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Travelite FAQ: How to travel with just a carry-on

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Archive-name: travel/travelite-faq
Last-modified: January 25, 1997
Posting-frequency: Monthly

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Enliten Yourself! 

                  Welcome to the Travelite FAQ! 

The most up-to-date version of the Travelite FAQ is always available at Please note that this main Travelite FAQ
web site contains more information than the basic FAQ. The FAQ is
archived at a number of sites on the World Wide Web, including the
Rec.Travel Library, the html-formatted FAQ archive at, and a
non-html format at the official news.answers archive. An abridged
version of this is available at the Flifo Travel web site.

An automatic archive of this text-only format is available at the following:

What's New?

I now have a "Featured Product" section in the FAQ that reviews a
product in detail.

Table of Contents

-Introduction and list of indispensable resources
-Finds of the Month
-Luggage: Types of luggage, recommendations.
-Featured product (travel pack).
-Eliminating stuff you don't need
-Electrical Appliances
-Clothing: Selecting the right travel clothes, and how to pack them.
-More Helpful tips
-Resource List of reviewed and rated travelite-related
web sites


This FAQ works as a basic document for men and women planning a
non-business trip. Since I am in the U.S., many of my references will be
in the U.S. I will *try* to include metric measurements, but please bear
with me if I don't.

This FAQ is designed to help everyone learn how to travel with the
minimum amount of luggage--preferably with just one primary carry-on
bag. (Yes! It can be done!) This FAQ will talk about the benefits of
traveling with a light load; how to travelite, as well as other
resources you can go to for further information.

This FAQ is geared primarily for three-season travel (spring, summer,
fall). I don't want you to freeze in the winter.

As a basic FAQ, readers who plan to do some extensive camping ("roughing
it"), spend most of their trip giving business presentations to the same
audience, or spend most of their trip doing some equipment-heavy sports
(i.e. skiing) will probably find that Travelite has to be substantially

Why not? Seriously, though; the benefits of carrying all of your
possessions with you are tremendous. As it is, most people simply don't
know how, or don't think it can be done.


What Others are Saying About the Travelite FAQ:

John McManus, president of Magellan's:
"You are providing such a valuable service. Keep it up!"

Tony Leto of Lavi Industries (manufacturer of airline luggage sizers):
"I enjoyed  your web site.  As a long time, firm believer of the 'if you
can't carry it don't bring it' concept of travel I certainly could
empathize with your suggestions."

Helen Trillian Rose, primary moderator for
"This is the best traveling light FAQ I've ever seen--and that's
impressive because I *still* haven't mastered it."

Doug Dyment, fellow pea-in-the-pod traveliter and self-described
"compleat carry-on traveler," on his web site (reviewed in this FAQ):
"The best Internet-accessible information resource that conforms to the
(pack light) philosophy espoused here is Lani Teshima-Miller's superb
Travelite FAQ...In addition to a great deal of useful information and
philosophy, it contains an abundance of links to other Internet
resources. The only thing I dislike about this document is that Lani
wrote it before I did! I try to console myself with the thought that she
also has to maintain it. :-)"

Peggy, via email from AOL:
"My public thanks to the author of this wonderful FAQ. IMHO, it's great!
We travel with our pooch, so packing light is a real necessity for us as
we promptly defeat all our hard work by adding the dog and her goodies.
However, it would be impossible if we didn't make every possible effort
to travel with just that carry on. To be honest, we've not quite got it
right yet. We've still got the carry on each and one check in, but with
help like this, we just may reach our goal on our next trip!" from
 "Cynosure" via email: "I have just printed out your Travelite FAQ and
want to applaud your effort. Not only are you a seasoned traveler but
also a terrific writer. You managed to distill the wisdom of others and
give the piece your voice as well."

"I'm a big fan of your Travelite FAQ," from Mark Langer, via email from

 "Too funny: How to teach Americans to travel lite... ;-)))" from Lars
Bindzus, via email from Denmark.


Legal Stuff: Copyright And Dissemination

Under the Berne Convention, this document is Copyright (c) 1996, 1997
and 1998 by Lani Teshima-Miller, all rights reserved. Permission is
granted for it to be reproduced electronically on any system connected
to the various networks which make up the Internet as long as it is
reproduced in its entirety, unedited, and with this copyright notice
intact. Web sites are included. Individual copies may also be printed
for personal use. This document was produced for free redistribution. If
you paid money for it, not only did you do so unnecessarily, but none of
the money went to the person who did the work of producing the document.

 If you would like to include parts of my FAQ in your web site or FAQ,
please give me proper credit by including '"Travelite FAQ: How to travel
with just a carry-on" by Lani Teshima-Miller , (c) 1996."

 While you are allowed individual copies of the FAQ, that does NOT mean
my FAQ is in the public domain. To quote Jeffrey Knapp, "Lately,
spaghetti publishers have taken to exploiting FAQs and lists, often
publishing them without obtaining written permission. This is an abuse
of copyright laws, and threatens the continued viability of the FAQ
system which benefits us all."

 If you have a travelite-related web page that is not in the resource
list, or would like to email me with more travelite tips, please email


Who Is The Author?

I have been active with Internet newsgroups for about seven years
(beginning in my days as a graduate library student), and have been
maintaining news.answers-approved FAQs for almost four years. I am NOT:
A professional travel writer; a business traveler; or a rough-it
traveler who carries a sleeping bag, tent and cooking utensils. Rather,
I consider travel (and the planning for travel) to be a serious hobby,
and these days, I fly over 30,000 miles a year.

A naturalized US citizen born in Japan, my years in adolescence and
adulthood have been spent living in the state of Hawaii. Most of my
travels until recently have been short--between four days to two weeks.
But having lived on the island of Oahu, which is 2,400 miles from the
nearest major land mass, it meant that any travel away from home
requires a fairly long-haul flight (minimum five hours). It also means I
can't travel with tons of clothing in the trunk of my car. In late 1997
I moved to Texas, where I currently reside. I have yet to travel by car,
but expect to keep my travelite philosophy and perhaps add a picnic
cooler to the back seat.

The purpose of this
Travelite FAQ is to provide free information to beginning travelers who
have never had the opportunity to travel with the minimal amount of
luggage. Some experienced travelers will think this information is
pretty basic--but there will always be novices among us. As an
Internet-primary document, I have reviewed web sites where you can
obtain merchandise or further information.

Thanks go out to the following for their support and suggestions: M
Carling, who has attained the coveted "1K" Mileage Plus status on United
Airlines by flying over 100,000 miles in a calendar year (and who has
actually flown over 200,000 miles in 1996); Charles H. Drummond, for his
tips about electrical adapters; Doug Dyment, fellow pea-in-a-pod
travelite fanatic; Mats Henricson, maintainer of the "Universal Packing
List FAQ"; Mark Langer, who raves about MEI; Al Lutz, the Disneyland
Information Guide FAQ maintainer; fellow librarian Audrey Rice, who
suggested the digital egg timer; and Larry Stone, my "inside connection"
at United Airlines. Thanks also go out to the many individuals who have
added a link to their web pages. Many of them are listed at the end of
this document.



My parents and I were always a suitcase family. I have fond memories of
my mother bouncing on the suitcases to get them to close. So when I got
to take my first solo trip in the early '80s, from Hawaii to the West
Coast at 19, I took one large suitcase for my 10-day trip.

The airplane landed at Los Angeles International. I had to catch a bus
to my friend's house. To do this, I had to go to the luggage carousel,
find and retrieve my suitcase, then walk out to the arrival area.
Oh--did I mention my suitcase didn't have wheels, and that I'm only
5'3"? There I was, lugging the heavy suitcase to the bus stop, auto
exhaust obscuring my path. As I looked up, I gritted my teeth and
proclaimed, "If god is my witness, I'll never carry lots of luggage
 ...hence I began my long journey to become a carry-on only traveler.

 The one thing that continually baffles me, is the amount of luggage
people carry when they vacation here in Hawaii. Hawaii! As I write this
in February, when the rest of the US Mainland is experiencing their
coldest winter, my air conditioned office is colder than the outside
(which is a clear, balmy low 80s F). My mind swirls every time I see
them at the airport. Suitcases!! People checking in their maximum
allowable numbers of luggage! Are they buying 500 cartons of
chocolate-covered macadamia nuts?


Advantages of Travelite v. Traveload

"Lost luggage."

For some, this phrase evokes nervous smiles and sympathetic nods. For
others, it's no laughing matter.

Most travelers I've encountered seem to fall into two categories: The
"bring everything you might need" traveload camp, and the "bring only
what you use" travelite camp. I've talked extensively with those that
fall into Group 1 to try to find out why they like to take everything.
Oftentimes, it is because they like to be prepared for all types of
situations. I can think of a few. How about losing your luggage? Or
having your luggage broken into? How about having to go to the airport
earlier than the traveliter, or having to wait around the luggage
carousel long after the traveliter has caught a cab (or better yet--the
swift train system for a fraction of the cost) to town?

What most people don't realize is that a seasoned traveliter is just as
prepared for most situations as the "traveloader." For example, a trip
to New Orleans to visit my in-laws a few years ago included attending a
wedding I did not know I was attending. Instead of going out and buying
a new outfit, I simply wore a set of black coordinates that I accented
with a pretty scarf and I fit right in!

