How to pack your luggage like a pro

As a journalist who has been traveling all over Asia for 25 years, Marga Ortigas has packing down pat. Learn a thing or two from her technique

A vector of two pieces of luggage

No matter how much I have tried to make it otherwise, the living room in my flat looks like a baggage company has exploded in it. There are always several bags, in various sizes, left open on the floor — contents turned topsy-turvy, clearly rummaged through in a hurry. There never seems to be enough time between trips to put things away properly. So the bags have become part of the living room decor.

Also read: 5 essentials travellers never pack…but should

I have three pieces of bags I take with me on work trips. One is a sophisticated, hardcase luggage. I usually use it for trips of one week, or longer, to cover political or economic stories in cities like Tokyo, Seoul or Hong Kong. It has two compartments — one will neatly hold suit jackets in varying shades of brown, and the other will be crammed with everything else: trousers, inner shirts, and possibly even jeans on the chance that I might get sent somewhere more rugged while on this particular assignment.

If the assignment is rugged to begin with, I use a sturdier, more sporty bag. It’s bright orange (so it can be spotted straightaway), has wheels (just in case I find myself in a place where I can actually roll it), and will hold all-terrain/outdoor shoes, rain gear, waders, bug spray, etc. It’s meant for rugged destinations like the rural areas of Cambodia, or Laos, or the less urban corners of China. I use it for trips to cover the aftermath of earthquakes, typhoons, oods or even disease outbreaks.

And then there’s the small black rucksack — for immediate, quick trips of three to four days to places that have suddenly become disaster zones. It can hold a change of clothing, a few toiletries, a pair of slippers and not much else. Knowing which bag a trip will entail makes packing almost automatic. After nearly 25 years as a traveling journalist, I have learned what is needed and what isn’t. As a general rule, I only bring items that can be recycled, and recycled quickly. So here’s what goes into my bags:

Solid-colored tops

Every top that goes into a bag will match every pair of bottoms. For me, it means lots of browns, blues and greens, all in solids. These few items can create a variety of different outfits.

Low-maintenance clothes

I only bring things that don’t need to be ironed. I prefer clothes I can wash and wear, or air and wear.

A pair of shoes

I pack one pair of shoes. I have a dark brown pair of formal flat shoes to go with the suits in my suitcase. For the orange bag trips, I pack rubber boots.

The necessities

No matter which bag I take, I will always have a stick of deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste, wet wipes and a bottle of baby cologne with me.

Marga is a senior correspondent for Al Jazeera. Follow her on Twitter at @margaortigas.

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Marga Ortigas

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