A comprehensive guide on how to live out of a backpack effectively and indefinitely. As a covert operative or civilian in life, work, travel and adventure.

2 years ago

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A comprehensive guide on how to live out of a backpack effectively and indefinitely. As a covert operative or civilian in life, work, travel and adventure.

One does not need a home full of things to live. Just like ancient times, all we need is what we can carry on our backs. -Det V Cader

Long before I lived out of backpacks as a nomad, I lived out of suitcases and briefcases as an operative.

Since then my backpack has become my closet, survival kit and support system. So can yours. I've been living this way since 2012 in 60 countries across 5 continents and can confirm that it's viable, sustainable and thriveable.

This is how to live out of a backpack :

Backpack Living in The Syrian Desert


Your way of thinking of how life is lived should be changed, to be adaptive and location independent. All that you own and need will be in your immediate possession. You can only carry so much so your concept of what you think you need to live must be minimized with efficiency maximized. You don’t need a house to have a home or a bed to have a place to sleep. The word "home" is flexible and should just mean where you happen to be in that moment in time. Backpack living is just a different type of living, but "normal" nonetheless.

Pro Tip   :     Living out of a backpack is both a state of mind and being.

Triple Aught Design Backpack in Vang Vieng, Laos

The Backpack

Just like your car and apartment when living at home, the backpack you choose will be just as important and vital for living out of it. Wherever you go, it will often follow and so it should be comfortable, reliable, versatile and just the right size. This will be your “everything”. As your entire "life" will be in this backpack, it will be one of if not the single most important gear decision you'll make.

Pro Tip   :     The bigger the backpack, the more likely you’ll overpack. Pack with at least 5% left over space in the backpack when fully packed.

Operator Mobility Travel Kit

Packing List

With the limited “real estate” of a backpack, every item should be needed while reducing unnecessary redundancies and packing multi-functional gear. For minimalists, 25 liters is ideal and for others a volume range of 35 – 50 liters, but never go over 60. The key to how to live out of a backpack is mobility and agility, it shouldn't have to feel like you're moving to a new apartment every time you change a city or country. View the tradecraft lifestyle kit shop for recommended items.

Pro Tip   :     Follow the 90 percent packing hack.

World Travel Packing Cubes


Almost every item should be categorized and subcategorized into smaller internal bags / pouches / cubes, while strategically utilizing the backpack’s own built-in compartments. For example; clothing tops, clothing bottoms, underwear, gadgets, cords, toiletries, first-aid, documents, financials and tools should all be in their own respective compartment. This keeps your loadout neat and tidy as well as you'll have the ability to find exactly what you're looking for every time without rummaging through everything.

Pro Tip   :     Organize packing cubes to space-perfection for efficiency and pack stability.

Triple Aught Design Package Arrival

Care Packages

Before you start to live out of a backpack, prepare a care package for yourself of some of the items that’s hard to get while on the road. Such as medicine, brand name clothing, tech and custom gear. Then have someone mail the prepared box to you when you need it to your location. This is particularly useful for international travel. You can even have Amazon (USA) shipped to you abroad, or use the local network if in the right jurisdiction.

Pro Tip   :     Setup multiple care packages before you leave or build them over time as needed.

FAST Pack Scout Backpack in Battambang, Cambodia

Seasonal Kits

If you’re going to be in the same general climate for a while, pack accordingly to make your overall kit seasonal. Meaning, mostly pack summer clothes if you’re in the tropics or warmer clothes if you’re going to go through a harsh winter. No need to pack clothes you won’t use. You can always buy something locally as needed. Living out of a backpack doesn't mean you should carry everything you possibly can, it means carrying only anything you'll need.

Pro Tip   :     You can always add and layer more clothes when it’s too cold but you can only take so much off when it’s too hot.

Tradecraft EDC Travel Kit

Self-Defense EDC

It doesn’t matter where you’re going or what CQC skillset you may possess, it’s always ideal to have some sort of locationally *legal device or tool for defensive purposes to equip on your person as everyday carry. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an actual weapon, but something that can just as effective. Regardless, the best form of self-defense is evasion / escape, if possible.

Pro Tip   :     When choosing these tools, consider if they are permissive; state, country, airport etc.

Moisture Management

Many parts of the world is inherently humid that can cause slow but definitive damage to electronics, passports and other gear. Not to mention prolonged inclement weather. Hardly an issue if back home but when everything you have is in your backpack, it may be. Strategically placing silica gel packets in your pack can counter such damage.

Pro Tip   :     Save these “dry packs” whenever you find them in packaged snacks and certain products.


I don’t recommend a completely waterproof backpack to live out of it but having waterproof capabilities is useful. A mere plastic shopping bag or clean garbage bag can be used on-the-fly as an improvisational method by wrapping the contents of your pack. Just keep a plastic bag handy as a part of your packing list.

Pro Tip   :     Alternately, you can wrap a large bag over your entire backpack.

“Drawers” System

This is a method of unpacking while keeping everything organized by using packing cubes. By removing each cube from the backpack and using them as if they were chest drawers. This is how to live out of a backpack with a slight benefit of living at home.

Pro Tip   :     Whenever you’re finished with an item, return it to the “drawer” as you would a real drawer.


Don’t wait for a big pile of dirty clothes to go to the laundromat with, it’s not ideal when living out of a backpack and while on the move. Instead, wash just a couple of articles of clothing at a time as needed in the bathroom sink and let dry overnight in your accommodation.

Pro Tip   :     When you find a place where you’ll be for a while, then use a laundry service.

Living out of a backpack packing list:


Packing Cubes


Toiletry Bag

Unlocked Smartphone



Tactical Pen

Backup Battery

Socks x3


Digital Go-Bag

Universal Adaptor

Pants x3

[TAG: How to Live Out of a Backpack]


Published 2 years ago