Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

No-baggage field report: Week four

September 22, 2010 by Rolf Potts

This week finds me in one of my favorite cities in the world — Bangkok — where I’ve recently arrived after flying across the Indian Ocean from South Africa. It’s great to be back in Thailand, where I lived off and on for the better part of two years in the early 2000s — and it should be interesting to see how the intense humidity of Southeast Asia affects my no baggage journey.

As with last week, I continue to welcome reader questions about my experiences with no-luggage travel — just post those questions in the comments below. I’ll answer some queries from last week in a moment, but first I wanted to note that as of this week I am traveling even lighter than I was when I left New York a month ago. Here’s what I just removed from my travel jacket/vest, and why:

Deodorant: Ever since I bought a mineral-salt rock in a Moroccan market, there has been a lot of reader interest in how it has been working in keeping my armpits fresh and combating underarm odor. After two weeks of using it in the field, I can say it’s working great — so great, in fact, that I tossed my store-bought American deodorant stick. I will use the mineral-salt for the remainder of the trip. When I arrive in the US a couple weeks from now, ask me (or better yet, ask my cameraman and travel companion Justin) how this decision worked out.

Bottle of laundry detergent: As I stated last week, I haven’t been using as much laundry detergent or all-in-one soap as I’d expected, since hotel (or safari camp) soap and shampoo has been available at most all of my stops en route. Since shampoo is adequate for washing my clothes, I’m ditching the bottle of laundry detergent, keeping the bottle of all-in-one soap on hand in the event I won’t have access to hotel soap (as will be the case in New Zealand, where I plan to travel by camper van).

Camera: I jettisoned the camera for the the simple reason that I haven’t been taking many pictures of the journey. Normally I might be more active with the camera — but with Justin capturing most every aspect of the trip on video, I feel like it’s already being well documented. Moreover, even if I wasn’t traveling with a cameraman, I feel that — in the interest of going ultra-light — I could carry an iPhone (instead of an iPod) and use it to take photos.

[On a blocking and trip-rules note: I got rid of the camera by passing it to Justin, since the camera in question belongs to his wife. Naturally, by the rules of the trip, I now cannot borrow it back, so functionally it has ceased to exist for me. Were I traveling alone and I wanted to offload a camera, I would probably mail it home or give it away.]

Flashlight: This item is so small I can slip it into the pen-pocket of my SeV Tropical Vest/Jacket and not have to think about it from day to day. Still, I haven’t really used it — and in the interest of traveling lighter, I decided to give it away.

Earplugs: Ditto on the earplugs — I never think about them (they reside, weightless in the shin-pocket of my SeV cargo pants), but I haven’t been using them, so in the interest of this exercise I’m tossing them too.

Bandanna: My final discarded item is my handkerchief. I originally packed it thinking I’d use it as a do-rag, but thus far my ballcap as been covering all my head-gear needs. Since I rarely use the bandanna, I’ve decided to ditch it.

In further lightening my load (and indeed my vest/jacket does fit even lighter now) I am simply fine-tuning my own system — other no baggage travelers (and would-be no-baggage travelers) will naturally develop their own systems for what and what not to carry.

As for reader questions, here goes with a few that caught my eye in the past week:

How is it going with t-shirt odor?

Back in my first field report, I expressed concern that my t-shirts, which are made of polyester, might begin to hold odor after repeated daily use. ScotteVest CEO Scott Jordan has been particularly curious about this issue (for obvious reasons) — and three weeks after that initial report I’m happy to report that my SeV Performance Tees remain odor-free. (As my Australian safari pal Courtney wrote me after returning home from Africa; “I’ve been plugging your blog back home, and defending your hygiene — which seems to be everyone’s first question.”)

No doubt my shirts remain fresh in part due to my daily washing routine — a ritual far more diligent than when I travel with bags (or, for that matter, my home washing routine, when clothes remain dirty in the hamper for days at a time). But Scott Jordan has suggested to me that “building a better performance tee” has itself been a longtime point of obsession for his clothing company. Scott, is there a design component that has helped my SeV polyester resist odor (or is that a trade secret)?

Whatever the case, the true test of the performance tees will come here in Bangkok, where I plan to hit some of the city’s more exclusive nightclubs in my no-baggage travel gear and see if I can make it past the velvet rope.

Aren’t you getting hassled at airport security for having no luggage?

Some readers have told stories about attracting the attention of TSA officials when traveling with little or no luggage (possibly due to terrorism profiling concerns). So far this has not been a problem for me whatsoever (though in a way I wish it was, since it would give me more dramatic no-baggage stories to tell). If for some reason I do get hassled at some border station in coming days, I’ll be sure to report about it here.

What is your process for writing the blogs?

In the field I take travel notes each day in my pocket notebook. Then, when it comes time to write the story, I draw on these notes, as well as Justin’s video footage and my old laptop archive notes (which I access remotely through my iPod, using Dropbox). Then I unfold my Micro Innovations MP0118 bluetooth keyboard and write the blog entry on my iPod.

