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Packing for Air Travel Using One Bag Part 2

Learn about the variety of ways you can efficiently pack your bag for carry-on air travel.

Traveling By One Bag Demands You Choose the Right Bag, and Pack Carefully.

This second article in a series written by Red Oxx co-founder Jim Markel shares how to pack, not just what to pack it in. Red Oxx offers several options to meet your carry-on bag requirements. Selecting the optimal bag will be easier with this guide. Missed the first article? You can catch up reading about carry-on dimensions here.

by Jim Markel, CEO and co-owner

Packing for air travel starts with this requirement: get all the “necessities” on board the aircraft and to your next destination, no matter what happens to your checked luggage. To make that happen, you’ll need to choose your carry-on bag carefully, and pack it in an optimal way. The tips and product selection guide that follows may be useful for all kinds of business or adventure travel situations, but the one bag requirement for air travel demands a closer attention to detail. We’ll focus on the carry-on luggage.

I’ll describe how to pack below, with some help from carry-on baggage guru Doug Dyment. There are rolling, stuffing, and folding methods to get the job done. Whichever your preferred packing method, do a static display on the bed to start.

By setting out your gear in advance, you are able to better take an inventory of what exactly you are packing. Everything you set out should serve a purpose and must be used on the trip or leave it home. Over packing is the number one cause of HBS, more commonly known as “Heavy Bag Syndrome.” When packing for air travel, you have weight limitations to stay within, but there’s also the more fundamental problem of hoofing it from gate A2 to gate F29 in a hurry. Pack smart, pack light.

Being organized and sure of what you are taking on your trip is half the battle when packing for air travel of any kind of travel. The other half of the battle is qualifying what to take it in.


The rolling method for packing a suitcase is something I learned in the Marines. Roll-pack your clothes into one-gallon Ziploc bags. I go for the heavy duty re-sealable ones they make it easy to organize your stuff and stack in like books on a shelf right in the main compartment.

The bags are easy to pull out and put back, so inspections from the TSA folks at the airport go smoothly. Packing the main compartment first, I typically take a mix of pants and shorts with no more than three units in total. Anything you might want quick access to I put into a Gator bag and use that as my “personal item” carry-on bag.

Below I’ll describe more packing methods for each of the Red Oxx bags that are optimized for your flight:


Leader of the pack in the stuffer category is the Safari Beano. This versatile bag has carried my gear from one side of the globe to the other. We now make this great bag in four sizes. The PR4 Safari Beano easily qualifies as carry-on luggage and the PR5 Safari Beano is the maximum legal site that meets carry-on baggage requirements.

The packing of this series is quite simple if you take the time to lay out your kit before packing. You can bi-fold your clothes directly into the main compartment or use the rolling method for packing a suitcase. Moving onto the end pockets, I break out and put toiletries in one end and socks and underwear in the other.

With the new carry-on baggage restrictions pertaining to liquids, please refer to the TSA website for current carry-on baggage requirements. Myself, I will search out alternative products so I can comply with the no or small amount of liquid rule. Dry toothpaste and shampoo anyone? Is there such a thing? I would like to hear back from our customers on what they have been using to get by. Send me a note at Jim (at)


In the land of Red Oxx the Air Boss is king of the folders! Special thanks have to be given to Doug Dyment who was instrumental in the development of the Boss. His informative website has been a great resource for the traveling businessperson. His tips and insight have taken traveling with one bag to the next level of efficiency.

Here is an excerpt of Doug’s bundle wrap method, explained by the master himself. It’s a great primer on packing for air travel all by itself:

Download our printable PDF diagram for handy reference.


by Doug Dyment

A solution to the problem of wrinkles and unwanted creases, though it involves some inconvenience, is the use of the bundle wrapping technique. It involves the careful wrapping of clothes around a central core object, avoiding the folds that result in creases. Furthermore, the tension created in the fabric by the bundle wrapping process significantly reduces the chances of wrinkling:

Begin by selecting the item that will form the core of the bundle: an organizer pouch or toiletry kit is a good choice. The optimal size will depend upon the configuration of your bag and the amount of clothing to be packed, but around 11″ x 16″ (30 x 40cm) should work well. The pouch or kit is filled with soft items (socks, swimsuit, undergarments, sheet bag, etc.) to form a cushion around which the clothing will be wrapped.

Clothing is wrapped in a specific order, so that the larger and more tailored garments will end up on the outside of the bundle, with less easily wrinkled pieces closer to the core. An appropriate sequence might be:

  • jacket
  • skirts, dresses (a particularly long, straight dress or skirt might be better placed before the jacket)
  • long-sleeved shirts
  • short-sleeved shirts
  • slacks
  • sweater, knits
  • shorts

Packing Tip: Button the fronts of shirts, and perhaps the jacket (unless it is overly wide).