Let's take a minute to look at some of the advantages of traveliting:

-Carry everything yourself.
-Don't have to tip porters.
-Don't have to get to the airport as early as the traveloader.
-Don't have to worry about your checked luggage ending up in another
city (or even another continent).
-Don't have to worry about someone
stealing your checked luggage.
-If you miss your connection, easily rebook yourself without worrying
about where your luggage will end up.
-Easily volunteer to be bumped on a full flight.
-Zip immediately off the airplane to your destination, instead of
waiting at the luggage carousel.
-Probably catch the bus or train to get someplace, instead of having to
pay more to catch a cab (and paying extra for your luggage).

Be aware however, that there are a few disadvantages:

-Depending on your length of travel, you will have to wash some of your
-If the weather turns suddenly very bad, you will probably not have
packed severe-weather clothes.

...but then, would you have done this even as a traveloader?


Indispensable Resources For The Traveliter

There is a more comprehensive resource list at the end of this FAQ. This
section lists those that I feel everyone should at least take a look at.
Disclaimer: I produce this FAQ for free. I have not been paid by any of
the following for their inclusion here, nor do I get any commercial gain
from this listing.

If you decide to contact any of these places, please do me a favor by
mentioning that you read about them here on the Travelite FAQ! Thanks!

In the process of becoming a traveliter, I believe everyone should try
to get their hands on the following:

Magellan's: For More Comfortable, Safe and Rewarding Travel

Address: 110 W. Sola Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 U.S.A
Voice:   800-962-4943; 805-568-5400
Fax:     800-962-4940; 805-568-5406

Magellan's finally has its own vanity domain web site. They are now even
taking orders online, and their online catalog looks as comprehensive as
their print catalog. You may have travel-related stores in your nearest
mall, but Magellan's, IMHO, is the king of mail-order travel
merchandise. I've never seen any other place with more or better travel
"stuff" than these guys. They've got everything from money belts and
travel packs to collapsible water bottles and toiletry kits. They also
specialize in electrical adapters and converters.

 I have shopped with Magellan's these last few years, and their customer
service (both mail order and in person) are incredible (to a level I
thought was basically non-existent in the '90s). Drop by their store if
you're ever in Santa Barbara. I was a bit surprised at the small size of
their store, but it made perfect sense since they specialize in minimal

TravelSmith: Outfitting Guide and Catalog from TravelSmith

Address: P.O. Box 9187, San Rafael, CA 94912-9187 USA
Voice:   800-950-1600 (US); 415-455-8050 (International)
Fax:     415.455.0329

TravelSmith is once again back on the web, this time with their own
domain name. Their site is fully operational now, with many of their
catalog items as well as online shopping.

What Magellan's is to travel &quot,;stuff" TravelSmith is to travel
clothing. The folks at TravelSmith call themselves "the Gurus of Travel
Wear," and I have to admit their products are both unique and
impressive. For example, many of their outfits (for both women and men)
are lightweight and wrinkle-resistant. Their prices are a bit on the
higher side if you're used to other mail order firms like LLBean and
Lands' End, but TravelSmith outfits seem tailored for traveliters. Note
that there is some merchandise overlap between Magellan's and
TravelSmith, although it is minimal.

The Packing Book: Secrets of the Carry-On Traveler

Author:    Gilford, Judith
Format:    Revised, Paperback
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pub. Date: 1994, revised June 1, 1996
ISBN:      0898158214
Ordering information available at as well as other online
sites such as Book Passage, which also carries other travel-related

This book well-capsulizes the travelite philosophy. I've bought copies
of these for my traveload friends, much to their appreciation. There are
other books on similar subjects, but hers touches the most bases. It
goes into far more detail about choosing luggage and clothing than I
have room for here, including shopping checklists. I use some of her
tips myself, and I recommend taking a look at it if you have a chance.



Many readers may be flying as part of their travel. If this is you,
remember that the airlines limit the amount, and size of the carry-ons.
Some airlines are more strict than others on the size limitations,
although this seems to be more the case on very full flights, or during
the holidays when people carry lots of shopping bags loaded with wrapped

When you go to the airport, the airlines supply their check-in counter
areas with luggage sizers, which are metal frames in which you can
"test" your bag. Place your bag inside the sizer. If it doesn't fit, you
are supposed to check it in. Of course with travelite, the idea is to
avoid packing that much in the first place.

It is important for you to know what the size allowances are. The FAA
only specifies a maximum total dimension of 45 inches. Each airline has
slight differences. The maximum-allowable bag (I call it a "maxibag";
what Doug Dyment calls a victim of "creeping bloat syndrome" by the
manufacturers) for Delta, Northwest and United Airlines are 9" x 14" x
22", while American limits its carry-ons to 9" x 13" x 23". Supposedly,
this is the largest that will fit under your seat. To be honest, I have
never been able to stuff a maxibag under my seat; I usually end up
putting it up in the overhead. In addition, if you use the soft-sided
Cordura-fabric travel packs that I recommend to you in this FAQ, your
pack will end up larger than the above size if you stuff it! Here is an
easier way to remember the maxibag limit: 21" by 14 "by 7". Everything
is in multiples of 7! Handy, huh?

Being forced to use the overhead has some disadvantages. If you board
after others in your seating area, some people may have taken up all the
overhead room. Did you know that the overhead bin above you is not
reserved to your seat? If your maxibag is heavy, you may have to heave
it up into the overhead; something difficult if you are not tall. FAA
regulations apparently prohibit the flight attendants from heaving them
for you as well. Having to retrieve your bag from the overhead also
takes extra time if you need to leave the plane right away (e.g. for a
tight connection). On the other hand, bags that fit under the seat can
be used as an ottoman or foot stool (especially for short-legged folks
like me). If you have a little "flight bag" like I do (that includes ear
plugs, eyeshade, etc.), you might want to take that out before you stash
your maxibag in the overhead; your other option might be to use a travel
pack with a zip-off day pack, so you can leave the day pack by your feet
for easy access.

Most airlines limit you to two carry-ons. However, there are some items
that are not counted toward your carry-on allowance. These include
things such as umbrellas, cameras, and small purses. However, be aware
that large hefty camera bags and purses [yes ladies--you know what kind
I mean! I used to carry large purses with me that had three-year-old
rolls of Life Savers that magnetically attracted lint balls. I called my
purse "the Black Hole" because things got sucked in and I never saw them
again] do get counted as their own carry-ons, and not freebies.

If you are used to domestic travel in the US, you will be surprised that
the airlines tend to be stricter about this carry-on limit on
international flights. Apparently, carry-ons when weighed in pounds
aren't too heavy--but as soon as they get beyond our own borders, the
weight of our bags somehow convert themselves to kilograms--and whoa
nelly--cursed are those kilogram-heavy carry-on bags! If there is more
than one unit of them, down they go to the plane's underbelly!

Do keep in mind that "trying to get away with as much as you can carry
on" is not in line with the travelite philosophy. Those who overload
themselves in the cabin become nuisances to others. How many times have
YOU been hit in the face with a shoulder bag of someone walking past you
in the aisle? Seen too-heavy bags fall from the overhead bin onto a
passenger's head? Seen someone taking up more than a reasonable amount
of overhead bin space?


Duffel Bag


The traditional duffel bag with the hand strap and optional shoulder bag
has been an old standby for many years. There are a couple of different
types of duffel bags. There is the log, or sausage-type of bag that we
usually refer to as a gym bag (although I've seen all sorts of fancy
"gym bags" lately). These are tubular, with one long zipper across the

Some fancier duffel bag models are now available from companies such as
LL Bean. These are designed specifically as carry-ons. Some have
C-shaped zippers on the top, making it easy to pack folded clothing into
the bag. Many of these types of bags have side pockets that can hold
toiletries or important papers. Eagle Creek's "Cargo Voyager" bags have
the added feature of zip-away backpack straps on the back of the bag,
allowing users to carry the bags hands free.

Advantages: These gym bags are usually very lightweight. Without too
many pockets or compartments, you won't forget where you put things. The
single compartment will also make it fairly easy to stuff with your
clothing. Things like rolled socks will find room fairly easily in this

Disadvantages: Many gym bags are not made of very hefty fabric. Carried
for long periods of time, the seams can fray pretty easily. Many of
these bags are also long and skinny, making it difficult to place under
the seat.

Important features to look for:

-Make sure the seams seem strong.
-Make sure the zippers do not seem too flimsy.
-Look for a little loop at one end, through which you can install a
little padlock (and lock it onto the end of your zipper).
-Look for a separate set of short handles in case you need to pull your
bag quickly.
-Look for detachable shoulder straps.
-Look to make sure the shoulder straps are adjustable.
-Shoulder straps should have a pad on it to protect your shoulder.


Shoulder Bag


The term "shoulder bag" can be used for many things, but in travel,
usually conjures images of the standard shoulder-strapped carry-on bag.
We've come a long way from the old Pan Am bag, though--those were little
more than the previous duffel bag, shaped into a rectangle and sewn with
faux leather (made from the hide of the elusive North American Nauga).

Some of the more common travel shoulder bags today come from companies
such as Lands' End, which is famous for its soft-sided cotton

Advantages: Since these are made with travel in mind, the construction
is generally better than duffel bags. They usually also have exterior
zippered pockets for things such as your plane tickets. They usually
also have small handles in addition to shoulder straps, which are
usually detatchable to stash out of the way.

Disadvantages: As is with all shoulder bags, you are limited to carrying
your bag only on one shoulder at a time. If you have a particularly
heavy load and are walking a distance, you might feel like you shrunk a
couple of inches when you reach your destination. If you do not want to
carry the weight, you would need a separate luggage cart.

