Minimalist packing: Expert tips from the creator of SCOTTeVEST

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By Christopher Elliott

Scott Jordan didn’t mean to change the way people pack — or more specifically, don’t pack. When he started SCOTTeVEST 18 years ago, he thought his multi-pocketed clothes would catch on with gadget users.

“Back then, there were so many devices,” he recalls. “These were the days of Discmans, Palm Pilots, camcorders, cellphones, plus all of the cords, cables, and batteries that powered each one.”

But then 9/11 happened. Suddenly, checked bags were being scanned, rifled through, and restricted. Jordan’s just-launched clothing line clicked with time-strapped frequent fliers eager to avoid airport security delays.


“My product offered a way around the baggage restrictions,” says Jordan.

Then airlines started charging a fee for checked baggage, then for carry-ons. And the concept of wearing your luggage started to make more sense. In an era where less is more, at least in travel, Jordan’s clothes have changed the way people think about how they carry their essentials.

His packing advice may also change the way you prepare for your next trip.

On the top floor of a busy office building in Ketchum, Idaho, framed by the Sun Valley Resort in the distance, Jordan says he never set out to change the way people pack. But when he saw an opportunity to cater to airline passengers, he jumped aboard.

“We pivoted, massively,” remembers Jordan, whose employees affectionately call him “Pocket Man.” “We were pitching our products as clothing for gadgets. But we switched to travel.”

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That kind of adaptability translates into travel, he says. The best travelers can turn on a dime. No washer or dryer at your hotel? “A little hand soap and a sink, and you can do your laundry,” he says. “Need to leave for the airport in five minutes? A great traveler is always ready to go.

Packing in a different way

Jordan says the mind shift he inadvertently started with his line of clothes is far from done. Even now, he sees too many people who are burdened by stuff when they travel, who are “slaves to fashion” and pack more clothes than they would ever need. So how does the world’s leading expert on light packing pack light?

Take inventory. Before you start packing, put everything on a table, he says. “Ask yourself, ‘Did I use that the last time I went somewhere? How often did I need it?” he says. If you didn’t need it, don’t bring it. Jordan estimates that most people pack 30% to 40% more than they require for a trip.

“Once you realize you don’t need everything, your life becomes better. It’s just less thinking, fewer decisions, less clutter,” he says.

Don’t check any bags

It’s expensive, the airline could lose your luggage, and it’s almost certainly more than you need.

“Think about your pants,” says Jordan. “No one looks at them. You could wear the same pair tomorrow; no one would care.” On a one-week trip, he brings two pair, which includes the one he’s wearing. Make sure they’re made from a fast-drying material so you can wash them by hand.

Pick a device and stick to it. Jordan’s preferred gadget is the iPhone X. It’s small and does almost everything a tablet or laptop can do. “I’m very good at Siri,” he says.

Don’t forget to pack an adequate power supply (chargers and adapters). His least favorite device: the tablet. “It’s useless,” he says. Whatever device you choose, be sure you have adequate power and a good data plan, he adds.

Jordan admits that he’s still learning how to downsize. On almost every trip, he discovers something he can do better. Always adapting. That’s the key.

There are other benefits to minimalist packing, other than carrying less and having to spend all that time asking, “What shall I wear today?” Downsizing is good for the environment and allows you to focus on the reason for your trip, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure.

And in a world full of distractions, not to mention luggage fees, you can’t put a price on that.

Scott Jordan’s dressing tips for the road

Go dark.
Muted, dark colors go with everything. Leave the specialized, single-purpose clothing at home. “This requires you do do a deep think on what you’re going to do on your trip and what you need,” he says. Blacks and grays can be mixed and matched together and will work for any occasion.

Be timeless.
Buying something fashionable instead of timeless (think “Men in Black”) may work for a few trips, but over time, it’s wasteful and makes you look dated, says Jordan. Instead, find clothes with a classic fit that withstand the test of time, like a dark blue blazer or a pair of chinos.

If you have to ask …
When you think: “Am I bringing too much?” you almost certainly are. For Jordan, a seven-day trip requires no more than four shirts, two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks and underwear. Your number may vary based on the type and length of the trip.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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