Minimalist Travel

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

I’ve been travelling solo for the past 19 years and have been to many places and packed many bags! From my early travel days when I hauled a 75-litre backpack to my current 24-litre minimalist bag where I only have my travel essentials, I have slowly mastered the art of packing. I have come a long way!

And as a minimalist traveller, I am comfortable with one-bag travel and having very few essential travel items. And I typically have the same amount of items, whether I travel for two weeks or a few months.

In this post, I will show you how to pack 7kg carry on luggage, tips on packing light and what I pack in my 7kg carry on bag. If you want to pack light, save money and travel like a minimalist traveller, then keep reading!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through them, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost. Thank you for supporting this website. For more information, please read the disclosure for more info.

Why you should travel with a 7kg hand carry bag

In the past few years, airlines have kept changing their carry on luggage size and regulations, where they continue to reduce the weight of hand luggage bags.

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

However, some low-cost carriers, like AirAsia and Jetstar, limit their passengers to a total of 7kg of carry on bag. And you may be wondering, how much is 7 kg? It’s not a lot at all!

There is a reason why low-cost carriers are called “low-cost.” They separate the airfare from the cost of checking in your luggage, making it seem cheaper than other airlines. If you travel with carry on suitcase 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. So I fly with low-cost carriers because I can save a bit of money by not checking in my luggage.

Not only will you save money but you will also save time from waiting for your checked baggage. And by travelling light, you can move around easily and not worry about all your belongings.

And it is possible to pack all your belongings in one carry on luggage bag and a personal bag where the combined weight is less than 7 kg. And I will show you exactly how you can do that.

How to pack 7kg carry on luggage

Below are the steps on how you can pack a 7kg luggage bag:

  1. Select the lightest carry on suitcase or backpack and daypack
  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

1. Select the lightest carry on suitcase or backpack and daypack

First, choose a lightweight carry on 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.

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

I use the Wanaka Adapt Backpack as my 7 kg cabin baggage because the size is perfect for the overhead bin. The bag is extremely light and has enough capacity for all my belongings. 

As for the daypack, use either a small, lightweight backpack or a purse for your trip. I like to use my Fjallraven Re-Kanken backpack for everyday use. One of the most significant benefits of using a backpack is that the weight distributes evenly on your shoulders.

2. Determine what you must bring

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

Typically, your must-have items include a few sets of clothes, travel 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 and lay them out so you can see exactly what you have.

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

If you have no idea what you should bring on your trip, take a look at my comprehensive packing list for a minimalist traveller. I detailed every single item and included photographs as well.

3. Invest in a handheld luggage scale

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

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

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, which I can fill with new purchases. It’s a win-win situation! Ha!

4. Weigh all your belongings

If you are wondering how heavy is 7kg is, well, it’s not a lot.

The best way to figure out exactly how much your bags weigh is to use a handheld luggage scale and weigh your main travel bag and your daypack, with all the contents inside both bags.

If your bag weighs less than 7 kg

Congratulations! It is quite an achievement to pack a 7kg bag 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 your bag weighs more than 7 kg

If your bag weighs 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 bag is pretty difficult. I often 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 carry on 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.

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

1. Choose a lightweight carry-on suitcase or backpack – the ultimate 7 kg cabin baggage size

There are many ultra-lightweight and durable carry-on suitcases with the perfect hand-carry luggage size that you can easily stow in the overhead cabin.

And if you want to use a carry on backpack, choose one between 20 to 30 litres with either a small frame or no frame. You will be tempted to pack more stuff if you have a bigger backpack. And if you have a smaller backpack, it may not have enough space. So a backpack of 20 to 30 litre is just perfect!

Both of these options is the ultimate 7 kg luggage bag size: they are not too big for stowing in the cabin and not too small for fitting all your belongings.

2. 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 your 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.

3. Bring the lightest version of everything

For example, if you have several daypacks, 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 bought the lightest pair of sneakers I could find, the Nike Free RN Flyknit. It weighs next to nothing and is flexible, making it easy to pack in my small backpack.

