Having been a Boy Scout for most of my life, I approach everything like a camping trip. So when I'm told that I'll be travelling to New York City for a month on business I immediately start thinking about what to bring with me, and what to leave behind. There's plenty of articles out there on minimalism but my philosophy is essentially this. Think about what you'll absolutely need and leave everything else. You already have the best tool with you for every situation: your brain. If you're going to freeze to death in the wilderness then you can find a way to build a fire. If you spill coffee on all of your t-shirts you can either wash them or go to the store to buy more.
With this philosophy in mind I set out to pack only the essentials and see if I could live out of one backpack for a month in New York City. Here's what I'm bringing with me.
MacBook Pro, iPad, Headphones (I am an engineer afterall)
Sunglasses, Glasses, Contacts, Half tooth brush, Toothpaste, Laundry soap
Camera, iPad, iPhone, MacBook chargers
Firewire 800 Card Reader, Extra camera batteries
Rain Jacket, Pack Cover
DSLR, Wide angle lens, Telephoto lens
Socks and underwear, Workout clothes, iPhone arm band
Field notes, Pen
T-Shirts and a couple nice shirts, Jeans, Shoes
Here's what I didn't take. Most toiletries. I can pick those up locally, and for a long stay there's no point trying to fit large sizes on a plane. More than a week's worth of clothes. I can do laundry at the hotel every weekend for free. Food. Again, I can buy food when I get there.
In some ways the iPad is the key to all of this. One thing that you'll definitely need on a long trip is a source of entertainment. The iPad solves that in so many ways. You can fit dozens of books, movies, TV shows, and plenty of games on a device that's smaller than a folded t-shirt. Before the iPad, all of that could easily have taken up an entire suitcase.
A few notes on the items I did bring with me. I brought the rain gear because I plan to walk almost everywhere in New York. I'd prefer to not have to worry about getting wet while I'm wandering around. My Goruck GR1 does perform very well in the rain, but with all of the electronics I decided I'd rather be safe than sorry. I'm actually bringing my camera charger this time (I forgot it at WWDC). I absolutely cannot wait to run around Central Park, so workout clothes are essential. And of course I'll obviously be taking tons of pictures so the camera has to fit some how.
You may be wondering how all of this fits in one backpack, well, there's a few tricks to that. Thankfully I have two feet so only one pair of shoes needs to fit in the pack...in this case, the smaller pair. The Nalgene I can carry in my hand onto the plane. The Jeans I'll wear since they are the bulkiest clothing item. The shirts actually fold very nicely into one bundle. Simply fold the sides towards the middle and fold into thirds. That turns the shirts into one nice bundle that fits well in the bag and also keeps them from wrinkling too much. I'll also wear two t-shirts onto the plane to keep this bundle a bit smaller. The headphones thankfully fold flat, so they are easy to fit on top. Everything else squeezes into any small space it can fit into.
This may not be much to live off of in a city I've never been to, but I think it should be enough. If there's anything I forgot then I'll borrow it from a friend, find an alternative, or buy it at a store.