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I have been travelling with a backpack for more than 16 years. It is my preferred way to travel. I love the idea of one-bag living and only having the essentials.
However, it took years to hone in my minimalist travelling skills. I started travelling with a 75-liter backpack, slowly changed to a 55-liter, and used a 33-liter pack for many years until I finally switched to a 24-liter bag.
It has been quite a process of knowing what I need for a trip and trying to live with less.
I fully embrace the minimalist travelling mindset and have enjoyed using my current backpack, which I think is one of the best minimalist bags.
In this post, I will show you how you can find a minimalist backpack and sharing all the reasons why I love my backpack as a minimalist traveller.
My review of the Wanaka Adapt Backpack is opinions of my own, and I did not receive any compensation of any kind. And I do not receive any commission if you purchase it from Kickstarter. I only want to share what I love.
Note added on May 5, 2020: A reader reached out and told me he bought the bag online but never received it. I don’t know the full story but at the same time I feel I have the responsibility to tell all my readers about this. I had no issues when I ordered the bag few years ago through Kickstarter. But I have no idea what the company is doing now or how they operate as I am not affiliate of theirs and I have no connection with them. I wrote about the bag because I do love the function of the bag. But I just want you to know to beware of this.
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Features of a minimalistic backpack
But first, let’s talk about the characteristics of a minimalistic bag. Here are my thoughts on some of the key features.
A carry-on luggage size
The perfect minimalist backpack size must be small enough for an airplane overhead cabin but big enough for all your belongings. It should be a 20 liter backpack or slightly bigger.
As a minimalist traveller, you only want to travel with essentials only as you are living out of your bag.
However, every airline has different regulations about carry-on bags, and there isn’t a fixed rule on the allowable size of a carry-on suitcase.
Click here to find out the carry-on luggage size of your favourite airline. There is a handy online chart that already compiled the cabin size of the majority of the airlines.
And keep in mind that the size and weight of the current allowable carry-on luggage can be changed at any time, i.e. airlines will continue to limit the physical size and weight of hand-carry luggage. So it may be wise to lean towards a smaller backpack.
Only a few useful compartments
Having a few useful compartments in your backpack is necessary to keep all your belongings organized.
When you don’t have enough compartments, everything just gets thrown into the backpack, and you will never be able to find your item without emptying your bag.
But when you have too many compartments, you are splitting up all your belongings into too many spots. Sometimes it could get a little confusing (especially when you first start using a new backpack), and you may not remember where you put all your things.
With the right amount of compartments, you can neatly organize all your stuff so each item can have a proper home.
As light as possible
It is possible to have all your belongings fit into a carry-on bag even if you are travelling long-term. And because you are carrying everything you need, you want to make sure your backpack is made with lightweight material, so the overall weight of your travel bag doesn’t weigh too much.
Some airline has a limit for 10kg for your main carry-on bag plus a personal bag (like a purse or computer bag). And other low-cost carriers limit all your carry-on weight to be less than 7kg. That means both your backpack and the personal bag has to weigh a total of 7kg. Even for me, that is pretty difficult.
So having a light backpack means you can carry it with ease and it allows you to bring items you can use on the road. When you try to pack your whole life into a carry-on bag, the weight accumulates quickly, and you will want to use every available ounce of space.
Check out my post on how to pack a 7kg carry-on bag. I included my packing list and some packing tips.
Other features to look for in a backpack for minimalist
There are other things to consider when you are shopping for the perfect, minimal travel backpack. Minimalist travellers search for the following features:
Comfortable shoulder straps
For a daypack, having comfortable shoulder straps is extremely important. Your shoulder holds the majority of the weight of your backpack, so you want to make sure the strap is comfortable and not digging into your skin.
For a larger backpack, having the padded shoulder straps is equally as important. However, the majority of the weight of your bag should rest on your hip instead of your shoulder. But sometimes, when you are rushing or just quickly putting on your backpack, you might forget to secure your pack on your hip as well. So having comfortable should strap is essential no matter what size your bag is.
A proper hip belt
Having an adequate hip belt can change your experience with a backpack.
For a daypack (anything up to 20 liter backpack), a thin hip belt is sufficient. The hip belt stabilizes your backpack against your back while you are walking or running. Having a stabilizing point is especially important, especially when you attempt different physical activities. It keeps the backpack from bouncing off your back.
For a bigger backpack, having a padded hip belt can distribute at least 80% of the weight of your bag to your hips. When you carry a more significant or more substantial backpack with a cushioned hip belt, your shoulder strap should just hover over your shoulders while the hip belt sits firmly above your hips.
Made with durable material
If you travel long-term, your backpack is your home. You want to make sure your backpack is made with the best material that can withstand any conditions. Having a durable backpack can give you peace of mind.
