Minimal Packing for Maximum Travel

May 25, 2014

I started writing this at the end of March right after two trips in a row. I’ve since done another type of packing, moved, and now I’m finally catching up, so forgive some out of date thoughts.

I’ve basically travelled non stop for the last two weeks, home only for last weekend. Back to back travel of fairly similar lengths makes it easy to compare, experiment, and plan a bit better.


On some level everyone has the same process for packing:

For my last two trips those amounted to:

Trip 1: May 13–16: FOSE Conference

This was a 4 day trip to Washington DC to man GitHub’s booth at the FOSE Government IT conference. Most of our time was spent manning the booth, meaning GitHub tshirts (we wear them almost always). We also had one nice “team dinner” out and general chilling.

My Bag for FOSE

For a four day trip this was entirely too much. I never made it to the gym, only wore one collared shirt (on the trip back no less), and had extra tshirts, socks, jeans, etc.

Trip 2: May 19–25: BreizhCamp

This was a bit more extensive, as it was a longer trip, involved 2 cities (Rennes & Paris France) and a few more events. Hanging out at the conference was the same as booth duty, GitHub t-shirts and jeans. My “buddy” coworker and I also went out for a very nice (Michelin ) lunch, so I had to have something appropriate for that. General hanging out needs also apply.

My Bag for BreizhCamp

I took considerably less for this trip and was considerably happier for it. While I try to make it to the gym it’s so tough while travelling it rarely happens, and ditching that space and weight made everything much more comfortable travelling wise. I even had some spare room in my bag. Same thing with minimizing on shoes. Two pairs covered basically all my needs.


For both of these two weeks I packed a single bag; a 2010 North Face Surge I backpack (the model before this one). This was my primary travel bag.

In both cases I also included a small, fraying, soft sided tweed shoulder bag from the Old Navy to use walking around. This is great because I can roll it up and either lash it to my backpack or put it in with my clothes.


Honestly this is a tough one. In 95% of hotels a certain set of things (like soap and shampoo) are always included, yet things like toothbrushes never are. Not sure where the line is. I tend to pack a small plastic bag with:


Not clothing related but certainly relevant to packing for technical folks. For the FOSE trip I took a 15” MacBook Pro & iPad Mini. This is ideal for getting things done but is a decent amount of weight and basically never left the hotel room. For BreizhCamp I took my 11” MacBook Air & iPad Mini and it was great; the Air is light enough to carry all over without ever noticing and perfect for the kind of work I typically do on the road. The iPad is great for the and some reading but not much use otherwise.