Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving No Baggage Challenge: The Trip So Far

I recently entered a SCOTTEVEST contest to travel around the world with no luggage. (Watch my entry video and follow-up video.) This Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to put my gear to the test and travel home for 5+ days with nothing (other than my laptop) but what I could fit into my SCOTTEVEST clothing.


  1. Scott Jordan, CEO of SCOTTEVEST, is holding a contest this weekend for people using SCOTTEVEST clothing to get through airport security. The winner of the contest wins a free Carry-On Coat. (In order to win, your video has to get the most views.) Since I'm not traveling by air, I decided to the next best thing I could and show how SCOTTEVEST clothing could be used to travel by car for an extended weekend. (My trip is actually more representative of how most Americans are traveling this weekend — out of 40 million traveling, only 1.6 million are doing so by air.) My hope is that Scott Jordan will consider this a good demonstration of his gear and a valid entry for this weekend's contest.
  2. As I mentioned, I recently entered into SCOTTEVEST's No Baggage Challenge contest to travel around the world with no luggage. I thought this weekend would be a great chance to put my proposed travel kit to the test and see how it performs before taking it on an extended journey.
  3. I made it to all 7 continents successfully without checking a bag. My last four journeys, including a week in New York City, have been with nothing other than what I could fit into a North Face daypack. I love the idea of traveling light and am challenged by Rolf Potts' and Matt Hamlin's examples of traveling without any luggage at all. I was intrigued by trying this out myself and seeing how well it works.
  4. As long-time readers will know, I also love the idea of simplicity in general. This has been strongly influenced by my travel experiences. I thought a challenge like this would help remind me of and reinforce these ideals.


No Baggage Challenge
(Click on image to see associated notes.)

Watch the video to see where I packed everything into my clothing. Below is a photo of all the gear I was able to fit into my SCOTTEVEST Tropical Jacket and Hidden Cargo Pants. (Click on the image to see associated notes.) In addition to what is pictured below, I was also able to smuggle in an Apple TV in my jacket — a birthday present my brother and I got for my Dad.

About 30 minutes after I recorded the video above, I received an order I made last week from SCOTTEVEST. It contained two new Q-Zips and a Performance T-Shirt. (I lost 20 pounds in the last 10 weeks as a self-experiment in weight loss and get great compliments every time I wear my Q-Zip. I figured I better get a couple more.) Since these arrived before my departure, I decided to replace one of my SmartWool T-Shirts with the Performance T-Shirt and the Icebreaker wool shirt with a second Q-Zip.

Here's my final gear list (plus cables, chargers, and camera connectors):

  • Clothing
    • SCOTTEVEST Tropical Jacket/Vest
    • SCOTTEVEST Q-Zip * 2
    • SCOTTEVEST Performance T-Shirt
    • SmartWool T-Shirt
    • SCOTTEVEST Hidden Cargo Pants
    • Ex Officio Boxers * 2
    • Tilley Travel Briefs
    • SmartWool Socks * 3
    • Ecco Shoes
    • Icebreaker Wool Cap
    • EMS Waterproof Baseball Cap
    • Mountain Hardwear Gloves
  • Toiletries
    • Sea to Summit Shaving Soap
    • Sea to Summit Laundry Detergent
    • Deodorant
    • Toothpaste
    • Toothbrush
    • Razor
    • Hair Gel
  • Electronics
    • iPhone
    • iPad
    • Kindle
    • Canon SD1000 Digital Camera
    • MacBook Pro (I would normally leave this at home)


I am now in Day 4 of my trip and am tremendously enjoying how this is working so far. Granted, I'm just an hour away from home and staying in a very familiar environment (Mom and Dad's), but there is no reason to think this manner of travel couldn't be extended long-term with little difficulty. Although I am currently close to home, I am not doing anything differently than if I were 1,000 or 10,000 miles away.

Unpacking: One of the coolest things about traveling with no luggage so far is how effortless it was to unpack. When I got here, I simply removed my iPad and Kindle, put my socks and underwear in a drawer, removed my toiletries, and then hung up my jacket and shirts — and I was done. No bags to contend with, no extra junk cluttering up the room, no nothing. In about 60 seconds, I was unpacked, more organized than I usually am when traveling, and my room was just as clean as it was when I arrived. I expect my re-packing to go equally quickly.

