Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

No Baggage Challenge: The Travel Clothing

August 18, 2010 by Rolf Potts

By definition a no-luggage journey has to operate on a minimum of gear — but it also has to function with a minimum of clothing. Whatever clothes one brings have to be functional and durable enough to wear constantly, yet small and light enough to pack into pockets if need be.

This in mind, here are the clothes I’m wearing/bringing on the No Baggage Challenge:

1) ScotteVest Tropical Jacket

In the months leading up to this journey I was pretty sure my main utility garment would be the SeV Travel Vest (which, at 22 pockets, has more capacity), but the 18-pocket Tropical Jacket eventually won me over. With lightweight, water-resistant fabric and a vent in the back, it’s cooler than the Travel Vest, and the sleeves zip off (or, in my case, zip on — since I’ll primarily wear it as a vest). All but two of the pockets are on the inside of the jacket, which (a) is a nice deterrent against pickpockets, and (b) keeps me from traveling the world looking like a confused trout fisherman. It’s remarkable how much I can put in these pockets and not look like I’m carrying very much.

2) ScotteVest Ultimate Cargo Pants

These pants actually break my (somewhat vain) travel-rule against wearing pants that zip into shorts. Alex Beam of the New York Times once remarked that these type of pants make you look “like Swedish beekeepers, or plumbers’ assistants (on a bad day)” — and usually I concur with this assessment. Given the choice between the Ultimate Cargo Pants or the SeV Travel Pants (which don’t zip into shorts), however, I went with the cargo pants, since I found their fabric more comfortable, and their pockets better suited for my storage needs. And despite the zip-legs, I think they look sharp and wear well (Swedish beekeepers, eat your heart out).

3) Q-Zip pullover shirt

Of all the products ScotteVest has sent me since they first started mailing me samples earlier this year, my favorite is the Q-Zip. They look good, and they’re cool in warmer weather while still making a good insulation layer when it gets cold. I have five of them in different colors, and I wear them all the time. I’m bringing my blue one, even though it’s my oldest — it’s broken in and comfortable (or, to paraphrase Thoreau, “assimilated to myself”).

4) Performance t-shirt

I’m bringing two of these t-shirts as my day-to-day under-layer. In keeping with all ScotteVest products these shirts feature a couple of pockets — but I’m not interested in the pockets so much as the comfortable fit and the quick drying fabric. I’ll put quite a beating on these — and it’ll be interesting to see how they hold up. On my previous multi-month vagabonding journeys t-shirts are what I most commonly toss out and replace (let’s face it: armpit fabric-odor issues are not to be trifled with), and if anything from my original packing list gets retired early, it could well be these.

5) Travel underwear

My underwear needs are pretty simple, I just need something that dries fast and won’t take up too much space in my pockets. ScotteVest is actually giving me prototype samples of their travel underwear, which isn’t on the market yet; we’ll have to see how they work out for me.

6) Smartwool socks

Actually, Smartwool makes only one of the three pairs of socks I’m bringing; the other two are thin anklet running socks that I’ve owned forever (I’ve long since forgotten the brand name). My selection criterion was simply that they be quick-drying and fit compactly into my pockets. I’m not too picky about socks; I just want something to ensure I don’t go barefoot in my boots.

7) Blundstone boots

I’m traveling with a pair of Blundstone boots I bought in Australia in 2006. I’ve worn these boots all over the world the past four years, from Paris to Ethiopia to the Falkland Islands, and they’ve served me great. They work for hiking in remote environments, yet they’re easy to slip off and on at airport security. Some travelers might prefer Chaco or Teva sandals (if nothing else to save packing socks) — and I won’t fault them for that — but my Blundstones look nice enough that they will get me into places where sandals might seem too informal.

8) TEC ballcap

I seriously thought about not taking a hat, the idea being that I could wear my handkerchief as a do-rag most days, and if I ever got into a sun-intensive environment I could just buy a hat locally. My mother, of all people, wasn’t too wild about this — she insisted a hat is something you need most every day, especially when you’re fair-skinned. She had a point — and after I got my pre-trip buzz-cut at the barber I figured it’d be good to have something to protect my scalp. I’m still packing the handkerchief (which has multiple uses), but I’ll bring along a SeV TEC cap as well. If for some reason I don’t use it that much, I can always give it away someplace.

