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I love to travel. I tend to frequent sunny locales where the sand and the ocean are involved, but regardless of what your travel preferences are, there’s one thing you should always pack in your bag. Surprisingly, it seems most guys don’t, opting for a less elegant (and slightly college-frat-boyesque) solution.

What exactly am I referring to?

A dopp kit! Sadly, the most common toiletry storage and transport system I’ve seen by far is your basic gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Whyyy. Why?

Sure, it makes sense to some extent; shit spills or squeezes out or breaks, and the Ziploc bag keeps it all contained. Or, if you’re all about abiding by TSA’s rules and regulations, then it makes sense to keep your mini bottles in sandwich-sized baggies.

But why not store all that stuff in a dopp kit?

From boyhood to manhood

If you’re the kind of dude that thinks dopp kits (or toiletry bags) are “metro” or lame, or thinks organization is for chicks, well dude, you’re wrong.

There’s history behind these bags. Check out this one from World War II (also at right). Supposedly this is the time when dopp kits became commonplace, as they were handed out to GIs before shipping out overseas.

Eventually they became a rite of passage, as young men received them from their fathers and uncles as a mark of adulthood.

Still think they’re too metro?

Everything has its place

History lesson aside, it’s good to stay organized. You’re probably thinking, “Plastic Ziploc baggies do the job just fine.” Technically, garbage bags can also double as body coverings, but do we all walk around in black Hefty bags because they “do the job”?

Dopp kits serve a purpose, keep you organized, and can be a stylish heirloom you pass down to your son one day (assuming you’re not disgusting and your grubby hands and leaky toiletries don’t completely obliterate the bag by that time).

Picking a dopp kit

If you ask me, I’d say stick to a neutral tone in leather or tough canvas. It gets squished, twisted, and beat up in your suitcase, and you’re bound to spill things inside it, so you want something durable that lasts.

Dopp Kit Examples [L to R]: Jack Spade Box Dopp KitSubstance Canvas Dopp Kit, Temple Canvas Dopp Kit

You want one that is compact, but with a wide mouth for easy access*. Compartments are great too. Some have an extra zipped area at the base for your large, flat items, and others have zippered pockets on either side of the bag. This is great for the small items (cotton swabs, band-aids, medicine). You get the idea.

The above images are some of your more quality, luxurious options, but you don’t have to go fancy at all. You can find toiletry bags almost anywhere, even Target, but realize you’re gonna be buying something made out of polyester or vinyl, which isn’t nearly as sexy or natural. If that’s not a concern of yours, then there ya go.

One good thing about these more affordable options is their disposability; if you ruin them beyond recognition, just buy a new one. Another plus (somewhat related) is that if you DO ruin it beyond recognition, it won’t break your heart to throw it away. My heart would be somewhat broken if I had to toss out a beautiful handmade leather dopp kit because a tube of Crest exploded inside.

In case you’re curious, this is the one I use:

EG's Dopp Kit

Victoria’s Secret used to make this awesome cologne (haha) called Very Sexy 2 (haha, again). Hey, it’s no Creed, but it smells delicious on me. At some point years ago, I received a free gift with my purchase, and the free gift was this dopp kit, which is actually quite nice. I’ve had it for years and it does a great job of keeping me organized when I travel, and I dig the different shades of blue.

Sure, it goes against my suggestions of picking a neutral tone and a natural material like leather or canvas, but this was free! And at the same time, it happens to work for me, so I continue to use it. Why fix it if it ain’t broken, right? Or in this case, why replace it if it’s working?

What to pack in your dopp kit

Good question. What do you use in your bathroom on a daily basis? I’d start with that.

Here are a couple things I always keep in mine:

  • deodorant
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush
  • cotton swabs
  • bandages
  • allergy medicine
  • cologne
  • wax / paste (hair stuff)
  • razor
  • moisturizer
  • soap bar
  • mini shampoo

I keep mine stocked with this stuff and I never unpack it, so when I’m getting ready for a trip, I don’t have to think twice about what toiletry crap to bring… it’s all in there.

Nothing wrong with plastic

Here’s one tip before I wrap this up.

You know how in the beginning of this article, I mentioned most guys use Ziploc bags? And then a little later I talked about how sad it would be if you had a nice leather dopp kit and destroyed it by being careless or having some toothpaste splooged all over the insides?

Well (and here’s my tip), why not keep your liquids / pastes in Ziploc bags, INSIDE your dopp kit? You don’t have to bag everything up, just the potentially messy stuff.

That way, you can enjoy peace of mind carrying all those explosive toiletries inside your classy leather (or canvas) dopp kit.

That’s what I do. I take it one step further and double up each Ziploc, because that’s how I roll, super careful style.

Convinced?

What say you, faithful readers? Did I give you a good enough reason to invest in a dopp kit before your next trip? Or will you continue to use plastic bags, and only plastic bags, to store your toiletries? Hopefully I’ve swayed you in the right direction.

