By the time you read this I’ll be in Dallas for a quick 2 night long visit.  Intrigued by Patagonia’s new Lightweight Travel Duffel, I decided to use it for this trip even though a bag like Tom Bihn’s Western Flyer is perhaps a more logical (certainly more conventional) choice.

Trip Basics

This is a quick in and out trip – travel to Dallas Wednesday evening, arriving at 10PM.  A day of meetings with customers on Thursday, ending with a cocktail reception.  Dinner with a couple of colleagues.  Get up early Friday and fly home.

For the Thursday meetings, it’s business casual.  I’ll wear a pair of dressy chinos, a button down oxford shirt, and will bring along a sports jacket for the reception.

The way down and the trip back are basically casual – chinos, golf shirt, and I’ll wear the sports jacket so I don’t have to pack it.


Here are my liquids for my TSA 3-1-1 bag.  One of the mini dropper bottles contains contact solution; the other laundry detergent.  Extra contacts, shave oil, and a sample cologne/perfume bottle with my favorite cologne.  (That item will be put in a Ziploc “snack” bag inside my 1 quart Ziploc bag:

Liquids for TSA 3-1-1 bag

My “dry” toiletry items; again, the focus is on cutting weight:

Toiletry items

Everything I’ll be bringing – the bundle consists of two dress shirts, a pair dressy chinos, an undershirt, one pair each of lightweight/washable underwear and travel socks, and a golf shirt for the trip home on Friday.  The Kiva keychain bag has a folder with my itinerary, some notes for our meetings, a spiral bound booklet for taking notes (lighter than a “padfolio”) – and here I added quite a bit of weight – 3 eBooks that I’d printed out and spiral bound so I could read them during the trip.  (My iPod shuffle and ear buds are in the small pocket on the front of the Kiva bag.) The Tom Bihn packing cube has my toiletry items, some antiseptic wipes (germaphope!) and the charger for my BlackBerry:

Bag contents

I put the bundle into the bottom of the Patagonia Duffel.  Because the bundle doesn’t have all that much clothing in it, it’s a bit flimsy.  The “core” (golf shirt, etc.) sticks up a bit.  Because I want to retrieve the stuff in the Kiva bag, I can’t put it beneath the bundle.  Nor do I want to put it on top of it.  I’m pretty sure my dress shirts will be pretty wrinkled by the time I arrive.

I hit on a solution, however inelegant.  With the bundle in the bag, I zip it up and place the Kiva bag on top. I then fasten the compression straps over the Kiva bag:

Bag in a bag

Then I cinch up the drawcord, further securing my “onboard stuff” bag (i.e., the items I want access to during my flights)…

Bag(s) ready to go

I deploy the backpack straps, and it feels pretty comfortable.  Stepping on our digital bathroom scale with and without the bag reveals that it weighs 8.6 pounds.  That includes about a pound and a half of eBooks.

Fear and loathing…

I then hung the bag on a door handle in our mud room.  There are a couple of dress shirts in this bag!

Hanging around

Despite the less than 10 pound weight, I don’t feel especially good about this endeavor.  I’m certain my clothing will be a mess when I get to the hotel.  The lack of structure of the bag, coupled with a flimsy clothing bundle is a bad match.  And my decision to bring along a few 8½ x 11 booklets has exacerbated the problem.  With a conventional bag (MLC, Western Flyer, Air Boss), I could put them in one of the zippered compartments – no big deal.

With this bag however, I don’t want to put them underneath my clothing as it’ll be a PITA to get them out of the bag onboard.  They won’t fit in the side pockets.  I don’t want to put them on top of the clothing for two reasons – they’ll add to wrinkling, and I’ll have to go through the drawcord, the compression straps, and the zipper to get at them.  Uh…  what to do?  The Kiva bag was my impromptu solution, but as I said, I’m not confident my clothing is going to fare well.

Maybe I need to take this bag on a trip to St. Kitts, or Maui.  The current trip seems a bad fit.

Given all this, I tossed my Flip Mino in the other side zippered compartment.  If I have time and the inclination, I may shoot a few seconds of video of the unpacking process.  More on Monday.

The Fine Print:  I have no connection to any of the companies mentioned in this post.

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7 Comments on Experiment in minimalist packing: Business Travel Light – 3D/2N/8.6 lbs.

  1. Michael W. says:

    1. Now the cinch cord on the top makes sense. It buttons down the edges of the Kiva pack.

    2. Very interesting to share in your thought processes as opposed to the conclusions by themselves.

    3. A packing cube for the bundle wrap clothing would help add a little of the rigidity you are missing. I like the “wire framed” Rick Steves packing cube set, the wire frame adds lengthwise and widthwise structure, but it has no wires in the top to bottom range so it will squash down, thicknesswise, to fit better.

    Another option is to cut up an old piece of camping pad foam and insert into the bag. That reduces the volume of the bag slightly, but it sounds like you are actually slightly underpacked. If you pack a lot more in the future, the foam pad can simply be removed to save weight and to restore the volume.

