The Best Minimalist Travel Accessories and Sustainable Travel Gear

       Photo by Annie Spratt

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Our Best Minimalist Travel Accessories and Sustainable Travel Gear

In this post we have gathered the best minimalist travel accessories and sustainable travel gear. We have tried out a lot gear over decades of frequent travel. After traveling solo, as a couple, and through many years of family travel, we are firm believers in traveling light. It keeps the focus on our experiences and connections– not on stuff.  (Except for some seriously fun glamping trips where we packed all the extras!) 

As the world opens back up to travel, the industry is struggling to keep up. There are unprecedented flight cancelations, delays, exceptionally long lines, and reports of lost luggage. One of the top tips for reducing travel stress in 2022 is to ONLY bring carry-on luggage if you can. It is easier than you think and can greatly improve your travel experiences.

In this buying guide we share our favorites and hope that they are useful for your trips too! They make fantastic gifts for the thoughtful travelers in your life too! 

The Essential Minimalist Travel Accessories

  1. Backpack
  2. Daypack
  3. Packing cubes
  4. Wallet with cards and passport
  5. Phone 
  6. Electronics
  7. Sustainable Toiletries
  8. Medications
  9. Travel capsule wardrobe
  10. Reusable water bottle and travel mug
  11. Snacks

The Best Minimalist Travel Gear: Backpacks

For longer trips, your best bet is the Osprey Fairview for a typical woman’s build and the Farpoint for a typical man’s build. (Not sure what would be best? Order both and return one.) By packing smart, you can stay on the road indefinitely using just this and a day bag. They both come with many fitting options so you can adapt the pack to your body. A favorite feature are all of the carrying options. Wear it as a backpack for long hauls through the city, airport, or trail, but zip away the straps when you are about to board the plane or jump on public transit. Then you can carry it as a duffle, or even just use the top handle, and easily slide it it into the overhead compartment on the plane or tuck it by your feet on the subway. At 40L, this bag is small enough to carry on almost all airlines.

For the most frequent travelers, nothing beats a NOMATIC pack. After traveling extensively over many years and trying countless bags, this 20L bag is the top pick for shorter trips. It safely stores your laptop and is TSA ready with its laptop sleeve. A few packing cubes and other essentials are easily organized because of the smartly designed extra pockets and expandable zipper. There are two easy access water-bottle pockets so you can also carry your travel mug without spills. It is anti-theft, has multiple carrying options, and is rugged but still stylish. Infrequent travelers don’t need something this sturdy and should consider another more affordable brand. The whole NOMATIC line is recommended for very frequent travelers.

Best Minimalist Travel Gear: Daybags

For  travel purses and feminine daypacks, Sherpani is my top pick. They are cute and well organized enough for daily use, but I buy them specifically for their travel features.  In most major cities, our biggest threat isn’t violence, it is pickpocketing. When I know I’m going to be on crowded public transport or in a densely packed tourist hotspot, I use the zipper locks and extra clips. Most bags in this line have RFID protection and anti-slash straps. As a busy mom on trips, it provides some peace of mind while I’m juggling kids, luggage, and passports.  Additionally, they are usually made with vegan leather and/or recycled materials. I often travel with a small purse that fits inside a daypack, so I can adapt to the needs of the day and go as light as possible. I  also recommend Baggalini bags and daypacks.

The Best Minimalist Travel Accessories: Organizing Your Clothes

The hype is well founded on packing cubes, they really do make things easier and that is why they are at the top of our best travel gear list! We use them for all types of trips and packing situations: hotels with roller suitcases, backpacking, sailing, and car camping. You’ll always know where each clothing item is, and when you open up your bag in new lodgings, everything is easy to find. Plus, if your bag is pulled out at airport security, you have an extra level of privacy. We mostly use E-Bags and they have held up well for years.

Tip for families: get everyone their own color so you can stay organized and get out of your lodgings more quickly.

Our Kikkerland travel laundry bag is with me on almost every trip.  We are a family of five and dirty laundry adds up fast. Now everyone is older and manages their own laundry, so  I use these fun and lightweight bags. (I clip the mini clothesline to one so we are always ready to go!) Just add your dirty clothes each day and you are all set on laundry day–  whether at a machine, in the sink, or when you get home.

A mini clothesline is a surprisingly useful piece of gear. We are big fans of packing light, but that means we have to do more laundry. Sometimes a visit to a laundromat can be an interesting local experience, but often we have other things we would rather do. String up this mini clothesline after you wash your clothes in the sink or washer. (Lots of international rentals have a washing machine but no dryer.) If you get in the habit of doing this after dinner once or twice a week while traveling, you can pack in a lot more adventure. Plus they come in handy after getting caught in heavy rain or after spending a day at the beach.


Unless we are moving or traveling under unusual circumstances, we try to avoid checking luggage. This means we have to be very thoughtful about what we pack and what we leave behind. A luggage scale helps make this easy, even when we are on our way home and have picked up weight in added souvenirs and gifts. This scale is lightweight enough to  travel with us and we can plan **before** we get to the airport what extra coats we are going to wear to board the plane and keep our packed weight down. This is an item you can leave behind if you are experinced at packing light, but it can be worth the extra space if you aren’t.