Important features to look for:

-Make sure the seams seem strong.
-Make sure the zippers do not seem too flimsy (look for YKK zippers).
-Look for a little loop at one end, through which you can install a
little padlock (and lock it onto the end of your zipper).
-Look for a separate set of short handles in case you need to pull your
bag quickly.
-Look for detachable shoulder straps.
-Look to make sure the shoulder straps are adjustable.
-Shoulder straps should have a pad on it to protect your shoulder.


Garment Bag


Garment bags are meant to be carried on. They are supposed to sit
lightly in your overhead, or hang in a closet on the plane. The garment
bag is the standard piece of luggage for those traveling on business, as
it keeps clothes from wrinkling. Unfortunately, a goodly amount of
people abuse their garment bags in ways the manufacturers never intended
(or are willing to admit). This abuse comes in the form of stuffing them
so full that they barely snap at the bottom closures together.

Have you ever seen a traveler carrying a garment bag that looks so
stuffed the traveler might as well be wearing a red suit and a jiggling
belly? Garment bags, unlike any of the other bags listed here, seem to
expand exponentially when overstuffed. That is, when there are too many
items packed into a garment bag, it makes the bag very difficult to fold
over at the shoulder strap points. This causes the garment bag to look
like an A-frame house, where the two bottom ends are spread way out.

For the purposes of this FAQ, I do not
recommend the use of a garment bag as your carry-on. If you are
traveling and you must take one with you, use something like the
minimalist Eagle Creek Cargo Commuter Suiter , which fold in thirds and
fit under your seat.

Advantages: Airline personnel will usually never ask you to check in a
garment bag. Clothing will wrinkle less. You might have the benefit of
having a flight attendant hang your bag for you in the closet.

Disadvantages: Too easy to overstuff. Most models do not fit under the
seat. Limited to suits, dresses and other items that hang well.

Important features to look for

-Make sure the seams seem strong.
-Make sure the zippers do not seem too flimsy.
-Look for a little loop at one end, through which you can install a
little padlock (and lock it onto the end of your zipper).
-Look for a separate set of short handles so you do not have to rely on
your shoulder strap
-Look for detachable shoulder straps.
-Look to make sure the shoulder straps are adjustable.
-Shoulder straps should have a pad on it to protect your shoulder.
-Look for a clasp or clip on the bottom of your garment bag, so that you
can keep the two ends of the bag together.
-Make sure there is a handle or a hanger that will allow you to hang the
garment bag lengthwise in the airplane's closet.


Rolling Upright


The story I've seen in TravelPro's ads is that the inventor of the
"Rollaboard" (TM) is a former airline employee who combined a piece of
carry-on luggage with a luggage cart. For years, these rolling uprights
were the exclusive domain of airline personnel, who had you thinking it
was a status symbol.

These are the current darlings of the travel circuit. Unless you've been
in the rugged outbacks of Mars, you've probably seen these around. You
certainly can't miss them when you're at the airports. In fact, your
odds of tripping over someone's rolling upright is probably as high as
your walking into someone representing a religious cult who wants to
convert you or sell you magazines.

Nowadays, every luggage company has its own version of the rolling
upright. Some are soft-sided, some are molded. Some have extra straps,
clips and pockets. But all have two elements in common. The first is
that they all have two wheels, and the second is that they all have a
telescoping handlebar that extends lengthwise out of its body, allowing
you to pull it like a not-quite-yet-trained puppy.

One thing to be particularly careful about: Because of the popularity of
this style, many luggage manufacturers have adopted the
wheel-and-handlebar format to entire lines of luggage. Just because you
see these features, no longer means they fit as a carry-on bag. Also,
you need to inspect the bag carefully before making the buy. The handles
have to go somewhere when they're not telescoped out. Where do they go?
Is the casing for it on the outside (where it adds to the external size
of the bag), or on the inside (where it takes up precious packing
space)? Those with the casing on the inside usually have one big bump
sticking right up along the middle of the bottom. How hard will packing
be for you then?

Advantages: These bags are miracles for people with bad backs or who
have trouble lifting and carrying heavy items. Rolling uprights are
great if you intend to stay in metropolitan areas with modern amenities,
where all the streets are paved. This means going straight from the
airport to a taxi, to a hotel with a porter.

Disadvantages: While paved roads are fine, these bags are terrible over
unpaved paths. They are also rather inconvenient to lug up and down a
flight of stairs. They also do not do so well in public transportation:
They're awkward on your lap, take up a lot of room on the aisle, and
mark you as a tourist or traveler. Most of all, keep in mind that they
really are like dogs. That is, you keep it on a leash, and you get it to
sit and stay (and roll over when it goes in the overhead). But you can't
carry it under your arm or over your shoulder when its
paws--erm...wheels--get tired from the bumpy pebbles on the road.

 Don't know what to look for when choosing a rolling upright? Read
"Flight-crew luggage" from Consumer Reports (December 1, 1995 v 60 n

Important features to look for:

-Make sure the seams seem strong.
-For soft-sided versions, make sure the corners aren't too flimsy.
-Make sure the zippers do not seem too flimsy.
-Look for a little loop at one end, through which you can install a
little padlock (and lock it onto the end of your zipper).
-Make sure the telescoping handlebar can be locked in place.
-Make sure wheels are easy to roll, and are not too recessed as to make
it difficult to lug up a flight of stairs.
-Look for a hook in the front to hang extra bags.




There are two different types of backpacks: The rugged ones built for
serious outdoor camping/hiking, and the ones that carry your books to
class. Depending on their size, both could be used for travel. However,
some hiking backpacks use external frames, making them impossible to
carry on. To check them in, many people wrap them in a large plastic bag
to contain all of the various straps and things that would get snagged.

Bookpacks are a great way to go, especially if you can find a large one
to carry everything you need. Some of them have side pockets that fit
pairs of shoes or umbrellas. Most bookpacks comfortably fit under the
seat, and they do not have too many straps to get in the way. They have
the added benefit of being very comfortable to carry, because their
shoulder straps are almost always padded. Some models also have padded
backs for added comfort. Some even have waist straps, to distribute the
load on your back well.

Important: If you decide to use a backpack, here is my sternest warning:
Do not use a top-loading bag (the type with a cinch closure on the top
only). You've seen them--they saw a real boon the last two or three
years. The smaller ones were particularly popular with young women, who
used them as purses. These packs are very difficult to find things in,
because the opening is small and only at the top. You will end up
messing up your nicely packed stuff because you can't find this or that.
Use a bag with a fairly full C-shaped zipper all the way across the

Advantages: Easy to carry, easy to clean. Comfortable to walk with for
long distances, easier to look casual in. Can serve double purpose by
being a day pack once you reach your travel destination.

Disadvantages: You look like a low-budget traveler or a college student,
and you can't really carry the backpack any other way besides one
shoulder or two. Some models with lots of straps may catch on other

Important features to look for:

-Make sure the seams seem strong.
-Make sure the zippers do
not seem too flimsy.
-Look for a little loop at one end, through which you can install a
little padlock (and lock it onto the end of your zipper).
-Look for a separate set of short handles so you do not have to rely on
your backpack straps
-The backpack straps are adjustable and feel comfortable on you.
-The backpack straps should be padded.


Travel Pack


Now we get to my personal favorite type of carry-on bag; the travel
pack. What exactly is a travel pack? It's similar in philosophy to the
home gym that allows you to do various exercises, or a cross-training
sport shoe that allows you to go running as well as do aerobics. Travel
packs are usually soft-sided, made of tough Cordura nylon material like
regular backpacks. Most travel packs look more rectangular than hiking
backpacks or bookpacks. They look almost like soft-sided shoulder
bags--until you unzip a secret compartment in the back that conceals a
pair of backpack shoulder straps. These straps clip onto D-rings on the
side (now bottom) of the bag, and you can now carry the bag like a back

Some people don't like travel packs for the same reason they don't like
other all-in-one equipment; that is, all-in-ones are created to do many
different things well, but not any one thing excellently. For example,
while a travel pack does have shoulder straps, they lack the design that
serious hikers and backpackers need (i.e. hefty waist straps, etc.).

Personally, I say "phhhhbbbttt!" to such naysayers. I have used my
travel packs in both shoulder bag and backpack mode--and they work
really well for the majority of people. I also have the advantage of
having a great-looking, modest piece of luggage that doesn't scream
"hitchhiker!" like many backpacks do. I don't have lots of straps and
buckles either, so if on the off chance I have to check the bag in, I
don't have to wrap it in a plastic garbage bag like a lot of hikers do
with their backpacks. While serious hikers and outdoor-types may not
like travelpacks, I believe most people will find them plenty useful.
Even those who are hardcore backpack enthusiasts, may find some models
palatable (including the Eagle Creek Journey series, which look like
regular backpacks).

The travel pack I used to use was a Jansport Daytripper; unfortunately
they're no longer made. On my last trip, I used a small travel pack
called the Sierra by Uphill Down (reviewed as the featured product

At the same time that I have seen an increase in travel packs, I have
also unfortunately had a fairly difficult time finding smaller travel
packs. Apparently, many manufacturers like to make them as big as the
airlines will allow (which for me is now too big because I got so good
at traveliting). I have spoken to the marketing department at Eagle
Creek about this, because I think slightly smaller travel packs
(midibags?) are marketable, and a valid concern for smaller people (i.e.
women, and those under 5'6"). There are a few smaller ones out there
(the Sierra, and Jansport's new Carry On Pack come to mind) but they are
few and far between.

