Merino Sweaters Rule for One-Bag Travelling!

I’m away exploring beautiful GdaŇĄsk at the moment, but am keeping up the good work for all one-bag travellers by sticking to my trip-enhancing luggage-minimising rules. One thing that has helped greatly of late is canny clothing choice. 

I’ve written before about the undershirt trick for getting the longest wear out of smarter, bulkier items. But selecting those bulkier items carefully in order to minimise the space they take can boost your space even further. To this end, I’ve found merino wool sweaters brilliant items; they’re tight-knit, fine garments, which fold up neatly without bulk. They’re also warm in cold weather, but breathe enough to wear on warmer days, too.
Combined with some thin T-shirts, you can get several days of fresh wear from them. For a six-day trip, for example, I followed this pattern:

  1. Sweater A with fresh T-shirt underneath
  2. Sweater A with fresh T-shirt underneath
  3. Sweater A on its own
  4. Sweater B with fresh T-shirt underneath
  5. Sweater B with fresh T-shirt underneath
  6. Sweater B on its own

That’s six days of top-half outfits, which barely take up any space at all (and you’ll be wearing on sweater to travel in, so that’s one fewer in the bag, too).

If you’re a hotel gym-goer like me, too, then the T-shirts will double as gym gear (‘cos who cares if you’re a bit whiffy at the gym, right? ūüėČ ).

It’s a great, common-sense system, which you can embrace with gusto if you are able to let go of the “I must have a choice of outfits wherever I go!” mentality. The merino knits help here too, being smart-casual – they’ll look good in lots of settings.

In the U.K., Primark have some great ones for just ¬£16 at the time of writing, but you’ll pick these basics up from almost any High Street store.

Qikpac for perfect one-bag jackets!

I recently came across the pretty impressive Qikpac range of waterproofs by outdoor company Trespass, and they dovetail perfectly into the whole one-bag travelling idea.

The need for a lightweight but warm, dry jacket has been a real fly in the ointment for me on some trips abroad, particularly to outdoor pursuits locations like Iceland. Finally, in Qikpac, I’ve found a jacket that bundles up into a really tiny ball, and adds extremely little overhead to your single bag. They’re unisex and come in a range of colours and sizes, so there¬†should be something there that appeals to¬†everyone.

You can pick up Qikpac jackets from Trespass stores, or from Amazon. For as little as around ¬£20 / $30, they’re a great way to minimise on bag space!


Nesting bags

However efficient your one-bag traveling is, there’ll be times when you might not have your things immediately to hand. In-flight, your things might be stowed in the overhead locker, for example, or you might just have packed too tightly to bother hauling things out of a bag even if it’s under the seat in front of you.

This is when you might be tempted to break the one-bag ideal; take another bag, or give in entirely and go back to case + bag.

Don’t do it! Instead, find yourself a small, flat bag, small enough to fit inside the larger one. During the journey, it stays with you – a flat bag is perfect for storing in the seat pocket in front of you during a flight. At other times, it can nest away neatly in your larger bag. Many rucksacks have a separate, thinner compartment to the main section, which is perfect for stowing this kind of thing.

Use this for in-flight necessities; as well as your tablet, headphones and such like, aim to make it your own, personalised version of the vanity bags they give out for free in Business and First. Ear plugs, eye mask, tissues, lotion, lip salve, and maybe a folding toothbrush and tiny toothpaste if you’re on a longer trip. Add in a couple of snack bars, and you’ll have all your journey comforts to hand without messing up your main bag.

One-bag clothes

It can be a challenge to squeeze enough clothes for your trip into one bag, especially if you’re going for more than a few days. However, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to simplify the task.

Roll with it

One space-optimising technique is to roll, not fold, your clothes. I’ve found it best to roll items very tightly and to about the same width as my bag, so they can then be stacked from the bottom. Rolling is a good way to avoid creasing, too. Stack the bulkier things like trousers / jeans at the bottom, and lighter ones towards the top to avoid a top-heavy bag. When you get to your destination, you’ll probably want to hang and lay out your items, rather than leave them rolled up, but it’s definitely a great, efficient way to transport them!


Undershirt tricks

Nobody likes to wear things until they’re no longer fresh – but that doesn’t mean you need to take a separate shirt or blouse for each day. Try the undershirt trick – taking one, lightweight tee for every shirt. Wear a tee under each shirt for one day, then the shirt on its own the next. You’ll get two days’ wear out of the shirt, but without adding an extra, bulky item to your bag (assuming your tees are nice and light!). Shirts for three days now last nearly a week!

