Vitalik Buterin did a very funny thing today, publishing a r/onebag informed post on his optimized packing routine at the beginning of the great bear supercycle, breaking a 5 year long streak of on-topic blogposts¹ in a Richard Stallman-esque display of autistic hobbyism². However, more surprising to me is the paucity of his recommendations or insight. Stallman goes down some funny diatribes but each one is illuminated by the light of his unique mind, a little manifesto expressing a lifelong commitment to discovering his personal truth³. Yet Vitalik only regurgitated the subreddit sidebar, not even achieving great conclusions on his optimization, let alone offering any deeply novel insights in contribution to the One Bag discourse or the greater Vitalik pantheon of expressed autism. I can’t stand that.
I thought it’d be an amusing exercise to provide my own take on the same subject as someone who has spent a non-significant time in the nomadic status of an expatriate and enjoy my own considerable share of idiosyncratic autistic opinionation; though I’ll immediately deviate from the One Bag stricture with the addition of a carry-on, which is perfectly reasonable for any lightweight travel that doesn’t entail trails or nightly migration⁴, and as you will see, a quick compromise on the singular focus on space-saving in pursuit of aesthetics and health.
I’m autistic about clothes and hate thinking about them, so I’ve refined my wardrobe down to a deep efficiency that happens to lend itself to travel; to the point that I keep copies of my closet in my bug-out bag. The only difference from this description to my IRL homebase is I own about 3X of everything listed as I have my laundry done every week rather than every 3 days.
5 pairs socks
5 pairs underwear
2 wool/silk thermals
An aside on synthetics
All your clothes making contact with your skin (e.g. basics) should be 100% organic cotton, natural wool or silk; synthetic materials are toxic. Vitalik entirely misses this point with his preference for Uniqlo. Muji is reliable for organic cotton basics. L.L. Bean makes good silk thermals.
2 full suits (linen, if hot weather)
1 light down vest
1 wool scarf
An aside on suits
Suits are the original “minimalist fashion”, they’re comfortable and versatile and once you find suits you like, you never need to think about them again. They’re also complete outfits, designed to easily transition between a wide range of both weather and social context; you can layer both under and over them. To compare, Vitalik’s breakdown of layering on the left, and the same layering options with suit on the right:
Suits are also surprisingly comfortable, both in fit and function (the pockets are perfectly evolved after nearly 2 centuries as the universal cultural standard of the west); and look good with little thought to outfit styling. This is where light traveling autists fail, besides rubbing synthetic plastic directly into their bloodstream, they look like nerds in every context, when you could instead be living like you’re in a takeshi kitano movie.⁶
It’s also a fact you receive better service in airports in a suit. Suits are the ultimate choice for autists, going for pajamas and hoodies is the negative-optimization autism equivalent to settling for microwave pizza rolls instead of bodybuilder-grade power diets. Optimization that singularly focuses on saving time or space without concern for long-term efficiency (in good health, social capital, etc.) is high time-preference.
The secret sauce of onebag “light travel” is just getting your laundry done; this is the magic that allows them to extend 3 days worth of clothes into infinity. You can just pay a hotel to this for you, but if you’re low budget, it’s easy:
Steps: Dump the clothes in the drybag with the soap and water, shake it, let it sit, rinse twice, hang to dry.
No one talks about travel perfumes⁸. You can get 0.7ml sample testers for basically any perfume possible at luckyscent.com; and a lot of options for larger travel size sprays that you won’t find in stores. You can also hit any duty-free for the Hermes or Margiela sample packs in a pinch, they’re decent.
The other big secret of light travel is packing cubes and folding methods. Packing cubes are simple, Muji’s are the best (they also make reliable suitcases and toiletry bags), but anything on Amazon works. You just need separate small cubes for organizing your separate basics and large ones for your tops and bottoms; I also use a folder for my shirts and suits.⁹
Travel bloggers seem to have a complete blind spot for eating well when traveling. No one talks about hotelcooking. Big Travel doesn’t want you to know can employ camping cooking techniques in any hotel room. Really.
Snow Peak is a high quality standard, the titanium is very durable and lightweight, and everything folds to a compact size. The lid on the pot doubles as a frying pan. You can’t fly with the butane canisters, but you can get them at any hardware store or camping store and most gas stations once you land; and it fits in the Snow Peak pot.
This is everything you need to cook complete meals in a pot or pan, and with a little blender, you can prepare your power smoothies.¹⁰
Your mileage may vary, but shopping list consists of the following,
For snacking raw:
Fresh squeezed orange juice
For blending into a power smoothie (along with pine pollen and cocao powder):
Frozen wild berries
For pan frying:
Salt, pepper & cayenne
Steak, fish or lambchops
If I’m not on keto, I’ll also usually have tamago gohan (4 raw eggs in a bowl of fresh rice + soy sauce, furikake & cayenne) for breakfast carbs.¹¹
An aside on eating out
It’s difficult to not get fed poison eating out in most places anymore¹², except with raw foods, which anyway are the most nutritious, so I try to stick the oyster bars and sushi places¹³, and also steakhouses. I usually find one good place and go there repeatedly, this is the way of the old world. Hopefully they can make a good martini too.¹⁴ Or also, I don’t really care, the point of being healthy at home is so your body can take it when you go out. I’m more concerned about receiving good service than good food, tbh.
Vitalik spends his time recommending various travel adapters, charging banks, data plans, electric toothbrushes, etc. You can google all that.
Get Clear, TSA Pre-check and Global Entry. It’s 100% worth the effort, you can cut through the lines entirely.
