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Article: Packing 101: Everything You Need to Know for Efficient One-Bag Travel

Packing 101: Everything You Need to Know for Efficient One-Bag Travel
How To

Packing 101: Everything You Need to Know for Efficient One-Bag Travel

From our Summer #OnTheMap Tour to our sales team traveling all over the country (and the world!), it should come as no surprise that we spend a lot of time on the road. And since we like to get out and do things while we travel, we have packing for anything down to a science.

Our Key Account Manager, Rebecca, went to New York to teach a seminar on the Principles of Packing. If you missed it, don’t worry. We’re breaking down our best tips, tricks and tidbits for efficient, stress-free one-bag travel. (Keep these around. Holiday travel’s around the corner!)

Pick the Right Bag

The bag you bring is the foundation for all of your packing, and you want to start somewhere solid. We recommend a 40L capacity for trips of 3 days or more, and a 25-30L capacity for trips up to 3 days. 

Our 40L Travel Bag is built to fit everything you need for over a week on the road, and the 3-way carry makes it a cinch to tote around.

Not looking to go so big? It's also available in a 30L version. If you're still looking to go smaller, our Global Briefcase 3-Day might be perfect for you. With dimensional pockets and the Travel Bag's innovative internal organization, this compact bag is ready to do big things.

Make a Packing List (and Check it Twice)

It may seem simple, but everyone at Topo Designs HQ said they swear by packing lists. There are a few ways to make yours:

  • By outfit

Plan what you’ll want to wear on your trip (and what components go into that look), then add a few mix-and-match-friendly pieces. We love to bring our Mountain Shirt along, since you can wear it buttoned with jeans one day and unbuttoned over your favorite graphic tee the next. 

  • By Item

This is the easiest method: just pack the number of items per day you’re gone. 5 day trip? 5 shirts, 5 pairs of pants, 5 pairs of socks, etc. It may not lead to the most streamlined outfits, or the most efficient packing job, but in a pinch, this is a speedy, get-it-done approach. 

  • By laying everything out

The most time consuming of the three, this is the method our founder swears by. He recommends laying everything out on your bed, then organizing by outfit. Anything you notice missing? Grab it. Anything you don’t think you’ll bring? Leave it behind.

Plan for Versatility

Neutral colors, mix-and-match outfits and durable apparel that holds its shape are all key for a many-day trip. You get more options for what to wear without actually bringing more things.

Pack Bags Make Packing Better

The most common mistake with Pack Bags is getting ones that aren’t the right size for your bag. Since they’re designed to be modular enhancements for your luggage, one that’s too big (or too small) won’t use the space effectively. Ours are unstructured and relatively low to make sure your Pack Bag fits into all the nooks and crannies of your suitcase, no matter how short your bag may be.

Pro Tip: Marketing Director James doesn’t like when his dirty and clean clothes touch. So he packs in two Pack Bags, then as he travels, gradually starts to designate a “clean” and “dirty” bag to keep the clothes separate. No Pack Bags? No problem. Use the mesh pockets in your Travel Bag to hold you dirty clothes.

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

Once you’ve laid out your packing cubes, roll your gear, then put it inside. Rolling apparel is more efficient than folding. We make our Pack Bags with #10 YKK zippers and durable nylon so once your clothes are loaded up, you can crank a lot into them and compress it down.

Pro Tip: Many of our pieces come with a red elastic band on the back collar. This is our PackFast™ Packing Band, which helps keep apparel neatly, and compactly, stowed while you travel.


Isn’t it about time you ditched that plastic freezer bag you’ve been carting your shampoos and mini toothpastes in? A Dopp Kit holds the same gear in a more organized fashion. This one has a wide base so you can perch it on the bathroom counter for easy access.

Accessorize for the Plane

Know what you’ll need on the plane. If you’re anything like us, it probably looks something like: money, charger, headphones, book, snacks. Put all of these things in Accessory Bags, then stow them in the front pockets of your carry-on bag. Remove the Accessory Bags when you get on the plane; this means you’ll have easy access to your essentials without opening the overhead bin.

Pro Tip: We like to use the Medium size for larger gear like charging blocks and snacks, and the Small size for keeping our cards, cash, headphones and keys stowed away.

BYOB (Bring Your Other Bag)

Our Founder, Jedd Rose, swears by this trick: “An unstructured, deployable bag like the Smash Pack gives you extra space for souvenirs on your return trip. It’s also great to use it during your travels as a small-but-handy bag for everyday use.”

Bulk Up

If you have a big jacket or bulky shoes, wear them on the flight to free up space in your bag. (We highly recommend carrying a compressible jacket, like our Ultralight Jacket, for when the plane gets chilly.)

If you're traveling to a cooler climate (or traveling during colder seasons), instead of trying to figure out where to pack your biggest, warmest parka, we have two suggestions:

1. Layer

If it's chilly, put on a long sleeve shirt like this one, then add a sweater that will keep you toasty, add a lightweight puffer jacket and then, if weather calls for it, put on a waterproof layer on top. This will also make it easier when you go from freezing outside into a building with the heat cranked up.

2. Get Down

We love down because it's so compressible. Our Big Puffer Jacket comes with its own stuff sack, so it condenses into a fraction of its size... and the 550-fill power will keep you warm in the coldest places.

On the return trip, it’s easier to stay organized. But if you acquired a lot of things along the way, bust out your deployable bag for the flight home. It’s a win-win.

Safe travels!

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