How do you keep your iPod charged?

I’ve brought the iPod USB cord (it shares the same pocket as my keyboard), and I charge up as I find computers and laptops on the road (which isn’t too hard).

Are you carrying all the items you have when you’re staying in a city?

No — and I find it strange when people assume that I do. This is, after all, the No Baggage Challenge,” not the “Carry Everything With You At All Times Challenge.” Hence, when staying someplace overnight, I typically leave toiletries in the hotel/hostel bathroom, and spare clothes (including the jacket/vest itself, if the local weather does not merit it) in the closet or hanging out to dry.

As a no-baggage traveler, what kinds of reactions are you getting from other travelers you meet?

I’ve attracted a lot of interest from other travelers on the road — but less overt fascination than you might think. Travelers tend to be a pretty understated bunch when it comes to differences in packing styles, so usually they just give my SeV clothes a quiet once-over when they realize I’m not carrying anything else. It’s not until they realize that I haven’t compromised anything — that I’m enjoying the same travel activities as everyone else, with a fraction of the weight — that they really start to ask questions.

Again, please post your own questions in the comments below, so I can answer them in the next field report!

Also, check out the video interview with SeV CEO Scott Jordan below:

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  • Diana Bachelor

    You haven't mentioned washing your cargo pants and I wonder have you washed them? If something were going to smell, it would be the pants. I'm traveling to Hokkaido in Oct. using the Scottevest instead of a purse. The 12 days I'll be out, I'll have 3 pairs of black jeans because for me after 3 days wearing a pair they feel grungy. Sure enjoy reading your “No-baggage” reports.

    • seawolfeusn

      Ditto. Dark pants would probably be easier from a “hiding the dirt” perspective, but I'm also interested in hearing how you keep the cargos clean. I just want to say that you two are doing an outstanding job!

      — Craig Porter

  • What are your other favourite places in Thailand, Rolf? I love the people in Bkk but I get fed up with the traffic real quick. I've loved Nong Khai, Ayuthaya, Lopburi, Kamphaeng Phet, Hua Hin and, perhaps somewhat incongruously, Phuket Town.

  • Another great video and blog post!! Great job Rolf and Justin! BTW, we are having a HUGE sale (40% off) several popular items through Sunday. Check them out

    Scott Jordan, CEO

  • jae

    Great blog!

    I see that the clothing line you're wearing is limited for women. I'd be interested in seeing a woman trying a similar no baggage trip. I don't mind wearing mens clothing from time to time, but I wouldn't want to travel the world looking like I'm wearing my husbands/fathers/brother's clothes. How would they fit and look on a woman?

  • Enzo

    The new Ipod touch as a camera and video camera on it, so i think this makes discarding the camera an even better option.

  • Skulker00

    Great blog, just curious how you would adjust things if you were traveling to somewhere wintery.

    • Stay tuned.. we're currently somewhere with snow, so the next field report (next week) will address that.

  • Patrick

    Wow! I have been following this since day 1, but to see your baggage (physical, at least) laid out on the table really brings home the point of just how little you really need to carry. All those little things I add into my carry on (a deck of cards, various bits of paper, extra cords, etc) really add up. Time to jetison a few things from my carry on!

  • om

    I get dehydrated easily , so what do you guys do about water? Is it always available nearby? Also, I like to carry some snacks on a all day excursion. If you don't carry food then how do you handle hunger?

  • Lynn

    I checked out your sale and bought three items.

    My husband's only comment was that if I had bought ALL of your sale items, I would have had 283 pockets. Yes, he is a CPA. Sigh…

    I accidentally stumbled onto this website several weeks ago. It has been a delight to read. Now to start traveling with no bags!

  • Ashtonsusan

    This note is to Scott Jordan: Scott, are you planning to export your line of clothes? I live in the UK.

    • toniri

      Yes please, that would be grant!

    • Lawrence

      I agree. We are desperate for scottevest here in the UK.

  • Brandreth

    Your post this week seems to emphasise to me that the goal is not “no luggage” but “minimal kit”. Why is that a relevant difference? Well it may be that you'd be better off with a tiny piece of luggage that could hold all of your minimal kit than with clothing that has loads of pockets. The Scottevest kit may be excellent from a luggage perspective but if you're not carrying it around with you all the time maybe you'd be better getting clothing that (a) doesn't carry the design cost premium that the Scottevest kit does and (b) hasnt made design choices based on the need to provide pocket space.
    Moreover, when you do travel with all your kit you can put down your load if its in a little bag whereas if its in your clothes you have to take them off to unburden and you may not wish to for temperature reasons.
    Of course there may be other reasons to prefer the Scottevest kit over other travel clothing.