Also, consider the weight of anything you are shopping for future purchases. I’ve been a minimalist traveller for a while and know 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 nutty. But it has been helpful.

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

4. Bring items that have multiple purposes

It is beneficial to bring travel items that have numerous purposes.

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.

5. Select 3 to 4 sets of clothing that you can mix and match

When you put together your travel capsule wardrobe, select clothing in solid colours that you can easily mix and match to create different outfits.

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.

6. Packing tips for digital nomads

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

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

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

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 have kept my equipment simple. I travel with a 12″ MacBook Notebook, a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ mobile phone 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 7 kgs to work with, shedding a whole kilo is a big deal!

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

What I pack in my minimalist 7 kg cabin baggage

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

First, I start with a light minimalist backpack. My backpack has a capacity of 24 litres, and I can fully utilize every square inch in my backpack while my belongings stay organized. 

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 made of recycled material.

Next, I pack my belongings into the two bags. These four groups of travel items include:

  1. Travel Capsule Wardrobe
  2. Dry and Wet Toiletries
  3. Other Necessities
  4. Items for Travel Daypack

I detailed every single item and how I pack each travel essential in my post on my perfect minimalist packing list.

My travel daypack has my technology items (laptop, mobile phone) and things I cannot live without. It weighs 1.97kg.

Then I weigh my travel backpack with all my clothing, toiletries and other necessities and it weighs 4.62kg.

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

And I like to keep it just under 7 kilo (then I have room if I buy something during the trip).

Are you ready to travel with carry on only and pack a 7kg cabin baggage?

Bringing only a cabin bag with 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, and 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.

I took my own advice, and I could pack a 7kg bag for a month in Singapore, several weeks in Budapest and also spend a few months in Japan. And I will continue to keep travelling this way.

Let me know in the comments if you have other tips and tricks for packing a carry-on that weighs less than 7kg.

And if you enjoyed reading this post about minimalist travelling, check out my packing list for minimalist hiking. Spoiler alert – it’s a short list.

Thank you for reading my 7kg cabin baggage post

You might also like these other posts on minimalist travel:

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ 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! 🙂

  • Alex
    April 17, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Hi Queenie, this is great info! How long are the trips that you usually go on? I typically travel 6-8 months at a time, so it seems a little harder to stick with 7kg, but I’m inspired to try!

    • queenie mak
      April 17, 2020 at 9:52 pm

      Hi Alex! Thank you so much for your comment. I typically go between 3 – 4 months at a time. My longest was 5 months and I packed a 7kg bag. I noticed that I always pack the same things whether I go for 2 weeks or 5 months. But I do go to places with warmer climates so I’m not worrying about packing clothes for cooler weather. So perhaps thats how I managed to keep it under 7kg. Hope you try it out and let me know how it goes 🙂

  • Rohit Tripathi
    May 5, 2020 at 3:53 pm

    Based on your recommendation, i bought the wanaka adapt. But that company seems like a scam. I paid on 18th march and its been 50 days+ and thhey haven’t delivered. They are not responding to my tweets, fb messages, email or anything. I am just disheartened.

    • queenie mak
      May 5, 2020 at 8:12 pm

      Hi Rohit, I’m sorry this is happening. When I ordered my backpack through the Kickstarter program, it took awhile but it was because it was a new product and they were having issues with shipping it from Asia?! I can’t remember all the details. I’m not sure if they are still going through Kickstarter or their own website. I’m not affiliate with them. I am just writing about how I like the product. But it seems like they are not delivering. I’m not sure how to help you directly but I can assure you I will put a disclaimer at the top of the post. In the past, they responded on Instagram. Maybe give that a try?

      • Rohit Tripathi
        June 27, 2020 at 11:49 am

        Hello Queenie,

        After 3 months of frustration. Wanaka guys did refund my money. But still did not reply to any of my emails. That company is incredibly unprofessional. I ended up buying Zpacks Nero, which seems like a much better deal as that backpack weighs only 300g which is fantastic for travelers like us.

