Roughing it and Ritzing it ...
After receiving several requests to reveal how I combine my "Gentleman" attire with the dust, dirt and other demands of "Adventure", yet travelling with minimum handluggage or "zero luggage", I have compiled the following packing list with my personal tips & tricks:
More in the book:
Shoes are the most important signalling instrument in the dress code, not only for travellers, as every successful sales person will tell us. Few people realize that the most expensive mens shoes are in reality the cheapest. A good shoe will cost at least EUR 500 or much rather EUR 1.000, but it will carry us longer than ten average brand shoes. My favourite "John Lobb" cost me EUR 900, but they simply refuse to die. They even become more beautiful with age, and they don't start to crease on the span like the cheaper ones. They even feel as light as a sports shoe and with the extra profiled rubber sole I had put on, they almost allow alpine mountain climbing. Unbelievable. In addition, I have bought the "John Lobb" galoshes to protect them from rain, mud or cold. easy to store away when not needed. Another elegant brand that is also very sturdy is "Santoni". My best travel buddy insists on "Berluti" and I can testify that he walked with them in the Mongolian winter, still looking like a dressman.
=> Take one pair of shoes only, plus galoshes if in difficult terrain.
John Lobb Shoes and Galoshes
The only thing a man can fall in love with, except his dog and maybe his wife, is his watch. Like with shoes, every successful person will admit that they check their counterparts watch on first contact. In this social game, only one brand is universally understood, that is "Rolex", and few others are admitted. The rule of thumb is "no plastic" and "no quartz". Having said that, my personal favourite for travelling is a quartz watch, the "Breitling Emergency" featuring an extendable antenna with a distress signal in order to be found in the bush or desert, the kidnappers camp or other emergencies. Richard Branson wears it on his balloon flights and Bear Grylls on his survival tours. It always gave me an extra layer of comfort, when I was stuck in a remote region. There is also versions in white gold and yellow gold which have the additional advantage of representing a capital reserve that can be cashed in even in very foreign lands, in case all credit cards and cash have been overspent. A big watch also makes you look strong and will be a deterrent to the casual gangster. And the "open sesame" in the Serena Hotel Kabul even if you have only rags left on you after involuntarily walking over the Khyber Pass. Only weak tourists wear cheap plastic toasters on their wrist ... or - admittedly - real oligarchs who have decided that modesty is the ultimate vanity. And who know that people recognize them anyway.
=> Carry a strong watch brand.
Breitling watch with Emergency beacon
3. Jacket (with handkerchief)
A proper men's jacket is the key to being a gentleman, and the little detail of tucking a hanky in the breastpocket doubles its impact at check-in, customs or police interrogations. The hanky equals at least three stars on any police or military uniform, and I am surprised - albeit happy - that so few men use it. Brand is less important with jackets, but fit is. Few things make a man look weaker than armlenghts ending near the fingers and bulky shoulder pads creating a wobbly silhoutte, therefore at least some post-purchase-tailoring is a must. A jacket has the added advantage of providing several pockets for passports, mobile phone, keys, etc. "Brioni" once designed the ultimate travel jacket with many, many hidden pockets but I personally think that this is not needed and too much ballast in the jacket makes it look cheap again, even the EUR 3.000 "Brioni" model. The bulky packing can rather be done within the overcoat (see later paragraph). The jacket must be non-crease and I hope that one day the fashion industry will provide a breathable lining instead of the sweaty silk. If travelling to colder regions there are nice combination jackets providing a zip-in collar which I found quite helpful.
=> A jacket is a must.
Brioni Travel Jacket with handkerchief
I usually take only two trousers with me: one elegant grey wool pants to go with the blue jacket in formal environments, like the luxury hotel lobby, the surprise business meeting or the invitation to the local dignitary. The second pants are for everyday use and could be a chino, a breathable non-stain microfiber or a jeans, but still combine well with the jacket. Short trousers are a no-go in many societies and can lead directly to being attacked as a weak tourist.
