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Here's What's In My Suitcase

When we check-in at the airline desk, my family has a competition to see whose suitcase is the lightest. I never win, but over the years, I have found some travel necessities that have lightened my load. I am not trying to endorse any particular company, but there are items out there that have enhanced my trip that others might find helpful. I'll share my secrets if you share yours:

-A down feather puffer jacket that can be rolled up and carried in a small bag when not needed;

-A Scott-e Vest with multiple interior zipped pockets, including one that holds a bottle of water and my i-pad mini - I was able to get so much of my stuff in it that I did not use a handbag, which alleviated the neck strain I would usually get from hours of touring with a heavy purse around my neck.

-Intimate topic but a wonderful travel invention - Ex-officio and Patagonia underwear - lightweight and quick-drying, they have cut down on the amount I need to take and the dirty laundry I accumulate during the course of the trip since I can wash them in the shower, and the next day they are dry. I just take 3 tops and the bottoms, and I am good for two weeks of travel.

-Same with quick dry t-shirts - I just pack a few, wash them in the shower, and I have tops for my entire trip without needing to do laundry or accumulate a pile of dirty clothes.

Did I miss anything?

Posted by
10052 posts

You are an economical packer! I suspect my suitcase is a tad heavier. One thing I have learned is to wear my jeans for several days. I only take 3 bottoms (jeans, black slacks, hiking pants) but jeans are my daily favorite. No one but me knows I have worn the, for three days. 😉 We also stay in most places a week so laundry is not a problem. But everything I buy is assessed against the “Will I wear this traveling?” benchmark. We also travel off season so needs vary, I.e., a fleece, cardigan, etc.

Posted by
503 posts

As one who is "packing obsessed" I love this!

Most of the time we travel during "shoulder season" - which means the weather can vary widely during our trips. So here are some of my "travel MVP's

  1. Airism and heattech camisoles, long sleeved tee's and leggings from Uniqlo. Airism for spring travels and heattech for fall. Inexpensive, take up virtually no space in my suitcase and make a fab base layer, Allows me to wear a t shirt even if the weather is bit cool, and provides a great additional layer if it's colder than expected. Also, my shirts stay a bit fresher - can generally get two wears from a shirt before I need to launder them!

  2. Compeed blister band aids. Better than anything I've found for dealing with blisters. You can find them in pretty much any pharmacy in Europe and they are now available on Amazon! I won't kid you - they aren't cheap but if you are blister prone - as my hubs is due to the alignment of his foot, they make all the difference,

3.My black REI waterproof jacket. Again, it wasn't inexpensive but it was worth every penny. Despite being an outdoor brand, it doesn't look sporty and goes perfectly with nicer jeans and boots as well as hiking pants!!

  1. My lands end primaloft jacket. Also compresses down into it's own sack, I can layer it under the REI jacket. Have worn this combo for days that only reached the mid 40's and was not cold at all. For transit, I put the primaloft sleeves into the REI jacket as one would a liner and carry both on the plane - can use the primaloft as a pillow (with a drawstring bag as a cover) if I need to.

  2. Lightweight merino wool scarf, Bought at the Christmas market in New York, Very lightwight and packs down to nothing but is amazing warm when needed!

Can't wait to see what other treasures I'll find on this thread!

Posted by
2526 posts

Plastic underwear left my kit and I now use very soft merino wool. Such dry quickly, the stink factor is dramatically reduced and the products work well during both hot and cold trips. Also, unless a cold adventure awaits, I don't pack my Patagonia Nano Puff jacket (synthetic fill, if wet can easily recover compared to down) and just use a combination of layers which include soft merino wool products (t-shirt and zip-t sweater).

Posted by
1179 posts

Full disclosure up front. I loathe the Scottevest. I find that it puts pressure on my neck, wrinkles, and doesn’t fit my female body.

