Category Archives: Clothing

One Day with No Bags

Yesterday I had business meetings at Chicago O’Hare’s Hilton Hotel. The hotel is literally in the airport, with conferences rooms just a short, underground walk from the gate that I arrived in. Since I was going and coming back to DC in the same day, I didn’t bring any bags, just my Scottevest Tropical Jacket. Yes, tropical jacket. Though it was in the low-teens when I left DC and in single digits when I arrived in Chicago, I was only going to be outside for two brief moments through the day: while hailing a cab to DCA and while waiting for a cab to take me home from DCA. I was able to gut it out with only the Tropical Jacket, a sweater, a hat and gloves. In the jacket I packed my iPad, iPhone, earbuds, and a pen. That’s it.

This was really easy and even less stressful than my 10 day no baggage trip to Japan. Security was effortless and even though I was running late – I only made my flight by 10 minutes – I was able to move through the airport with ease.

What was more interesting was that I had at least two or three moments during the day where I frantically looked around for my messenger bag. Rolf Potts talked about this sensation at the start of his round-the-world no baggage trip. But while I was in Japan for 10 days, I never actually recall feeling like I was missing a bag. Yet yesterday, I did.

This little experiment was a real validation for me and no baggage travel. It especially made clear that for very short business trips, no bags is the way to go.


Doing Laundry In Your Hotel Sink

As I’ve recently completed my No Baggage Challenge for Charity, using Scottevest clothing to travel 10 days in Japan with no bags, I thought it’d be interesting to share one of the key parts of my trip: doing laundry every night in the hotel. Since I only brought two t-shirts, three pairs of boxers, and three pairs of light wool socks, I had to wash whatever I wore that day at night in my hotel sink. Though you could use shampoo, I’d brought a small, TSA-compliant bottle of concentrated, biodegradable laundry detergent. In what turned out to be a life-saving move, I also brought a travel clothesline which I got from REI for $9. This clothesline includes plastic alligator clips and is long enough to cover the width of most hotel rooms (especially Japanese ones).

My nightly process went like this:

  • Target key smell areas on each garment with detergent – eg, the armpit or the sole of the socks.
  • Wash with cold water and ring it out.
  • Twice more rinse each garment with cold water and ring it out.
  • Thoroughly ring out each garment one last time.
  • Place a towel on the floor & lay a still-damp item of clothing on it. Roll it up in the towel. Stand on the towel to squeeze out more water.
  • Hang garment on travel clothesline & repeat the towel procedure until everything is hung up.

A few things:

  • While a couple of the hotel rooms I stayed in had clotheslines in their shower, I found these were less effective. The bathrooms didn’t have windows and as a result, they didn’t get much air moving through. Hanging the clothesline in the main living space, near a slightly open window, resulted in much faster drying times. The problems with the bathroom drying could be because it was fairly humid in Japan, but drying the clothes near moving air definitely worked better.
  • The Q-Zip and Performance T-shirts consistently dried faster than the Travel Boxers and wool socks.
  • While I was concerned about bringing the clothesline in my kit, it weighs almost nothing and takes up very little space. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who plans to do laundry while traveling.
  • I didn’t bring anything that was pure cotton, so I can’t really compare it to the drying times of the various Scottevest clothes items or the wool socks.

The whole clothes washing process never took more than 10-15 minutes at most (the longer end on nights when I did the Q-zip & pants). It became part of my routine and wasn’t much of a hassle at all.

The benefit of being willing to do laundry at night in your hotel sink is that you can pack much lighter when you travel. In effect, I was only washing the things that touched closest to my body – underwear, socks and what served as undershirts. Even if you didn’t want to cut down on how many pairs of pants or top shirts you brought with you, cutting down on the undershirts, underwear and socks can free up a lot of space. As a result, I definitely will be doing this sort of thing in the future and recommend it to others.

No Baggage Challenge for Charity Visits The Best Bar in Asia

This is the fifth installment of my No Baggage Challenge for Charity. Read about why I am traveling to Japan for ten days with no bags here and see exactly what I have with me here. My first post on arriving in Japan can be read here. and my exploration of Kyoto’s Nishiki Market can be read here.

