Ultralight Packing for a 10 Day Business Trip

I’m on my way out the door for a ten day work trip involving seven flight segments taking me from DC to Minneapolis to Madrid (by way of DC) and back to DC. I’ll be at two conferences for work – Netroots Nation and the UNI Communicators Forum – and sadly I’ll have a fair amount of work to do while on the road outside of convention hours.

Unpacked Items

Laid out to be packed

I’d recently ordered a Tom Bihn Tri-Star bag, but sadly it is on back order and hasn’t arrived in time for the trip. Instead I’ll be using my GoLite Jam backpack. It’s a 50L frameless pack which I’ve never used for work travel before. The good thing is the top is a roll-down enclosure, so I can dramatically reduce the size of the pack to the space that I’m actually filling with my stuff. I would say that I’m actually only using about 30L of the pack.

Here’s my packing list:

  • 3 button-down shirts
  • 3 quick drying t-shirts (1 extra for lots of gym use)
  • 1 pair lightweight black  pants
  • 1 pair Patagonia Trail Maker Shorts (for gym and walking around)
  • 2 pairs lightweight socks
  • 2 pairs SeV Travel Boxers
  • 1 pair running shoes
  • 15″ MacBook Pro
  • Kindle (easier on my bad eyes than the iPhone)
  • Toiletries (including laundry detergent) in a Tom Bihn 3D Clear Organizing Cube
  • Clothes line
  • Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack (Stuffs down tiny, but can hold my MBP & then some)
  • Power cords & European plug converter in a Tom Bihn Snake Charmer
  • Passport & travel documents
  • In the picture there’s a pair of camouflage cargo shorts. At the last minute I decided to leave them behind & use the Trail Makers more
All packed

All packed. The cat stays.

The tshirts, socks, Trail Maker and underwear are packed in a small Tom Bihn packing cube, which is also the center of a bundle for the pants and button down shirts. I’ll be wearing a Patagonia Houdini jacket, another t-shirt, underwear, socks and jeans. I’ll also have a pair of black Keen Denver slip on shoes, which are great for walking around and look quite professional, and I’ll wear a belt with plastic buckle so I don’t have to remove it at airport security. The other things on my person:

  • Wallet
  • iPhone
  • Handkerchief
  • Sunglasses
  • Ear buds

I’m really bummed out about having to take my MacBook Pro. I’m waiting for the new MacBook Air to come out before getting a light-weight computer, so I’m stuck until then. I’d hoped to just work off of my iPad, but the reality is that I have too much going on for me to function on an iPad and iPhone for 10 days. The result, unfortunately, is about an extra five pounds plus when you add in the power source. I hate carrying my MBP when I travel, but I’ll just have to be even more judicious with my packing choices to compensate for some of the added weight. What’s particularly frustrating about the MBP for me is that were I doing the trip with an iPad instead, this would likely be my longest, lightest work trip yet. Oh well. Hopefully Apple releases the upgrade MBAir some time soon, so problems like this will be greatly mitigated in the future.

Still, this whole pack weighs in at just over 15 pounds, so not too bad given I have a 15″ MacBook Pro. The top of the backpack is rolled down as far as it can go – reaching the top of padding. If I need anything else, I can buy it and have plenty of room to bring it back with me.


5 thoughts on “Ultralight Packing for a 10 Day Business Trip

  1. happypoppeye says:

    Good post and I looked up the two bags you mentioned. Hmmm, interesting. On the Ton Binh Tri-Star – have you looked at the Osprey Porter 46? It looks like the same type of bag and is known as being the perfect carry-on/light travel bag.


    • Matt Hamlin says:

      Tom Bihn Tri-Star is three compartents and is convertible between backpack, satchel & briefcase. Their stuff is made in America and incredible quality. In my experience, they are worth the cost. I haven’t used it, but the Osprey Porter has a single compartment. Despite the fact that I’m using a top-loading single compartment bag on this trip, my preference is for more compartmentalized bags. But people’s preferences vary.

  2. […] back from my 10 day work trip to Minneapolis and Madrid. Things went well, especially in terms of the clothing and gear I brought […]

  3. MaudMan says:

    Hi Matt: I love reading ultralight travel posts like this because I’m constantly striving to travel lighter and lighter myself. I’m amazed you were able to go on a 10-day business trip with only 1 pair of pants, and 1 pair of jeans!! (assuming I’m reading that right) How in the world did you manage that?

    I’d love to know what brand the black pants are, and if they are quick-dry. I can’t even imagine going on a 5-day business trip with only 1 pair of pants, let alone 10 days! 🙂

    Your comment above about buying the Tri-Star because it’s made in America is awesome! I’m always looking for items made in America and people really need to start doing the same. I don’t mind paying a little extra, but I have to tell you… It can be a challenge to find American made items in every category!

    Is any of your other travel gear made in America? I would love to find a list of American made travel gear including quick-dry clothes, slip-on shoes, bags, packs, etc…

    • Matt Hamlin says:

      The black pants are Betabrand Karate Casuals. They’re made in San Francisco. The pants are pull-on, draw string solid black seersucker. They’re super lightweight and dry quickly because they’re so thin. It’s easy to wash them in the hotel sink and line dry them. Since they’re seersucker, wrinkles aren’t a problem

      The jeans I wore on this trip were pretty lightweight too. Though I did not wash them, had I needed to, they probably could have dried in about 24 hours.

      The key to packing light is bringing clothes that can be worn multiple times in different combinations (solid colors) and can be washed in the hotel sink and line dried. Quick-dry fabrics are key to making this work. If you’re willing to wash clothes every night, you can get away with 3 sets of shirts/underwear/socks and one or two pairs of pants. If you plan on going to the gym, that adds complexity and weight. Same if what you wear for work varies significantly from what you’d wear out at night or on the weekends. I’m fortunate that I usually wear nothing more than jeans and button-down shirts for work, which is also what I usually wear when not at work.

      In terms of American made, other than my sneakers (which were American-made New Balance), I’m pretty sure everything else was imported.

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