Preparing for the No Baggage Challenge

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Preparing for the No Baggage Challenge…(originally published in 2011. Recently adapted and edited)

Almost a year ago, I was traveling from Nepal to Australia. The airport in Katmandu had a series of security checkpoints, but this time my routine of chucking everything on to the x-ray conveyor belt at one end and absentmindedly collecting it at the other end was stymied.

“There is something in your purse. I need to look at it,” said the security official.

I blinked and handed over my purse for inspection. It has been through x-rays with no complications many times before; nonetheless this extra step didn’t phase me. I had lots of time, and there were no crowds to contend with.

Slowly and methodically, the security official laid the contents of my purse out in front of us. This wasn’t nearly as simple a task as you might imagine, since my purse has several pockets and compartments. We were both increasingly amazed at the variety – and quantity – of things I keep in my purse.

He held a pack of cigarettes (I casually smoked at the time) and an asthma inhaler in each hand and looked at me critically. I blushed and said the inhaler was for allergies (which is true).

He took out a piece of cord and asked me what it’s for. “It’s string, for hanging up laundry, fixing shoelaces, many things,” I replied to his increasingly stunned expression. I mentally observed that I’d not once used this item in four years on the road and maybe it didn’t need to be in my purse.

He continued to dig through pockets and empty their contents onto the table in front of us. Lipstick, hand sanitizer, passport copies, receipts, notebooks, cell phone, camera, headlamp, shopping bag, sunglasses, you name it – it was there. Every time he thought he had found the item that was causing the scanner problems, he put the purse through the x-ray again only to discover he’d missed yet more pockets, with yet more things in them.

“You have too much in your purse,” he said, shaking his head every time he found a new pocket with something in it. I couldn’t help but laugh. And agree.

I'm leaving behind what little travel gear I own to take on the No Baggage Challenge! Find out what I'm doing and why, and check out this video of me "packing". #TravelGear #TravelPacking #PackingTIps #PackingHelp FullTimeTravel #TravelPlanning #BudgetTravel #TravelTips

Next up: a padlock. (Actually, it’s one of three in my possession). His expression lit up, and he sighed with relief when he determined the padlock had been our x-ray machine culprit.

After this somewhat embarrassing display of the contents of my purse, I sheepishly stuffed everything back into their pockets before moving on, promising myself that I’d go through my purse and see what I could eliminate.

But over time, complacency set in, and I never did. It all continued to fit into my purse quite easily, and I figured as soon as I took something out I’d probably need it.

I’m in a tricky position since as a full-time traveler I travel with everything I own, which means everything is fairly tightly allocated and packed. Moving things around involves tetris-like dexterity, and if I get rid of something, it’s gone (I don’t have a drawer to store it in for later use). So it’s usually easier to just keep everything.

But my day of reckoning has now arrived.

I am doing a No Baggage Challenge.

Don't be me. 
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I wasted a fortune.
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I’m leaving my full-time travel gear in Toronto and using it as a base for a few smaller trips this summer. And I’m stepping way out of my comfort zone – I’m even leaving my purse behind.

I’m doing this with the help of Scottevest, who designs clothing purpose-based for travel. The trick: it’s all about the pockets. With up to 37 pockets in one jacket alone, this clothing is designed to allow you to leave your bags (or at least some, if not all of them) at home.

Which is exactly what I’m doing!

My first trip is a flight to Florida to visit a friend for a week. As my no-baggage travel companion, I’ve got the Women’s Essential Travel Jacket, which has 18 pockets (I think I’ve found them all). I expect the zip-off sleeves will come in handy with the summer heat.

The timing of a No-Baggage trip is impeccable; I’m flying with Air Canada, who was recently on strike. Although they have promised passengers close-to-normal service, they’ve issued strong suggestions to check-in online, and not to check any bags.

Sweet! Not only am I not checking bags, but I’m not even carrying any bags.