As an avowed cocktail geek, one of the most exciting things about traveling in Japan is the opportunity to visit some of Tokyo’s legendary cocktail lounges. Cocktails first came to Japan in a big way following World War II and as is the case with most cultural importations, the Japanese quickly added their own take to making cocktails. Over the last sixty years a defined Japanese style of bartending evolved, with unique methods for shaking drinks, preparing ice, and serving guests. To my American eyes, the Japanese style of bartending is primarily focused on precision in practice and making sure each drink is suitable for the person who ordered it. There’s something magical about it in a way that goes beyond what you get at Pre-Prohibition style cocktail bars in the United States.

Throughout my trip, I’ve seen bartenders at bars deploy the particular Japanese style of preparing drinks. This was surprising to the extent that in the US, while there is, broadly speaking, American style for craft cocktail bartenders, this style doesn’t get transmitted through your run-of-the-mill bartenders at dives, beer halls or hotel bars. In contrast, every bartender I’ve seen in Japan – from a hotel lounge to small restaurant’s bar to high-end lounge – has worked in the typical Japanese style. A hard shake is employed, droplets of the mixed cocktail are tasted on the bartenders wrist to confirm it is suitable, and the ingredients of the drink are displayed on the bar for a guest to enjoy. The ubiquity of the Japanese style is impressive, though not all top Japanese bartenders think this is a good thing.

I spent last night at Hidetsugu Ueno’s Bar High Five, which in 2009 was named the best barin Asia and the Pacific. Mr. Ueno thinks the formal style of Japanese bartending gets in the way of bartenders actually making good drinks that are right for the person they’re serving. “Recipes are meaningless,” he says, emphasising that each person should have a drink that’s right for them, not what is printed in a book. He says he never uses recipes himself, but relies on his sense of balance and aroma to determine how to make a drink that is right for his guest.

While the concept of bartending by rote style being bunk is somewhat radical to hear, the idea that a drink should be made specifically for the person who will drink it is not. Throughout contemporary bartending literature, both in the US and Japan, there is an expectation that a guest should be able to have the right drink for them, not the bartender or an author of a recipe. Of course, what’s said in theory might not always make it out to the other side of the stick.

As if there were any doubt, the three cocktails I enjoyed with Mr. Ueno were all superb. I started the night with a Martinez, a precursor cocktail to the Martini made with Old Tom Gin (a sweeter, stronger type of gin), sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters. In what was my first surprise of the night, Mr. Ueno didn’t know the recipe. He said that while Japan is a country of traditional cocktails, there is almost no interest in the older cocktails now popular in the US thanks to exhaustive research into 19th century cocktail manuals. As such, there is no demand for what are considered Pre-Prohibition classics like the Martinez or Ramos Gin Fizz. He looked up a version of a Martinez in one of his many cocktail books and made me an excellent drink that I thoroughly enjoyed. If a bartender can make you a cocktail he or she isn’t familiar with and it can still turn out to your liking, you’re almost always in the presence of someone who has mastered the ability to balance ingredients in cocktail form.

I next had a Daiquiri. This is one of my favorite cocktails and one of the simplest ones, made with only white rum, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. I find it’s a great drink to order at a lot of bars as a means of finding out the style of the bartender who serves you. Recipes for this drink vary widely, some with a lot of sugar to make a sweet, tart drink, others with a heavier pour of rum to make a dry cocktail. This is the style I prefer and Mr. Ueno’s Daiquiri nailed it.

My final cocktail for the night was a White Lady. Though this is not an original to Mr. Ueno, he is known in Japan for mastering it and making it a signature drink at his bar. He uses a strong pour of Beefeater Gin, along with scant pours of Cointreau, a fine orange liqueur, and fresh lemon juice. He then deploys the famed Japanes hard shake and the resulting drink is a light, refreshing, yet still brisk rendition of a White Lady.

White Lady

45 mL Beefeater Gin
12 mL Cointreau
15 mL fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a cobbler shaker over ice and shake. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Do not double strain.