        • queenie mak
          June 29, 2020 at 11:02 am

          Hi Rohit, thank you letting me know about the outcome. I’m so sorry you went through all of that. It must be so frustrating. Since your last message, I’ve removed all the links and put a disclaimer about being careful when purchasing this backpack. And I’m considering re-writing posts that has to do with this backpack. I’m sadden by your experience because it was suppose to be a happy thing, planning to travel, etc. Anyway I am glad you let me know. And I will check out the backpack you mentioned. Hope you’ve been well otherwise 🙂

        • Sue
          August 30, 2020 at 4:05 pm

          I see No deodorant. No Eye drops. No Panty Liners. No Prescription Meds. No Glasses. No Sunscreen. No Hat. No Jacket. This does not post says I already said that, NO I did not

          • Carol
            March 23, 2023 at 5:40 pm

            Most of these things are in her ‘Toiletries bag’ post, where she also talks about buying these requirements at her destination unless you need specific items. In which case you must do what you need to do, as mentioned in that post
            She carries a sweater rather than a jacket (see the ‘Minimalist wardrobe’ post, but again, you do you.

          • queenie mak
            March 24, 2023 at 10:24 pm

            Hi Carol, thanks for your comment. I think the beauty of creating a guide is that you can use it as a template and tailor it to exactly how it works for you. I’m so happy you also read my other posts – I really enjoyed putting these posts together. Thanks again for your comment 🙂

  • Kim
    September 22, 2020 at 5:18 am

    This is a great philosophy for any carry on even if you have a suitcase too. This way you have a core wardrobe for your trip if your suitcase is lost. I did this when traveling to New Zealand in their summer for a cruise. Air New Zealand has 7kg limit. I found a lightweight rolling duffel. I wore ankle jeans with a nice top and a light zip up, slip on clogs and carried my puffer jacket as coming from MN winter. In my duffel I had fancy black ankle pants and one fancy top for dinner. One nice top and 3 t-shirts in a small packing cube. with 2 rolled capris and Hand Washable nightgown. For shoes, walking sandals and black flats dress sandals. I had my curling iron and minimal toiletries and make up. This way if my suitcase was lost my trip went on with out a hitch. I wear 16w so finding clothes in airports and ships is not an option. In my personal bag, I had my papers, kindle, phone water, snacks, medicine, liquids quart bag and small packable jacket. I do this approach for all traveling, with or with out a checked bag.

    • queenie mak
      September 24, 2020 at 12:35 pm

      HI Kim, I totally agree – it’s great to pack all the essentials in your carry-on (because you never know what can happen to your luggage), then you don’t have to scramble to buy new things. I also like anything lightweight – the lightweight rolling duffel sounds great! And same with puffer jackets – so useful and light! I’ll have to come back to your comment about packing a carry-on and check-in luggage – I will plan a trip to NZ in the future so your tips are super helpful. Thanks for the comments again! 🙂

  • Irfan Sing
    July 10, 2021 at 10:20 am

    Hello! I’m doing a RTW trip next year, and I’m a little worried about my carry on not being okay with every airline. Have you ever done a continuous trip, where you passed different airlines with their own guidelines? Have you ever had to check in a bag that is considered carry-on in another airline? I’m thinking of just buying the smallest carry on size in all the airlines, but I’m a girl and would prefer to carry the standard (22x14x9), as it’s already small.

    • queenie mak
      July 12, 2021 at 12:19 pm

      Hi there, yes i’ve done continuous trips with different airlines. I go by the strictest guidelines which is less than 7kg (the last I checked). So I haven’t had to check in my bag at all. I would purchase a medium backpack if you don’t want to check in your bag. Even if you have more room, you don’t have to fill it up. But it will give you flexiblity to add more things during your trip and also not stress about fitting everything in a small pack. It will take a bit of practice when it comes to packing. Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂

  • KT
    March 10, 2022 at 10:08 am

    Great article! still looking for that holygrail lightweight backpack.

    I have a new heavyduty 13” work laptop (2kg++), which I cannot replace due to company policy.
    I finally swapped my nice Tumi backpack to Kipling. It’s not very fashionable but at least the material is much lighter (with plastic instead of metal hardware). Most importantly it must have trolley sleeve so i don’t have to lug in arnd.