I recommend a Primaloft jacket instead of down. Unlike down, Primaloft still works when wet. It is also machine washable. It is more expensive than down but it is a lot more rugged.

I agree with Nancy that the airism tank is a great layering piece. It is very small and light.

I also agree that a light, stylish, and packable rain jacket is a necessity. It really blocks the wind so you can retain heat.

Other ways to lighten up

  • check the weight of your containers. That would mean your suitcase, your toiletry kit, your packing cubes. Go with the lightest version possible.
  • decant and take “just enough” toiletries. Many times people use the 3 oz containers when a 1 oz container is sufficient.
  • use solids instead of liquid toiletries. They are more compact and easy to cut up into smaller pieces.
  • use light weight clothing and add layers as it gets colder. Leave the heavy pants, the cotton, the heavy knits at home.
  • consolidate electronics. Take a single micro USB charge cord and use it on all your devices. If you have Apple then bring a fire cord too. Use a single dual port 3 A USB charger. Do not bring a separate charger for each device.
  • If possible, use a phone. If not that then a lighter netbook. These avoid the heavy power bricks
  • Use USB sticks for backup storage of photos etc.
  • if possible use crayon makeup. It’s a lot less fragile than cake makeup. You can also leave a lot of brushes at home. Get mini versions of your makeup if possible. Also think about decanting cream makeup into smaller containers like contact lens cases.
  • Dump the paper where possible. Store documents on your phone or in the cloud. Convert your emails, etc. to PDF and store on an encrypted and password protected storage app. Use apps that work offline to store your travel plans. Use a phone compatible USB stick for backup storage for your documents.

Updates to add bullet point on paper.

Posted by
149 posts

Excellent info by Cindy H. I am a fan of packing discussions in particular and in general. I religiously utilize the most streamlined version of all traveling wardrobe and accoutrements I choose to travel with and happily count out exact quantities of personal toiletry needs. Includes glasses and sunglasses and their cases, headwear for weather sunny hot or shoulder season cold plus my underthings, bottoms, tops, outerwear, footwear and sleepwear. My soft goods, as well as hard goods, are uniformly the lightest version of themselves. I manage more shoe options by using super light models and using a quality orthotic insole (Powerstep) which provides great cushion and comfort as I switch in and out among my, wait for it, as many as 4 picks making the journey (does not include super light flipflops, exclusive for indoor use, I always have in my carry on bag potentially making it 5). Finding lightweight choices among varied retailers, downmarket choices oftentimes are more svelte than premium brands with the double bonus of being (much) more likely less dear to my wallet.

Posted by
3303 posts

When we check-in at the airline desk, my family has a competition to
see whose suitcase is the lightest.

Ok, that grabbed my attention right there! Wow, you all are competitive! And I like how you compete to see who has the lightest bag. Assuming you all have different suitcases, do you weigh them empty first and deduct the weight of the empty bag so the competition is based solely on what each of you packs?

For me, any coat I have I wear on the plane with the exception of my compact raincoat that folds into its own pocket. That weighs 14oz. I wear boots too so all I have in my bag are one pair of very light walking shoes (5oz). My wall charger which has 5 US ports weighs 8 oz. Blouses are lightweight as are the slacks (2-3 each).

Posted by
4438 posts

"When we check-in at the airline desk, my family has a competition to see whose suitcase is the lightest. "

Does the loser end up in the middle seat? ; )

Posted by
10052 posts

Cindy H too true about weight of the packing cubes and suitcase! I lost 3lbs when I traded my Rick Steves rollaboard for one by Osprey. That’s a big deal for me when lifting it overhead.

Posted by
92 posts

Great tips posted here. I love reading through these posts for new ideas. In the past couple of years I have had surgery to repair both of my shoulders and it’s important to me to be as independent in my travel as possible. My bag has to be light so I can put it in the overhead bin without any help. I most often travel in the winter so I look for clothes that add warmth but not weight. Uniqlo has great options with their down vests, jackets and light, quick drying tanks and tees. I do not buy clothes specifically for travel, my budget and closet space don’t allow for that. However, when I do buy something new, I look for items that work well for travel, darker colors, usually navy or dark gray that wrinkle minimally. My biggest obstacles for traveling light is not my clothes but the “add ons” such as IPad, phone, chargers and such. Love hearing everyone’s tips and great ideas.