The fabric should be durable and water-resistant so that it can hold up to any conditions and weather. The hardware should be top-notched as well.
My favourite minimalist travel backpack: Wanaka Adapt Backpack
I bought the Wanaka Adapt Backpack through the Kickstarter program a few years ago. A friend of mine saw it on Kickstarter and sent the information to me immediately. I’m so glad he did!
If you watch the US Amazing Race show, there was a father and son team who won season 24. The son of the duo, Connor O’Leary, designed the pack and sold it in Kickstarter.
I watched the video and read all the information about the backpack and couldn’t wait to get one. So I ordered one and waited patiently.
Features of the Wanaka Adapt Backpack
When I first learned about Wanaka backpack, I knew I wanted the backpack because of how it looks and all the different features it has.
More information about Wanaka backpack:
- Size: 24 liter
- Weight: 1lb 6 oz
- Measurement: 50cm high, 25cm wide, 16cm deep
- Made with 210D double ripstop nylon and lightweight hardware
- Durable, water-resistant coating (DWR)
- The ultra-breathable mesh shoulder straps and can be tucked into the back of the bag
- An adjustable sternum and waist belt
- Three main compartments with compartment divider
- The top compartment is a fanny pack, adventure sling and a shoulder bag all-in-one
- Built-in laptop sleeve
- Hypalon gear loops on the outside
- Can use the entire backpack as a compression sack
- Lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship
- Minimal aesthetics: sleek, clean and not too many straps
- Looks compact: the backpack is a rectangular shape where every square inch can be utilized
The backpack also comes with:
- An inflatable backpack frame
- An insulated case that acts as a camera case and cooler
Why Wanaka Adapt Backpack is one of the best minimalist backpacks
After trying out for the two years, I can honestly say that I love the Wanaka backpack!
Even though it is advertised as a daypack, I like using it as my main backpack because it is the perfect size for me.
The pack has everything I want in an ultra-minimalist travel backpack where I can fit all my belongings and still have extra space. And the bag is quite affordable compared to some of the ones I’ve seen.
Here are other reasons why I consider the Wanaka backpack to be the perfect minimalist carry-on bag:
Perfect size for any trip
I can fit all my belongings into the 24-litre Wanaka backpack and still have extra space. I’ve done city travel, and adventure travels with this backpack. And I have no complaints. The size of the backpack is small, which is perfect for women. And it is the ideal cabin size backpack.
And the pack fits my packing cubes perfectly! It is almost as if the packing cubes were made for this bag (they are not because they are not the same brand). I can stack two full packing cubes into the main compartment, and it sits firmly against the compartment divider without wasting any space.
Three useful compartments
There are three main compartments in the Wanaka backpack: the main compartment, the bottom compartment and the top compartment that is also a fanny pack, adventure sling and shoulder bag.
The bottom compartment houses my shoes and technology.
And the top compartment has other toiletries, first aid kit, other miscellaneous items.
Everything I own has a proper place in the bag, and everything is easy to retrieve.
Check out my favourite minimalist travel gears! I never leave home without them!
In terms of aesthetics, the backpack looks minimal and sleek. I like that it doesn’t have too many straps like a lot of other hiking backpacks. It is a sleek backpack without any fuss.
When the backpack is packed with all my belongings, it weighs between 5kg to 6kg. It is not difficult at all to carry a few kilograms of stuff on my back. I’ve had to tweak my packing list over the years and am super happy with bringing only my minimalist travel essentials for every trip.
Summary: what you should look for in a minimalist backpack
If you are in the market to buy a new bag, consider buying the best of the best. An excellent pack will last for many years and is the one thing you should invest in for your travels because it holds everything you own.
In summary, here is what you should look for when it comes to finding the best minimalist pack:
- perfect size for all your belongings but small enough for airplane overhead cabin
- include a few useful compartments for organizing all your belongings
- made with lightweight and durable material
- comfortable shoulder straps
- proper hip belt
Minimalism for beginners
My tip for minimalism for beginners when it comes to travelling: buy a backpack between 20 to 30 liters and limit yourself from bringing too much stuff. If you only have a finite amount of space, you will physically have to carry less.
Besides the Wanaka Adapt Backpack, Osprey is my other favourite brand. My previous backpacks were all Osprey bags. Here are some of my favourite picks:
What is your take on the best minimalist travel backpack?
Up until now, the Wanaka Adapt Backpack is my favourite backpack. I tried many in the past and honestly love them all. But this one stood out because of the pack looks compact and sleek. I also like how it doesn’t look fussy, i.e. not too many straps hanging off the pack like other hiking packs.
What do you think the best minimalist backpack should have? Let me know in the comments on what you think of the Wanaka backpack or if you have other minimalist backpacks that you love!