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How To Series: Step Two--What to Take


Okay, you now know what kind of trip you’re going on and it’s time to talk about the bag, right?

Wrong. Not yet, you still have another step. That step is to figure out what you’re going to take.

And that brings us to a popular subject on this board, the packing list.

Packing lists are wonderful things. They help to keep you organized, they help you whittle your stuff down from massive to carry-on, and they help you to not forget anything.

I believe in packing lists and still use them for every trip.

I have a generic packing list on my computer with just about every item I own that may at some point go on a trip with me. It is constantly being updated either with newer replacement items or with items I didn’t think of taking in the past.

Once I have a trip in mind, I make a copy of that list, rename it for the current trip I’m planning, and start going item by item to literally delete those that aren’t necessary for that trip. This may take a few go throughs. But once I’m where I want to be, I print it out and pack. That doesn’t mean it’s final; the act of packing helps me whittle it down even more. Once an item is packed, I cross it off the list.

When I have finished packing and I’m ready to go, I print a clean copy of the finalized list and put it in the bottom of my luggage. This way, if I feel it necessary, I can go through the list to make sure I don’t leave anything behind before checking out of a hotel.

Okay, are you ready for the packing list?  Sorry, but I’m not going to give you one. Wait, wait, hold back those tears. I can’t give you a packing list because they’re as individual as fingerprints.  What I want to talk about are the categories to include in your packing list.


1) Clothes

Unless you’re on a no-bag around the world challenge, you’re going to have to take some clothes. What kind of clothes depends on the type of trip you’re taking. (See, now you understand why step one was so important.) You also need to figure out weather and climate at your destination as well as what will make you feel comfortable. Do you need to have people see you as stepping out of the pages of Vogue or GQ or are you more concerned with comfort?

The next question you need to ask yourself is ho willing are you to do laundry. Laundry is the key to one bag travel. If you’re willing to either do it yourself or have someone do it for you every few days, onebagging will be much easier. Otherwise this could be a problem. Personally, I take 3-4 days worth of clothes and do wash every second or third day. It’s no big deal to me as I have my routine down to about 15-20 minutes.

As for what clothes to take, I suggest you choose clothes that are made for travel; quick drying and wrinkle free. Pick neutral colors for all items so you can mix and match.


2) Shoes.

I only take one pair of shoes. Currently, they are a pair of black Rockport dress shoes. While they look like dress shoes and can be worn day and night, they are as comfortable as sneakers. (Trainers to our Aussie friends.)

If you need to take more than one pair of shoes, pack the lightest and wear the heaviest. If you are thinking more than two pair you will more than likely fail the “onebagger” test.

I know what you’re thinking, one pair of shoes on a long trip? How do you keep them fresh and not, um, odorous? Well, here’s my little trick. Before I leave, I get one pair of disposable insoles for about every week of my trip and then add two more. I cut them down to size before leaving and pack them in my carry-on. They weigh practically nothing and take up no room. Then, about once a week or so, I remove the old insoles, sprinkle in a little foot powder which I have in a small trial size bottle, and put in a new insoles.

Socks are also very important. Spend a little more and get decent ones. Your feet will thank you.. Travel is not the time for the Wal-Mart pack of 100 for $5. Get good quality, comfortable, absorbent socks. Something like Smartwool or Tilley, two popular brands for travelers. 


3) Toiletries.

If you’re a one bagger, always keep in mind the 3-1-1 rules concerning liquids, gels and pastes. Unless you must have a certain brand, take what you need to get started, if on a long trip, and buy along the way. Or try to make do with what your hotel offers. And don’t forget any prescription medications. (Take along a copy of your prescriptions in case you need to get refills.)

I also suggest that whatever you decide to carry your toiletries in, make sure the bag has some type of hanging apparatus. For some reason, many modern and refurbished “stylish” hotels seem to skimp on the counter space. There isn’t enough room to lay out what you need. With a hook, you can hang your toiletry kit either on a towel rack or a door knob so everything is easily within reach.


