally implies making some sacrifices. During hiking in the mountains, I learned a great deal about layering clothes. The goal of layering is to be able to mix and match clothes depending on the weather conditions while trying to stay lightweight.

I now only buy things if they are broken beyond repair. This caused my clothing budget to increased significantly (I just buy way less). This higher budget allows for higher-quality products.

With regards to layering, there are four layers: the base, mid, insulation and the outer shell layer.

Base layer

The base layer is your underwear, closest to your skin. It should keep you comfortable while transporting most moisture (sweat or precipitation) away from your skin. Especially in cold temperatures, you want to stay as dry as possible. Personally I love Merino wool, which has great insulation properties but also works well in warmer weather.

Mid layer

The mid layer includes things like your pants, a hoodie or a soft shell jacket. Usually using a fabric that blocks the wind is advised here, but personally, I use my outer shell for wind/water protection. Mainly because I found that a wind blocking mid layer usually is a bit warmer and heavier, which doesn't work in warmer climates.

Insulation layer

The insulation layer is only used when it's cold (applies both outside and inside). It should give you extra warmth. Personally, I use a jacket that uses responsibly sourced down from goose (look for 800 to 1000-fill), getting your down filled jacket wet will probably ruin it. So make sure you get either a good outer shell or find a down jacket with a water repellent coating. An other option is using synthetic non-woven insulations, like CORELOFT™, which preform better in wet and damp conditions. I also use a beanie and neck gaiter from merino wool, combined with a large shemagh (Keffiyeh).

Outer layer

All the previous layers are really about staying comfortable. The outer layer, often called a shell. only cares about two things: wind and water. For me, this comes down to one thing: GORE-TEX®, a fabric design to be durably waterproof, windproof and reasonably breathable. I say reasonably because it is not perfect but does a decent job. I have a full waterproof outfit, including jacket, pants, gloves and even GORE-TEX® socks. Personally I avoid GORE-TEX® shoes, they are great to block water out, but will eventually leak because of seam fatigue or insufficient cuff height. It's extremely difficult to get water out once the inside of your shoe is soaking wet. Depending on the climate synthetic non-GORE-TEX® shoes dry during walking, usually within 2 days. If you expose your shoes to water for extended periods make sure to dry them slowly to prevent the material fatigueness and wearing out quickly. Besides all that, wearing GORE-TEX® shoes in hot climates is really uncomfertable (unless you enjoy sweaty feet).

Do not buy an insulated outer shell, while that might work when you go to a ski resort with your mother-in-law, it is less versatile than a thin outer shell which can be used for layering. Wearing a insulated outer shell when you only need protection from the wind and/or rain in a warmer climate will make you sweat profusely.

Organizing everything

Even though I don't bring a lot, everything does have its own specific place in my bag. Besides having excellent weight/balance ratios, it allows me to quickly and quietly get what I need with my eyes closed (useful in the total dark or when you need to get something but can not physically look at the bag). A combination of ultra-light dry bags and transparent plastic Ziplock bags makes it easy to organize everything. As a bonus it allows me to walk in the rain for hours or go swimming without any getting wet. Yes, I crossed several rivers swimming while using my bag as a floating device without any problems.

The bag

Now if you think clothing is personal, then don't start a discussion about bags. There are a lot of special travel bags out there designed to have dozens of pockets and fancy features. They all claim to be the best. For me, the main thing is that a bag should be extremely reliable and versatile. Having only one big compartment means I can carry all my stuff or use it to do transport some heavy stuff. For example 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of water plus groceries. The bag I use has been used for years by both the UK (SAS) and German (KSK) special forces, and after 10 years and traveling 5 continents I can safely say that it's extremely reliable.

Electronics

Since I do have to get stuff done while on the road, I bring quite some electronics with me. Actually, TODO% of my bags weight is electronics. A phone (in a water- and shockproof casing), laptop, two WiFi access points, backup disk, DSLR camera, adapters and way too many cables. As much as I love wireless, you simply can't depend on wireless to always work.

First-aid

Even though I mostly use it for helping other people, having a first-aid kit with me can be your life saver. The kit includes essentials, like general bandages, blister bandages, rubber gloves, scissors, tweezers, tape, and basic medicines. Remember that the goal is to provide for first-aid, just enough to survive until I, or someone else, can get professional medical help. It's not there to replace a local pharmacy or hospital, hence the 'first' in first-aid.

Accessories

Besides clothing, electronics and my first-aid kit I also have a list of accessories. Thinks that are either convenient

Materials

Materials...

Natural vs Synthetic

Denier unit that measures the thickness of the fibers in the fabric (density based on the lenght and weight of a fiber). One string of silk is considered 1 denier. Most of the time a higher denier number means stronger, but it does also depend on the type of material used. For example, 40D Nylon is a lot stronger than 40D Cotton, which is stronger than 40D Merino Wool.

Clo and Loft

Organic Cotton

If you inspect my list more closely you will notice I don't have any clothing made of cotton. Cotton is the most used fiber among naturally produced, non-synthetic materials. Over 75% of mens clothing contains cotton. Cotton is used because it is cheap and usually feels nice on the skin. But there are also some down sides. Cotton does not the best job at keeping you warm and takes a very long time to dry, besides that it is also quite heavy, so really not ideal for minimalists or travelers.

Merino Wool

No smell, light, warmth when it's cold, cool when it's warm. Wash on 30 degrees. Perfect for base layers. Flame resistant.

Don't buy products that are 100% made of Merino Wool, their durability is usually terible. Make sure to find a fabric that mixes Merino Wool with a stonger material like Nylon.

GORE–TEX®

Layers

Ripstop

Burns and drips

POLARTEC®

Polartec makes a lot of different products, but it is mostly known for their Polartec Classic, which most people know as Fleece. A light weight, warm and breathable fabric that is fast drying.

Coreloft™

Frequently, to make up for Primaloft having a higher clo, Coreloft has a little more loft.

Primaloft™

Goose and duck down

...

Brands

Besides using high-quality materials, I found that clothing designed for professional military use is usually more durable than the consumer version of that same product. Fortunately, I am not a fashion junkie or hipster looking for the latest trends, besides that the more tactical black/green/brown/sand color combination works surprisingly well while hiking.

Start measuring everything

Get rid of stuff

Depending on your approach this can be short (just throw everything away) or longer. I gave away most of my belongings to friends and family, sold the rest and donated the rest. The little that was left over after that was recycled.

Weighing stuff

It is really as simple as scale and begins weighing everything you want to bring. Your bag, your passport, your underwear, even your watch, and shoes. ~Write everything down in a spreadsheet and the values together to get your total weight.~