Laundry: So far, since I am stationary for a few days, I have washed my socks and underwear each morning in the sink just before getting in the shower. I'm trying out Sea to Summit laundry strips for the first time and they are working brilliantly. They consist of a set of 50 leaves that dissolve in water. I've been using 2 per day, so a pocket-sized pack should get me through close to a month of travel. My socks and underwear are dry by nighttime. I would expect them to be equally good at drying over night. Since I'm only four days out, I haven't had to wash my t-shirts yet.


As much as I have been inspired by Rolf Potts and Matt Hamlin, one thing I was hoping to see more of in their travelogues were details about how their SCOTTEVEST products and other travel gear worked — both pros and cons. Here are a few of my thoughts so far:

Tropical Jacket/Vest: This piece is definitely the core of my current travel kit. The jacket is of good quality, although I am a bit concerned about the longevity of the zipper for the iPad pocket. I haven't had any issues with it so far — other than that it often takes two hands to zip and unzipped — but it feels like the zipper pull could twist if I'm not careful and seems to be weakest part of the jacket. I'm also still not a huge fan of the clear-touch fabric for the iPhone pockets — they also feel like they might be a future failure point and are at risk of damage if you run them through a dryer. I also own the SCOTTEVEST Fleece 5.0 jacket and wish the Tropical Jacket also had external chest pockets like the fleece has.

Despite these three minor concerns, this is one of my favorite jackets ever. I like the fact the sleeves zip off, turning it into a light vest in warm weather. As I mention in the video, the back pocket is large enough to hold a spare t-shirt. This has far more pockets in it than any other jacket I've ever owned (other than my Fleece 5.0 jacket) — making it a great alternative to a small backpack or shoulder bag for traveling. The fact it can fold into it's back pocket is an extra-plus for days you don't need it or want to wear it, but still need to be on the go with it packed away.

One of the greatest strengths and weaknesses of the Tropical Jacket is that it is very light-weight warmth-wise — exactly as advertised. It works decently well as a water-resistant/wind-resistant shell over a warmer base layer, but won't provide too much extra warmth on it's own. This makes it usable in a whole host of conditions — IF you layer properly. I've had a chance to wear it in the rain a time or two and it does a decent job keeping light rain off, but it will soak through if you're out in the elements for too long. It dries very quickly and should keep rain off for short-periods of time or if you're in a pinch.

(If you anticipate being in a wet or windy environment, you might want to check out SCOTTEVEST's Revolution Jacket. It's water-proof, has a removable hood, and still converts into a vest. It also has chest pockets (no back pocket, however) and strikes me as a little more stylish and better general-use shell than the Tropical Jacket. I've seen the Revolution Plus at the International Spy Museum in DC and it looks very sharp, although a little too warm for typical DC weather. The Revolution jacket sounds nearly ideal for travel.)

Before heading home for the weekend, I decided to load up my Tropical Jacket to wear while walking around Arlington running some errands. It worked well enough — although carrying the iPad in one pocket caused a very large bulge if I packed anything in the pocket in front of it. While not uncomfortable to carry, I definitely felt a little puffy with all the pockets loaded up. I met two friends for lunch while "packed" — one of them said they couldn't tell I was loaded up while the other thought my jacket did look a little bulky and suggested I get a longer jacket for packing like this. Without realizing it, she was suggesting I get something like the SCOTTEVEST Carry-On Coat to help with the bulging. I agree with her that a longer jacket would probably work better for multi-day trips. (Although you'd lose the versatility of converting it into a vest and folding it away when not in use.) The other option would be to leave the iPad at home and/or try to figure out how to pack a little lighter.

Q-Zips: Next to the Tropical Jacket, my Q-Zips are by far my favorite SCOTTEVEST products that I own. As I mentioned above, I recently lost 20 pounds in the past 10 weeks as part of a self-experiment in weight loss. The Q-Zips have a fairly athletic cut and I get many compliments about how trim I look while wearing them. They dry very quickly when wet, are incredibly wrinkle resistant, and pack relatively small — making them ideal for travel. A good idea for travel is to layer two of these on top of each other — both for extra warmth and as a convenient way to carry them (like I did with the Q-Zip and wool Icebreaker shirt in my video). Layering also has the added benefit of varying the appearance of colors by unzipping the outer layer while keeping the inner layer zipped up. (See below.)

