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Regardless of where you’re headed this holiday season, be sure to mind the three following principles of packing:
- And weight (or rather, lack thereof)
In other words, the perfectly packed bag contains an ecosystem of items that serve multiple functions, play well together and easily withstand the rigors of the road.
Below, we’ve pared it down to the 13 most necessary ingredients, from wrinkle-proof suits to odor-resistant undies to the two pairs of shoes that’ll suffice for any situation this side of a black-tie dinner. Plus: a couple of alternates per category for your more specific use cases.
Your Bag: Away Solstice
After a year of using one nonstop, your correspondent can safely say that Away’s “Bigger Carry-On” is the best suitcase he has ever, er, carried on. Holds enough gear for even a semi-extended trip (yet fits neatly in the overhead), is durable as hell, and its internal phone charger has saved my cellular bacon more times than I can count (no more scrounging for airport wall outlets). Their new limited-edition “Aurora” colorway is a Borealis-inspired iridescent green, which not only looks cool but also should make it very difficult to confuse your bag with the next guy’s.
- For Transporting a Suit: Bennett Winch 2-in-1 Canvas Holdall
- For Guys Who Hate Wheels: Baboon Go Bag
Your Dopp: Gravel Expeditioner
As our intrepid managing editor referred to it, “OCD heaven in a dopp kit.” Gravel’s Expeditioner (also referred to as the Explorer Plus, don’t let their site confuse you) contains a neat grid of varying pocket sizes to accommodate all your gear in an organized (and mercifully segregated) fashion, plus a quick-access clear TSA pouch and a fleece-lined pocket for passport, cords, etc. Bonus: the whole damn thing is waterproof.
Your Tees/Socks/Undies: Unbound Merino
So here’s the thing about merino wool: not only is it super comfy, wrinkle-resistant and temperature-regulating, but you can wear it again and again and again and again and it just … doesn’t stink. It’s like some kind of weird fabric black magic, and it is key for your undergarments when traveling. Do you need to go full native and rock the same getup for 46 straight days ala Unbound Merino’s founder? No. But it’s kind of cool to know that you could.
- For Gym-to-Boardroom Performance (Undie): Rhone Boxer Brief
- For Gym-to-Boardroom Performance (Tee): Mack Weldon Pima Cotton Crew
Your Dress Shirt: Ministry of Supply Apollo Dress Shirt
Gave one of these to my traveling salesman brother for Christmas two years ago and now he swears by them: boasting a pique knit made with NASA-developed “Phase Change” materials (which helped to regulate astronauts’ body temp during spaceflight), the Apollo is 19x more breathable than cotton, requires no ironing or steaming, and stretches to accommodate any movement — whether it’s running to make your flight, stuffing a bag into the overhead bin, or both.
- For a Quick Wedding Jaunt: Bonobos Stretch Tuxedo Shirt
- For Guys Who Conduct Business on the Golf Course: Ministry of Supply Apollo 3 Polo
Your Suit: Black Lapel Traveler
Developed for Black Lapel’s CEO, who splits time between New York and Beijing, the Traveler boasts the trifecta of a killer globetrotting kit: high-twist yarn “performance” wool that kills wrinkles, a special weave that stretches as you move and liquid-repellent treatment that guards against spills/the elements. Add razor sharp tailoring and bonus interior features like a zippered passport pocket and secure sunglasses loop, and you may never take another suit on the road.
- For Maximum EDC Storage: Bellucci X 11-Pocket Blazer
- For a Suit You Can Throw in the Washing Machine: J.Crew Destination Stretch
Your Pants: Rhone Commuter City Pant
Hard to beat a good pair of lightweight chinos for versatility/packability — when done right, the same pair you had on with your shirt and tie earlier in the day can be cuffed and rocked with a tee and sneakers later on. Rhone nailed not only the cut on the Commuter City, but also key details like quick-drying Japanese stretch fabric, zippered pockets for both your wallet and phone and reflective trims for your nocturnal excursions.
- For Decidedly Chillier Climes: Gap Flannel-Lined Flex Khakis
- For Your Holiday Trip: Zanerobe Tartan Unblockshot Chino
Your Jeans: Uniqlo Slim Fit Jeans in Navy
Are jeans the ideal travel pant? No, they are not. But they’re a staple for many a traveler regardless (your correspondent included), and Uniqlo’s got the necessities knocked: lighter and softer than your average pair, just enough stretch to make a difference, and the exact crisp dark wash that goes with everything. Bonus: they’re only 50 bucks.
- For Guys Who Like to Channel Johnny Cash: Uniqlo Slim Fit Jeans in Black
- For Tropical Climes, Living on the Edge: Uniqlo Slim Fit Jeans in White
Your Sweater: Naadam Essential $75 Cashmere Sweater
Pair this thing with your jeans and brogues? Money. With chinos and sneakers? All day. Underneath that dapper suit? Absolutely. Long story short, you cannot go wrong with a grey cashmere sweater. Especially when that cashmere sweater only costs $75.
- For Guys Who Dig Mr. Rogers: Uniqlo Extra Fine Merino Cardigan
- For Trips That Involve a Ski Chalet: Suit Supply Red Turtleneck
This one is about thinking outside the box: rather than trying to find one jacket that can do it all, it’s better to cop two lightweight, ultra-packable layers that can be mixed and matched with the rest of your gear (and each other) as necessary according to Ma Nature’s whims. Both of these pack down into portable pouches, and together weigh less than a pound.
- For Trips to Places Like Minnesota: Arc’teryx Men’s Cerium LT Hooded Jacket
- For Trips Where Outerwear Will Be Limited to the Plane: Naadam Cashmere Hoodie
Your Dress Shoes: Fliteless Counsellor Longwing Lug Sole
First, a shoe nerd tutorial: “longwing” refers to a style of brogue featuring wingtip perforations that run the length of the shoe — a longer wingtip, if you will. This pair from new concern Fliteless has got you covered on multiple fronts: first, their revolutionary design fuses the best of running shoe and dress shoe technology for minimum weight and maximum comfort (we’ve tried them, it’s crazy). Second, a classic brown brogue like this will play with everything from a proper suit to jeans and a sweater (see above). Third, the lug sole can handle any inclement weather you may encounter. Win win win.
- For Boots You Can Chase a Train In: Wolf & Shepherd Chelsea Blitz
- For Suspiciously Casual Business Trips: Sabahs
Your Sneakers: Allbirds Wool Runners
They weigh almost nothing. They pack basically flat. They are slipper comfy, moisture wicking, temperature regulating, odor resistant (even without socks) and machine washable. You can work out in them, you can kick around the streets of (insert any city here) in them, you can hike a trail in them, and they will carry you through each with pleasantly unassuming aplomb. Your most stylish shoe? No. Your most versatile? Bet your dogs on it.
- For Those More Serious About Working Out/Sneaker Culture: Nike Air Max 270
- For Staunch Traditionalists: Converse Chuck 70 Low
BONUS — Your Gadget: Huanuo Universal Travel Adapter
Of all travel frustrations, your correspondent has found “inability to plug sh*t in” to be Grand Poobah. No more. Here is every foreign plug you could ever need, plus four USB slots so that you can (game changer alert) charge multiple devices on the same outlet. Super light/compact and the electric green is a key eye-catcher to avoid leaving the handy lil sucker behind.
- For Wireless Tunes You Can Also Plug in on the Plane: Under Armour Project Rock Headphones
- In Case Your Suitcase Runs Out of Juice: Anker PowerCore Portable Charger
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