in: Featured, Leisure, Living

• Last updated: May 29, 2021

How to Pack a Bag When Traveling

Vintage businessman packing a suitcase.

When going on a trip, many men, to their shame, have the women in their lives- their mom, girlfriend, or wife- pack their suitcase for them. They either can’t be bothered or are afraid they don’t know how. But your mom won’t always be around, and if you plan on being a well-traveled man, it’s essential that you learn how to effectively pack a bag. You don’t want to bring too much stuff, too little stuff, or have your stuff arrive in a crumpled mess.

Create a packing list

Instead of trying to figure out at one in the morning what you need to pack, create a list of items that you regularly need on a trip. A packing list not only ensures that you won’t forget anything important (especially the little things that are easily overlooked while rushing out the door), it also prevents you from over packing. This will help you cut down on expensive baggage fees.

When creating a list, make it as general as possible. You don’t want stuff on there that you only need for certain trips. For example, don’t put “ski coat” on your list if you only ski once a year. You can always modify the list depending on the trip you’re going on.

We’ve created a simple packing list to help get you started. Print it off before your next trip.

Check the Weather

Some guys don’t check what the weather is going to be like where they’re headed and thus stuff their bag with items they never end up using. Before you pack, check the weather report for a semi-accurate prediction of what Mother Nature has in store for you on your trip. Forecasts these days go hour by hour, so you can see what you’ll need to be comfortable morning, noon, and night. is a great resource.

Also, call the friend you’re visiting, or someone who has been where you’re going, and ask if your destination has any quirky weather patterns. For example, San Francisco’s weather may look balmy on the forecast, but if the fog rolls in while you’re out and about, you’re going to get pretty chilly if you haven’t brought a jacket.

Packing Clothes

Every man wishes to pack as lightly as possible. But sometimes when you’re faced with your closet and that empty suitcase you feel a bit of inertia about what to bring. Simply pack one pair of pants (or shorts) for every 2-3 days of your trip, and a shirt and pair of underwear for every single morning. Then add one extra shirt, pair of underwear, and pair of pants, in case something happens that will require it. When you’ve packed the basics, think about what additional items you might need. A formal outfit? A bathing suit? A jacket and gloves?

Also, don’t forget a pair of pajama pants to sleep in. Some guys usually sleep in their undies and therefore overlook this important item. You don’t want your host or hostess to catch sight of your nether regions when waking you up, and you need something to pad down to breakfast in.

Finally, pack an empty garbage bag in your suitcase. That way you can keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean ones while on your trip.

Packing to Avoid Wrinkling
The bane of any traveler’s existence is the wrinkles and creases that end up in your clothes after you pull them out of your suitcase. Try these techniques to keep your clothes neat and crisp while they’re en route to your destination.

Alternate Folding

One way to avoid creases in clothing is by placing one garment between the folds of another garment. By placing another garment between the folds, you can prevent a crease from forming.

In this example we’re packing a dress shirt, a pair of dress slacks, a tie, and few t-shirts.

1. Start off by buttoning the bottom, middle, and top button of the dress shirt.

2. Lay the shirt facedown on a flat surface. Put your finger about an inch from the collar of the shirt and fold the sleeve into the shirt, forming a straight line down the edge. Bring the sleeve in line with edge you just created. Repeat on the other side. You should end up with something that looks like this.

Folding men's dress shirt for suitcase.

3. Lay your tie completely unfolded along the length of the shirt. Place a folded t-shirt at the point where you want to fold the dress shirt.

Folding clothes into men's dress shirt.

4. Fold over your dress shirt. Fold any part of your tie over that’s hanging out of your shirt over your dress shirt. You’ll end up with something like this.

A man folding t shirt and tie in shirt.

Folded men dress.

5. Now it’s time to fold your slacks. Lay your slacks on a flat surface and place a t-shirt at the point where you plan on folding the pants. Fold.

Slacks dress pants for suitcase.

Man folding slacks pack dress pants.

6. If you want, place another t-shirt on top of your folded pants. Fold the bottom half of your pants over your t-shirt.

Folding shirt slacks for a suitcase.

7. Flip over your pants, so the waist band is face up. Place another t-shirt where you want to fold the waist band over the rest of the pants. Fold. You should end up with three folds in your pants with t-shirts in between each fold.

Packing dress pants for traveling with t-shirts.

Fold and Roll

If the alternate folding method isn’t your thing, you can always go with the traditional fold and roll method.
1. Roll up garments that don’t wrinkle as easily. These include t-shirts, underwear, jeans, and cotton slacks.
2. Fold garments like dress slacks, dress shirts, and dress coats.
3. Place the rolled up garments on the bottom of the bag. Then place the folded garments on top.
4. Place shoes, socks, and your Dopp kit along the sides of the bag.