Posted by
55 posts

I also love my Uniqlo Airism, Heat Tech, and merino. All have become daily standard wear for me, traveling or not. I also love their ultra stretch jeans--my black pair is my travel pant HG. For undies, I have Ex Officio and Smart Wool, and again these are now my every day wear, not just for travel. It's remarkable really the number of clothing items I bought to try out for travel and ended up converting my wardrobe to... merino socks are on the list, too! This was an unexpected bonus, and one I think a lot of people don't realize when shopping for "travel" clothing.

Laurel, I have to say today I learned: NOT wearing jeans for 3+ days before washing is a thing; washing after every wear isn't something I have ever, ever done with jeans whether I am traveling or not. Wonder which of us is the outlier on this :-)

Posted by
2316 posts

I'll be packing for my 2 week trip very soon and I'm going to try to cut down on my toilet articles by using smaller containers & measuring out some products--good tip there. Limiting my tops is always hard, going to try for 6 including the one I wear on the plane. Jeans are all I wear, but 2 pair is fine--wear one for 3-4 days, wash, wear the other pair, repeat. I have no issue with doing sink laundry and have finally realized all I really need are 3 pairs of panties and socks, fought off the urge to bring 6 a few trips ago.

Posted by
13045 posts

Can someone tell me what they like so much about the Uniqlo products, especially the Airism line, besides the low price? I wear camis to sleep in but have always preferred cotton as it breathes. Do the Airism camis breathe as well? And what are their skinny jeans like- do the high-rise jeans actually fit at the waist and not fall down?

Their clothes look appealing because they come in true small sizes, so they might actually fit me. But there is so little information about the company on the website, even under "About Us". I can't even tell where they are headquartered.

Posted by
1284 posts

I never wash jeans when traveling and at home I wash them about once every three months. They get so comfy when you wear them and when you wash them you have to start all over. With that being said I take 3 pants on a trip, long dark stretch jeans, Capri boyfriend ripped jeans light denim and black cargo Capri. No special underwear or jackets. My main thing is to take clothes in nuetral colors, tanks and scarfs to change up the outfit and several pieces of minimalist jewelry to bring it all together. You don't need a lot of clothes but what you do bring should by multi functional and comfortable.

Posted by
1284 posts

Cindy h-what is crayon make up? I love make up and have never seen this or maybe i know it as something else..

Posted by
1595 posts

"I never wash jeans when traveling and at home I wash them about once every three months."

Letizia, that is just gross. You must never wear your jeans. When traveling or at home, I can't imagine wearing anything more than two days. I'm active and do dirty sweaty things plus the AZ heat is starting this weekend and it won't cool down until October. One day of horse feeding and stall cleaning and my jeans or riding breeches are filthy. Riding days, I'll go through one set of riding clothes and another set of "home" clothes, maybe "home clothes" can go into a second day if I just spend the evening knitting.

I prefer leggings to capris. (My) old lady legs should only be seem at home and don't need to be sticking out of capris. I really hate that old lady in the mirror who follows me around. Spanx leggings hold the twinkie thighs in quite good, are very comfortable and dry quickly. Sun shirts, tunics and bottoms are black, gray and red and mix and match. If I take a dress, it's long and black. Sweater is black. Jacket is red. All are light weight and easy to pack. We're doing road trips this year and next for our 50th class reunions so we have no space constraints. But I probably won't pack too much more except more shoes.

TXtwinmama, I like your idea of doing laundry in the shower instead of the sink. The two times I've been to Europe, I found laundry facilities or did laundry when I stayed. We often stay with friends on our road trips so we can do laundry whenever we need to.

