What Do I Actually Need to Put in My Dopp Kit When I Go Home for the Holidays?

It’s never a bad time to learn how to make your life easier.

dopp kit holidays

Hard as it may be to believe, the holidays are not too far away. If you’re going somewhere this year, then you’ll be bringing your Dopp kit — a.k.a. your trusty Traveler toiletry bag — for all your smelling-and-looking-a-bit-better needs. But is there a correct way to pack it so all your stuff isn’t a mess the whole time? You bet your perfectly hygienic butt there is!

What to Pack
Every man knows the basic items that need to make it into every Dopp kit: toothpaste, toothbrush (with a cover), body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and preferred shaving tools (also with covers). Many people include floss, earplugs, nail clippers, Band-Aids, sunscreen and condoms. But when the winter months roll around, there are a few more essential items that should be added to the mix.  

For winter-based toiletry specifics, focus on moisturizer and even lip balm to avoid dry skin and cracked lips when going to new places during winter months,” says Becca Siegel, co-founder of the travel guide and advice site HalfHalf Travel. “It’s hard to tell in advance if dryness caused by heating systems will have dramatic effects on your skin throughout the length of your stay, whether at a family member’s home or hotel.”

How to Pack It
Packing your Dopp kit is a little harder to suss out because they all have different compartments and pockets and meshes and bags. If you’re lucky, you have a few sizes of elastic bands to secure everything from your travel-sized bottle of soap and shampoo to your deodorant, making them easy to spot. Mesh pockets do the same for less easily stored items like, say, nail clippers and floss. “If a bottle or container has a potential for leaking, put it in the separate leak-proof compartment, or a sealed bag,” suggests Siegel. (And if you were sensible enough to buy the Traveler, you’ll already know it has a special sheath just for holding your razor. Because we’re thoughtful like that.)

How to Unpack It
Perhaps the better question is, how much should you unpack? Honestly, that answer is between you, your desire to keep things put away, how much sink or bathroom counter space there is available, and your god. Some people like to bring out the bag’s entire contents for easy use, while some obsessively return each item to its place immediately after using it (if you’re one of these guys, make damned sure your toothbrush and razor are both clean, dry, and have their caps back on before they go back in the bag). Your best bet is probably to split the difference and only leave out items you’ll need once or more per day. 

How to Clean It
And you should definitely clean it. Dopp kits get all sorts of stuff trapped in them, even before loose caps come off and liquids ooze out so your bag smells like dandruff shampoo for two years. “I suggest machine washing any Dopp kit made of cotton, polyester, or nylon,” says Siegel. “I’ve had the best luck with turning a toiletries bag inside out before putting it in.”

If the label doesn’t approve of a machine wash, cloth and canvas bags can be soaked in water and hand-washed with dish soap; leather bags need leather soap; plastic should be fine with antibacterial wipes. No matter the bag or cleaning process, make sure you use a scrubber — perhaps an old toothbrush — to get any residue off and crumbs out of the crevices first. Collecting white deodorant and toothpaste crust may make it look a little like snow, but a clean bag will be a bigger boost to your holiday spirit.