3a) Laundry Kit

If you’re doing your own sink washing, make sure you bring along what you will need for this. More popular items are a clothesline, laundry detergent, sink stopper and inflatable hangers.


4) Electronics

This is probably going to be the heaviest category for you. Figure out what you need and remember to include the charge cords. If possible, take a universal charger that allows multiple items to be charged at once rather than an individual charger for everything. Adaptor plugs if traveling to a foreign country and a converter if you need to change voltage. (Hint: many of today’s smaller electronics are dual voltage. If somewhere on the item it says 110/120-240v you don’t need a converter as it will convert by itself. )

 I include camera equipment in this category.


5) Everything Else.

These are all those additional items you want to take. The list is endless. And if you’re not careful, you could go overboard.


Now that your list is done, go through each item and ask yourself these questions:

Do I really need this?

Will I use it enough to warrant carrying it my entire trip?

Does it have dual purpose or can I replace it with something else that does?

If you find yourself saying “I might” for each item, then you are becoming a ‘what if” packer. This is not how a one bagger needs to pack. Pack for the best scenarios, not the worst.

One other suggestion: take something that reminds you of home. Something that will bring just that little extra feeling of home. It will help during long trips. For me, it’s an immersion heater, a foldable hot cup, and the ability to make either tea or coffee first thing in the morning. That’s my routine at home and I don’t like breaking it on the road. It makes my mornings more enjoyable. Find something that helps to keep you happy.

 Let me say one last thing about what I’ve written above. Everything is just opinion. It is not “onebagger” law. You need to decide what is right for you.  No one can tell you what is best. They can only say what is best for them. And that doesn’t mean it’s best for you. (I have been known to correct people who post proclaiming what is best. It may be best for them but it’s not necessarily best for everyone.)

 This is not the end all on what to take. I’m sure I forgot some things. And that’s where our experienced readers will come in to add their own suggestions. (And remember, stick to the topic. It’s not time to talk about bags.)

Oh, all right, I know, you want a packing list. Well, I’m going to give you more than one. Our friends at Eagle Creek have compiled numerous lists for different travel scenarios. You don’t have to bring everything they suggest. Use them strictly as guides. (And remember, they are going to be promoting many of their own products.)




Next up….yes, bags…..and packing methods.


Reader Comments (6)

Great post!

My comment relates to shoes. A pair of rubber flip flops takes up very little space and has a multitude of uses. Even if I was trying to take only one pair of everyday shoes, I think I would always pack flip flops as well, irrespective of my destination.
April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJL
Similarly related to shoes, if there is any chance of wet weather at one's destination, I consider a spare pair of shoes essential, though for less formal wear, I have a pair of gray Lowa Gore-Tex hiking shoes that can do double duty. As they are bulkier than most dress shoes, I wear the Lowa in transit.
April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan B
Another thought on shoes (for the ladies):
I recently bought some OneSole shoes. The tops snap off and on so you can bring A LOT of shoes that take up less room than a pair of flip flops. Wear the OneSoles and bring along a handful of tops. Too bad they don't have anything for the guys;-)
April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanneB
I, too, wear only one pair of shoes and they're GARMONT ZENITH TRAIL GTX, which come in either dark forest or anthracite. If you can't find them at your local shoe store, try Zappos.
April 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard
I usually wear Rockport World Tour shoes which are very comfortable and presentable enough to do double duty.
I always pack Immodium, don't ask, and Advil.
The ribbon shaped dental floss is not only great for teeth but it makes an unbreakable clothesline and is perfect for sewing on buttons and making repairs.
April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert
I stopped packing Immodium several years ago in favor of Po Chai pills. Rather than binding your innerds up like Immodium, Po Chai absorbs the toxins. It works for indigestion, heartburn, vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. It can also be used as a hangover prevention remedy! You can buy it at any herbal store in any Chinatown in the US or online at Amazon.
April 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

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