Packing a dress coat

If you’re traveling on business or headed out to be the best man at your bud’s wedding, you’re probably going to pack a suit. We’ve shown you how you can fold your pants in order to reduce creases, but what about your jacket? Many large suitcases have a small rack so you can hang jackets. But if you’re just bringing a carry-on you may not have this option. Here’s a nifty method, lifted from a 1953 men’s wardrobe guide, on how to fold a dress or sport coat while keeping wrinkles to a minimum.

1. Spread the coat out on a flat surface. Make certain collar is turned up, that sleeves are straight and laid out smoothly, free of wrinkles.

Spread out coat on a flat surface.

2. Turn sleeves up so that lower portion is about even with armhole when folded. Keep all parts smooth and free of wrinkles

Sleeves up to the lower portion is about even with armhole when folded.

3. Fold front side parts of coat over sleeves so that edges meet a rear center seam. Smooth out wrinkles.

Fold front side parts of coat over sleeves.

4. To pack in wide container: Double up over sleeves to top of collar. Pick up each side of garment and lay coat smoothly into bag.

Double up over sleeves to top of collar.

5. To pack in duffle bag or narrow container: Smooth out wrinkles, fold left side over right side, then bottom to top, and lay flat in bag.

Fold left side over right side, then bottom to top, and lay flat in bag.

Packing Shoes

Many men throw their shoes in their bag willy nilly, but shoes are often (surprise, surprise) quite dirty and can soil your clothes. Put each shoe in a newspaper or grocery bag and place them on top of all your stuff in the suitcase or in unused crevasses. If you’ve got dress shoes that you don’t want to be crushed or creased, stuff the inside of the shoes with rolled up socks and place them on the perimeter of the suitcase with the sole against the outside edge.

Packing Toiletries

If you’re checking a bag and bringing a carry-on, I recommend stashing your toiletries in your carry-on bag. Perhaps even a change of underwear as well. Bags often get lost or misplaced or your flight gets delayed and you end up in a hotel without a toothbrush, toothpaste, or deodorant. But of course, when packing your Dopp kit in your carry-on, you have to follow the rules about liquids provided to us by The Man.

In late 2006, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration introduced rules pertaining to the carrying of liquid, gel, and aerosol products aboard commercial aircraft. All liquids must be in thee ounce containers or smaller. You also must place all liquids in a clear ziplock bag. Unless you want to be that guy who holds up the line at the airport, you’ll need to take make sure your carry-on toiletries meet these specifications.

One way you can do this is by buying travel size containers of your liquid products. They’re quite handy and space-saving. If you want to save some money and help reduce waste, you can buy cheap travel size bottles and fill them up with your products from home.

If this is too much of a hassle, another option is buy alternatives to liquid products.

Shampoo: J.H. Liggets Bar Shampoo

Toothpaste: Powder toothpaste

Shaving Cream: Shave Soap

Razors. Despite the ban on pocket knives, you can carry on certain shaving razors, such as disposable razors or razor cartridges. If you like to shave like your grandpa, you’ll be happy to know that safety razors are also allowed. However, you won’t be able to carry on your straight edge razor. Sorry Bill the Butcher.

Additional Tips

Leave a little room for souvenirs. If you’re going on vacation and expect to bring back some goodies for yourself and your loves ones, don’t pack your bag to the brim or you won’t have any room to tote the plunder back. If you plan on bringing a ton of stuff home, pack a collapsible bag inside of your bigger bag, and you can fill it with your booty.

Mix it up with your travel buddy. If you’re traveling with your bud or your girl, it’s a good idea to pack half of your clothes in her bag and half of her clothes in your bag. That way in case one of your bags gets lost while traveling, you’ll still have access to some of your clothes.

Steam it up. It’s hard to avoid wrinkling your clothes during transit. When you arrive to your destination, it’s best to unpack right away so you can let your clothes relax before creases and wrinkles get a chance to set. If you still have some wrinkles in your clothes, hang them up in the bathroom while you’re taking a hot steamy shower. This should help reduce any wrinkling.

Manly luggage. If you’re looking for some manly luggage to pack all your stuff in, make sure to check out Saddle Back Leather. It’s a bit expensive, but man does their stuff look awesome. Hat tip to Matt Chancey.

How do you pack?

Everyone has their own way to pack. What has worked for you? Got any tricks you learned in the Navy that lets you pack your entire wardrobe in a carry-on without anything getting wrinkled? Drop a line in the comment box and share your wealth of knowledge.


My mother-in-law

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