One Woman, One Bag: Post #1

It’s a new year, a new blog for me and I thought I would start the new year off with the first post of a series that I wanted to showcase here on The Imperfect Minimalist.  I’ll be posting a few different serial posts each month and this one will come to you the first Friday of every month.  I know, I’m already a day late this month, but hey I’m not perfect!  So without further ado, my monthly series on one bag travel.

What is One Bag Travel?

One bag travel for me is any travel in which a person packs all their luggage in one carry on bag.  That is 22″ x 14″ x 9″ if you want to stick to domestic travel, 20″ x 14″ x 9″ for international travel and 18″ x 14″ x 9″ for certain airlines and smaller regional jets.  No “personal item” bag, no checked bags, just the one carry on.  It’s not easy, but I’m determined to make every trip fit this definition.  It doesn’t have to be a backpack, but if you plan on any Adventure Travel (my favorite kind) a backpack is really the best way to go, but I’ll share a secret with you, the bag is the least important part of one bag travel.  I know that’s crazy, but it’s true!  Except for the size and comfort of how it carries, the bag is not the thing you need to focus on.  It is, in fact, the packing list that is essential.  You can get the best bag in the world, but if you can’t fit your needs into it, it does you no good.


Why One Bag Travel?

So you might be asking, why would you want to travel with just one bag?  If you’ve adopted minimalism as a lifestyle, you might already know that it kind of creeps into every aspect of your life when you’re not looking.  That’s what happened to me.  It started with our missions trip to Kenya last June.  We were going to be gone for a month and we didn’t want to take more than we could carry in one trip.  Richard (husband) already had a Golite Jam 70 liter bag, but my backpacking backpack wasn’t going to cut it.  We had learned from our one year of living out of our suitcases on and off Catalina Island that rolling suitcases do not work in areas without consistent pavement, so we decided to stick with backpacks.  I got a 40 liter pack (more on that later) from REI and then due to the nature of the trip, we were forced to take a garment bag.  We were right, one bag per person was better and backpacks suited both of us best, but it was on our 24 hour layover in Amsterdam on the way home that we decided that one bag travel was the only way to go.  We knew we had to check the garment bag and Richard’s backpack, but mine had been my carry on the whole trip and we had brought a day pack that collapsed down.  We didn’t want to have to pick up bags in Amsterdam just to have to recheck them and we honestly had no idea if we even could so we packed 24 hours of stuff in my pack and our collapsible bag.  Because we only each had one bag, it was easy to get off the plane, get on the train into the city (Amsterdam’s airport is outside the city) and then walk to a hotel with a good rate without being cranky, in pain, or anymore tired than an international, 8 hour flight normally does.  It was then that we both decided, this was a superior way to travel!  If the idea of easy, simple travel without the hassle of dragging several bags through customs (and trying to remember if you have anything in them that you ought to claim), or waiting endlessly at baggage claim, or trying to drag your wheeled bags over old cobblestone streets, sounds like a dream come true, then why not one bag travel?

Where Do I Start?

I have taken the techniques I love in wilderness backpacking (think Wild by Cheryl Strayed) where I am an Ultralight backpacker and used them successfully in travel backpacking.  The first thing is the packing list.  Everything on your packing list should be able to be used for either more than one job, or in more than one situation.  So, my iPod Shuffle only does the one job, but it does that job everywhere and is in daily use.  It can go.  My white skirt not only makes a great airplane skirt, but it also works great when playing tourist.  It too can go.  My tablet can do most of the things my phone can, but it can’t do everything I need the way my Chromebook does and it’s not a phone.  So the tablet stays, but the phone and Chromebook go.  Do this with everything that you are packing and you will find you pack less right off the top.

Secondly, always pick 1-2 luxury items.  My two are my hair straightener and a small moleskin notebook.  Do I have to have the straightener?  No, but I like to have nice pictures of myself and my hair reacts oddly with water and humidity in different places, so I like having it.  My phone could do the job of my notebook, but I like tactile writing.  Don’t pick more than 2 luxury items.

Finally, once you know how much you have, you can get a bag and you need to get the smallest bag you can that fits your stuff.  If you get a bag with some wiggle room, you will fill it up every time.  Now the only caveat with that is, if you want to use the one bag for all seasons, you want to make sure it fits the most you might take like say in winter.  The other thing to remember is if you’re traveling in winter you’ll want to wear your jacket while traveling.


That’s where I’m going to stop for this month.  Next month, Packing solutions, what and how I pack, and how to get it all in your bag!