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  • juise

    I think you need to get some light colored t-shirts too. I'm from Malaysia, and I don't think the sun and humidity is going to love your black t-shirt. Also… wearing boots in South East Asia will make your feet STINK!!

  • Hdorroh

    What model boots do you have?

  • Rolf

    My boots are Blundstones, which I got in Australia in 2006. I love them, and wear them constantly.

    Thanks for the SE Asia tips! By that point I might be game for investing in a white t-shirt. Stay tuned!

    • Grubstreetnm

      I just bought some. Imagine my surprise at the “made in Thailand” tag inside these “Australian” boots.

      • Peter

        Many Aussie companies ie Blundstones, Speedo, Bonds etc. are now using Asian factories to produce their products.

    • C. Bell

      What style of Blundstones did you purchase? (Lace up or slip on?)

  • What will you do with your dogs whilst you're away?

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  • Rolf

    David, my entire nuclear family (parents, sister, brother-in-law, nephews) lives within a two-mile radius of my place, so the dogs should be well cared for over the next six months!

  • Jake… :
    “To anyone who would emulate this daring mode of travel, be advised: you will stink.”

    So. Are you bringing enough clothes to avoid that problem? And, if so, where are they going? Pockets?

  • Rolf

    Jake, see the video that went up at Tim Ferriss's Four Hour Work Week blog yesterday:

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  • Mike


    Do you use a belt with the cargo pants? If so, I made the perfect suggestion for a belt and how to use it at Tim's blog post on your no luggage challenge.


    • Rolf doesn't have a belt — the pants have an internal cinch system to keep them tight.

  • Duke

    One tends to smell like a goat after a 14-hour flight. If you have to travel with only one pair of pants, quick dry is essential (as you suggest in the video). The last thing you want is to be fanning your wet pants, clad in your gitch, as Singapore happens outside.

    Best of luck on the journey!

  • I know that you're being sponsored by ScotteVest so you probably don't get much choice on t-shirts but the best travel t-shirts I have worn are made from merino wool (I tend to use t-shirts by Icebreaker.) They are comfortable, cool when hot, and warm when cool, and critically don't smell. You can get many days wear from them before washing (especially if it's not too hot) and they come in a range of weights. I see that you're coming to New Zealand so you might be able to change t-shirts there – Icebreaker's a NZ company. I know it might not sound like it but I have no affiliation with the company!

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  • hi – can you explain how you use the bluetooth keyboard with your ipod to make blog posts? What kind of software on the ipod are you using?

    • With the release of iOS4 (the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch operating system), you can sync Bluetooth keyboards with your device. So you don't need any special software, just the latest version of the OS. Once synced, you can use the keyboard anywhere you would have used the on-screen keyboard.

      Maybe we'll do a video about this… a lot of people seem to be interested.

      • Accentjim

        I'd be very interested to know more about this! Please do make a blog posting about it.

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  • I'm very glad, to have found your blog. (through the 4-Hour Work Week Blog)
    I'll utilize ideas from this post for my 3-4 week trip to Germany from New York after Christmas for New Years.

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  • Giorgio Ugazio

    Hi Rolf, I'm excited about your experiment.
    I want to know if you really want to make your travel without changing your cargo pants and your jacket of if you plan to wash them sometimes (and be in underwear for a while…)

    thank you!

  • Brant

    ExOfficio makes the best travel underwear.
    And an Icebreaker shirt (100% Merino wool) can be worn in multiple climates for multiple days without needing a wash because it doesn't get stinky.
    I specialize in outfitting people for adventure travel and these are my top two must haves.
    Have fun!

  • MattBH

    Rolf – in terms of socks, what materials do you look for to ensure they dry quickly?


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  • Is it my imagination, or have the Ultimate Cargo Pants disappeared from SeV's online catalog? The link now automatically redirects to a non-zip-off “Hidden” version.

  • Chris G

    I know I'm late to this post but the future ones made me come looking for your boots. You say they're good for hiking but they seem to be one the slip on with stretch side models.

    Which of the current model blundstone boots would you say approximate those you're using?

  • Rob

    What's the song playing in the video?

  • Greg

    If you want to do something similar I recommend you use ExOfficio's clothing brand which is made for travelers: