If you’re on the road as much as I am, you NEED to be good at living out of a suitcase. Our band played 145 shows in 2016. So, including off days, we were traveling for most of the year. It can be fun, tough, strange, claustrophobic, glamorous, and exhilarating all at the same time. But most of all, it’s long, which means I’ve been forced to master the art of packing. As SWMRS gears up for an exciting, busy year on the road, I thought I’d share my insights and (hopefully) help you be prepared for your next trip, head to toe.
Whether I’m spending a week in New York or a month in Europe, it always starts with black jeans. Ask any musician performing any genre of music and 99% of the time they will be traveling with a pair of black jeans. One suitcase means a small wardrobe. (So if you’ve only worn that shirt to your cousin’s Bat Mitzvah three years ago, forget it…actually, take it to your local Salvation Army.) But don’t think small = limiting. The key to maximizing your options while minimizing space taken up? Two words my friends: Black. Jeans. All you need is one pair, but I bring two just in case. Take the time to find the best ones for you. Maybe even drop the pride thing and ask a sales associate for help. If they’re a bit expensive, save up. Think of these as an investment. And take good care of them (i.e. try not to wash them too much, don’t do messy crafts in them, don’t hike in them, etc.). My two favorite pairs are from WESC and Naked and Famous. They are -and always will be – the backbone of my suitcase. Why black you ask? Several reasons. 1: They are classic and badass at the same time. 2: Food stains don’t show up as well. And 3: They are casual enough for a diner but nice enough for a bougie sushi restaurant. (Oh, and 4: they look way better than blue jeans on stage. Sorry not sorry, Cole.)
Shoes are next and probably just as much of a priority. You can’t be happy when your feet hurt. But you can’t feel empowered if your shoes are lame. So finding a fresh pair that won’t destroy your feet is an important personal quest. Since they take up a lot of room and are one of the heaviest things to pack, I try not to bring more than two pairs. I also try to make one of them a pair of athletic shoes (because exercise is important, especially when you eat massive quantities of bread, tacos, and all foods that would generally qualify as “thick”). I currently have New Balances. As for my everyday/onstage pair, I have worn Doc Marten’s in the past with great success. I also just recently got into the black edit by Clarks. Their shoes are super cool and ridiculously comfortable (and they usually have deals on deals on deals.) Check out their website. And I know a lot of you girls reading this are baulking, thinking guys have it good and have no clue what it’s like to choose fashionable yet painfully uncomfortable shoes, check out Clarks. My girlfriend swears by them. Seriously. She is addicted. I think she has like platinum status with them.
P.S. Don’t forget socks. Uniqlo rules.
A good jacket or coat (depending on the season) that you can wear every day over a t-shirt or flannel or Fred Perry is vital, along with either a sweater or sweatshirt. To reiterate, when you’re on tour, the less you have with you the better. A beanie is a minor but crucial detail. It will save your life in the winter months. My favorite is from Familia skate shop.
This section also leads me to toiletries. I try my hardest to keep it to one dopp kit full of the essentials. (Mine is from a company out of Brooklyn called Owen & Fred.) A solid, reliable dopp kit helps reduce the risk of losing things, which happens too easily when constantly moving. Just throw it all in there – razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, pomade (stay tuned for my future post about the top 5 best pomades), aftershave or moisturizer, deodorant, chapstick, Emergen-C, and definitely some floss (insert New Year’s resolution to floss more).
Another thing to try and make room for is cologne. Unfortunately, our van does not come equipped with a washer/drier. And since we’re always traveling, there just isn’t usually the time to do laundry. So cologne is the perfect solution. I can go from performing onstage in black jeans and a flannel one night to dinner with our label the next day with the exact same clothes on.
Swim trunks will save you in the summer months. You never know when the next ocean, lake, public (or private) pool, will unveil itself.
Underwear (You know what’s best for you, bro).
Foodie things. Believe it or not I carry hot sauce. Sometimes things just need more spice. Cholula – although not my favorite – comes in a mini size which is ideal for plane travel. I also like carrying a mini bottle of Scrappy’s lavender bitters. (Airplane gin and tonic just got FANCY.) Lastly, I bring a Stanley thermos and a personal stash of assorted teas.
‘Me time’ materials. I always bring a book (generally either James Bond or a Dave Eggers novel), the newest copy of Esquire or Esquire UK, good headphones, an REI camp towel, a journal (generally Moleskine), a good pen that won’t break open and bleed everywhere. My iPad. Sometimes I’ll bring a small backgammon board if I’m going to see Michelle or my dad or my Auntie Heidi. They’re the only people I know who can play… besides Mihalis, the old Greek man who taught me how to play backgammon as well as my first instrument as a kid.
Practical necessities. A mophie charge pack is so convenient. Also, one of those little reusable tote bags that fold up into barely anything. You should get one of those to have on you even if you aren’t traveling. Mine is from my fellow Scandinavians at IKEA. Throw it in your jacket pocket, purse, man bag. Do your part. Make Bernie proud. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
PACK THAT SH*T UP:
Now comes the final hill, organizing all of that stuff in one suitcase (duh duh duhhh). Make sure you have a good one. Black jeans, shoes, and a solid suitcase should all fall under the “investment” category. I have a hard shell Muji carry on suitcase that I used for just about everything until only recently. It holds every item mentioned in this post and can fit under a seat in the van or in an overhead compartment of a plane. I may have just found something even better though. It’s a black weekend bag from Everlane, shaped more like a duffle. If you haven’t heard of Everlane, look them up NOW. I get all my plain t-shirts from them and this bag is amazing. It can fit so much stuff and it looks sleek AF. I can imagine it being used by Anthony Bourdain, James Bond, or a young Barry O (miss him already).
Good luck. Safe travels. Don’t forget to send a postcard.
Cover photo by Alice Baxley.