One of the unique things about Mr. Ueno, though I’ve seen other Japanese bartenders do the same, is that when serving a shaken drink from a three-piece cobbler shaker, he does not double strain it. Instead, he uses the built-in strainer in the shaker and lets the tiny shards of ice to sit on the surface of the drink. When he made my Daiquiri and explained his logic on this, he noted that the way he shakes produces a very cold drink (-7.1 C in this instance). Since the liquid is so cold, the flecks of ice on its surface won’t melt and dilute the cocktail. Instead, when you take a sip of it, they will melt in your mouth and throat, adding a bracing burst of cold to the profile of each sip.

Going to one of the world’s best cocktail bars was quite an experience. The only thing that made this even more remarkable was that I went wearing clothes that I’d been traveling in for over a week. Japan is an incredibly stylish and well dress country, with suits the norm at most bars. Going to Bar High Five, with only nine seats at the bar and very closed quarters throughout, was a test of Scottevest clothes, both stylistically and whether they resisted odor. Fortunately all was well. I wore my TEC Shirt, which is a very stylish gray button down, and my Flex Cargo Pants, which look like a regular pair of chinos, and fit it just fine. Even more importantly, my method of washing what I wear each night (at least the tshirt, socks, and underwear, then sporadically pants and top shirt) has kept the clothes completely free of odor. Add in that I’m showering twice a day and I’m free and clear. This was definitely the biggest test of my clothes, beyond the daily travel with my girlfriend and parents, and the Scottevest gear passed with flying colors.

Today is my last full day in Tokyo – I fly back to the US tomorrow morning, marvelously landing two hours before I take off. The flight will be another opportunity for me to go through security with no baggage, as well as come back through customs. I had zero problems leaving the US and coming to Japan with no baggage and expect the same for my return.

Disclosure: My No Baggage Challenge for Charity trip is being done in collaboartion with Scottevest. I received some of the clothing I am using, including the Carry-On Coat, Tropical Jacket, TEC Shirt, Travel Boxers and Flex Cargo Pants for free. I am also using other Scottevest clothes that I’ve purchased myself: Q-Zip, Performance T-Shirts, and Travel Pants. Scottevest is making a $1500 donation to Students for a Free Tibet in honor of my trip and will raise their donation to $5000 if videos I shoot on this trip reach 10,000 views. I am covering all other trip costs.

If you would like to make a donation in support of Students for a Free Tibet, please click here.

Delta Ups the Ante Versus Scottevest

This is just nuts. Delta has started a new round of intimidation tactics against Scottevest, sending a cease-and-desist letter and threatening a lawsuit because the clothing company was hosting a contest on its site where the prize was…wait for it…a free flight on Delta in the United States.

Scottevest clearly didn’t intend to pick a fight with Delta – the prize was pretty clearly an effort to show the company wanted to move past its Delta magazine ad war with them. After all, Scottevest was going to spend money to send people on Delta flights. This was hardly an act of corporate warfare on Scottevest’s part. CEO Scott Jordan responded to the Delta cease-and-desist letter (from a moving car):

Scottevest has done the sensible thing and side-stepped the Delta attack by changing the prize for the Carry-On Coat Contest and clarifying that Delta isn’t associated with it:

Please note that the prize is now a US domestic flight on any airline that works with the Amex points system, not just Delta… and that no endorsement, ownership or association is implied or to be inferred between SCOTTEVEST, the Carry-on Contest and any airlines or trademark holders mentioned.

Here’s a thought. Delta is once again picking a fight with Scottevest. As the threatening letter says, Delta is a massive corporation with “28 billion dollars in annual revenue.” Scottevest is a small business. Those of us who work in politics professionally know that you never punch down, it makes you look small and it makes your opponent look bigger than they are. Well, Delta clearly doesn’t know this. Delta is punching down. Again. Delta really should knock this off.

Packing for a Big Trip

This is a whole other level of no baggage, ultralight travel. When you’re going into space, you can’t stop and buy more supplies, so what you bring with you becomes pretty important.