Travelpacks are versatile, allowing you to look modest and civilized
when needed, happy-go-lucky when you want. Most dirt smudges can be
cleaned fairly easily with a damp cloth. Most of the manufacturers use
reinforced seams so the pressure points at the seams don't fray.


Travel Pack Selections


The following are some of the manufacturers that currently make travel
packs, with some sample product names to get you started. Note that some
(especially Jansport and Eagle Creek) also make horrendously humongous
travel packs models (take that tape measure with you). Just as with the
large rolling uprights, be careful not to get any that'll have the
airline crew forcing you to check in your precious bag at the last

-Eagle Creek: Journey Series; Traveler Series

-Where to buy: Retail and mail order. In particular, the Rand McNally
and REI chains seem to carry a regular inventory. For mail-order, try
REI or Magellan's (see their URL in this FAQ).
-Details: The retail champion of soft-sided travel bags.They have two
major lines of travel packs: The Journey series (looks more like
backpacks), and the Traveler's series. The former looks more like
traditional bookpacks, while the latter looks like traditional luggage.
Unfortunately, Eagle Creek no longer makes the Traveler's series. You
may be lucky and find some still being sold.

-JanSport: Carry-On Pack; Weekender

-Where to buy: JanSport bags are available in many locations, including
Sports Outlet, Rand McNally and various stores. Mail-order sites are
linked to specific models from JanSport's web site.
-Details: The Carry-On Pack looks like a backpack. The Weekender fits as
a maximum carry-on piece and looks more like traditional luggage. Both
are convertible travel packs.

-L.L. Bean: Bean's Adventure Travel Pack
 -Where to buy: Available through mail order.
-Details: Expandable rectangular travel pack. Priced at an affordable

-Magellan's: Borneo Bag

-Where to buy: In-house brand available via mail order or at their store
in Santa Barbara.
-Details: The Borneo Bag is a stripped-down maximum-allowable carry-on
sized travel pack. Priced at $89.

-Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC): Jumbo Jet Bag, Jet Bag

-Where to buy: MEC stores in Canada or through mail order only.
-Details: A Canadian equivalent of REI, this membership-driven co-op has
the best prices on travel packs anywhere. The Jumbo Jet Bag beats all
other travel packs hands-down for price at only $46 Canadian! Its
smaller sibling, the Jet Bag, is only 7" x 12" x 17" and only $43

-Rick Steves' Europe Throuhe Back Door: Back Door Bag

-Where to buy: Available through mail order and at ETBD's store in
-Details: Similar to Magellan's Borneo Bag, the Back Door Bag is a
stripped down rectangular convertible travel pack. $75.

-Tough Traveler: Caravan

-Where to buy: Available through mail order.
-Details: Convertible travel pack. $143. Children's Mini-Van also

-Uphill Down: Sierra
-Where to buy: Retail outlets. Mail order from manufacturer.
-Details: The Sierra is a rather small convertible travel pack that can
serve as a large soft-sided briefcase.


Travel Pack Extra Features


There are some novel features that add bells and whistles to the basic
travel pack. These may or may not good for you, depending on your needs.
Eagle Creek and TravelSmith have travelpacks that are expandable, in
case you buy too many souvenirs at your destination. The expansion
usually comes in an extra zipper that hides an extra inch or two in the
width (thickness) of the bag.

Jansport, Eagle Creek and TravelSmith also carry models that allow the
front pocket to be zipped off for use as its own daypack. These are
particularly handy if you want to put the travelpack in the overhead,
but retain a smaller bag by your feet. The newest feature I've seen
takes the "all-in-one" concept to new heights in a travelpack/traveling
upright hybrid--what I call the trollerbag. Currently, only Eagle Creek
and TravelSmith have them. We're talking zip-off daypack, handles,
shoulder straps, backpack straps, telescoping handlebar and rolling
wheels. Too much? Maybe. It might be taking convenience to a ridiculous


If you decide to go with a travel pack, make sure you get one that is
small enough to use as a carry-on. Many travel packs, including the
entire JanSport World Traveler line and the Eagle Creek Endless Journey,
are too large to carry-on. You will end up having to check them in,
defeating the entire purpose of travelite.
Bona fide travel packs should be able to convert to: a short-handled
bag; a shoulder bag; and a backpack. If does not qualify for ALL THREE,
it should not be considered as an option. This means a great little bag
like the JanSport Four Great Directions Carry-on bag, which is marketed
as a travel pack, would not pass muster because it does not have the
D-rings to support the latching on of shoulder straps.

Advantages: Looks modest and decent. Versatile; can be carried as a
briefcase, shoulder bag or backpack. Easy to clean. Easy to mend with a
small sewing kit.

Disadvantages: Most have no wheels so tougher for those with bad backs
or trouble carrying heavy things. Extra bells and whistles usually means
travelpacks are more expensive than a plain backpack or shoulder bag.
And as mentioned above, most models are too large for women.

Important features to look for:

-Make sure the seams seem strong.
-Make sure the zippers do not seem too flimsy, preferably YKK zippers.
-Look for a little loop at one end, through which you can install a
little padlock (and lock it onto the end of your zipper).
-Look for a separate set of short handles so you do not have to rely on
your backpack straps
-The backpack straps are adjustable and feel comfortable on you.
-The backpack straps should be padded.
-Bottom of backpack straps should be detachable and the straps
concealable on a back panel accessible through a zipper.
-Shoulder strap should be adjustable, and comfort pad should adjust to a
good spot on your shoulder at whatever length you set the strap.
-Shoulder strap should be detachable.
-Look for internal compression straps to tie down your clothing.
-Look for a separate outside pocket to hold your tickets, etc.


General Prices of Travel Packs


Travel packs cost considerably more than regular rucksacks and
bookpacks, because there is more labor attached to making one.
Fortunately for you, travel packs are very affordable when compared to
traditional luggage!

Under $100:
Jansport's "Weekender," Magellan's "Borneo" and Europe Through the Back
Door's in-house travel pack are priced under $80. All three are basic
models, but are sturdy and will travel far with you. Of the three, the
Weekender has the most amount of extras (pockets, cinch straps, etc.)
however, the other two seem to be built much heftier than the Weekender.
Between $100 and
Most travel packs with any sort of bells and whistles will be priced in
this range. This includes models such as the Transport II, Solo Journey
and Continental Journey from Eagle Creek, as well as the travelpacks
from TravelSmith.
Over $200:
Travel Packs that cost over $200 are few and far between. The high cost
will either be due to an expensive brand (e.g. Patagonia, which has an
incredibly well-made travel pack), or highly specialized features, such
as concealed rolling wheels (e.g. Eagle Creek's Cargo Switchback Plus)

Compare this to your standard rolling upright, which usually costs at
least $100, with many models running well over $250. Some go as high as
$500 and more!


My Fantasy Travel Pack


The above implies that I have yet to find a travel pack I truly like.
And it's true. I am pretty happy with many of them, but I have not yet
seen any on the market that clinches it for me. Features I'd like to see
on MY fantasy travel pack:

-High-density Cordura nylon, of course
-ONE short leather-covered handle, extra-reinforced stitching onto to
the side of the bag, with a "no-sag bar" to keep the bag from sagging
when I carry the pack with one hand.
-Detachable shoulder straps, where the covered pad is both adjustable
AND removable. Pad should easily move past the adjustment bracket in
case I want to wear the strap short (most don't do this).
-Shoulder straps should hook onto the bag on D-rings at each end of the
no-sag bar. This provides balanced lift on the pack. Most don't do this.
-The shoulder strap buckles and D-ring sewn into the pack should be of
metal and not plastic. Plastic causes funny squeaks on a full pack and
annoy the beegees out of me.
-The D-ring that the shoulder straps clip to, should have its own
hideaway zippered pocket to prevent snagging. If not, they should be
very streamlined.
-The front pocket should detach into its own zip-off day pack. Better
yet, it itself should look rectangular with a hidden handle so it can be
used as a small, soft-sided briefcase, day pack and shoulder bag.
-However, the total size should be no larger than a maxibag, including
the zip-off day pack. There are many travel packs with zip-off day packs
on the market, but many require you to take off the day pack for the
main pack to qualify as a maxibag. [When I pointed this out to a
manufacturer, their response was, "Why don't you just pack the daypack
in your travelpack?" My gut reaction was, That's Not The Point! The
point is to make maximum use out of your travelpack.]


Special Note About Shoulder Straps


I think most manufacturers don't spend much time thinking about their
shoulder straps. However, your shoulder strap is one of the most
important things about your bag because that is what you carry your bag
with! Many manufacturers just toss a cheap strap in with your bag as an
add-on. Between the way the bag is designed, the placement of the
D-rings, and the heft of the strap itself, it can make for an
uncomfortable trip.

 When looking at a shoulder strap, consider the following:

-The hooks on the strap should be made out of metal and not plastic.
-The strap length should be adjustable on both ends.
-The pad attached to the strap should be completely movable, and have
enough room to pass over the loop locks (the rectangular plastic or
metal that adjusts the length of your strap). If this is not possible,
then the strap MUST be adjustable on both ends.
-The pad must be rubberized to prevent slippage.
-The pad must be padded to prevent from cutting into the shoulder.

By the way, you can cinch up the shoulder strap on your travelpack and
clip each end of the strap to the D-rings where your backpack straps go.
It will not provide you the support you'd get from a real back pack
waist belt, but it will provide you with some stability.


