We like stuff, really—but you don’t need all that much of it.
Take the example of Temple Fielding, the America’s preeminent travel guide to post-war Europe and a man who knew how to pack a hell of a suitcase. Setting off for five months in Europe, he’d manage to fit all his vital gear into two suitcases and two carry-ons—just enough for one person to carry.
This post from Douglas Mack details exactly what he threw in there, and it’s an edifying peek into the gentlemanly essentials circa 1968.
First, here are the goods:
The [large raffia] basket and its standard contents go with Fielding around Western Europe on all his annual trips, which ordinarily last for five interrupted months. In it Fielding keeps a bottle of maraschino cherries, a bottle of Angostura biters, a portable Philips three-speed record-player, five records (four of mood music and "one Sinatra always"), a leather-covered RCA transistor radio, an old half-pint Heublein bottle full of vermouth, and a large nickel thermos with a wide mouth.
... Fielding also carries a large calfskin briefcase that was designed by him (it is full of compartments) and was made by Loewe, a Spanish purveyor of stunningly fine leather goods. The forty-one items inside the briefcase are standard on all his travels. [These include] his sterling-silver paper stapler (by Tiffany), his plastic fork, his plastic spoon, his stud box, his dwarf American cigars, his standard toothbrush, his collapsible toothbrush, his rubber bands, his paper clips, his eraser, his credit cards, his peanuts, his two-inch bottles of Johnnie Walker ... his Fernet-Branca ... his working notebook ... his ink, his Scotch Tape, his ballpoint-pen refills, his undercover notebook for surreptitious notes ... his alarm wristwatch, his Buech-Girod alarm clock ("It's the world's smallest; it yodels") ...
Fielding uses two suitcases, and in them he packs thirty-five handkerchiefs (all of hand-rolled Swiss linen and all bearing his signature, hand-embroidered), ten shirts, ten ties, ten pairs of undershorts, three pairs of silk pajamas, eight pairs of socks, evening clothes, three pairs of shoes, a lounging robe, a pair of sealskin slippers, and two toilet kits. ... He wears one suit and carries two.
Of course, you probably don’t need more than two handkerchiefs or more than one pair of pajamas or a tuxedo or that third suit…but you never know. Once you cross the threshold from burning off vacation days to genuinely living on the road, there’s no telling what you’ll need. The above list might seem like a lot, but for those five months, it served as the sum total of Mr. Fielding’s worldly possessions.
Not surprisingly, Sinatra and Angostura bitters made the cut.