Are you a plastic bag dude or a dopp kit dude? Be honest! Let me know down below.

(And if you found this post entertaining and / or useful, I’d love it if you subscribe to EG below in the blue box, or by clicking this link.)

PUBLISHED July 19, 2011


Barron is the Founding Editor of Effortless Gent and the Cladright Association. He's from San Francisco but currently living in New York. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr.



  • Aefgafg

    Well, these are nice, but since nobody will every see it but you, I’m not sure I see the point (kind of like choosing fashion underwear).  Plus, these are bulkier than plastic bags, which is important if you’re trying to travel with just a carry-on.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      That’s the great thing about a nice dopp kit: no one else will ever use it but you. In fact, the only time YOU see it is when you travel. It’s like re-meeting an old friend every year.

      The leather slowly ages and a patina develops, similar to the familiarity of old friendships and the ease with which you can continue conversations left unfinished some time ago.

  • Abdul

    My dad gave me a black leather shave bag when I was about 13. 10 years later I’m still using it. As for the Aefgafg’s comment of bulk, this think fits everything I possibly need (shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream/razor, acne scrub, deodorant, cologne, toothbrush, toothpaste, contacts and soln, moisturiser. And it still fits in a small carry-on I travel with. I think it actually manages to be smaller than a giant zip lock.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      That’s great you still make use of it ten years later… The older I get, the more I appreciate things that age well and last a long time.

  • Ace

    I actually have 4 of these. LuLz. The latest one a nice RL Polo Blue that was complimentary when I bought a gift set (they also gifted me a huge travel duffle bag).

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Do you use all of them? Like a rotation? :)

      • Ace

        I actually use each for different things. One I keep at work (toothbrush, paste, floss, baby wipes), one at home is filled with medical items, one is for my travel stuff and the last one is still new in box (RL P gift one)

  • Frank

    Receiving your first dop kit was a  rite of passage in my family.  The first was vinyl lined, and spillage was not an issue.  I have since gone to compartmentalized Crodura kit that hangs so as to not take up counter space in a small guest bathroom.  Furthermore, it can go in the washer.  In addition to the aforementioned items, I would add a septic stick and a few small zip ties (which can fix a whole lot of stuff). 

    As for it being like fashion underwear…  We travel to family and friends a lot, so other people do see it.  Furthermore, I am worth the price.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      “I am worth the price.”

      I love it. Luxury isn’t about outward displays of affluence, or monograms splattered across the things you wear and carry. True luxury is more intimate, more personal.

      It’s great owning “expensive” yet well-made, inconspicuous goods you use regularly, or finding brands with history that you can own a piece of without proclaiming to the world what it is you’re holding (or wearing)… stuff you can enjoy to yourself without anyone else knowing. To me that’s true luxury.

  • Stefan

    I’ve been using these bags for a long time, all of them came from random supermarket 2-3 products (shower gel, deodorant etc) “combo gift pack”s.
    I also include some multi-vitamins, a nail clipper and a metal nail file.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      Glad to know I’m not the only one slumming it with my “free gift with purchase”. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.sloan Andy Sloan

    I used to carry the dopp kit my father handed down to me when I was a teenager.  It was nothing luxurious, but it was well worn, durable, and – most importantly – full of memories. I have since stopped carrying the leather kit, primarily due to the TSA’s liquid regulations.  I’m somewhat like George Clooney’s character in “Up In The Air” – I travel by air so often that it’s become a matter of efficient effectiveness for me.  The problem with the dopp kit was that it involved pulling a quart size bag of fluid toiletries out of a leather bag that I had to pull out of the interior of a roll-aboard bag because it won’t fit easily in one of the exterior pouches.

    What I’ve moved to is using two quart sized bags made of heavy vinyl and sealed with Velcro (http://goo.gl/t8kAo). I keep all the fluids in GoToob bottles (http://goo.gl/eAB9O) which I’ve found to be nigh indestructible.  A benefit of using the clear bags and the clear GoToobs is that I can quickly check which need topping off without having to dump an entire bag.  Yes, it lacks the class of a dopp kit, but it’s vastly more effective – which, in this case, is more valuable to me.

  • Toiletry bag

    Toiletry bag help you to make your luggage organized when you are planning to go out for vacation. It makes all your bathroom stuff at one place which you can carry easily. I agree to your post as toiletry bag are now becoming the needs of every person.

  • Mike N

    Used to use one all the time, problem is that now that all liquids etc. have to be taken out at security in the airport, I’ve found it much easier just to toss it in the clear quart size plastic bag and stash somewhere easily accessed.

    • http://effortlessgent.com Barron

      I still use a dopp even w/ all the airport security stuff we have to go through. I just bag up the liquids in ziplocs like we’re told, and keep them in the dopp kit. if they ask me to take them out, it’s still just as simple, and there’s the added benefit of nothing leaking in your dopp kit.