Wanna see what’s in my purse? Wanna see the Essential Travel Jacket? And do you wanna see me “pack” for my trip? Then watch this video!

(Email subscribers click here to watch).

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23 thoughts on “Preparing for the No Baggage Challenge”

  1. Ok, so you’re hiding your cash in your shoes, not very safe… and dare I mention, I didn’t see any extra undies…

  2. More power to you. I hope by the time I leave for my world trip I have disconnected from a lot of the crap I would normally bring with me. I really don’t want to lug around a lot of stuff and not having to check bags is IDEAL. Hope it works out for you! 🙂

  3. @Kate – As for clothing, I wore two outfits layered on top of one another (in a somewhat fashionable sense) so that I could wash one and wear one while travelling).

    And yes, @Keith, there is an extra pair of undies in there too, elegantly masked by my bikini. 🙂

    And to all, I’m in Florida right now, so stay tuned for my next post/video (in the next couple of weeks) detailing how this first trip has gone!

  4. Wow, that’s so cool. I followed along last year (it was last year, right?) when Rolf Potts did one of these, wondering how a woman would pack differently. Now I have total trip envy.


  5. Back in the last century, about 1979 in South Florida, I lived on a motorcycle, slept in a tent, even tried living under the 7-mile bridge for a bit, but i didn’t bring a bikini… thoughtless of me I know, but the folly of my youth soon ran head on into the train of reality… It was at the Dinner Key Lodge in the Grove that my daughter, Dina Kaye was conceived in the pool in a fit if water frothing frenzy… Life is all downhill regarding creative opportunity when you have the responsibilities of children, so remember to keep that bikini in place in the pool…

    Please try not to be frightened when the palmetto bugs attack you in the middle of the night as you walk to the toilet… They might make you go wee before you reach the proper receptacle…

    Have fun, but remember that if it looks like a hurricane, smells like a hurricane and blows like a hurricane, it just might be a hurricane…


  6. @J. – Yes, Rolf Potts was the first to do this with the help of Scottevest. It’s a bit of an extra challenge as a woman, since we’re not used to working with pockets to begin with. But it’s possible!

    @Keith – Okay….I’ll keep my bikini firmly in place….thanks for the life-experience-inspired advice! 🙂
    As for the palmettos, I wrestled one to the ground in an all-out brawl, and it was close for a while, but I’m pleased to say I emerged the victorious one.

  7. Good luck with your first no baggage trip – it’s very liberating.

    I tested the no baggage concept with a short three day trip to New Zealand a few months ago.

    I found a Scottevest jacket combined with Scottevest trousers was more than adequate to hold my gear. I list all the gear I took with me and it’s quite surprising what you can fit in 33 pockets!

    A week to 2 weeks with no baggage should be a breeze. The only hassle is daily washing of socks and underwear but once it becomes a habit it’s much easier.

    Longer periods of no baggage travel are perfectly feasible but where it becomes a problem is when you experience significant changes in climate between destinations. Staying in one location is not an issue because you can plan ahead.

    Traveling with no baggage makes you feel as free as a bird. As I said earlier, it’s very liberating.

  8. BTW, don’t go swimming in the canals, not only is it not safe, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal too… Remember, according to Florida’s equal use of force, self defense law, you cannot kill a gator unless you too have a set of gator teeth; and if you pick up a stick to fight him off, you’re still in the wrong unless he too has a stick to fight you… this I know from first hand experience as I type with my second hand… scrunchees work well as tourniquets…

    Just a thought here kiddo, the Palmettoes are like Columbians, once you’ve killed one, the rest of the genus will find you and relentlessly torture, torment, and test your emotional limits until you find yourself living under the seven mile bridge. I suggest mile-marker 79… Tell Scottie I sent you, he’s great at catching fish, and usually has a magazine to read… Don’t let his toothless grin put you off, after all he is from Walden, NY, where the toothbrush was invented, otherwise we would be calling them teethbrushes…

