Flying with only carry-on baggage is the hassle-free way to travel. It saves you time and money in so many ways. As it becomes increasingly common for airlines to charge additional fees for checking a bag there are clear financial incentives for traveling light. Just think of all the things you could do instead with that $30-50 (or more)! You’ll also appreciate the convenience at the airport. Vacations always feel too short – don’t waste a minute of yours on baggage claim.

But is it possible to pack for a hiking trip with only a carry-on bag? Won’t you need too much gear?

Not only is it possible, but you’ll probably find you prefer it! Packing light is not only more convenient at the airport, but it also has advantages for your whole trip. With the right gear, you can have everything you need for a great adventurous getaway in a bag that meets cabin baggage requirements.

Light travel with carry on only
Light travel with carry on only

What to Pack in Your Carry-on

Choose a backpack that fits within the cabin baggage dimensions, as this gives you the most flexibility and versatility as you travel and after you have arrived. Plan clothing in layers to suit almost any weather and with a style to fit most circumstances. Pack gear that can fill multiple functions to minimize space and weight. These tips will help you pack everything you need for a long-weekend getaway while flying with only carry-on baggage.

Merino Icebreaker shirt
Merino Icebreaker shirt

Clothes

Look for Merino wool shirts, which help resist odors when being worn for several active days without being washed. An undershirt or base layer under a nicer, collared shirt also helps manage odor while helping you be ready for anything, from a day on the trail to dinner in a downtown restaurant. Merino wool is a natural performance fabric, keeping you warm even if it gets wet. It is also light. This men’s button-down Merino wool shirt from Icebreaker (size large) weighs less than 8 oz (220 g).

Travel in a good pair of ultralight hiking pants since these would take up more space in your bag. Choose a pair that is comfortable, durable, and that matches well with your shirts. Pack a pair of shorts that can be worn for hiking. You’ll want something rugged but flexible that is still lightweight. Women might find that a hiking skirt is a more comfortable and versatile solution for adventure travel.

Don’t forget underwear and socks! The wrong pair of underwear or socks can make your whole trip miserable. While these items won’t be the heaviest in your pack, remember that every ounce matters when traveling. Arc’teryx Phase SL underwear is a great option for men or women, offering lightweight, comfortable options in moisture-wicking, quick-drying polyester. For socks, Smartwool light hiking socks are perfect for any temperature. They also reduce odor issues and offer good cushion without becoming thick and bulky.

Birkenstock Sandals
Birkenstock Sandals

Ultralight Shoes

It’s crucial to look after your feet when you’re out on the road – an uncomfortable pair of shoes or socks can make or break any hiking trip! However, it can be a challenge to have the right shoes for your trip without sacrificing too much space and weight in your backpack. A good compromise is a quality pair of trail running shoes, which offer flexibility for the many different situations that you might encounter. Choose a dark color so they will blend in when dressing for nicer occasions.

Wear these for travel and pack a small, ultralight pair of Birkenstock Arizona EVA sandals. Weighing about 8 oz (depending on size), these sandals are waterproof, making them the perfect choice for the beach, hotel pool, questionable hostel shower, or just lounging after a day on the trail. The soles are sculpted to provide extra support – the perfect gift for sore feet after a long hike!

Patagonia Nano puff vest
Patagonia Nano puff vest

Outerwear

Make sure you can stay warm and dry without adding heavy, bulky gear. A vest is a great layer that helps you stay warm without taking up much space. The Patagonia Nano Puff vest (available for men and women) is sleek and ultra-compressible and weighs only 7-8 oz depending on size. It’s also easy to wash on the go, and dries very quickly, meaning you won’t be stuck with damp clothes!

Choose an ultralight jacket that will not only keep you warm but protect you from rain and wind. The Arc’teryx Beta SL gives you all the protection of GoreTex in a light, packable jacket. The “SL” stands for “Super Light” and this jacket weighs in under 13 oz. Once again, choosing a dark color will help you to be dressed appropriately for almost any situation.

Platypus water bottle
Platypus water bottle

Toiletries

Toiletries should be kept to only the basics. Remember that any fluids need to conform to airport security standards: no more than 3 oz / 100 ml bottles that need to fit into a 1 quart / 1 liter clear plastic bag. Choose a solid deodorant, since those are not counted against your liquid restrictions. To help clean up on the go, Venture Wipes are a great multi-purpose item to have in your bag.

Bitplay tripod
Bitplay tripod
Bitplay snapcase
Bitplay snapcase

Photography

You don’t have to sacrifice quality pictures of your adventures in order to travel light. Replace the bulky DSLR camera and its heavy lenses with Bitplay’s AllClip Mini which help you take high-quality pictures using your smartphone camera. The AllClip Mini is a universal lens accessory that works with almost any major smartphone and is the ideal way to get a camera upgrade without being weighed down by excess camera gear.

The Premium HD Wide Angle Lens will allow you to grab some gorgeous wide-angle photos directly from your phone. It offers great flexibility, razor-sharp images, and is made from highly durable materials, making it perfect for adventure travel. It also comes as part of the AllClip Mini Photography Set, together with a lightweight Lens Case, which is perfect for adventure travel. For those once-in-a-lifetime close-up wildlife shots, use the Premium HD Telephoto Lens, which can amplify the zoom on your iPhone up to 4 times! At just 53g, it won’t weigh you down.

Hiking with light backpacks and light gear
Hiking with light backpacks and light gear

Other Essential Ultralight Gear

  • Water bottle. Remember to empty your water bottle before going through the security screening. Try a Platypus Softbottle, which is flat when empty, and can even be rolled up to save space.
  • Bluetooth keyboard. Need to stay on top of work while you’re away? Skip the laptop and bring a Bluetooth keyboard so you can more easily work from your smartphone.
  • Tripod. While you won’t want to be weighed down by camera accessories, the inSpire Tripod allows you to maximize the potential of your smartphone. It’s lightweight, ultra-compact, and great for group shots, selfies, and videos.
  • Pocket knife/multi-tool. This one is more difficult. If you prefer to have a pocketknife or multi-tool along on your adventures, check the restrictions for your country (and any country you’re traveling to or through) before packing one. Blades of any kind are prohibited in the United States, Australia, Japan, and many other countries. Canada, the European Union, and many other countries permit a pocketknife on the plane if the blade is shorter than 6 cm.
  • Travel sheet. If your trip includes staying in hostels that don’t include sheets, choose a silk travel sheet over cotton or fleece. Silk is much lighter and packs down smaller without sacrificing function.

So pack your bags and head off on your next adventure! We think you’re going to love traveling light! Not sure where to go on your next trip? Check out these great ideas for a quick weekend getaway!