Packing for a Vipassana meditation retreat

I recently came back from a 10 days Vipassana meditation course. This is what I brought:

1. Original packing list

Packed

Packing

  • 50l hiking backpack
  • 3 packing cubes

Clothing

  • Pair of jeans
  • Belt
  • Sweater
  • Pair of yoga pants
  • 1 Long sleeve t-shirt
  • 4 Short sleeve t-shirts
  • 4 Pairs of boxers
  • Wind jacket
  • Mid-layer jacket
  • 2 Pairs of socks
  • Leggings
  • Sneakers
  • Slippers
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Neck gaiter

Bedding (meditation center requirement)

  • Towel
  • Duvet cover
  • Pillow cover
  • Bed sheets

Toiletries

  • 3 Travel-sized bottles of shampoo
  • 3 Travel-sized bottles of body soap
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Electric toothbrush charger
  • Toothpaste container
  • 2 Toiletries bags
  • Antihistamines
  • Hand cream
  • 1 Pair of contact lenses cleaning and storing solution
  • Tongue scrapper
  • Contact lenses
  • Shaving razor
  • Nail clipper
  • Lip balm

Misc

  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • IPad
  • Phone
  • 3 USB cables
  • 1 USB wall charger
  • Water tumbler
  • Sleep mask
  • Ear plugs
  • 2 Pairs of noise cancelling headphones

That’s 63 items.

I like to call myself a minimalist. Could I have had a good retreat with fewer things and without distracting others? My wife came with me, so not endangering my marriage is also a requirement.

2. Comfortable packing list

What if we remove the “obviously you don’t need this” items?

Packing

  • 50l hiking backpack
  • 1 packing cube

Clothing

  • Pair of jeans
  • Belt
  • Sweater
  • Pair of yoga pants
  • 2 short-sleeves t-shirts
  • 1 pair of boxers
  • Mid-layer jacket
  • 1 pair of socks
  • Sneakers
  • Hat

Bedding

  • Towel
  • Duvet cover
  • Pillow cover
  • Bed sheets

Toiletries

  • 1 travel-sized bottle of shampoo
  • 1 travel-sized bottle of body soap
  • Electric toothbrush (and brush teeth once per day instead of three times)
  • Smaller toothpaste container
  • 2 toiletries bags
  • 1 pair of contact lenses cleaning and storing solution
  • Tongue scrapper
  • Contact lenses
  • Shaving razor

Misc

  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • iPad
  • Phone
  • 2 USB cables (phone + headphones)
  • 1 USB wall charger
  • Sleep mask
  • Ear plugs
  • 1 pair of noise cancelling headphones

We’re down to 37 items, or 58% of the original list. Is it down to essentials? Let’s put our caveman hat on.

3. Minimal packing list

I don’t need a packing cube anymore, the backpack has three compartments.

I could have dropped the jeans and belt, and travel with the meditation pants. I can’t replace my sweat glands, so I still need two t-shirts.

I could have also left got 2-in shampoo and body soap and save 1 item. I would no longer need one of the two toiletries bag, and food may not taste the same without the tongue scrapper, but this isn’t a cooking or physical cleansing retreat.

And finally I could have also dropped the iPad and sleep mask, read on my phone, and just be patient with my roommates at night time . At this stage in my evolution I still need the noise cancelling headphones, though, and the phone could save someone’s life.

We’re down to 28 items, or less than half (44%) of the original list.

4. How do I grow from this?

What caused me to pack too many things?

  • Clothing: Too much aversion to hand washing clothes, and too much aversion to risk (will I run out of shampoo?). Can be fixed for the next retreat.
  • Toiletries: Too much care about how I look. Can be fixed for the next retreat.
  • Misc: Too much sensitivity. The Vipassana style of meditation that I practice should eventually fix this.

Personal over-packing causes aside, what makes us bring the most things?

We didn’t evolve to live at 1,300 meters, or in other words, heat transfer. If I want to pack less for a Vipassana retreat, I will have to go to a warmer place or finish the Wim Hof method.