Minor complaints about current travelpacks on the market


By now you're thinking that I must get money under the table from these
manufacturers, because I have such wonderful things to say about so many
of them. Well, not quite so fast. I have a couple of things I'm not
happy with, and they have to do with size.

These travelpacks and traveling uprights (and it's major enough that it
would cause me not to buy them) are too big for women!! A six-foot
(two-meter) tall man can still have some dignity carrying one of these,
but the large travelpacks are simply too huge for women.

My other complaint is that manufacturers seem to think that they should
all strive towards maximum limits. "How big can we make it and still fit
as a carry-on?" Well, maxibags are great for novice traveliters, but
experienced packers like Doug Dyment and I can travel with bags that
pack less than 2,000 cu. inches in volume. Currently, the only
"mini-bags" on the market are the Magellan's Mini-Borneo, Eagle Creek
Convertabrief, and the Tough Traveller Mini-Van. These packs however,
are the size of day packs. Why is there no travelpack sized between
these, and the huge maxibags?

My final complaint is that manufacturers don't make maxibags that
include zip-off daypacks as part of the carry-on dimensions. As far as I
know, every single travel pack on the market today that has a zip-off
day pack, is a maxibag only when the day pack is zipped off. Why for
example, does Eagle Creek not have a zip-off daypack for their Solo
Journey bag, but do for its larger sibling, the Continental Journey?


You Aren't A Cow: Don't Get Branded!

You will never get a manufacturer to agree with me, but I strongly
recommend that you take brand name labels off all of your bags.
Jansport, Eagle Creek and others have visible labels on all their
merchandise for advertising purposes. Do it as soon as you buy your bag
(after you've decided you want to keep it), before the color fades and
you get a "tan line" under your label. No-label bags look nicer, but
more importantly, you don't want to advertise anything you don't need to
(i.e. that your baggage is American, you speak English, you buy into
consumerism, etc.).

This is especially important if you're taking a separate computer case.
Don't take that case with the Apple logo on it. It's recognized
internationally as the symbol for "Steal Me." Same goes for camera bags,
which by their very shape are dead giveaways, anyway. Tell me what comes
to mind when I say TAMRAC. "Camera bag," right? No, it means "Steal Me,"
just like that Apple logo.

 Wanna have fun with your creative side? Take some fabric paint or
markers, and draw some squiggly designs or dots on your Cordura bag! It
will personalize your bag, and will make it less palatable to a
potential thief. Who's gonna carry anything worth stealing, in an artsy
hand-painted bag that looks like someone's craft project? I even
recommend this for check-in bags--imagine how easy it would be to find
your bag on the luggage carousel if you have some brightly painted
sunflowers on the side of your bag!


Featured Product

The Sierra travelpack (model #SC100) by Uphill Down

-Dimensions: 8" x 13" x 18" (2,000 cubic inches)
-Fabric: 1,000 denier Cordura Plus
-YKK zippers
-Anodized aluminum support bar
-"Octopad" shoulder strap
-Hide-away backpack shoulder straps
-Zippered coin/key pocket
-Organizer pocket with key clip

At a good 1,000 cubic inches smaller than the maximum-allowable carry-on
bag, the Sierra is for the very serious traveliter, minimalist packer or
those going on short overnight or weekend trips. [This bag recently went
with me as the main bag for a three-week trip back to Hawaii.]

There are a number of "small touches" that make this a very good bag.
The seams are very sturdy, with all hems covered with hemming ribbon to
prevent unraveling or loose threads. The YKK zippers are plastic, but
feel strong and not flimsy. In addition, the zipper tabs are larger than
normal and are easy to grasp. The aluminum support bar keeps the shape
of the bag when carrying the bag by its briefcase-type handle. The
handle itself is not only covered with leather, but is attached to the
bag with D rings, allowing natural sway when walking. The bag was
extremely comfortable to carry both as a briefcase, as well as a
shoulder bag. The D-ring that the shoulder strap attaches to, while
plastic, are located on each end of the support bar, providing a very
balanced feel when carrying the bag as a shoulder bag. The front
zippered area is quite roomy and could easily hold my laptop. A nice
touch was the vertical zippered pocket on the very front, which fits
airline ticket pouches perfectly.

There are a couple of minor weaknesses to the bag. The backpack shoulder
straps buckle onto the bottom with Fastex-type plastic buckles. Thus
when the backpack straps are unbuckled and tucked into the hideaway
compartment, you are left with two plastic buckle tabs dangling on the
bag. A better idea would have been one similar to that used by Eagle
Creek, which would be to use regular clips on the straps, which clip
onto simple D-rings sewn onto the bag. In addition, the shoulder strap
leaves something to be desired. The rubbery "Octopad" padding is not
comfortable, and the strap did not feel very sturdy. Unless they improve
on the shoulder strap, you may wish to switch straps with another that
provides better support and comfort.

All in all, the Sierra travelpack is very highly recommended for its
overall quality and attention to detail.

If you have trouble finding this product in your local stores, contact
Uphill Down through their website. They do not provide online shopping
but will handle mail orders. Orders under $200 require an extra
processing fee.

Note: Reviewer was provided a sample bag for this review, but was not
financially compensated by the manufacturer.



Most people carry way too much stuff in their toiletry bag. If you can't
fit your toiletries into one ziploc sandwich bag, you've got too much
stuff. I'm not kidding. There are two ways to succeed in paring down
your toiletries. The first is to eliminate all items you don't need.
Women--do you REALLY need three different tubes of hand lotion, face
cream and night conditioner? Men--do you REALLY need a bottle of
aftershave as well as cologne? The second is to use miniature sized
containers of everything you use. If you follow these two rules of
thumb, you'll be in great shape.


What to carry your toiletries in


Most people will want something a tad sturdier than a ziploc bag
(although the freezer bags are pretty hefty). The standard toiletry bag
looks like it would fit in a small shoebox. It usually has one zipper on
top across the middle. You might remember these as "shaving kits."
Containers fit sideways easily in these. About the only problem is that
they can easily get too round, and may take up extra room in your

Women are probably more used to the large vanity cases that look like
stand-up suitcases. These are way too large for traveliters. Look
instead towards using one of the smaller, flat, soft-sided toiletry bags
you find at the cosmetics counter, with one single zipper across the
top. These usually come in many sizes and in various fabrics and
materials. The transparent vinyl kits are easy to see through. 

Eagle Creek and Outdoor Research produce small unisex zippered sacks
that I like for my toiletry kit. They come in different sizes and
colors, with one zipper across the top. Eagle Creek has a newer version
of its "Pac-It Sack" that includes its own ziploc vinyl bag inside, to
keep wet stuff in. 

Another great toiletry kit is made to hold your absorbent "Packtowl"
towel (available in camping stores and through Magellan's and
TravelSmith). These are like the zippered sacks, but they have a little
handle, and are made of mesh fabric, so you can dry your towel easily. A
good way to carry both your Packtowl and your toiletries together, and
particularly handy if you are staying at a hostel or pension with a
common bathroom. 

If your toiletry kit is not waterproofed, take some 3M ScotchGuard to
it. This will protect your toiletries if your kit drops into a full
sink, or you are staying in a hostel or pension that has no shower
curtains (or you have to keep the kit in your shower stall for security
reasons). In fact, take your ScotchGuard and spray the outside of your
travelpack while you're at it. You won't have to worry as much if you
get rained on that way. 

Zip-Lock Baggies: Traveling on the cheap or don't want to carry even the
extra few ounces a toiletry kit would take up? Use a plastic zip-lock
bag instead! I have never really encouraged use of these, because I am
never sure the openings are totally sealed. 

While there is a brand that "changes color" to indicate that a bag is
zipped (one side is yellow, the other blue--zipped together the color
turns green), I have recently discovered a wonderful zip-lock bag that I
can ALMOST heartily recommend (and I say ALMOST because I wish they made
a super-extra heavy-duty version with thicker plastic). That model is
the new Hefty brand "OneZip" bag. These bags are zip-locked with an
actual plastic zipper that rides along the lip. The only difference
between a OneZip and a real zipper is that a real zipper has cogged
teeth, whereas the OneZip seams are smooth. 

I have inflated these OneZip bags and sat on them. I'm actually going to
try an experiment next time by inflating it up like a lower-back pillow
when I fly. The OneZips come in two sizes: Quart, and Gallon. They also
come in regular, and freezer-bag styles. The latter is tough enough to
hold your toiletries, and for most people, the quart-size bag should be
more than adequate to store everything. You may want to use the gallon
sizes to store underwear or dirty clothing, though. An additional
benefit with these OneZips is that you can easily open and close them
even if your hands are wet, or you are wearing gloves.


Eliminating stuff you don't need


Take a look at what you throw into your toiletry bag. Then carefully
pare out things you don't usually need. For example, instead of carrying
a bottle of shampoo and a second of conditioner, I use a two-in-one
brand, such as Pert or Pantene. 

Women--Minimizing make-up: If you normally wear a lot of make-up, try to
minimize your look for your trip. Nowadays, I carry only my eyeliner,
two-shade eyeshadow, and one tube of lipstick. My "lipstick" is now a
tube of Blistex "Liptone," a tinted lip balm that serves the dual
purpose of lipstick and lip balm. These can be had for just a couple of
bucks; not much of a loss if it melts in a hot car, or you lose it.
Forget the eyelash curlers and the liquid foundation. If you must have
some foundation, use a small powdered form in a small compact (with a
mirror so you don't have to take a separate mirror). 

