Extreme Minimalism: How to Fit Everything You Own in a 42 Litre Backpack

This is a quick follow-up to the post I wrote last December about how to fit everything you own into carry-on luggage. I’ve downsized quite a bit since then, and I can now fit everything I own into a 42 litre backpack.

Of course, most backpackers can claim the same, but I’m not leaving anything in storage or aiming to do this only for a few months. I literally own nothing more than I can carry on my back right now, and I expect it to remain that way for the next three years or so as I try to circumnavigate the globe without flying.

I started with this whole minimalist kick almost 18 months ago, and I still find it working well for me. I can’t think of anything I’ve gotten rid of — more than 300 items now — that I’ve since missed. I’ve shifted away from valuing material things and more towards valuing experiences. I feel free πŸ™‚

You can check out a full list of my current possessions here. I’m counting 44 items, but you might count more or less. The number doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that I have just what I need and nothing more.

Do your possessions serve you?

I don’t think everyone should own so little. It makes sense for me because I’ve made travel a priority; the amount of stuff I own no longer hinders me from packing up and moving on at a moment’s notice.

How about you? Do you have so much that it’s become a burden, or does every item you own serve the type of life you really want to be living?

P.S. I’m leaving Burgos today (Friday), heading back to Ireland via land and sea. Comment moderation and email replies will likely be a little slower than usual while I’m on the move.

P.P.S. Here’s the post by Karol Gadja that I mentioned in the video above: 15 Minutes – Clean Clothes – Anywhere In The World

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  1. Nice one Niall, it’d be safe to assume you won’t be travelling to any colder climates in the next few years?

    And what a cop out, you didn’t do your video in your undies, clearly not a true minimalist! πŸ™‚

    1. I was completely naked under my clothes, I swear!

      And yeah, hoping to avoid colder climates. I much prefer warm weather. But I will be in Ireland in September and Poland a few weeks later, so I may need to buy a jumper or a fleece or something. If I need something like that, I’ll buy it in a charity shop and then donate it back again when I reach a warmer climate.

      Cheers for the comment, man.

  2. Nice! Due to my newness to minimalism, getting down to this amount of stuff is fascinating to me. I can now fit everything I have in a pickup truck, but not a backpack. Yet. πŸ™‚

    I have a friend, Andrew, who has been traveling with only a backpack, and based on what I’ve heard from him, I suspect you are going to reduce what you are carrying to even less. You heard it here first. πŸ™‚ Here is an interesting post about by my friend, by the way: http://andrewhy.de/extreme-minimalism.


    1. Hey Jeremy, thanks for the comment. I’ve come across that post by Andrew before. Impressive stuff. Tynan is another guy that lives out of a small backpack like that. Maybe I’ll end up reducing my possessions even further, definitely not gonna rule that out. Not sure how much my backpack currently weighs, but walking with it for more than an hour is a bit of a pain. I definitely wouldn’t be able to take everything on a hike with me.

      Good luck with your own minimalist journey!

  3. No Jumpers Niall, you are a brave man!

    I can’t live without a jumper or two… I feel the cold!

    Very impressive, well done!

    P.S. There is a note under my post that says the version of CommentLuv on this site is out of date and will soon stop working, needs updating!


    1. Ah, thanks a mil for the heads up on that Janice. I’ll get it sorted in the next few weeks.

      And yeah, I expect I will pick up a jumper at some point, but I’ll ditch it again as soon as I get to warmer climates πŸ™‚

  4. No jumpers, you macho man you! I’d die!

    Good luck on the start of your journey amigo, looking forward to showing you the classy establishments (haha) that is Durham and Newcastle!

  5. “I can’t think of anything I’ve gotten rid of β€” more than 300 items now β€” that I’ve since missed. I’ve shifted away from valuing material things and more towards valuing experiences. I feel free”

    yeah, right. πŸ˜› just give it a little time. ^^

    i’ve tried that, lasted 2 weeks. i was younger though.