    Beware of bringing solid shampoo though. My used Lush shampoo bar was confiscated in Changi airport bcs it’s “wet.” The agent was apologetic abt it but firm.

    • queenie mak
      March 10, 2022 at 2:32 pm

      Hi KT,
      I’m always on the search for a lightweight backpack (and everything else). I find that it is easier to find a smaller one than a larger one as the larger ones have a sturdier frame ie more weight.
      I’d choose lightweight over fashion any day – but there are nice backpacks and bags in the market.
      Good to know about the shampoo bar – and it sounds about right that of all the airports in the world that SG is strict on that. Appreciate your tips!!

  • Nate
    November 25, 2022 at 1:15 am

    Hi Queenie!

    I love all of your articles that you have written about minimalist travel. They are so inspirational and filled with excellent tips.

    I have just one question. How do you go about carrying two backpacks through the airport or around your destination? I am trying to decide between bringing one large backpack (around 40L) with a packable backpack (to use as a daypack at my destination) or two smaller packs (one around 25L and the other around 15L, similar to your setup). I think it makes a lot of sense to have two backpacks. That way you can use the smaller one as your personal item and put all of your important documents and electronics in it, as well as items you might want for the flight. Plus the airline may be less likely to check two smaller packs than one large pack, as they would take up less space in the overhead bins. The only problem is it seems like it would be inconvenient to carry around two backpacks, so I was wondering if you have any tips or suggestions.

    Thank you!

    • queenie mak
      November 25, 2022 at 10:39 am

      Hi Nate,
      Thank you so much for reading my posts. I had a lot of fun writing them!
      When I travel with my 2 backpacks, I carry the heavier one on my back and the lighter one on the front. I love that my hands are free so I can get my passport, fill up my water bottle, etc.
      I understand your dilemma – I debated that too. The reason why I chose a 24L + 10L packs combo is because sometimes I may need to check in my bigger bag (if I have liquid more than 100ml, too heavy, or airline is making me check in for various reasons). In that scenario, I would want to have my 10L pack with all the things I don’t want to lose I.e. laptop, and personal items.
      It seems inconvenient to carry two backpacks but at least the weight is distributed on the back and front. And also I don’t notice it as much because I tend to slow travel so I’m not always carrying my bags around.
      I weighed all the options and still find the 2 backpack combo works the best for me. Perhaps you can try it out and see if you like it too?
      Thanks again for your thoughtful question. I’m curious to know what you decide 🙂

      • Nate
        November 26, 2022 at 1:01 am

        Thanks for the fast reply. That makes sense. I will have to give it a try on my next trip. I will let you know how it goes.

  • Barbara
    November 29, 2022 at 1:16 pm

    It also helps to wear something like a Scottevest (or jacket); they have oodles of pockets and it’s basically like having a whole extra personal item to carry your stuff. I can fit everything I’d normally put in my purse and then some, distributing a kilo or two throughout the vest/jacket, freeing up space in the carry-on and “personal item”.

    • queenie mak
      November 30, 2022 at 12:56 pm

      Hi Barbara, oh wow I’m just looking at their website. The pockets are really discreet. I was expecting bulky pockets for some reason. Whenever I look for clothes, I always give extra points for good pockets! Especially pockets in dresses!! thank you for your suggestion 🙂

  • Roz
    December 7, 2023 at 5:10 am

    Hello! This was really helpful. Myself and my partner are going travelling for the year next year and really hoping we can stick to a carry on + personal item each. Do you find that you are often asked to weigh your bags, even if they look small/are clearly within the required size? I don’t think we’ll have any problem with the size of our bags but we are concerned about them being within the 7kg weight.

    • queenie mak
      December 7, 2023 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Roz,
      The only times I was asked to weigh my bags were with low-cost carriers in Asia (and maybe even with low-cost carriers in Europe but I can’t remember). But I do remember being asked by Air Asia and JetStar since they charge money for checking in bags, which a lot of people don’t want to so they try to bring everything on the plane themselves. I would be more diligent about packing less than 7kg for flying with carriers who charge extra for checking in your bags. Hope this helps! happy travels!


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