How To Pack Carry on Only and Still Look Sharp

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Updated: 22nd March 2017

When it comes to travelling, the biggest hassle is usually the airport. From security to check-in queues, no one wants to waste precious minutes of their vacation inside the terminal.

The easiest way to cut out those pain-in-the-ass moments is to travel carry-on only. For everyone who thinks that’s just an option for a quick weekend getaway, I have spent months at a time travelling with just hand luggage. By picking the right outfits, I promise you it can easily be done.

Getting the right carry-on luggage

When it comes to picking the right bag for carry-on, always go for a backpack. No one has ever asked to weight check my backpack, which is usually a few kilos over. When it’s slung over your shoulder, you are far less of a target for the gate police.

The second bonus about having a soft bag is the flexibility it offers for storage. I’m a big fan of my Kathmandu Day Pack, which has multiple pockets, including a padded laptop sleeve in the back. This allows you to not only keep everything organised but really make the most of the space available.

Pick the right clothes to pack light.

The key is in picking the right outfits that not only work well together but also don’t hog all the space in your bag. Pick muted colours that can easily be matched but also look smart. Blacks, greys, blues and light colours may not be the most exciting, but they do provide a multitude of combined outfit options.

Also, consider what you will wear on the plane. Whilst many people will argue that Jeans have no place on a carry-on list due to their space consumption, face it: they look good and can be matched with a shirt for a smart-casual look, so wear them onboard along with your heaviest jacket or jumper. Put your lighter tapered Chinos in the backpack, which makes for a great secondary pair of smart-casual trousers.

Accessories beyond a belt and watch are unnecessary on vacation. When it comes to toiletries, bring only the bare essentials, given the liquid restrictions and re-stock when you arrive.

Men’s carry-on packing list.

So you’re already looking smart in your Jeans, Shirt and Jacket combo for the airport. Now, what else to pack in the bag?

Tip: Always roll when packing rather than folding; it is better for space and fewer creases

Shoes – If possible, try to travel with only the pair you are wearing, throwing in a pair of flip-flops(thongs) if you will be in a beach destination. Take a pair of smart-casual shoes, such as tidy boat shoes, which will work with both a button-up shirt and shorts. For more footwear advice, visit Shoe Hero.

2 More Shirts – Shirts really are a great packing essential as they can be rolled up to keep them from getting creased and adapted to any situation. While a short-sleeved shirt is great for warmer destinations, as a general rule, opt for cotton as this is not only less likely to crinkle but also offers the most versatility. Go for light-coloured shirts that can be teamed with your jacket by evening and still look good on a day trip playing tourist.

2 T-Shirts – Easy to wash and quick to dry, the wardrobe staple. Dark coloured loose t-shirts are great for warmer countries, try to avoid grey if heading to hot climates for obvious reasons. If you find any spare room in your bag, throw in an extra one for good measure.

Shorts – One pair of smart shorts is plenty. I personally go for dark, below-the-knee shorts, which can be easily teamed with a white shirt either untucked for a casual look or with a belt tucked in for smart-casual events. If you’re heading to a pool or beach resort, chuck in some lightweight, quick-drying swimming shorts as well.

1 light jumper – Depending on your destination, a lightweight jumper made of Merino Wool, which can breathe, is a great alternative to having to wear a jacket out when there is a light breeze. It also will allow you to dress more formally when a t-shirt doesn’t cut it, but a shirt is too much. Simply by rolling up the sleeves to 3/4 length, you can create different looks.

Underwear  – When it comes to travel, don’t panic about the labels; go for comfort. How much you pack will depend on the extent of your stay, and be sure to have a variety of sock types that will suit any kind of activity. Remember, laundry is available anywhere in the world.

What extras do you find space for in your bag?

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