    4. I’d just store the pre-packed bag at home upside down, with the ebooks closer to the floor, to keep the weight off the clothing bundle until your transit, and then do the same in the overhead bin (unless you’ve pulled out the Kiva pack with your ebooks in which case the weight has been removed and stowing orientation is irrelevant).

    Two additional comments on point 4. Bundle wrapping clothing seems to work better when you pack more clothing, which is ironic. For smaller loads, burrito rolling each item individually and putting in a cube MAY work better, I’ve seen the technique but haven’t tried it myself so this is just conjecture.

    Secondly, just carry the darn Kiva pack in your other hand! (Would the ebooks fit in the backpack straps compartment? For my Paty duffel, I intend to carry by the handles, not by the backpack straps, which means I have the backpack strap compartment free for a magazine or two.)

    Although if you carry the bag vertically (like in your picture on the mudroom door handle) the Kiva weight shouldn’t matter. It actually looks in the picture like the Kiva is pulling the bag “open” to relieve pressure on your shirts.

    Well my Patagonia Lightweight Travel Duffel is packed and ready to go to Thailand, with a lot more than you are taking on your business trip, and this is where it shines.

    Now I just need to make a list of the “miscellaneous” items I need to take, like cellphone and charger, book, etc. I am always surprised by how surprisingly compact and light the key stuff is – the clothing and the bathroom kit – and how much the seemingly “minor” miscellaneous items “grow” my luggage a lot heavier and fatter.

    5. There are so many GOOD reasons to go to St. Kitts or Maui. Your OCD is showing when the REAL reason you want to go is to experiment with luggage and packing strategies. :-)


  2. K-eM says:

    Shaving tip: My husband got his shaving kit out of the 3-1-1 bag altogether by using an old fashioned shaving soap and a brush with his razor. He gets a great shave and it travels dry. Col. Conk is the brand he uses and they have a retractable brush especially for traveling and a travel size soap in a container with a lid. The soap doesn’t need to be very big since it lasts a very long time.


  3. Kevin says:


    One reason to not carry the Kiva with my other hand is that some airlines restrict you to a single carry-on. This was the case with my first flight.

    After a short while I gave up and just stuffed the entire Kiva bag and contents into the pocket the backpack straps are stored in.

    My clothing survived pretty well. I shot a rough (and I mean ROUGH) video upon arriving at the hotel at 12:30AM… I may include it in my follow-up post. My clothing wasn’t trashed – but I was. :-) (I had trouble getting here.)

    Agree – the miscellaneous stuff adds up (weight wise) quickly.

    @K-eM: Thanks. I’ll have to check out Col. Conk, if for no other reason than a funky name!!! The shave oil works very well… I’m a bit surprised.


  4. Michael W. says:

    I’m revisiting some of your old posts as I endlessly trial pack and repack for the upcoming January 2010 Thailand trip. That will be my last “long haul” trip for a year, so I want to do it well and eke out as much experience as I can from that trip.

    While I will probably be using the updated Patagonia MLC for the Jan 2010 trip, the Patagonia Lightweight Duffel brings back fond memories from an earlier trip to Thailand. It held a lot. I mean a lot. And got me past the “weigh-in” police at the ticket counter.

    I did make one big mistake though. I should have used the backpack straps. At the time I thought it was a little fussy to re-stow them in their panel, so I just left them stowed. There is NO shoulder strap, nor even o-rings for connecting your own, though, so that meant I had to carry the Duffel by the double handle loops or by the single end loop. I purchased a “handle wrapper” to provide extra cushioning and carried it by the single end loop.

    Guess what? It was terribly uncomfortable to carry this way. The handle wrapper really didn’t provide the cushioning or grip shape I wanted. On a more robust bag, there would have been a thicker, maybe even padded, handle, but not on this ultralight duffel.

    Stupid me. I should have just used the backpack straps instead of suffering.

    BTW I’ve concluded that Patagonia really does intend this as a “stuff in another bag” sort of destination or overflow bag. It is very light (14 oz) and very un-bulky, so it packs very well inside another bag. As such it is probably great as a local gym bag, or overflow bag (assuming you can check your more rugged main bag) on the way home.

    I’d be singing the praises of this bag again though, if they had made it rectangular – squared the corners – to increase it’s volume without really increasing its “bump around” size (the subjective size of how big the bag is on my back).

    I may try packing this for my drive from San Francisco to L.A. with the family for Thai food next week.

    And that reminds me – a slash style opening is SO ’70’s. What happened to U-shaped openings for modern duffels so they are easier to load?


    Kevin Reply:

    I actually found the backpack straps on the Lightweight Travel Duffel – despite their being so flimsy (relatively speaking) – pretty comfortable. Agree about the opening – super inefficient.


  5. quantumcat says:

    Would an ereader cut down on your effort and bulk?

    You could carry the equivalent of several books and documents in electronic form (e-books,travel documents,medical records,business notes,etc. plus internet access,emailing,DVD,mp3 use and more.)

    See if an Iphone,mp3 player,Kindle and their ilk could consolidate your information to as little as one gadget and one usb storage device.


  6. I think when you print out e-books, they just become…



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