The video covers some of the survival systems that go into astronauts’ suits for manned space flight and the contingencies that an astronaut might face during and after launch, including oxygen tanks, fresh drinking water, survival radios and life preservers. It’s also interesting to see how many normal, household items go on the flight – pencils, paper clips, kitchen timers and so on.

Scottevest vs Delta

Via WalletPop, Traveling clothing company Scottevest is engaged in a very public fight with Delta’s Sky Magazine after Delta rejected an ad which sought to promote the usefulness of Scottevest as a means of avoiding checked baggage fees. Here’s the ad in question:

Scottevest Delta AdThe key lines are the headline and sub-headline, which read “The Most Stylish Way to Beat the System” and “SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing Has Specialized Pockets to Help You Stay Organized & Avoid Extra Baggage Fees,” respectively. According to Scottevest CEO Scott Jordan, they offered to change the headline to “Travel the World in Style & Leave Your Baggage Behind,” but would not change the sub-headline. Jordan reasoned:

When I was told that they rejected our compromise headline as well, I responded as follows in an email, “Frankly, if they object to the ‘avoid the baggage fees’ line, they need to stop charging baggage fees. I don’t think we should change it. We have agreed to remove ‘beat the system,’ but will not change the sub-heading. The fact that airlines charge baggage fees is just that: A fact. We just help make it less painful.”

Jordan went so far as to post his thoughts on the rejection from Delta on YouTube:

One of Jordan’s conclusions from his post explaining the time line of the conflict with Delta really stands out to me:

The bottom line: it became abundantly clear that the airlines would never allow me to advertise a product that costs them money and makes me money. I believe it wasn’t my headline, it was the core concept behind my product that they were rejecting. With that, I decided to embrace the controversy.

There’s really something to this. The No Baggage Challenge has shown that a traveler who is willing to radically alter his or her packing habits can literally travel around the world without a single bag – checked or carry-on. At a time when airlines are raking in nearly a billion dollars a quarter in baggage fees, it’s not shocking that they are threatened by products which reduce the need for checked bags. Traveling without bags is doable, whether airlines like it or not.

But here’s what’s really odd to me about this situation. While Scottevest and Rolf Potts have shown that it is technically possible to travel extensively with only what you fit into the pockets of the clothes you’re wearing, how likely is it that this is something that catches on to the extent that it legitimately costs airlines money? If there are 100 people in the United States that embrace Scottevest and the No Baggage Challenge way of travel in a permanent and committed way in the next year, I’d be surprised. After all, while there has been a proof of concept, realization of it requires a pretty dramatic change in travel choices. Let’s face it: Americans love stuff and living without much stuff is anathema to most of us. This gets back to Jordan’s point that Delta (and likely other airlines) are simply rejecting “the core concept behind” Scottevest, which makes Delta look pretty petty in my book.

Oh and there’s one more wrinkle to this. Scottevest was seeking to advertise in the back of the seat magazine, Delta Sky. I don’t know about you but I might crack open an airline magazine about once out of every twenty-five flights I take, usually if I don’t have printed material to read during takeoff and landing. I have to imagine that while everyone who reads Delta Sky is a traveler, there is a very small market of people who are actively seeking out ways to reduce their checked baggage lifestyle. On the flip side, the controversy over this ad has received massive attention and interest online:

[W]ithin 24 hours, the story blew up. AOL’s WalletPop and GearDiary covered it, many reporters expressed interest in it, over 1 million people saw it on Twitter, as it was retweeted by some social media heavy hitters like @scobleizer, and there are over 230K Google results for delta scottevest ad.

While it’s hard to say for certain, I’d imagine that the people who are reading about this on travel blogs, gear blogs and cost-saving blogs are more likely to be the sort of people who are interested in Scottevest products and will see them as a way to both save money and screw airlines that choose to bully small businesses (and, by extension, their customers) the way Delta is treating Scottevest. This is great exposure for Scottevest and bad publicity for Delta. It will likely lead consumers to learn about a product they didn’t know existed and a way of travel that allows them to avoid spending money on airline baggage fees.