No Bag Travel

No Bag Travel is not a new concept. It has been accomplished by travel writers / bloggers Rolf Potts, Jonathan Yevin, Nora Dunn, Christina of Skylarking World, and many others documented or undocumented.

It’s basically self-explanatory: you travel to another place without bringing a single bag. It’s a test of survival; to see if a person can live without his or her material possessions.

So on May 21, 2012, I traveled to Singapore for 3 days without bringing a single bag. Why 3 days? Because it’s common for a Filipino to go on vacation for only 3 days and 2 nights and Filipinos usually bring BIG bags even for a short period.

My mission: I wanted to find out if a Filipino can survive a trip without bringing a single bag (including small purses or cellphone bags) given our cultural background of always adhering to the norms.

I used Rolf Potts’ No Baggage Challenge Ground Rules as my guide. But I made an exception in terms of souvenirs because I had no means to ship them back home:

1. No bringing of bags of any kind. This includes money bags, day packs, pocket bags, or even a belt bag.

2. No buying of bags in Singapore. But buying other items is allowed. If I decide to buy a souvenir, they can be stored in paper/plastic bags provided that no other carried items (toothbrush, spare shirt, etc) will be stored in the bag.

3. Borrowing items from locals or other travelers is allowed.

4. The challenge starts the moment I step on Singapore soil and ends once I land in Manila.

I made it more challenging by booking a hostel dormitory instead of staying in a comfortable hotel room or in the house of my friends in Singapore.


My attire:

  • Cargo Pants with 6 pockets
  • Vest with 8 pockets
  • Cycling shorts
  • Lightweight shorts
  • Underwear
  • A t-shirt
  • A pair of shoes

What I brought with me:

  • Passport and documents inside a ziplock bag
  • 2 lightweight t-shirts / pieces of underwear
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Cotton buds
  • Comb
  • iPod
  • Cellphone
  • Camera and charger
  • Lock
  • Earplugs
  • Coin purse
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Medicine in a ziplock bag

I managed to stuff all these items into the pockets of my cargo pants and vest. To see the video of how I did it, please check this out:

So did I make it? YES I DID.

Here are a few points you should remember if you intend to travel without a bag:

1. Research about your destination (including accommodations, weather, etc.)
I read about my hostel dorm before I even booked it. I found out that it offers free internet (thus, no need for laptop), lockers (where I can put my stuff – no need for a backpack), extra linen, and a towel (so I didn’t have to bring one). I also chose the month of May because of the sunny weather (minimal rain) which allowed me to leave my jacket at home.

2. Bring only what’s necessary.
If you read about your destination, then it’ll be easier for you to sort out the things that you have to bring with you or leave home.

The truth is, traveling without a bag is not for everyone. But if I can survive for 3 days without a bag, I’m sure YOU can survive a trip for 3 days without bringing a HUGE luggage with you. So ask yourself if you really need to bring 10 t-shirts, 4 pairs of shoes, or even your laptop.

And remember this: Small baggage or no baggage at all means NO extra airport charges.


1. How much money did you bring?
I didn’t bring my ATM at all. I brought the amount I needed to spend and a little extra for emergency.

2. How did you keep yourself clean?
I wore a different shirt everyday but I had to take a bath 3-4 times everyday to keep myself clean. I also washed my shirt at the end of the day. To make it more clear, here’s my clothing itinerary:

Day 1 = Shirt 1 and Cargo Pants
Day 2 = Shirt 2 and Shorts
Day 3= Shirt 1 (washed on the 1st day) and Cargo pants (you have the option to wash this on the first day or just hang it and recycle)
Night 1= Shirt 3 and Cycling Shorts
Night 2 = Shirt 3 and Cycling Shorts

I don’t think it’s necessary to bring your sleeping clothes to a laundromat right away unless your bed is dirty. To keep my sleeping clothes fresh and clean, I made it a point to take a good bath before sleeping.

1. Taking a bath
I forgot to bring my slippers. I guess it’s okay to leave this at home if you’re staying in a private room with a private bathroom. But I stayed in a dormitory so I had to use the common bathroom. It’s not “hygienic” to step on shared bathroom tiles with bare feet. Solution: Always bring a pair of slippers whenever you travel.

2. The Reaction of Airport authorities
When I wrote an email to Rolf Potts asking for his advice on how to deal with airport authorities, here’s what he said:

There’s a chance you will attract some attention because of the no baggage situation — but so long as you aren’t doing anything illegal you should be fine, right?