American Express is awesome. The concierge service is actually very useful for getting restaurants and the customer service when things go wrong is great.
Hired drivers are much more convenient than calling cabs, especially rideshare cabs. Taxis will often give you their business card and strike a deal with you for repeat business; or consider Uber hourly. It’s often better just paying the guy to wait for you then dealing with calling new Ubers.
A bladeless multitool (e.g. Gerber Dime)
Use Flightfox or Flystein as a travel agent for double-checking complex itineraries; if they don’t beat the price on your ticket within your conditions, there’s no charge.
On Actual One Bag autism
The answer is nothing bigger than 30L bag:
3 of each basic (1 to wear, 1 to wash, 1 for backup)
1 wool thermal sets
Foldable down jacket
Toiletries: Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, toothbrush, portable electric razor
Multiport travel adapter
There, saved you 8 hours of gear rabbithole.¹⁵
Since his blog began at the end of 2016, all his blogposts clearly fall under cryptocurrency, decentralization or blockchain development. The only sort of off-topic post before his One Bag is the April 2019 post On Freedom of Speech, which obviously is an important topic within cypherpunk. The light travel post is truly out of place, as was quickly pointed out; though it could be argued it’s very indirectly related to crypto as far as there is a general crossover with digital nomadism, it’s a very far stretch.
The Reddit deepdive into packing optimism is one many autists will recognize; in the space of the inherent will to optimize augmented by the internet global research database, its one of the simpler challenges that individuals are more commonly exposed to: whenever we travel. Who hasn’t considered how to make this process more efficient?
I believe the commitment to literally “one bag” is a byproduct of the hobbyist-autist purity spiral often seen in reddit communities. A backpack plus four-wheel roller/hand carry is very reasonable from navigating any city with limited additional friction and still achieves skipping baggage claim on the other end.
I was taught this when I was a kid: optimism is packing a swimsuit wherever you may be traveling.
It’s very easy to get good suits off the rack in the $300-500 range from CDG Homme or Y’s off japanese used markets; not only is the loose look the only good look for today, it moots the need for custom tailoring. Another trick is getting the giant wool suits you find in every thrift store and putting them through the dryer to shrink them down into comme’s boiled suit look.
Dr. Bronner’s is truly “18-in-1”, a very versatile and pure soap that goes a long way with proper dilution—even toothpaste! (if you’re going to try this, don’t do more than a drop or two)
It’s weird how men are no longer widely taught to wear perfume, it’s an entire sense you’re missing out on exerting yourself through. I wear CDG Original most days, it smells like pencil shavings.
You can add a garment bag to properly keep your suits and shirts unwrinkled, ideally one that slides over your carry-on’s rails, but it usually constitutes an additional personal item on flights. On-top of a backpack, this makes you go through the hassle of getting an additional item paid for at check-in and can sometimes result in getting a bag checked if they’re low on space, so I don’t bother.
You do have your own custom power smoothie, right anon?
For comprehensiveness’ sake, I also take magnesium glycinate in water at night, raw beef liver pills in the morning, and add butter and gelatin powder in my coffee. That’s everything, though.
In America and most countries in the European Union, especially in their major cities, it’s honestly not worth eating out at any restaurant not at least Michelin rated, they all source from the same McDonald’s quality continental suppliers. I’d rather eat at McDonald’s than most mid-range restaurants in Europe; especially considering their service.
Sushi tips texted to a friend who’s never had it: sit at the bar, order omakase aka chefs selection it’ll be what’s most fresh that day, easiest way to start learning your tastes. You can express your preferences, eg less silver fish or more fatty. They can also recommend a sake. Generally eat in order from lean to fatty = white to red. Combination sashimi and nigiri, first sashimi then nigiri. Egg, uni and eel are last. Mackerel is a good order that shows the skill of the place, it’s hard to get the preparation right and must be fresh, but my favorite when they do. Uni also, it’s rarer and expensive, only the good restaurants have it fresh. my special little order is ikura sashimi on the side, it’s salmon roe, i eat it a few at a time as a kind of drinking snack, this is also immediately obvious if not fresh. Tamago is also a good order. bluefin is considered the best tuna, fattier than yellowfin. there are a lot of different cuts to tuna, otoro is the best and fattiest, chotoro more balanced. belly is the best cut for salmon. Don’t order fried food like tempura, or spicy rolls, they use the old fish for it as the preparation covers up the ingredient’s taste. at cheap restaurants seaweed salad, wasabi, ginger and salmon are all toxic and dyed--you can ask if the salmon is farmed (toxic) or wild to be sure. also, they say fish markets usually close sunday and sometimes monday, so those are the worst days to eat sushi.
Dirty, and two at a time, please.
Not enough discourse on the category of autism-consumer rabbitholes, despite their prevalence resulting in not just communities, but entire markets being built around them—mechanical keyboards, audiophile sound systems, etc. Much male attention is lost down these pathways, scratching an itch for information-elevated consumerism in the internet extension of historical magazine-derived gear fetishism. They must be understood as childish, simplified toy technology, complexity retained within bounded consumer simulations that don’t reach serious depth beyond the confines of a subreddit or BBS. Industry is the ultimate autism rabbit hole. Try an industrial deepdive for a change, take a good, long hard look into trucking. Or silicon chips. Or energy production. Industry is a rabbithole that never ends, because it’s real: any industry, if you dig deep enough, you’ll keep going down and down until you get all the way to soil and rock, and it’ll only keep going further down from there, into the endless fractal depth of unprocessed raw materials, of nature itself. Any industry. This is the real rabbithole, it takes you into the dirt itself.