When Hairy Met Sally Hansen: Women--instead of taking a razor, why not
have your legs waxed right before your trip? Men--if you're going to
rough it or take a relaxing vacation, can you start growing a little
beard before your trip begins? I realize this isn't realistic for
everyone. But it gives you an idea of how resourceful you can be. A
warning: If you are traveling overseas, do not grow a beard if your
passport photo has you barefaced. There are some travel-sized electric
shavers you can look into, although these have trouble tackling really
thick beard hairs. The Body Shop sells a small razor that's barely the
size of one slide film, which uses disposable razors. Another option is
the "lipstick tube" style razor where the razor end twists up and out of
a little tube. Hard to describe--go look in the Magellan catalog. 

Bad Hair Day? Most haircuts are good for four to six weeks. It also
usually takes a good week for a new haircut to settle. I always
recommend that you get see your stylist/barber the week before your
trip. If you are contemplating what length to trim, go as short as you
are comfortable with. You will feel much cooler, and you will use much
less shampoo. 

Take Only The Amount You Need: Have you ever traveled with your regular
bottle of shampoo? How long do you take to use up that bottle? If your
answer is "longer than the length of my trip," then you should carry a
smaller bottle with you. The best method is to find out how long a small
travel-sized bottle will last you at home. Most travel bottles hold two
ounces, while some smaller ones hold an ounce. If you have a two-week
vacation coming up, and your two-ounce bottle lasted three weeks, then
you know you have more than you need for your trip. You might think it's
too bothersome to do this work beforehand--those who are staying in
hotels with their own toiletries don't even have to take any shampoo or
soap with them! 

There are three ways to start building your toiletry supply:

-Always keep an eye out for travel-sized bottles, and pick up those you
think you will use
-Buy some plain travel-sized bottles and fill them with the stuff you
normally use.
-Save the sample-size bottles whenever you stay at a hotel. Keep the
bottles after they're empty, and refill with your favorite shampoo.

Note that many times, the price of an empty bottle is the same as a
sample-sized bottle of filled shampoo! If you're creative, you might
even be able to convert some containers for different purposes. For
example, I wanted a teeny tiny bottle of hair spray, but everything I
found held two whole ounces. I finally found a little spray bottle to
clean eyeglasses. I emptied and cleaned it out and refilled it with my
hair spray. This worked because the hair spray isn't used for ingestion
so I didn't have to worry about any residual eyeglass cleaning solution.
Save your tiny plastic container that used to be filled with cooking
spices. Fill it with talcum powder. If you've ever gotten little sample
packets of shampoo in the mail, save them for use on your trip. They lie
flat, and don't leak.

The following are the contents of my toiletry kit, which is a plain 5" x
7" ditty bag with one zipper [Note: One of the reasons I have so little
in my toiletry kit is because some items are in a separate First Aid Kit
I carry--listed in another section]:

-A folding brush/comb from Goody (folds to 4.25")
-Traveler's toothbrush (folds into a case, to 3.5")
-1-ounce bottle of Pert shampoo (a 2-in-1 with built-in conditioner)
-0.9-ounce tube of toothpaste
-0.3-ounce tube of Jergen's hand lotion
-0.2-ounce bottle of Clear Eyes eyedrops
-0.5-ounce container of deodorant
-2" x 4" unbreakable mirror
-3.5" nail file
-Eyeliner pencil
-Small two-shade eyeshadow
-Blistex Liptone lip balm (tinted so I don't need separate lipstick)
-1-ounce bottle of Jergen's Body Wash

I take my toiletry kit with me everywhere I go, and the contents last me
a full week (longer if I'm conservative).

If you have very short hair, you can substitute the shampoo for a gentle
dishwashing liquid like Ivory. This way you will also have some soap to
do your laundry in.

Not everybody uses toothpaste. We are conditioned to have minty-breath,
but it's not required to remove the plaque from your teeth. Just
remember to also brush your tongue well so you avoid bad breath!

If you're on a longer trip, take a few small bottles with you. You can
throw the bottles out as you finish using them, lightning your load and
decreasing your packing space.

Deodorant: Travel with commercially available sticks of deodorant if you
use deodorant crystals (sometimes marketed as "Thai deodorant stones").
These are perfectly legal, but without appropriate labels, may raise the
suspision of unfriendly customs or security agents. Men: Trim your
underarm hairs to about a half-inch in length before you embark on your
trip; don't feel embarrassed, since most people won't even notice. You
can do it with either an automatic beard trimmer or a pair of scissors
and a comb. Trimming will still leave you looking manly without looking
like you shave your underarms. You will use less deodorant this way, and
you will actually have decreased body odor.

Contact lenses: If you wear soft disposables like I do, make sure to
bring one (if not two) extra pair(s) with you, as well as your
prescription glasses. It's not a bad idea to have your doctor write out
your eyeglass/contact prescription as well. Some doctors don't want to
do this, because they worry that you may use your prescription to order
your contacts through mail order--just explain to them that you want to
have it with you on your upcoming trip.

Keep in mind that many people find contact lenses impossible to wear in
some places because of the dust! Glasses are mandatory if you are
traveling to a developing country. You will also want to take out your
contacts during a flight (cabin air is too dry and will irritate your

Take a trial size bottle of contact lens solution with you, and if you
can, find the type that allows you to clean, rinse and soak with the
same solution (I use "Complete" from Allcon). Make sure your contact
lens holder has little screw-top lids with rubber gaskets in them, so
that the change in cabin pressure will not force the solution out of the
container (the holders with flip-top lids will do this).

The Body Shop: This UK-based chain of stores sells a large gamut of
earth-friendly products. Many of their toiletry products are available
in two-ounce travel-size containers. In addition, they sell "cologne
sticks," which look just like a sticks of lip balm (e.g. Chap Stick),
but are infused with fragrances. A quick stroke of this wand on your
wrist and you can smell pretty while on the road (and not worry about
breaking your bottle of perfume, accidentally spraying your neighbor, or
overdoing it and smelling too strong).


Electrical Appliances

Worried about getting the right electrical adapters while you're
overseas? Leave Your Electrical Appliances At Home! Don't know how?
Follow my suggestions:

Hair dryer: Visit your hair stylist or barber a week or two before your
trip. Tell your stylist that you would like a style that is easy to
style without a hair dryer. It might mean a light body perm, or a simple
wash-and-go cut. This should work for most people. If you MUST take a
hair dryer with you, consider getting the smallest model you can find.
That for me was a Sharper Image/Brookstone hair dryer that fit on the
palm of my hand.

Curling Iron: As with the hair dryer, try to get your hair styled so
that you don't have to have it curled. There are some new models that
are very tiny and are easy to pack, such as the butane-fueled models
from Braun. However, butane is an inflammable fuel that should not be
taken onto the flight. You could take an empty curling iron with you and
purchase a butane cell at your destination, although I would simply
advise not taking one at all.

Irons: This gets to be pretty tricky for most people, who can't seem to
get away from ironing their clothes. Those who must take clothes with
them that wrinkle, they should take canisters of things like "Wrinkle
Away" that help soften the wrinkles in your clothing. The best thing to
do is to purchase clothing labeled "hard to wrinkle." Many have a
polyester blend--and are easy to find in the TravelSmith catalog.

If you DO take clothing with you that wrinkles, hang it in your bathroom
and give it a full steaming by drawing a hot shower for five minutes.
This should relax the wrinkles.

Steamers: Travel-sized steamers still take up too much space for the
traveliter. Again, best to try to steam out your clothes in the

Remember that by avoiding taking any appliances with you, you don't have
to worry about adapters. You also have less chance for being held up at
security gate for having electric gadgets in your carry-on.

If you must take electrical appliances with you on an overseas trip, you
will need to pick up some electrical adapters. Most travel stores carry
them. Want a diagram of the different types, and which countries use
which adapters? Get a free catalog from Magellan's, as they list them in
there (they sell the adapters too, if you want).

Personal Stereo: I have received email from people who swear by their
Walkmans (Walkmen? Walkpeople?). Whether to avoid having to listen to
local music, avoid boredom, or avoid being bothered, personal headphones
are a wonderful way to isolate and insulate yourself from your
surroundings. Is that good? You decide (my preference would be to take a
short-wave radio with me. There are quite a few models by Sony, Grundig
and others, that are both affordable, and small).

Techno Geeks Like Me! So you can forego most modern conveniences except
your computer and 'net access?! ("Please sir, anything but my
PowerBook!") Go visit Patrick Jennings' "Outfitting the Multimedia
Guerrilla" web site to start. He has a comprehensive packing list he
used for his own travels. It's one thing to wanna take your laptop with
you--it's another to worry about adapters and cables and all that stuff.
If you have the foresight to shop for a laptop with travel in mind, I
would recommend that you get something small and lightweight. So what if
you can't get an SVGA screen?

Instead of carrying a separate computer case, I recommend the neoprene
"WetSuit" from Silicon Graphics (available from MacZone at 800-555-1212,
APS Technologies at 800-874-3197, or Mac Wholesale at 800-531-4622).
They come in various colors and run about $40 each. Unlike standard
carrying cases, Wetsuits "hug" your computer even when it's open. It
serves to provide padding for your notebook, and can be stuffed into
your carry-on bag.


Converters or Adapter Plugs?