If your bag features a zipper around three full sides (as recommended in my luggage discussion), it will open flat for packing. Begin by taking the item highest on the above list: a jacket, if you’re packing one. Lay it flat, face down on the bottom of the bag, collar just touching one of the long sides of the bag (but not enough to curl up against it).

The bottom of the jacket will extend well outside the bag, of course, as will the sleeves (which should be oriented so as to lie the most naturally). Smooth everything out carefully, eliminating any wrinkles. Note that tailored jackets are the exception to the rule: all other garments are placed face up.

Continue with the remaining garments, alternating the (long) sides of the bag that the collars touch (to keep an even thickness). Slacks are placed so that their waistbands touch one of the bag’s short sides; this is also true of most skirts (which are often folded lengthwise first). Strive for a smooth placement, avoiding wrinkles as much as possible.

When all items are down, place the core on top, forming the center of the bundle. Now work your way back down the clothing stack, wrapping each piece around the slowly growing bundle before moving on to the next item (don’t interleave garments with one another). Bring up the bottom of each garment, wrapping it as far around the bundle as it will go, then the sleeves, usually straight across (and around). Some prefer to wrap the sleeves first, then the body; do whatever works best for you.

With jackets, it is generally preferable to wrap the sleeves first, crossing them in more of an X-shape across the bundle (because of the tailoring in the shoulders). Wrap the bundle firmly.

As a final step, place the resulting bundle in your bag, and tie it in firmly with the bag’s tie-down straps. If the bundle is allowed to shift around during travel, much of your work will have been in vain.

When you arrive at your destination, open out the bundle to let the clothes “relax”.



If the bundle wrap is not your cup of tea, then here are a few of my own techniques. The design of the Boss is such that it collapses flat like an accordion. Upon first glance this can cause some concern about capacity. Worry not, this bag can be stuffed like an Italian olive! Simply fold and cinch your clothes into the outer compartments.

This method is great for a two-day business trip and though not as efficient at preventing wrinkles as the bundle method. I prefer to quarter fold my suit jackets and go with one full outfit on each side of the Boss.

The center section is usually reserved for my street clothes and Tri-fold Toiletry kit. In this age of heightened airport security it is always wise to have some extra copies of your important documents stowed securely in your Air Boss. The outer plane ticket pocket/passport is great for keeping those important documents close at hand. Opposite of this side is a long zippered side pocket that is great for packing your underwear into or even a light windbreaker. That leaves the long open pocket with the snap closure for your reading material.

Got it? You’re good to go with the best carry-on bag in the Red Oxx herd for business travelers.


Keeping with the stuffer packing method, the Expedition series also has a couple of bags that meet the carry-on baggage requirements. We designed the carry-on bag sizes with the international photographer in mind. You have a big camera that cannot be checked below yet you need to bring a change of clothes along just in case your checked luggage decides to go on assignment without you.

The Sun Chaser dimensions check out at 9x9x21 inches, but due to the capacious main compartment it actually seems larger. The 3/8 inch neoprene padding helps give the bag some stability and provide shock absorbing for your camera gear. You can pack about one to two changes of clothes into this bag.

Identical in design to the Sun Chaser, the Boxcar measures 10″x10″x24″ and that makes it right at the carry-on size limit. The large main compartment makes this bag appear oversize so be wary of HBS! You don’t need to stuff it all the way full. This size is ideal if you are shooting on the go and need to pack up quick and get moving to the next location.

If you’re looking to go with the maximum carry-on luggage dimensions, the Flying Boxcar is the ticket.


The inspiration behind the Rucksack series is an old foreign military paratrooper’s knapsack pack given me by my father. Roll packing the clothing is most efficient use of space in the Rucksack series. That’s my recommendation on how to pack both sizes of Rucks.

The Mini Ruck is the perfect day pack or book bag for traveling through airports and toting just enough for the plane. It would qualify as your one “personal item” allowed by the airlines. It will work as an overnight bag and it has roughly the same capacity as the PR4 Beano. The Mini Ruck meets all carry-on luggage size requirements.

If you’re looking to go for longer than a day and want to max out your carry-on luggage potential, then the C-Ruck is your ticket to an airport-friendly, hands-free carry-on bag.

Don’t be afraid to really jam that stuff in there! After getting the main compartment loaded, turn to the outer pockets. The two outer parallel pockets are great for the smaller items that you might want quick access to. Socks underwear and the small zippered slip pockets are for stashing even smaller items. The coat straps on the bottom of the pack save room and can also hold your camera tripod.

My favorite pocket on the Rucksacks is the map pocket on the flap. This handy pocket is a great place to put the quick access items like a cell phone or car keys. All this attention to detail has made the Rucksack series a favorite with air travelers.

Interested in more about how to pack a suitcase, including the rolling method for packing a suitcase? We’ll continue this series of articles here soon. To stay abreast of the latest tips on traveling well, sign-up for our Field Report email newsletter.

Cheers, Jim Markel, CEO