Minimalist Travel

Pack like a Minimalist: How to Pack a 7kg Carry-on Luggage

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In the past few years, airlines keep changing their carry-on luggage regulations, where they continue to reduce the weight of the hand-carry luggage.

The majority of airlines allow between 7kg to 10kg luggage allowance. And you are allowed to have one cabin approved size luggage or backpack and a personal bag (purse or laptop bag).

However, some low-cost carriers, like AirAsia and Jetstar, are limiting their passengers to a total of 7 kg of hand-carry baggage. That’s not a lot!

There is a reason why low-cost carriers are called “low-cost.” They separate the airfare with the cost of checking in your luggage, which then the airfare seems cheaper than other airlines. If you travel with carry-on luggage only (i.e., no checked bags), it is cheaper to fly with low-cost carriers.

As a solo traveller, I travel on a budget. I try to save money whenever I can. And I fly with low-cost carriers because I do save a bit of money.

But if I can only save money by not checking in my bag. This means I have to pack all my belongings in a cabin approved luggage, and everything must weigh under 7 kg.



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Pack like a Minimalist

I’ve been travelling solo for the past 16 years and have slowly learned how to pack my backpack efficiently.

From my early travel days where I hauled a 75-litre backpack, to my current 24-litre minimalist bag where I only have my essentials, I have slowly mastered the art of packing. I have come a long way!

I consider myself a minimalist traveller because I don’t travel with a lot of things. I am pretty comfortable with having so little while I travel. And I typically have the same amount of items, whether I travel for two weeks or a few months.

If you learn how to pack like a minimalist, you can travel only with carry-on luggage with the bare minimum. It is such a freeing feeling living with so little.

So if you want to take advantage of cheap flights with low-cost carriers, then you’ll have to learn how to pack your carry-on luggage like a minimalist.




How to pack a 7 kg carry-on luggage

Most airlines have a carry-on baggage allowance of between 7kg to 10kg, where you can have one main cabin approved bag or backpack and a personal bag.

Base on the strictest airline regulations (i.e. most low-cost carriers), you are allowed to one luggage and a personal bag with a combined weight of 7 kg.

So the goal is to pack all your belongings in one luggage and a personal bag where the combined weight is less than 7kg.


Below are the steps on how you can pack 7kg of carry-on bags:

  1. Select the lightest travel bags
  2. Determine what you must bring
  3. Invest in a handheld luggage scale
  4. Weigh all your belongings
  5. If you’re over 7kg, remove non-essential items


I’ll also share some tips on how to eliminate non-essential items so you can remove some unwanted weight to your luggage.



1. Select the lightest travel bags

First, choose a lightweight suitcase or backpack as your primary travel bag.

It depends on your travel style; you may want to use a suitcase, so you don’t have to carry anything on your back.

I like travelling with a backpack because it frees up my hands. And if my pack is less than 7kg, it is not too heavy for my back, and I can still walk pretty long distances with a backpack on my back.

I use the Wanaka Adapt Backpack as my cabin size baggage. The bag is extremely light and has enough capacity for all my belongings. You can read more about my review on the Wanaka Adapt Backpack.

Also, you should bring a daypack or a purse for your trip. I like to use a smaller backpack for everyday use. One of the most significant benefits of using a backpack is that the weight distributes evenly on your shoulders.

I put all my necessities and technology in my Fjallraven Re-Kanken backpack. I like the Re-Kanken bag because it is very light and it folds into nothing when I don’t use it.




2. Determine what you must bring

These items are the non-negotiable things that you need for your trip. There is no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. You need it. So you have to bring it.

Typically, your must-have items will include a few sets of clothes, toiletries and other essential items.

And if you are a digital nomad, you will have additional items like laptops, cameras, etc.

The best thing to do is to take out all the items you want to bring, lay them all out so you can see exactly what you have.

Then neatly put all your belongings into your luggage or backpack and your daypack.

If you have no idea what you should bring on your trip, keep reading. I included my full packing list, and all must bring items so you can get a sense of what yours should look like.


Check out my favourite minimalist travel gears! I never leave home without them!




3. Invest in a handheld luggage scale

Purchase a handheld luggage scale. I bought mine a few years ago, and it has been instrumental in how I pack. Never thought I’d use a hand-held luggage scale this much, but it has been super handy having one around.

The handheld luggage scale is cheap, and you can buy it at any luggage store or Amazon.

You don’t need to bring a handheld scale while you travel. Weigh your bag at the beginning of your trip, and don’t buy anything to add to the weight of your backpack.

If you do buy something during your travels, get rid of something equally big or bulky from your backpack.