[The following from Charles Drummond.]
 There are electrical converters and then there are adapter plugs. The
plugs don't weigh much or take up much space. The key is to buy
appliances that automatically switch to the correct voltage and need
only the adapter plug. Braun, for example, makes a very nice electric
razor that converts automatically. Many tiny travel hair dryers do the
same. So, for those of us who *must* use electric appliances, the key is
automatic convertibility.



Clothing is probably the toughest for anyone who wants to learn how to
travelite. The two biggest tips to packing the right clothings, is to
color coordinate, and to layer for a versatile look.

Coordinating Colors: Remember the old "Garanimals" children's clothing
where you matched tags to match your outfits? Make sure every single
item you take matches with each other. This means you'll probably have
to stick with neutrals--tans, greys, blacks, with some white or accent
colors thrown in.

Layering: You can change your look with just a tie, a scarf or vest.
Chico's, a chain of US women's clothing stores, says you have a month's
wardrobe with nine items of clothing, which they do with the following

-Short-sleeve shirt
-Long-sleeve shirt
-Tank top
-Long pants
-Broomstick or full skirt
-Long-sleeve buttoned overshirt

They actually have a hand-out showing the 30 layering schemes you can
get with the above (if you have a Chico's in your area, ask them for
this handout). When I travel this way, I wear a the short-sleeve t-shirt
under the overshirt, and a pair of long pants. I add the vest and blazer
to it, then all I have to do is pack the long-sleeve jersey shirt, tank
top, skirt and shorts in my bag. That's four items of clothing.

For men, it's even easier. Two pairs of pants, one pair of shorts (that
work as swim trunks), two t-shirts, two long-sleeve overshirts, and one
blazer should be enough for most trips. If you are traveling to warmer
climates, you may want to take t-shirts made from quick-drying fabric,
such as Coolmax. Wear these under your overshirts, and they act as
undershirts so you don't have to wash your clothing as often. If you are
attending a conference and you want to wear take more than one blazer,
make sure your second blazer that you pack is wrinkle-resistant, such as
the one sold through TravelSmith. You can also get a very versatile look
by packing one pair of nice blue jeans, since your jeans will go with
anything (hint: Have your jeans dry cleaned and pressed before your
trip. They will last a long time between washings this way, since jeans
take up a lot of room and are tough to dry).

 Undergarments: Most people suggest that you pack four days' worth of
undergarments with you. I usually also try to include one jog bra in the
bunch, although those planning on going to the beach may want to count a
bikini bathing suit as one set of underwear. Socks tend to be tough to
dry--again, visit your neighborhood athletic shoe store and purchase
socks made of Coolmax. These are more expensive, but drip dry very
quickly. Many of them are double-layered, to discourage blisters as

"Disposable" Clothing: Save your holey socks and dingy underwear for
your trip, and throw them away as you go! You'll have less washing to
do. Same goes for old T-shirts, and even SHOES! If you are a regular
jogger, save your older running shoes (which are still good for
walking). You can throw them away at your trip and not have to carry
them home (donate them at the city's Goodwill or church if your
conscience bothers you). Also, if you're going on a shopping trip and
you're planning on stocking up your wardrobe, take only those old
clothes you plan to throw away. As you buy new clothing, you can wear
them and have less to pack.


Tips for selecting the right travel clothes


For your flight: Synthetics such as polyester resist wrinkles well, but
are terrible for air travel because they melt to your skin in a fire.
For your actual flights, stick to natural fabrics (cotton, wool). Never,
*EVER* wear pantyhose or tights on a flight. These will melt right into
your skin!!!!! Wear covered lace-up shoes, long pants and sleeves on
your flight. While we're at it, tie your long hair in a ponytail (at
least during take-off and landing), and do not wear hairspray in your
hair unless you want "flaming-red hair," even if you are a brunette.

For a hot day: It's actually better to wear a lightweight, light-colored
long-sleeve shirt on a hot and sunny day, than something like a t-shirt.
The shirt protects your skin from the sun but allows your skin to
breathe. It absorbs perspiration, and dries quickly. You can always roll
up the sleeves--and if it's a little cooler, wear it as an overshirt. If
it calls for a slightly nicer attire, button up your shirt and put on a
tie or scarf!

Glasses: If you take your glasses with you, don't forget to get an
eyeglass prescription from your optometrist, in case you lose or break
your glasses. If you don't mind paying extra, consider buying glasses
that darken in the sun. This will save you from taking a second pair (of
sunglasses). Spend a few extra dollars buying your eyeglasses a "leash."
These are pretty common now--although the old stereotype had them used
only by bitty old librarians (I can say that because I myself am a
librarian! So there!). If you plan on doing any strenuous activities
while wearing your glasses (hiking, sailing, etc.), I would suggest a
pair of "Croakies." These are leashes made of wetsuit neoprene material.
They fit all the way on your ear portions of your glasses. Don't forget
to take a hard-shelled eyeglass case so you don't accidentally squish


How to pack your clothes


One of the reasons I didn't have this section in the past, is that it's
very difficult to explain how to pack without any sample illustrations.
What I will do is tell you about two methods I recommend.

-The Bundle Method: This is the method recommended by Judith Gilford,
author of The Packing Book (listed in the beginning of this FAQ). VERY
basically, this method involves layering your clothing in your bag, and
letting each garment hug the item over it. In the end, you have a piece
of clothing that looks like it's hugging a big bundle of stuff. If you
want a good example, go look at Gilford's book. Doug Dyment is also
explains this method in his web site.

-The Eagle Creek Pack-It System: A new-fangled line of products from
Eagle Creek, these items are basically Cordura nylon envelopes. The way
it works, you fold your clothes using a plastic sheet the provide, which
is measured to fit your pack-it envelope. When you are done packing in
this orderly, measured manner, you velcro the sides of the "envelope"
like you're diapering a baby. A good way to keep your clothes together
if your travelpack doesn't come with its own cinch straps.


More Helpful Tips

The following are a list of hodge podge items I have found useful in my
travels. Those with an * by it are ideas I came up with, that you might
not read anywhere else. They might be a little unusual or odd, but I
encourage you to give them a try. Let me know what you think!

 Accessories: One of the keys to traveling lightly is to give the
illusion that you have a large wardrobe (although if you are regularly
on the move, you could wear the same outfit and nobody would notice!).
For men, this means taking an extra tie or scarf with you. For women, it
means taking a silk scarf, a simple brooch and some cheap jewelry with
you. Scarfs are incredibly versatile (for thinner folks, it can even be
tied to be worn as a halter top!) and give totally different looks,
depending on how they are worn. Make sure your scarf coordinates with
the color scheme of your outfits.

Camcorders: It bothers me a great deal when people spend all their
vacation time with their eyes glued to the eyepiece of a camcorder,
enjoying their vacation only vicariously through the video they
shoot...which they watch when they get home. If you're going to just
watch TV, why don't you stay at home and watch the Discovery Channel? I
make exceptions for some things, like your baby's first trip to
grandma--but I personally don't think it's worth the added weight and
hassles. [However, please don't get angry at me if you leave your
camcorder home after reading this FAQ, and miss the chance opportunity
to record breaking news.]

Over the past year, I have somewhat changed my mind about camcorders. I
now believe it is possible to experience a vacation even with a
camcorder in hand. Some formats are very small and take little more than
an SLR 35mm camera. In addition, these "freelance photo-reporters" have
caught some of the most incredible and newsworthy footage shown on the
news today, because they were there.

 Cameras: I used to be a serious photographer, which meant I carried one
(if not two) camera bodies, and three lenses with me. Add a tripod and a
big flash to that, and I had a separate carry-on. I have long since
discovered that unless I am on a photography safari, there is little
reason to lug that much camera gear with me. Instead, I have opted for
the smaller point-and-shoot cameras. Many of them are surprisingly good,
and my current recommendation is for the Yashica T4. Also recommended by
traveler Phil Greenspun, the T4 is a well-built tiny camera that
produces surprisingly nice results. The major benefit of these tiny
things is that they take up barely any room in your bag. The major
disadvantage of the T4 is that is not a zoom camera. If you want
close-ups, YOU have to get up close. Visit Phil's travel photography web
site for tips on choosing a camera.

For some people, "travel" equates "photo opportunity." If you fall in
this category, you might want to take a camera bag as one of your
carry-ons. Travel with an SLR (or medium format) camera, zoom lens,
separate flash, and a tripod (or a monopod). Photography is especially a
great activity for those traveling alone, who have the flexibility to
maintain strange hours (up at dawn, napping at noon, etc.) and solitude.

 If you don't want to get caught up in photography, take a little sketch
pad with you! Not an accomplished artist? So what? Doodle some general
impressions anyway. Your other alternative is to keep a travel journal;
techno-minded folks can use a micro-cassette player to record their

Check Register*: Those little lined check registers you record the usage
of your personal checks in, make the best little notebooks! They fit in
your belt pouch/fanny pack/wallet, and you can use it to keep track of
traveller's checks, rolls of film, travel budget, and still leave you
with room to write down the addresses of newfound friends! Best of all,
they're free from your bank! What more could you want?

Checkbook cover/check register combo: I carry my check register in a
plastic checkbook cover (again, free from your bank). I found a little
note pad the size of checks that I have slipped into the cover as well.
I now use this to store everything important (except airline tickets,
which don't fit). I keep postcard stamps, pre-addressed self-adhesive
labels for my friends (to send postcards), used airline boarding passes,
business cards, etc. It still takes up minimal space, and the checkbook
cover keeps things like your postage stamps from getting wet!