Posted by
125 posts

I'm going to Austria, Germany, and Italy on my first overseas trip in Sept. We're going for 3 weeks and initially we were only going to take our backpacks but seeing as we are climbing the Zugspitze while we are there, we're going to need items we will only use while climbing/hiking...walking sticks, hiking boots, gloves, etc (some things, like helmets etc we will rent there). We are going to need a checked bag, as well, but I'm determined to keep it to as small a suitcase as possible.
I think my gadgets and non clothing items take up more room!

Posted by
55 posts

@Lola Re: Uniqlo. They are a Japanese company, with an online and brick-and-mortar presence in the US. Your profile says Seattle, and I would bet you can find a store near you to try stuff on if you want to give them a go!

I cannot speak to the high-rise jean style. I am incredibly short-waisted and high-rise jeans hit my bra band LOL. The Ultra-Stretch low/mid-rise ones stay up fine, if you get the proper size. I accidentally bought a size up when I ordered my first pair--they are wearable, but need a belt.

My Airism camis are about the only ones I own anymore. They feel breathable to me as layering pieces and are comfy to sleep in.

Posted by
1595 posts

Akros, body sweat and lotions build up on clothes even if you are inside doing nothing. Outside, just walking around builds them up faster. Wash your clothes every two days at least. Your wouldn’t let your hair go unwashed for a week would you?

Edit: forgot to mention that it’s hay fever season and pollens cling to you clothes.

Posted by
2908 posts

A quote from the article that Akros put up about how often to wash jeans:

Basically, when they smell — no sooner and no longer. Depending on how much you sweat, how often you wear them in a week, and how dirty the area you live in is, that could be once every two to six months.

So really, no one is in the wrong as long as the jeans are dirty when one washes them and not smelly when one wears them. Otherwise, one is just wasting water. Maybe now the subject can return back to packing, which is a more interesting topic, IMO. ;)

Posted by
13045 posts

Thanks, k-Anderson. Turns out there are a couple of Uniqlo stores here in malls, but I was impatient to use the $10 "new customer" discount they gave me while the jeans were on sale ( ended yesterday). So I ordered that one in 2 sizes and will return the one that doesn't work. I am looking for high-rise jeans with a true waist because all my current jeans ( mostly NYDJ) fit lower and do not stay up without a belt.

And speaking of washing jeans, I have to launder mine after every wearing because they stretch out.

Posted by
1284 posts

Horsewoofie-Not gross at all, in fact there are lots of people that wash jeans only once a year, if that. I think we are taking about two very different types of jeans. If I was working in a barn or a field these would not be the type of jeans I would be wearing on vacation or for a night out. My jeans are more tailored, have some lycra in them and not sold in the Levi's section of the store (love me some 501's & 505's but not for traveling). I rarely sweat into my jeans and if I do it's not a big deal just turn them inside out and hang, no stink= no worries! I usually wash them when they get too loose on me and need a good shrinking up. To each their own. I also think your exagerting about your "old lady legs", if your stall cleaning and riding then you must be in shape and have some pretty good tone to those legs! Throw some self-tanning lotion on those legs and show them off!

Cindy-Gotcha!

Posted by
1595 posts

Cindy, thanks for sharing your packing list. It’s a tad light on clothes for me but great for all the incidentals.

Thought I’d share the camera tripod I bought years ago for Ireland trip. https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000ANCPNM/ref=mp_s_a_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1525457710&sr=8-9&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=travel+tripod+for+camera
It’s cheap, very lightweight, fits in my camera bag and worked for my non-digital Canon AL1 and now my Nikon point and shoot.

Posted by
1179 posts

Cindy, thanks for sharing your packing list. It’s a tad light on clothes for me but great for all the incidentals.

The list is actually from Doug Dyment of onebag.com. It’s the original and very best packing site.