Performance T-Shirt: The Performance T-Shirt is made out of the same material as the Q-Zip and has a similar athletic cut. I've only owned it a few days but my impression is highly positive so far. My main concern about it compared to my SmartWool t-shirt is to see whether or not it has an issue retaining odors if I have to go 2-3 days of wearing it without washing. (SmartWool products are nearly impossible to stink up.). One trick I learned for giving more versatility to my wardrobe (and potentially aid in packing) is to wear the Performance T-Shirt on top of the Q-Zip, with another t-shirt underneath. (See below.) Of course, you can always wear them alone as another way to add visual variety to what you wear.

Hidden Cargo Pants: These pants have several hidden pockets with magnetic closures and could easily substitute for a money belt. The pants have an unusual drawstring inside to help tighten them — but it is not suitable as a substitute for a belt, limiting its usefulness. I have to be careful to make sure this is tucked in or else it will stick out above the waist of the pants when I first put them on. I think the drawstring could easily be removed without affecting the functionality of the pants. (Again, a minor issue.) Of all the items in this wardrobe, these pants are the most wrinkle prone. (No better or worse than "regular" khakis.)

I do like the extra-deep pockets on the pants, but they are no where near as useful as the pockets on the jacket. Still, these are sharp looking khakis and perhaps their best feature is that you can't tell there is anything special about them by looking at them. By the time I get home, I will have worn them for 4-6 days without washing. So far, so good. After four days of constant wear, I am happy to report they are still completely 100% odor free.

For longer-term travel, I would probably prefer something more quick drying and would be less concerned about the number of pockets. I would probably also prefer to bring more than one pair so I could wear one while I wash and dry the other. (Depending on the time of year and locale, shorts might suffice for my second pair.)

Ex Officio Travel Boxers: These Ex Officio Boxers are by far the best travel underwear I've ever owned. They are quick-drying, odor resistant, and (unlike my Tilley briefs) I have never experienced any chaffing while wearing them. At some point, I'd like to try a pair of SmartWool boxers, but would be very comfortable traveling the world with only two pair (maybe three) of Ex Officio Boxers.

SmartWool Socks: Actually, these are SmartWool sock liners but look like black socks — only more durable, odor resistant, and (relatively) quick drying. (My boxers actually dry faster.) These come about as close as anything to the ideal travel socks that I've found, but are not good insulators (as I recently discovered while camping in near-freezing temperatures near Harper's Ferry a couple weekends ago — I finally figured out to wear two socks on each foot). I wish they dried a bit faster, but are otherwise great socks.

Smart Wool T-Shirt: Like the socks, these t-shirts are nearly impervious to odors (something invaluable for a long-term trip with limited clothing) and dries relatively quickly. I am still trying to test out how I think this stacks up against the Performance T-Shirt. I like them both.

Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Vest: This is a thin, but surprisingly warm, fleece vest with windstopper technology which blocks wind from getting through. I have found the vest to be useful in a greater range of temperatures than a traditional fleece jacket and quite stylish as well. It also packs smaller than a full jacket and gives added variety to my wardrobe when worn over another garment. (See below.)

Sea to Summit Laundry Detergent & Shaving Cream: These two products have been one of my more recent discoveries and I am delighted to have found them. Basically they consist of small leaves (similar to Listerine breath strips) that dissolve in water -- either turning into detergent for doing laundry in a sink or else lather up into shaving cream for shaving. Each small container holds 50 leaves and so can last for quite a while. (I find one shaving cream leaf a day is sufficient and two detergent leaves are enough for washing one pair of socks and one pair of underwear in the sink.) Since these are non-liquid, you should be safe keeping them out of your TSA 3-1-1 ziplock bag and are small enough to fit into nearly any pocket or bag. I like the shaving leafs much better than shaving oil I've tried in the past or than carrying a trial-size can of shaving cream. Highly recommended!


If you can't tell, I'm really enjoying this experience so far. Both from a practical and a more philosophical perspective. Despite having traveled all over the world without checking bags, this experiment makes me feel like I've always been an overpacker. It is experiential proof that we really do need less than we think we need.

I will follow-up with more thoughts after I get home in a few days.

1 comment:

Spyder Jacket said...

Great experience! When you're organized, you'll always know what you have.