I thought all the while that I’d get into trouble. But I didn’t because there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with traveling without a bag. It’s uncommon, but it’s not like you’re doing something bad. True enough, I got through Changi Airport without ANY problems at all. So relax, smile, and don’t worry.

3. Alcohol vs Sunblock
I did regret bringing sunblock and leaving my small bottle of isopropyl alcohol. Why? I am a Filipino and I’m used to blistering conditions, so sunblock was very unnecessary in a country where buildings and shades are common. Lesson learned here is this: don’t bring sunblock to a place with many buildings, malls, shades, etc., unless you have sensitive skin or you’re going to the beach. But isopropyl alcohol as a disinfectant is way too important because it can kill those evil germs (and I realized that it was what I needed the most after stepping on the common bathroom tiles). It’s also useful before or after eating. Check this article from entitled “How To Stay Clean While Backpacking”. It mentions that a small amount of isopropyl alcohol is recommended if you want to remove dirt or germs from your skin. It can be hand carried as well as long as the amount meets airline regulations.

4. The “Staying in a Dorm” Challenge
If I were a guy, sleeping half-naked wouldn’t be a problem at all. But because of my gender, I had to sleep with my clothes on at night. So if I were to do this again, I’d choose to stay in a private room so I wouldn’t have to worry about bringing sleeping clothes.

Final notes…

The entire challenge taught me what to bring and what to leave behind. It also made me appreciate the saying LESS IS MORE because I was able to experience more places even in a short period of time as I didn’t have to carry anything. Just imagine carrying something heavy and going from one place to another. The weight of your bag could actually make you more tired.

I took up the challenge to find out if a Filipino can travel without bringing a bag. I wanted to address this because most Filipinos I know seem to bring their entire closet with them whenever they travel even for a short period of time and they end up complaining about paying a huge amount of money for checked in or excess baggage.

Bottomline: If I can SURVIVE traveling in another country for 3 days without a single bag, I’m sure YOU can survive it too even with a small backpack.

Here’s what I’d say to those who can’t pack light:

a. Just bring what you NEED.
b. You can always wash your clothes.
c. You can always buy new clothes.
d. You don’t need your laptop, your books and even your iPod or iPad (you’re there to explore, not to entertain yourself with things you play at home); your mobile phone is enough in case of emergency in which you have to call someone.
e. You don’t need your humongous makeup kit (because no one really gives a s#it).
f. Lastly, you only need a pair of comfortable shoes. Just buy or bring a foot powder and you’ll be fine.

If you’re up for a no-bag travel challenge, feel free to email me if you have questions. And if you do have something to share, please post a comment. Happy travels!


Departing for Singapore at Naia 1

Marina Bay Sands. Photo: courtesy of my friend Jerilee. Notice the shirt…

Day 3 at Merlion Park. SAME SHIRT!!!

Going home to Manila…nothing’s changed! (attire-wise that is)

More from Singapore: Singapore Without A Bag

7 thoughts on “No Bag Travel

  1. Pingback: Singapore Without A Bag « Rica's Rucksack – Travel Blog

  2. Brilliant! I haven’t heard of this idea before….but even though I’m a fairly light packer when I need to be (i.e. when I know I’ll have to carry my bag around during my travels), I’m not sure if I could ever 100% adhere to these rules. I do like the concept though and also the potential lessons it can teach you. :o)

    Reminds me of a jacket that’s been invented for business people doing a lot of domestic, quick flights for work (happens a lot in UK), which has HUGE, inside pockets to keep a laptop(!), A4 documents etc. But it’s more about the pricing policy of some airlines which charge for anything larger than a handbag.

    A great article – thanks, Rica!
    Sarah x

    • Hey Sarah! thanks for checking this out 🙂 yes, it’s not for everybody but I do hope that others can learn from this…because a 3 day vacation doesn’t really need a HUGE bag (that you have to check in).

      The Philippines has yet to import that type of travel jacket / vest. that could save us a lot of money!

  3. Really, sunblock? Rica you’re more girly girl than me!!!! 😛 I’d like to take on this challenge for myself. Let me up the ante—I’m bringing a baby. 😛

  4. (Am back reading)….but really? same shirt i hate extra hand carry items when i travel, possibly just a cross body bag…but wait till you see my check in luggage.:-)

    • Hi Malou! Yes! haha I just had to wash and dry it afterwards. And i hope you don’t have to pay for excess baggage all the time! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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