For me, I donate my old clothes to a local charity towards the end of my trip. It frees up a bit of space in my backpack, where I can fill it with new purchases. It’s a win-win situation! Ha!



4. Weigh all your belongings

Next, weigh your main travel bag and your day bag, with all the contents inside both bags.


If you have less than 7kg of items

Congratulations! It is quite the achievement if you can manage to have less than 7kg of belongings on your first try. Seriously, you need to celebrate! It is a huge win! It took me years to perfect my minimalist packing!

And most of all, you understand the minimalist mindset when it comes to travelling and will enjoy all the benefits of a minimalist traveller.


If you have over 7kg of items

If you have more than 7kg, take out items from your bag until you only have a total weight of 7kg or less.

And don’t feel discouraged. I will be the first to admit that packing all my belongings in a 7kg luggage is pretty tricky. There were many times I went over the limit and had to keep trimming my packing list. It takes a bit of practice for sure!




5. Remove non-essential items from your travel bag

If there are items in your bag that you can easily purchase at your destination, take them out of your bag.

Or items you think you might need, take them out as well.

Some items that you might want to take out of your backpack include:

  • Umbrella
  • Bedsheet
  • Extra clothes or “just-in-case” clothes
  • Hiking poles
  • Flippers/snorkelling gears
  • Sleeping bag
  • Hairdryer/hair straightener
  • etc.



Learning how to pack a 7kg carry-on luggage is not easy but is achievable. Follow my packing list, and you too can pack like a minimalist!

Learning how to pack a 7kg carry-on luggage is not easy but is achievable. Follow my packing list, and you too can pack like a minimalist!

Other packing tips to keep your backpack weighing less than 7 kg


Use the lightest travel bag you can find

Whether you use a rolling suitcase or backpack, find the lightest version.

If you choose a backpack, select a one that has a smaller frame or no frame at all.

I love my Wanaka Adapt Backpack. The 24-litre backpack can hold all my belongings and still have extra room. And the pack only weighs 1lb 6 oz.



Choose a 20-30 litre backpack

A 20 to 30-liter pack is big enough for all your belongings.

If you have a bigger backpack, you will be tempted to pack more stuff. And if you have a smaller backpack, it may not have enough space.

A backpack of 20 to 30-litres can hold everything you need and some. It is useful to have the extra space just in case you need to carry things along the way, like food and other toiletries items you buy while you are travelling.


Here are a few excellent 20 to 30-litre backpacks that are lightweight and great to use:



Wear your heaviest clothing on the plane

Wear the heaviest and the bulkiest items while you are travelling.

That means wear your jeans or a dress for the plane ride. Also, use the sarong as a scarf (because it might be chilly on the plane).

Wear the sneakers because it takes up the most room in your bag out of all your shoes. Or wear your casual shoes if they are heavier than your sneakers.

You want to minimize the weight of your bag by putting the heaviest items on you.




Bring the lightest version of everything

For example, if you have several daypacks to choose from, select the lightest version for your trip. I love using the Fjallraven Re-Kanken backpack because it is super lightweight.

Another example is a water bottle. There are many types of water bottles in the market. Select one that is lightweight and easy to use. I always bring my Squeeze water bottle because it is one of the lightest water bottles I can find.

Sneakers can be big, bulky and heavy. I ended up buying the lightest pair of sneakers I can find, which is the Nike Free RN Flyknit. It weighs next to nothing, and it is flexible, which means easy to pack in my small backpack.

Also, for future purchases, consider the weight of anything you are shopping for. I’ve been a minimalist traveller for a while and am very aware of the weight of every item I am interested in buying. I tend to consider the weight of the item before buying it. I know it all sounds kind of nutty. But it has been helpful.

So if you can swap any of your must-bring items to a lighter version, do it!



Bring items that have multiple purposes

It is beneficial to bring things that have numerous uses.

I love bringing a sarong because it can be used as a scarf, swimsuit cover-up, or beach towel.

And I always bring my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. Not only do I use it as a traditional phone, but it is also my camera, navigator, kindle book reader, exchange rate calculator, etc. It has so many purposes that I would be lost without a smartphone.




Select 3 to 4 sets of clothing where you can mix and match

Usually, solid colour clothing works best to coordinate with each other.

Avoid patterned clothing like plaid, flowers or anything like a pattern or a distinct graphic. It will look like you are always wearing the same thing in all your photos. But with solid colours, yes, you are always wearing the same thing, but it is less obvious.

Follow my packing guide for creating a minimalist travel wardrobe. I included a visual guide for all the pieces you should bring for every trip.