  • I'm quite curious about the stuff that you'd normally travel with that you're missing. Not stuff that you “need”, but just nice to haves. Like maybe you normally travel with a pocket knife (not possible with carry-on only), or some other particular piece of clothing that isn't necessary but still nice. Basically what are the first things that you'll think about packing when you go on your next trip /with/ baggage (besides what you're using here)?

    And btw, thanks for this blog, I'm really enjoying it! :)

  • MattBH

    You mentioned in your interview with Scott that you'd probably keep trying to travel with no baggage, or doing something similar with a day pack. If you were to do this again with a day pack added, what would you take that you don't currently have? More clothes? More tech gear? More toiletries?

    I'm planning a trip to Japan in November where I do a similar thing with a day pack, so curious to hear your response.

  • Msmaf

    Just wanted to thank you for this fabulous idea: traveling with no baggage. I would never have thought of this; must be why they pay you the big bucks! Baggage is one of the things that makes travel so onerous. My hubby and I are planning a 3 month trip next year and are going to use your ideas…NO baggage! We're going to try it even without a day pack. We'll see!

  • hadsie

    In the interest of traveling lightly, I use this cable to charge my iPod:

    Found it in a few shops in Hong Kong when I was there last year, but unfortunately only bought the one and haven't seen it again. Considering how little you already have, if you found one of these it could make a big difference to your pocket space.

  • I traveled through parts of Europe in the summer of 2009 with a small (25 L) backpack and still felt like a had too much stuff. This is great. My next voyage will be a minimalist travel experiment for sure. Thanks for the posts!

  • Jim

    Hey Rolf, Jim from Vermin on the Mount here. What a great adventure you're having! Quick question for you: What do you do when people give you gifts? One of my rules is to never turn down a gift from a new friend, and when I was in Memphis a lady gave me two pounds of milled grits. They were delicious, but man what a hassle!

  • Rolf, I would just like to say how much I have enjoyed your writing. I have barely read anything in my life—think I have ADD of some sort. However, I enjoy traveling and when I started to read Vagabonding whilst in the Dominican Republic, it completely grabbed my attention and I couldn't put it down. I was surprised to find something so concise and practical, plus your optimism and simple philosophies were inspiring. Furthermore, I am currently traveling Southeast Asia (with minimal baggage) occasionally reading a story from 'Marco Polo Didn't Go There.' I would also like to reiterate Epiphany Bloom's question of: What are your favorite places in Thailand / SE Asia besides Bangkok?

    -David from Sheffield, England, UK

  • Rolf with your ultra light marine haircut and your globetrotting, you remind me of Matt Damon’s character Jason Bourne. One item I thought could be useful for RTW travel is a USB charger that plugs right into a wall power socket (with country adapter) for the iPod / iPhone–no need for laptops / computers to charge it.

  • teNriA

    Rolf with your ultra light marine hairstyle and your globetrotting you remind me of Matt Damon's character Jason Bourne! A useful item to take is a USB charger that plugs directly into a wall power socket (with country adaptor) for the iPod / iPhone–that way there is no need to find a laptop / PC.

  • Rolf with your ultra light marine hairstyle and your globetrotting you remind me of Matt Damon's character Jason Bourne! A useful item to take is a USB charger that plugs directly into a wall power socket (with country adaptor) for the iPod / iPhone–that way there is no need to find a laptop / PC.

  • Meg

    “I charge up as I find computers and laptops on the road (which isn’t too hard).”

    Can you elaborate on this, please? I'm having a hard time picturing the scenarios where you find a computer/laptop to plug into. You obviously have to sit and wait while it charges, since you don't want to leave it alone in a “strange” computer, like in the hotel lobby. Does that eat into time you'd be out and about?

  • Alan

    Not sure I understand. You're posting as if in Bangkok but in the Scott Jordan interview you say you're in New Zealand. huh?

    • Naturally, our content is a few days behind our location due to the time that goes into producing videos a blog posts. Thanks for reading!

  • OW! I'm reading this Monday morning.
    So much for the benefits of the Unplug from the Virtual World challenge. ;)

  • Cat

    I usually travel with just a small carry-on, and like other commenters on other posts, I've gotten special attention from Customs because apparently it's suspicious to go on a several-weeks trip with just one small bag. Apparently I'm frightening if I'm not weighed down by luggage.

    Your baggage-free trip is a great idea, and I'm looking forward to more posts.

  • Pingback: No-baggage field report: Full circle (week 6) | No Baggage Challenge -- Around the World with no luggage()

  • Juliana Staub

    Hi Rolf! That's so much fun!!! Nice to know about you and all this great ideas and adventures……Juliana from Brazil

  • Marcus

    What about shaving?

  • Fareast Sails

    Great blog to read.. Thank you sharing your experiences of travel.

    hand sails usa

  • citrapandiangan

    wow, the unique and new tlravel personal blog i ever read, amazing no baggage is like just go hang out