The Fit Guy’s Guide to Packing a Carry-On


Living out of a carry-on for your trip can be both alluring and intimidating. Sure, there are perks: No loitering by the conveyor in arrivals! A sense of manly detachment from the material world! But the cool factor fades pretty quick when you’re stuck wearing that sweaty t-shirt a second day and you run out of soap. 

We asked the Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown to help solve six problems fit guys face when packing—plus the one surprising thing guys simply don’t need.

Problem: Where to Begin?

Solution: Start with your basics.

“When I pack a bag for a short trip, no matter where I’m going, I always limit the amount of bottoms I wear to three: jeans, khakis, and black pants,” Brown says.

Your selections will vary, of course. If you’re hiking the Tetons, choose khaki hiking pants. And if you’re touring Paris, eschew your lawn-mowing jeans for something a little tidier. But the basic formula stays the same. Then, add a dress shirt and a stack of t-shirts so you’re guaranteed fresh.

As for shoes, Brown keeps the same rule of three: a stylish walking sneaker, a leather loafer, and your gym shoe. If you can get by on less, do it—Brown just got back from a trip to Germany where she survived in a single pair of boots. “Shoes are my nemesis,” she says. “I hate shoes.”

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Problem: Running Shoes Are Too Bulky

Solution: Thin-soled running sneakers.

“I highly recommend investing in a good pair of lightweight running sneakers,” Brown says. “They’re phenomenally thin and you can always bring a pair of sneakers with you wherever you go.”

You could also wear your running shoes for travel, keeping the bulk out of your bag. But unless they’re clean and fresh-looking, we recommend something a little more sophisticated for air travel. If you must pack your bulky trainers? Stuff them with small items like socks and underwear to save space. 

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Problem: Where Do I Cram My Gym Gear?

Solution: Pack between the ribs of your luggage.

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“Handlebars create these reservoirs in your bag,” said Sam. It’s the perfect spot to tuck your workout clothes, since it’s okay if they get wrinkled from being stuffed into a small space. Once you’ve filled in the gaps at the bottom of your bag, you have an even layer to add stacks of folded clothes that are bigger and more delicate.

Problem: No Space for Shampoo

If you’ve graduated from the two-in-one (three-in-one?) shower product, you know it can be tough to cram individual bottles of shampoo and conditioner into your bag.

Solution: Call your hotel before your trip and ask what they have.

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“I’ve stayed in some hotels where the products were phenomenal,” Brown says. “If you’re staying at a really nice hotel, a really cool or hip one, they usually do have great products.”

And if the free stuff sounds really great? Consider stashing a few hotel bottles for the return trip.

Problem: I Can’t Live Without My Laptop

Solution: Yes you can.

“Just evaluate: How much are you really going be on your laptop?” asks Brown. If you know you’ll have to fire off some work e-mails, you can probably get by with just your phone. If you need a full-size keyboard, consider bringing a tablet with a keyboard attachment. Tablets are not only much smaller than laptops, but also more resilient.

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To that end, you risk a trip-ruining disaster by bringing your laptop. “They’re great, but they can bounce, they can drop, they can get sand in them,” Brown says. “Definitely modify your list down and try to get rid of that laptop.”

And if you absolutely need that computing power on the road, you can always carry your laptop in a separate bag—major airlines typically allow a smaller personal bag in addition to your carry-on.

Problem: What Am I Gonna Read?

If you’re like us, you probably have the urge to bring at least some reading for the plane, if not a travel guide and a local language phrase book. This can add up to a lot of space and weight. (After all, you’re basically carrying around chunks of wood.)

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Solution? The e-reader.

“There’s nothing more wonderful than being somewhere really remote, like an island in Indonesia, and realizing you have café access and you can download Men’s Fitness,” Brown says.

As for your guides and translators? There’s an app for that. Try the mobile version of Google Translate, which allows you to point your phone-camera at a sign and gives you an instant translation—even when you don’t have service.

The One Surprising Thing You Don’t Need?

The one thing you definitely don’t need, according to Brown? Dress shoes.

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“It’s been a huge transition in the last ten years,” Brown says. “People are so casual now. When I used to go to Europe, it was definitely a little more upscale. But now they’ve gone more casual as well.” So ditch the formal attire and stick to your neutral basics to keep your entire look—and bag—light.

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