=> Don't wear shorts.
Road sign against tourist "dress codes" in Monaco
5. Cravat scarf
Although somewhat on the conservative fashion end, I adopted French-German journalist legend Peter Scholl-Latour's habit of wearing a cravat scarf during travels. Not only does it prevent a cold when switching from aircondition to desert temperatures, but it also "adds another star on the uniform" and entails a sense of dignity and respect to the wearer.
=> A cravat scarf makes the ultimate gentleman traveller. ;-)
Cravat Scarf by Walbusch
4. Coat (with carry-on-compartments)
Besides the obvious protection against cold and wind, a coat can be the additional carry-on-luggage if featuring extra pockets. In times of baggage restrictions by airlines and excess luggage charges this is an important aspect. A real gentleman adventurer will never check-in luggage, because it usually gets lost anyway or it will take half an hour extra waiting time at the baggage conveyor belt. The American travel clothing company "Scottevest" has therefore successfully carved a niche for themselves with clothing that holds ipads, books or other items in special hidden pockets. They also sponsor the "no baggage challenge" of Rolf potts who travels the world without any luggage. I use a similar model coat from Italian tailor "Boggi" which is more along European tastes.
=> A coat doubles as additional carry-on-baggage space.
Boggi Travel Coat
5. Belt (double sided)
A double-sided flip belt with a brown and a black side for example may save weight if indeed carrying two different pairs of shoes. Colour of belt and shoes must always match. Do not wear belts with hidden money compartments as this will make a robber very unhappy if found out and carries a risk of revenge. Last not least, the buckle should be low- or non-metal so it doesn't ring alarm in airport scanners.
=> One belt is enough.
Black & brown BOSS flip belt
A collared shirt always looks more clean and authoritative. Creasing is a problem which I solve by "ironing" them hanged next to the hot hotel shower in the morning. It works. I am still waiting for a fashion brand that introduces breathable, anti-odor shirts for the 48 hour stints on aircraft or the occasional night in the car, but in the meantime I use cotton-twill fabrics.
=> A collared shirt adds to the gentleman factor.
7. Gloves (Kevlar)
This may seem a bit over the top, but I always take along leather gloves with cut-proof kevlar inlays. They are handy if it's cold. They help in case of car repairs or when carrying a broken tree away from the road. And they protect when grabbing into an opponent's knife (I used them once for that purpose in Guinea.)
=> Leather gloves make the gentleman. With Kevlar the adventurer.
Cut-proof Leather / Kevlar gloves.
8. Mini Tool
So often was I in need of a scissor, knife or screwdriver but onboard luggage restrictions left me empty handed. Finally I found one of those keychain tools ... great value ... and so far they were never a problem at airport security.
=> Handy gadget 1
9. Mini Towel
When on the road a towel can come handy in case of an unscheduled pleasure swim or in case of an unpleasant rainy roadside encounter. Those mini-towels take up no space, yet they provide a great utility.
=> Handy gadget 2
10. Luggage (wheeled trolley)
The aim is one piece of hand luggage that never needs to be checked in, due to airline rules, and even fits into modern Canadair jets or old Tupolev overhead compartments, meaning they must not be too high. Wheeled trolleys are a necessity for non-bodybuilder-types and soft rubber with high-quality bearings assure that the porter doesn't sound cheap / weak and is not heard from miles away. In addition, luggage is always an important statement and few brands make its owner look good, yet at the same time are robust enough on the road. My personal favourite remains "Tumi", although "Louis Vuitton" has excellent stuff (the ones without the very loud LV logo) or at the highest financial end "Berluti". Never carry a purse, a waistbelt, a backpack. All three make the traveller look like a tourist and therefore weak.
=> One carry-on trolley - by a strong brand - is the absolute maximum baggage allowance.
Link to "No Baggage Challenge" by Rolf Potts: rtwblog.com