What is the minimum amount of stuff I need to be comfortable but still express my personal style? That’s a question I asked myself the night before a December weekend trip to Hamilton, just outside of Toronto, Canada. In this post, I’ll share my tips for packing for a weekend trip in one bag.

Weekend trips are typically a 36-hour, two-night deal. You leave on Friday and return on Sunday. But even if it’s a short trip, you can still fit in a variety of activities that may require different clothing.

For my trip, I was flying from Montreal to Toronto, taking the train to Hamilton, visiting friends I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic, and on the way back to the airport on Sunday, stopping at another friend’s house for a visit before flying home. That means my main activities were: hanging out, eating, taking the train and plane, and walking.

Choosing My Outfits for Efficient Winter Packing

So, what do I really need to wear for this kind of trip? Something warm because it’s December but not too bulky because I don’t want to overheat while schlepping my stuff through trains, planes, and automobiles.

But to fit winter clothes into one bag, I adopted a very minimalist approach: I wore the same thing for the whole weekend. Not exactly, because I switched out underwear, socks, and base layers, but my jeans, sweater, boots and outerwear were the same.

For my baselayers, I only packed merino wool socks, underwear and t-shirts, a t-shirt and a pair of leggings to sleep in, and that was it. I packed it all into this Away pouch. Once I got to my friend’s house, I unpacked it all and used it as a dirty laundry bag as I used each baselayer.

These layers gave me the flexibility to shed a layer if I was too hot or mix and match for the right amount of warmth. Bringing only one outfit can be risky for sure, but since I was going to a city and staying with friends, I knew I would be able to use a washing machine, borrow something, or buy something in a pinch, worst case.

Now, what if I had more variety in my activities but still wanted to pack light? Well, I’d pack for the activity that had the most specific clothing need and go from there. Going hiking that weekend? I’d focus on packing for that, and buy the rest around that. If I’d had a fancy dinner that weekend? Maybe I would have made one of the base layers a nice top, and brought some nice earrings. I also think a sheer shirt can be a versatile and super thin addition if you are trying to have a fancy option.

Packing Cosmetics for a Short Trip

This is your time for samples! If you are only packing for two nighttime skincare routines, bust out those free samples you get with your purchase. But, you can also just pump a few squirts of your main products into tiny jars and vials. If you saved any minis from kits or airplane goodie bags, this is also your time to use them.

Hair styling routines can be a trickier topic if you’re the type of person to shampoo every other day, blowdry and style your hair. That’s not me, so I have an advantage in this case. I have dry curly hair and I shampoo every 3 days, so I washed my hair right before leaving and didn’t bring shampoo or conditioner with me. I did bring dry shampoo and one styling product though and I kind of wet my curls and reactivate the product that’s in it, add more if needed and let that air dry. But, I also recommend having a few updos handy for trips where you don’t want to pack any styling supplies.

As for makeup, I will say that I had just gotten my lashes and eyebrows done, so I was feeling pretty good about not needing eyebrow and eye makeup. I was however experiencing some breakouts on my chin, so most of my makeup was concealer and powder. In any case, I like small palettes, 2-in-1 makeup and other mini travel-friendly items.

What About Tech?

As for tech, I did bring my computer, which I could have left at home, but I had a few ongoing projects I wanted to catch up on on the train and while waiting for my flights, so I needed it. I did keep everything else low-key and packed a charger and a few cables.

Was my bag heavy? Yeah, I won’t lie, but I was pretty happy with my choice when it was time to hustle from the bus to the airport in Montreal, take the plane, then take the shuttle to the train station, then the train, and do that all in reverse on the way home. I packed one purse that I wore most of the time that had my wallet, masks, hand sanitizer, lip balm, and other small everyday essentials.