Packing tips for digital nomads

If you work on the road, it might be difficult only to have 7kg of belongings.

MacBooks, camera equipment, drones, power banks, and other equipment that you need will take up a lot of weight and a lot of room.

It depends on what field you are in; you may or may not be able to switch to lighter equipment.

As a travel blogger, I keep my equipment really simple.

I used to travel with a 15” MacBook Pro because I worked remotely as an Interior Designer. I needed a powerful laptop to do AutoCAD drawings. The MacBook Pro and adapter weigh over 2.5kg!! Woah – no wonder my backpack was always so heavy!

Since transiting to a travel blogger, I keep my equipment simple. I travel with a MacBook Notebook 12″, a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ mobile phone, which I use as my camera and photo editor, and a selfie stick which also acts as a tripod. That’s it!

The switching of the laptop helped quite a bit with the weight limit. I went from a 2kg 15” MacBook Pro to a 0.92kg 12” MacBook Notebook. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if I have only 7kg to work with, a whole kilo is a big deal!

If it is possible, switch to a lighter version of the equipment you need while working on the road.


The contents of my 7kg cabin size backpack. I live with all these items for the entire duration of my trip

The contents of my 7kg cabin size backpack. I live with all these items for the entire duration of my trip

What I pack in my 7kg or less carry-on backpack

So, the goal is to pack all my belongings and weigh less than 7kg.

First, I start with a light minimalist backpack. I love my Wanaka Adapt Backpack! The backpack has a capacity of 24-litre, and I can fully utilize every square inch in my backpack while my belongings stay organized. Read more about my review on the Wanaka Adapt Backpack.

And I also bring a daypack, which is excellent for everyday use. I love using my Fjallraven Re-Kanken backpack because it is lightweight, and is made out of recycled material.

Next, I follow my packing list, which includes my minimalist travel wardrobe, my minimalist toiletries, and other must-bring items.


  • 3 packing cubes with the following items:
  • 3 t-shirts and tank tops
  • 2 shorts
  • 1 pants/jeans
  • Dress
  • Sweater
  • 1 set of clothing for sleeping/working out
  • 4 underwear
  • 2 bras
  • 1 swimming suit
  • Sarong
  • 1 pair of socks
  • Sneakers
  • Casual sandals
  • Flip flops


*Note – I only have sufficient toiletries for few weeks. For a trip more than a few weeks, I typically buy shampoo bar, facial cleanser and face cream at my destination or make my own eco friendly toiletries.


Other items:




I pack all my technology items (laptop, adapters, mobile phone) and my necessities in my daypack. It weighs 1.97kg.

And I pack all my clothing, toiletries and everything else in my main backpack. And it weighs 4.62kg.

Essentially, I already have less than 7kg as a combined weight. I am just right on target! Success!

I like to keep it just under 7kg (in case I buy something during the trip).

There were a few things I would’ve like to bring, but it doesn’t look like I can add them to my bag. So this is what I will live with for the entire time of my trip.


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Are you guys aware that some low-cost carriers are limiting the carry-on luggage weight to 7kg? If you are travelling with AirAsia or Jetstar (and possibly other low-cost carriers), you can only bring a cabin approved bag and a personal bag (like a purse or computer bag) and the combined weight cannot be more than 7kg. Otherwise, you will have to check-in your bag, i.e. pay more. . Typically, I travel with carry-on luggage only. But even as a minimalist traveller, it is tough to pack only 7kg worth of belongings, and I've been travelling solo for a long time! . It took me years to downsize my backpack, and I've finally come up with a packing list where it fits into a 7kg backpack! Check out my latest post on how you can pack a 7kg carry-on luggage. I also gave a bunch of tips on how you can eliminate weight from your bag just in case you need it. Link is in bio

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Are you ready to pack your 7 kg baggage?

Bringing only 7kg worth of belongings is not a lot. And it is rather difficult to sort out the types of things you need on your trip. It is challenging. I will be the first to admit it!

It takes a bit of practice, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away. It took me a while before I learned how to pack less for every trip.

And let me know in the comments if you have any other tips and tricks for packing a lightweight backpack that is less than 7kg.



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last update: January 11, 2020

About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 16+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!


  • Kate
    December 27, 2019 at 11:12 pm

    Pretty helpful, but how the heck are you bringing only one pair of socks?

    • queenie mak
      December 28, 2019 at 12:14 pm

      Hi Kate, I tend to travel to warmer places so I wear a lot of open-toed shoes. But adding more socks to the packing list is totally do-able! It all depends on your own preference! Thanks for your comment! 🙂


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