I prefer 5 tops and 3 bottoms, as well as a cardigan and jacket. But that’s because I like variety. I can certainly travel with far less.

Posted by
3680 posts

I'm totally with Horsewoofie on the old lady legs thing. If I don't wear Sockwell compression socks on trips, my legs swell due to the large amount of salt in most restaurant food. I typically wear boots for stability and comfort anywhere and anytime in Europe. Boots and socks cover up my lower legs and look pretty ridiculous with capris.

If I were to uncover those legs, it's not about the tone of the calves. It's about 72 years of sun exposure, age spots and a rather scary scar from the removal of a fast-growing basal cell carcinoma.

My go-to jeans are now Slim Sations like these. I'll be taking them along with a pair of navy blue Slim Sations like these and a pair of much lighter weight Mountain Hardwear pants like these. These are my versions of leggings.

After all the discussion, I once again looked at the Uniqlo brands mentioned. According to the size chart, there is no size top that would be big enough. And I've got my bottom covered with other brands.

Posted by
1595 posts

Lo, I‘ve got the age spots, veins and creeping skin after living in AZ for 33 years, doing lots of boating in the NW before that and working retail for many years. Not to mention a bout with melanoma on my arm. If we had only known what we know now about sun damage in the 50’s and 60’s!

I mainly wear long sleeve vented sun shirts to protect my arms and neck. Not as good as I should be at home, though. Early morning and late afternoon i’m trying to stay cool in shorts and tank tops. It’s suppose to be 107* Sunday.

Fortunately I can still cram into a size 8. My leggings, sun shirts and tunics pack very small. I can’t wait for my Italy trip hopefully next year.

Posted by
3175 posts

A British company named Rohan has quick dry jeans. My cotton lined pair is going with me to Scotland, along with silk long underwear and Bean fitness fleece jacket and North Face quarter zip. The lined jeans dried in slightly more than 24 hours. I hand wash items in sink at home to see if they make the cut for travel.

Posted by
1179 posts

The lined jeans dried in slightly more than 24 hours.

This is a very different perspective.

I would not consider 24 hours an acceptable drying time for travel. I would expect 6 hours or less.

Lined anything takes forever to dry. That’s why I prefer layering tights or silk long johns under my pants. The thinner items wash separately so dry faster. In addition, I get a larger temperature range as I can wear the lighter pants in warmer temperatures.

Posted by
503 posts

Just to add to the washing/not washing of jeans controversy...On my second trip to Europe, when I was very much younger, my sister and I did not wash our jeans (our only pair each) for 6 weeks! We could have probably gone without washing for the remaining two weeks of our trip, but I think we just wanted to feel like we had clean clothes. Now, my trips are much shorter in length, usually only two weeks and I never wash my jeans until I get home. I don't mind wearing jeans for that long but I hate tops after one or two days of wear. So, I'll save space by not taking more than two bottoms, but I will take about 5 or 6 tops.

Posted by
511 posts

I am not a fan of jeans. They're heavy, not compressible and if it rains and they get wet they are slow-drying. I usually wear roll-up travel pants (similar to REI Kornati) or perhaps zip-offs. My favorite pair has zippered side pockets which I think discourages pick pockets. I also sometimes wear something like Dockers.

Great thread, by the way.

Posted by
13045 posts

A follow-up on my question about the Uniqlo products, discussed about halfway up (before the jeans-washing controversy).

The Airism camis are too slinky and synthetic-feeling for me, especially for sleepwear. They are going back.

The “high-rise” skinny jeans are nice, in a thin stretchy fabric with 30percent Lyocell (Tercel) which is a fabric I love. I bought them in black in two sizes, the smaller of which fits pretty well. But I have also ordered the next size smaller (their smallest) to see if they fit better. The “high rise” waist, FWIW, fits right at the waist, which is what I was looking for.

I am going to have to shorten them, but that is usual for any pants that do not come in Petite sizes.