    And don’t be fooled by the way every street has three names, Like SW 8th St, is also Calle Ocho, and Tamiami Trail…but on the maps it’s US 41…

    I noticed in you pre-pocket staging you neglected sunscreen, bad move…

    Buena suerte en Florida, su amigo favorito Keith…

  9. It is an interesting experiment so good luck with that 🙂
    Florida is a hot place so, you will probably be ok with less clothes there.
    I tend to think though that since a woman’s anatomy is so much different from a man’s, and for my own peace of mind, it’d feel a lot safer in terms of personal hygiene if i had a tiny, tiny bagpack where i could fit in a traveller towel, a soap bar, a few more undies, an extra t-shirt or two, sunscreen, a deodorant stick and a mini-size tootpaste.
    i’d feel a lot more confident to be sociable wearing a fresh set of clothes, but that’s just me 🙂
    Having said that, I’m sure you’ll be fine and that you’ll find several ways to enjoy your newly found freedom 🙂
    thumbs up!

  10. @Robert – It’s great to know that you’ve had good experience with Scottevest clothing too. Great!

    @Keith – Luckily, I can borrow sunscreen from my friend, and no worries – my brawl with the palmetto didn’t end in death. It was more a force of will…just call me the palmetto-whisperer!

    @Despina – Because I’m staying with a friend, there were certain things I just didn’t need to bring, such as a towel. I’d be hard-pressed to make it work with this jacket and no bags if I had to bring ALL my toiletries, towels, etc.

    As for clothing, washing one outfit while wearing the other works pretty well. I’ve always been good at having multifunctional pieces of clothing (eg: a skirt/dress that can be worn many ways) which helps.

  11. Nora, you’re a badass! No baggage challenges are really hard. Everyone here at Scottevest is rooting for you! When you get sick of what you have contact us and we will get you a change of clothes. 🙂

  12. It’s usually best to just gouge out their eyes…

    But be sure it’s not Madonna, who said, “I am a survivor. I am like a cockroach, you just can’t get rid of me.”, and also beware of Boxing coach Freddie Roach, who was nicknamed La Cucaracha (The Cockroach) when he was still competing as a fighter…When boxing you can lose points for gouging your opponents eyes…

  13. I could see how having your purse emptied of some contents you weren’t even aware existed could be cause for a no baggage challenge. Maybe I should apply to them as well? It’s much easier to do in Korea with jjimjilbangs and cheap clothing.

  14. @Scottevest – Thanks!

    @Turner – I think everybody chooses their essential travel gear differently. It would be fun to see what you’d do! 🙂

  15. WOW! Super brave. I don’t think I could handle that. Looking forward to how this works out for you!!

    (Do they have a pocket big enough for your laptop??) 🙂

  16. @Dalene – Scottevest jackets have a special pocket designed for iPads or 13.3″ laptops. Scottevest vests have a rear pocket that can accommodate a larger laptop but you would have to remove your vest while sitting as it is a bit uncomfortable. You can wrap spare clothing around the laptop to make it a bit more comfortable and to stop the clothing from getting creased while traveling. I have tried wearing the vest under the jacket and that works OK. As Nora pointed out, you can layer clothing while traveling.

  17. I hope your trip will be fun. Walking around without no baggage, without having something heavy to carry over everywhere will probably give you a real sense of liberty.

  18. So awesome that you did this, Nora (both the challenge AND the video to detail it)! I’ve been meaning to look into the SeV stuff- cool to see that you are getting great use out of it! Thanks- Mark

  19. Sounds like a fun challenge =) Do you think it would be cheating to bring one of those fold-able eco bags in your pocket and use that when necessary?

  20. @Lori – I sure hope that isn’t cheating, because I brought one! However the only reason I brought it was to carry groceries etc back to the place I was staying, as I abhor using plastic bags. So I don’t think it’s cheating – it’s being responsible! 🙂


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