The Best Sustainable Travel Gear: Toiletries

Silver Falls Sustainability Company is giving Trip Scholars readers an extra 10% off! Check them out, you’ll love having them in your carryon!

Silver Falls Sustainability Company is where we get a lot of our regular toiletries. They are an excellent addition to your sustainable travel gear because they are solids, so you don’t need treat them as liquids through security.

Even better, they are plastic free and environmentally friendly. Silver Falls doesn’t use plastics in their shipping and they don’t test on animals.

They have deodorant, shampoo and conditioner bars, lip balms, sunscreens, and laundry sheets. Grab one of their cotton sacks to travel with the bars. All of their products we have used are high quality and effective. 

These Super Bee toothpaste tablets work great and leave your breath nice and fresh. They are vegan and made with natural products.

One of our favorite things about traveling with them is the packaging. Lots of other brands are either in plastic bags or plastic jars– these come in a tin, perfect for travel and with there is no extra waste. 

Travel Capsule Wardrobe

A travel capsule wardrobe is a collection of compatible, multi-purpose, functional clothing. Ideally you will pack a week’s worth of clothing that you can wash mid-trip if you are on the road longer than seven days. Look for comfortable, wrinkle-free, lightweight staples that you can layer and dress up or down depending on the occasion. Choose a cohesive color palette and consider UPF clothing. Here are some of our favorites brands in our capsule wardrobes: Columbia, Eddie Bower, and Royal Robbins.

The Best Sustainable Travel Gear: Food and Drinks

Whether we are going on a road trip or boarding a plane, we always try to bring a reusable travel mug. They easily make the list of best sustainable travel gear because you can ditch all the disposable coffee cups. These mugs make it easy to hit the road first thing in the morning and they reduce waste. For our family of five we have about a dozen of these in the cupboard so we can grab them and go. Sticking with the same type makes it easy to always find a matching lid!

Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is key to staying healthy and packing in a lot of adventures so a water bottle is always at the top of our packing list. Hydro Flasks are better insulated than most. They also offer straw and sport top lids so you can adapt the bottle to the type of travel you’ll be enjoying. We slide ours into the side pocket of our day bags and stop at the refill station once we are through security at the airport. If you are staying in a hotel, most of their fitness centers have a filtered water dispenser. Stop in on your way in and out of your room each day to stay hydrated without creating more plastic waste.

Okay, we admit to being coffee snobs! But really, it is a drag to drink the coffee that is in most hotels and sometimes you don’t have time to stop to pick up groceries before you check into a home rental. If the thought of being without good coffee in the morning makes you anxious,  just keep a box of Starbucks Coffee Vias in your bag. They aren’t as good as a freshly ground slow drip or a pour over, but they are much better than 90% of the coffees you’ll find in hotels and will give you are great start to your mornings. If you are concerned about the waste from the packaging, another good option is an AeroPress , which makes a smooth, quick brew on the go. If you are traveling very light, it may take up too much space so consider the measurements (9 1/2″ h X 4″ w X 4″ d) before purchasing.

RXBARS are one of my favorite snacks, but the important thing when traveling is to have **some** kind of snacks with you! This is even more important when you are traveling with kids or in precarious weather conditions. The one known in travel is that there will be many unknowns, and at some point all of us are going to get stuck on the runway, have trouble finding our lodgings, or get a flat tire. Keeping snacks in your bag will always be a good choice!

Packing Only Carry-on Luggage

I hope this buying guide helps you travel light and spend more time enjoying your trip! Do you have any questions about traveling without checked luggage or suggestions for others? Do you have a good story about how your amount of luggage impacted your travels?  Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!

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11 thoughts on “The Best Minimalist Travel Accessories and Sustainable Travel Gear”

  1. This is great! Ive always wanted to be someone who could do carry-on only, but I overpack horribly. I really do want to try your idea of a capsule wardrobe and clothesline on our next trip. Thanks for the great tips.

  2. Great tips, I’m going to check out Silver Falls. I’ve been researching some bar shampoos and other sustainable items that would be great for travel and haven’t heard of this one.

  3. I also use the Kikkerland Travel Laundry Bag and find it really useful during family trips. Also, thank you for recommending the Super Bee toothpaste tablets. I’ve just bought one tin thanks to your recommendation and it feels so clean and fresh after using.

  4. I am always on the lookout for good new gear. The Nomatic Travel Pack looks like a great short trip bag. And that laundry bag looks like a perfect one for travelling. I have not seen toothpaste tablets so that was interesting to see.

  5. I always bring way too much stuff and I’m trying to improve this because my boyfriend is not happy to carry all of that haha… These are great tips. And many cool products that I didn’t know about. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Great tips for travelling with just a carry-on. It sure is needed these days. I love the toothpaste tablets. Especially when flying, I always feel yuk and these would be much easier than digging out toothbrush and toothpaste.


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