#Onebag conference report

by Sunita

My first attempt to attend a professional conference in #onebag mode was a success. It made life much easier when I was to-ing and fro-ing and I didn’t wish for anything I’d left at home. I definitely think this is doable on a regular basis for a 3- or 4-day meeting.

What I took:

Photo of everything that I took to the conference, laid out on a bed.

I know it looks like quite a bit, by everything packed down very compactly. I took more than I would have if I had been traveling for pleasure because I knew I’d be seeing the same people repeatedly. They probably wouldn’t notice if I were wearing the same thing two days in a row (most of them are guys and political-science guys at that, so fashion sense is not their comparative advantage, to put it mildly), but I would have been somewhat self-conscious. So I made sure I had different looks for each day and took one dress to wear to dinners in nice restaurants (different people and restaurants so I felt fine repeating the dress).

Clothing, from right to left, bottom to top:

  • 1 black & white patterned jacket
  • 2 pairs of trousers
  • 1 sleeveless black dress
  • 1 patterned dress for evening
  • 2 silk, 1 merino short-sleeved t-shirts
  • 1 dress shirt in a slightly crepe-y cotton blend
  • 1 leather belt
  • 1 tunic-style t-shirt for sleeping
  • 3pairs underwear, 2 bras, 1 shaper, 2 handkerchiefs
  • 2 footies
  • 1 camisole with built-in bra (not pictured)
  • 1 pair casual loafer-style sneakers
  • 1 pair black nubuck sandals with a low wedge heel


  • Samsung Galaxy S8 phone (not pictured)
  • Battery pack
  • Nook Glowlight Plus ereader (the old aluminum model, not pictured)
  • Short charging cable with USB-C adapter
  • Samsung charger and cable
  • Wireless earbuds in charging case (not pictured)

Toiletries, cosmetics and other personal items:

  • Ziplock bag with hair products, tinted moisturizer, face wipes, body lotion, toothbrush & toothpaste, hair spray, anti-perspirant, and foil tab of ibuprofen
  • Makeup bag with matte powder foundation, trial-size mascara, trial-size eyeshadow, travel eyeshadow brush, eyebrow pencil, 2 eyeliner pencils, 2 lipgloss, sharpener, 3 pair disposable contact lenses, 3 bandaid/plasters, small pill container with ibuprofen and Sudafed, small comb.
  • Travel-size hair brush
  • Sunglasses, reading glasses, case for prescription glasses
  • Reusable grocery/tote bag
  • Hobonichi planner in a cover that doubles as a wallet with pen attached
  • Key & ID pouch

Work and miscellaneous stuff:

  • Small notebook
  • Manila folder containing printed draft of an article I needed to edit
  • Paperback monograph purchased at conference
  • Pen case with 2 additional fountain pens
  • Insulated 16-oz. metal water bottle (not pictured)
  • Energy bar from snack box offerings on flight (I forgot my Kind bars)
  • Foil packet of masala tea bags (a gift from my cousin, whom I visited on Sunday)

I wore the jacket, black pants, blue merino t-shirt, and the loafers on the trip to DC and the rest of the clothes went into the two gray packing cubes. The sandals went into the very bottom of the backpack and then I put in the cubes. The Ziplock and makeup bags went into the remaining space along the side. The folder and paperback went into the hydration/laptop slot at the back of the pack. The key/ID pouch, charging cables, battery pack and Samsung charger went into the separate small pocket at the top of the pack and everything else went into the main compartment except for the stuff that went into the crossbody: wallet, earbuds in case, ereader, sunglasses and reading glasses, handkerchief, comb, and lipgloss.

I wore a different top each day and repeated the black pants once, but this time with the white dress shirt and no jacket. The other conference day I wore the black dress with the pink t-shirt under it and on Sunday when I visited my cousin I wore the black t-shirt, taupe pants, and the jacket along with the loafers. I alternated between the loafers and sandals during the conference depending on where I was going and to give my feet a rest.

I was glad to have the variety, although both the silk and the merino could easily have been worn more than once because they didn’t get stained or hold odor despite the fact that the temperature was in the 80s and sunny. I walked to and from dinners, lunches, and the book festival in the sunshine and I definitely sweated! But everything, including the dresses, aired out and were fine.

I think the reason everything worked was the fabrics were so travel-friendly. Not only are they hardy, they feel really comfortable. I’ll write a separate post about my recent acquisitions of travel-friendly clothing, in particular where I got the black dress and the trousers, because they have been a wonderful find.

I was able to avoid taking a computer because I wasn’t at the conference as a paper presenter, but I probably could have stuck my Surface Go in the sleeve where I put the folder. I might not have bought the book then, though. I didn’t miss having a computer. I was able to do everything I needed through the smartphone and it wasn’t as if I had huge amounts of down time during the conference. Had I taken the computer I probably would have surfed the internet more, but instead I read and watched live sports on TV when I was back in my room for a break.