Lightweight togs

For super-light items like tees and other layers, consider clothing made for sports, such as thermal cycling tops and vests for runners. They’re not only warm, but have an extremely low space / weight overhead for your luggage. Compared to the same garments in jersey, for example, they save you about half the capacity. They might not quite be your style, but who cares if they’re just for layering underneath? And if you’re travelling to somewhere less than warm, they can act as efficient thermal layers, too. As they’re meant to be tight, though, perhaps try the next size up to your usual. Men, consider slips or briefs instead of baggy boxers, too.

Plan your outfits

Finally, an obvious one, but scope out what you’re going to wear each day of your one-bag trip. Choice is a luxury the one-bag traveller should only afford before the journey is underway; be sure of what you’re taking so that nothing is carried in vain.

Follow these tips and you should be able to squash in enough changes of clothes to stay both fresh and fashionable! Additionally, it’s also worth checking out which extra items you can buy – then donate, if you don’t want to bring them back – from clothes shops at your destination. And of course, there are always laundry options if all else fails.

Do you have any other space-saving clothes-packing tips? Please share in the comments!

Don’t dry out!

A couple of carry-on liquid items, for me, are indispensable for long-haul travel. Usefully, they’re also two of the easiest and smallest things to slip into your see-through plastic pouch for the plane. These magic items are:

  • A chap stick / lip balm
  • Emollient / moisturising cream

Easily overlooked as essentials, they can help soothe the nuisance of dry, airless jet cabins, and prevent your lips and skin from getting dry and sore. Maybe it’s me, but I seem to suffer most from these things when flying long distance. But they’re also especially handy when you’re at your destination, especially if you’re visiting at a colder time of the year.

I’ve found a good place for travel-size cream is discounter stores like Poundland, which sells 100ml or smaller sizes of Atrixo, E45 and others as samplers. But it’s also easy to decant cream into screw-top travel jars, which is much cheaper if you already have some at home.

As for lips, I find the original Chap Stick one of the best for slipping in the bag – but Vaseline is also available in mini-pots (and a range of flavours!) ready for travel.

Don’t get caught out and step off the plane dried out – pack these two essentials and stay fresh on the journey.

Spreading the load

Much of the business of one-bag-travelling is common sense. But often, it’s the most obvious things we fail to see. For that reason, it’s worth drawing attention to the fact that sharing the load can often make things much easier.

Take the airline limit on a small bag of 100ml (3.4oz) liquids. If there are really things you can’t do without, yet you can’t squish them into your own miniature zip-top, then consider spreading toiletries across your travel buddies’ carry-ons. Either that, or agree beforehand that each of you will carry X or Y rather than both pack duplicates of the same item, thus saving space.

If you have to pack smaller amounts than you usually use, be sparing away from home – remember, for instance, that you only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to brush your teeth, rather than the full-bristle squirt most people casually paste on their teeth at home.

And lastly, decant rather than use travel-size branded miniatures – it’s so much cheaper, ounce for ounce, and you can shop around for refillable pots which fit more neatly into your plastic pouch.

If you’re like me, and can’t do without a bucket full of toiletries on your stays away, then a bit of common-sense planning will go a long way on your one-bag trip!

Laundry blues

If you’re travelling super-light, chances are you’ll need to do laundry at some point. As well as taking travel hand wash detergent, be aware that there are usually a couple of other options as well, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

Hotel laundry service

Top of the list for ease and convenience, many hotels will offer a same- or next-day laundry service, with both dry cleaning and standard washes. Some may even add the option of pressing or ironing your clothes. That convenience comes at a cost, though – it’s usually a pricey option, so look at those price lists carefully before dropping off your bag of undies.


Use a directory service like Yelp to find local laundry firms. If you don’t mind waiting around, self-service is the cheapest (as long as you have a supply of small change), but you’ll also find serviced laundrettes, which offer a cheaper deal than those in the hotel. Either way, it’s a good way to learn a bit more about the area you’re staying in – ‘normal’ as opposed to ‘tourist’ life in particular – and you might even strike up conversation and make friends in the process. Many laundromats also have dispensers for detergent, so you don’t have to take your own.

Failing that…

As an emergency measure, a soak and rub with simple face soap will freshen up the smelliest of togs, as long as you have ample time to leave them to dry.