 Coffee Can Lids: Plan to do some of your own picnicking? In addition to
taking your Swiss Army knife, don't forget to toss in a flexible plastic
lid from a three-pound can of coffee! These things take up almost no
room, but come in as a handy plate for those impromptu picnics. The lip
at the edge catches any liquids or morsels from spilling. This tip is
from Rick Steves.

Day Packs: Even the lightest traveler will usually want to carry an
everyday bag. Depending on the size of your carry-on, you can empty out
your stuff and use your carry-on bag. Some travelpacks have daypacks
that zip off the front. I use an expandable backpack from Lewis & Clark:
Made of parachute nylon, it packs into the size of a small coffee mug.
It carries my umbrella, camera, paperback book, and whatever else I want
to carry during the day. I usually leave it pretty empty, since it often
gets used for carrying souvenirs. Unfortunately, there aren't too many
companies currently making expandable day packs--I have an old one from
LL Bean (it's been off their catalog for a few years). Eagle Creek has
one, but it collapses into a stiff fanny pack that I don't really like.

Campmor catalog lists "Camp Trails Packables," a day pack and a duffel
bag--both made of 2.1oz nylon and packable in its own little pouch. Both
of these are priced at $9.99 each. A steal! The product number for the
day pack is 99860-N and unfortunately, it is not yet listed at their web

Dental floss: Don't forget to stick a small roll of waxed dental floss
in your toiletry kit or sewing kit. They not only keep your teeth clean;
they work real well as sewing thread. Embarrassed to use white floss for
sewing? Use a mint green one!

Ditty bag: In addition to my clothes, undergarments and toiletry kit, I
usually have a separate little sack where I keep small miscellaneous
items such as ear plugs, playing cards and a little sewing kit. My ditty
bag also contains an odd collection of things that I have discovered
very handy on my trips, including:

-Coffee can lid, which I use for little picnics as a plate
-A tiny bottle of Ivory dishwashing soap, which I use for cleaning
anything, including washing clothes.
-A flexible twisted rubber line for hanging my clothes to dry.

Fanny Packs/Bum Bags/Belt Pouches: If you would like to carry something
smaller than a day pack, a fanny pack/bum bag is one of the most
convenient ways to go. I use my Eagle Creek Spare Pocket as my everyday
purse--it has a strap that you can wear long as a shoulder bag, or
tighten up to wear around your waist. The Spare Pocket isn't very large,
though (it won't fit a thick paperback book), but there are other bags
that are slightly larger, that will also wear around your waist. They're
available again from places such as LL Bean and Eagle Creek. Note: Do
not refer to them as "fanny packs" in the UK, where the word refers to a
woman's private parts!

Eagle Creek has modified their Spare Pocket and it's now a little
roomier! It should easily fit a checkbook and a paperback book. The seam
on the front pocket now has two darts (gathers--it's a sewing term) that
allow you to put more things in it. The zipper on the front flap is no
longer diagonal, and goes straight across. Everything else is the same.
How to find the right version: Look at the zipper on the front flap. If
it's diagonal, it's the old model. Check the bar code inventory number
on the back as well. The new model is the B4606C. The old one is B4605C.

First Aid kit: My "first aid kit" contains the bare essentials, and is
housed in a little bag the same size as my toiletry kit. It contains
small ziploc bags of things like bandages, antibiotic cream,
antihistamine, anti-diarrheal, aspirin, tweezers, and alcohol wipes. I
also have a tiny Swiss Army knife (knife, file, scissors) that's
attached to a small pair of nail clippers, and a flash light the size of
a lighter.

Flat-rate envelopes*: Instead of using a manila envelope like many
travel books suggest, take a few US Postal Service Priority Mail
Flat-Rate envelopes with you. These stiff envelopes work great to hold
your travel papers, have their own adhesive for mailing, and are
flat-rated, which means no matter how many maps you stuff in one, it
will only cost you the two-pound rate (which as of 1996 is $3.00).
Although you now have to take it in person to the post office if your
envelope weighs more than 16 ounces (one pound), you can buy your $3.00
stamps in advance, and just hand the envelope over to the postal clerk
without digging for change. Best of all, these envelopes are free at the
US post office!

Handkerchiefs: Most packing lists will recommend handkerchiefs or
bandanas. Bandanas serve double-duty as a casual scarf, but the one
light hand-towel I use is a "Handi Wipe." These are reusable disposable
cloths marketed for various uses such as cleaning kitchen counters. The
reason I swear by these is that they take up practically zero space in
your luggage, dry in an instant, and are disposable so I can easily toss
them if they get old and worn.

Inflatable Neck Pillows/Back Pillows: If you are planning on spending
long hours on planes or trains, the traditional C-shaped inflatable neck
pillow is indispensable in preventing sore necks. I have also discovered
however, that a pillow against your lower back helps keep your back from
feeling too sore, either.

 Mailing Labels: Instead of lugging your entire address book (and risk
losing it), print out a set (or two, if you write a lot) of mailing
labels of your friends for sending postcards.

Money Belts/Security Pouches: So you have a day bag and a fanny pack.
You didn't even dare think you could leave your wallet in them though,
did you? The bulk of your money, passport, credit card and other
valuables should all be kept next to your skin under your clothes. You
can wear a security pouch in various forms--you can wear them around
your waist, your calf, your chest or under your armpit. Regardless of
which model you use, they should lie flat against you, and be worn next
to your skin. If you wish to keep money in your pocket, wear pockets
with zippers (or stitch your own velcro patches on them). Never ever
wear your wallet in your back pocket, the first place a pickpocket aims
at. Wear your wallet in your front pocket, under your jacket or shirt if
at all possible. Your wallet should only contain the day's spending
money, and some loose change. For more information on travel security
and scams, Marc Brosius has put together a document about it.

Rubber Sink Stopper/Jar Opener*: Most people like Rick Steves will
recommend that you take a rubber sink stopper with you, because you are
never guaranteed that the ones in your sink will work. The stoppers they
recommend are round flexible disks, about the size of your outstretched
hand. I have an additional suggestion for you. Instead of a sink
stoppers, go to the kitchen section of the store and buy a rubber jar
opener. They are about the same size, but have a better grip, and are
thinner than the sink stoppers. These will serve dual duty as sink
stopper and jar opener. Try buying a jar of olives for your picnic and
struggle to open it! I know, because I experienced it myself.

 Shipping Stuff Home: Whether it be old maps of places you already
visited, or souvenirs you don't want to carry. Make it a habit to ship
some of the stuff home so you don't have to lug them everywhere. You can
take some pre-addressed manila envelopes with you so you can ship things
home easily.

Shoes: More than anything, Wear Comfortable Shoes for your trip! Nothing
ruins a vacation more than blisters and sore feet. Fortunately, it is
getting easier to find stylish shoes that are also very good for
walking. Most men will find that the black leather walking shoes, made
by New Balance, Rockport, etc. are good looking, and comfortable. I
don't know if it's a vestige of the clunky ugly nurse's shoes, but
women's walking shoes in the US are unfortunately often bleach-white.
Overseas, these mark you as an ignorant American tourist--a terrible
fate that attracts pickpockets and behind-the-back sniggers. Avoid white
shoes, bright-colored running shoes and loud high-tech athletic shoes
altogether if you wish to blend in. You can either look around for a
neutral beige or black pair (they do make them), or wear low-heeled
comfortable covered shoes such as the ones from Easy Spirit or Rockport.
The added benefit is that these shoes are often attractive enough to
wear to a nice dinner. Make sure your shoes are broken-in prior to your

If you want to take a second pair (i.e. open-toe sandals), consider a
pair of comfortable Birkenstocks or Tevas. They are cushioned so you can
still walk in them all day. If you want more stylish shoes, take a pair
of EasySpirit or Rockport flat-heeled pumps with you. They are
rubber-soled, but look very nice. I bought a pair of "shoe clips" (they
look like clip-on earrings) that I snap on my pumps when I'm going
fancy. Shoe clips will change any ordinary pair of pumps to a pair of
fairly nice evening shoes. Find them in your shoe department.

Travel Alarm: If you are a light sleeper, you can try depending on your
digital watch. There are a couple of excellent travel alarm clocks I
would recommend. Timex produces one that looks like a wrist watch
without a band. One word: TEENY! Timex also makes Indiglo versions that
fit on your palm. Panasonic produces a travel radio alarm clock smaller
than a Walkman, if you like listening to the radio. In transit and want
to nap for a short while without worrying about changing the time on the
clock? My friend Audrey suggests a digital egg timer, which you can
easily set for certain amount of time (e.g. a two-hour nap).

Wine Box Liners: Some travel places sell inflatable back
cushions--however my little secret is the mylar liner from wine boxes.
They can be used as a portable water carrier as well as an inflatable
pillow. They are practically indestructible, and weigh next to nothing.
(Unfortunately, I can't take credit for this idea--it was originally
thought up by Audrey Sutherland, famous woman kayaker and author of
_Paddling My Own Canoe_).


Resource List of reviewed and rated travelite-related web sites

Because this is web-browser dependent, please visit my page at for the reviews.


Whew! You're still here! Thanks for reading (or at least skimming) my
FAQ. Feel free to send me any comments or suggestions; you might get
quoted in this FAQ! Thanks again, and happy light travels!!

Rev. Mama Lani (ULC),   \O/  Learn how to travel with just one
URL: <>       |D  carry-on - Visit my Travelite FAQ
Co-moderator, soc.culture.hawaii      /<   at <>!

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