    1. Good question. I was paying rent in an apartment in Burgos and that had everything I needed. So I had full use of a kitchen, but I didn’t own any of those things. I hope to do the same in other places I live for the next few years: just rent an apartment that already has everything I need. I know most apartments come completely empty in the US, but in Europe at least it’s pretty common for them to have everything there for you.

      1. Really? I didn’t know that. I always wonder what extreme minimalist folks do about furniture and dishes and the like, and I assume that they get them at thrift stores and then sell them or donate them later, like you said about warmer clothes. Having an apartment with stuff already in it would be helpful, though.

      2. All you need is a stainless steel water bottle, GSI cup to fit bottle and spork. Simple stuff. Should have some water with you any way. Sometimes it can get thirsty out there.

        Cheers mate.

  6. I took a class a while ago from the local community college and they said that getting rid of possessions simplifies your life and can decrease your stress level! That’s so great! I’m glad that you have tried this life and I think you are an inspiration to people who feel like they can’t get out of their possessions and 9-5 job. Very cool!

    Other thing…. if you don’t own any cooking supplies, how do you cook your food? I didn’t think you could rent spatulas and wooden spoons πŸ™‚

  7. I’d just like to add to Niall’s reply to Devin, about owning things like dishes, cookware etc.

    I have lived out of a suitcase for over 12 years now and do not own any of these things. I have moved around and always either house / unit shared with others where the place is fully furnished with all these things or have sub-let a unit / studio apartment that is fully furnished with these things… you really do not need to own anything outside of a few clothes and a small mobile office for work (laptop etc)…

    and it’s good for the environment to share all these things with others instead of everyone owning their own sets of dishes, plates, saucepans, beds, hoovers, televisions, dvds, washing machines… etc etc never ending etc!!!

    1. Thanks for sharing all that, Janice. Much appreciated.

      Some folks may see this as freeloading, but I also strongly believe in sharing what I have, whether that be possessions, time, skills, or sometimes even money. We’re moving more towards a sharing economy, where access trumps ownership. This is a very good thing for us all, and for the planet.

  8. I don’t think I can be that type of a minimalist at this current stage in my life. That said, I have recently taken steps to reduce the amount of things I own – like going through stuff under my bed and in my home and either throwing away or recycling 3 bags full of stuff ( and that was only the beginning – I haven’t touched my clothes yet! )

    Right now, the main things I use are my laptop, a TV, a xbox ( for my fighting games hobby ) and a soon to be replaced arcade stick for playing said fighting games ( I’m buying a top of the range stick from someone next week. ) Even then, if I wanted to embrace minimalism and become a nomad myself, I can always look up ways to continue this hobby without such possessions.

    That said, I like what I see with your current set up. Good luck getting back to Ireland.

    1. Nice one, Adrian. Congrats on getting rid of some of that stuff you didn’t need. I think you could definitely travel with that hobby of yours. There are ways to make it work, I’m sure.

  9. Great Post, Dude !

    My wife was uber impressed with the backpack. She is planning to by that and use it for a trip to Puerto Rico next month !



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  11. hey awesome video! What’s the underwear you’re talking about? I’ve never heard of it before, perhaps you have a link to buy these product? I’m going on a trip very soon myself and want to pack very minimal, great inspirational video!

  12. Hello I am reading your blog it was very interesting. I need some of your advice before I go to Gallaudet Uniersity in Washington DC for the first time living in Washington DC on campus dorm. I need your guide line what should I taking to my own dorm room. I do not want to carry too many thing with me. I know I will be carry my technology laptop, tablets, kindle, fashdrive with me. I need to know what do I carry with me.

  13. Hi I’m a 40year old minimalist from new Zealand. I’ve always been a minimalist since a child.my family is the opposite. Lol. I find the older I get the more of a minimalist I get. I own 20things(for past 10years)not including my cat and her food dishes etc.lol

  14. Pingback: Simplify Your Life: 7 Steps To Becoming A Work Minimalist

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