I am looking for a figurative or graphic expression to describe the minimal luggage content, fast to pack, or that you always have with you, without which you would feel less safe when travelling. The expression should be concise too.

When I take a plane, and since luggage in the cargo area can get lost, I generally have a toothbrush and underwear. With those, I am not afraid of spending an unplanned night in an hotel in a unknown town.

I would say in my language that I have my "pants and brush", as a short for "a second pair of underpants, socks and a toothbrush", but this does not seem colloquial in English.

In other words, is there a colloquial figurative expression for what one carries when travelling light?

  • 2
    I have heard the expression "grab-bag" used to describe a small piece of luggage, often kept pre-packed and near the door of one's house so that one may travel suddenly and lightly. That may be appropriate here.
    – Spratty
    May 5, 2016 at 10:54
  • The prepacked thing in the front closet or car trunk is often called a "Bug-out Bag". That's usually for making a quick escape. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bug-out_bag
    – Phil Sweet
    May 5, 2016 at 15:02

4 Answers 4


Ditty bag.

The quotes below are both from Michael Quinion's World Wide Words blog.

Ditty bag comes from the days of sailing ships: On each side of the berth-deck, termed “the wings,” are racks for the accommodation of canvass bags; each man has one in which he keeps his clothes, and a little bag or reticule called “a ditty bag,” containing all the implements of his housewifery, such as thimble, needles, tapes, thread, &c, for you must know that every genuine seaman is always his own tailor, hatter, and very frequently his own shoemaker. The Journal of Belles Lettres, Philadelphia, 1833.

And later in the same article -

Ditty bag remained a term exclusively of the sea until the twentieth century. Landlubbers took it up and used it for any small cloth container for items of kit or miscellaneous stuff. It’s almost completely defunct in the UK but survives widely in north America in all sorts of situations. So it’s unsurprising that you have found it in the film business.


  • Lot of marine words lost in the sea. +1 for reviving this one May 5, 2016 at 13:58
  • It's a golden flotsam
    – vickyace
    May 5, 2016 at 14:35

To travel light:

  • to bring very few things with you when you go on a trip.

    • My new car has lots of cargo space, which is great for people like me who don't travel light.

(Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms)

also the colloquial expression:

No-bags travel

  • Thannk you. I probably should have put this one in the OP, since I am looking for something more figurative or visual. May 5, 2016 at 8:24
  • @LaurentDuval I think josh's answer encompasses what you're asking for but if you want something else, please be specific. Do you mean an expression that means to carry the most vital stuff for travel that also happens to be tiny or only tiny stuff and vitals?
    – vickyace
    May 5, 2016 at 9:33
  • @vickyace I hope I rephrased the question in a more specific manner May 5, 2016 at 10:20

You are asking for the collective term for your "pants and brush".

Try travel essentials.

Essentials noun 1 A thing that is absolutely necessary: we only had the bare essentials in the way of equipment - ODO

Here's a pinterest page of travel essentials.


I would go with Personal effects

From M-W:

privately owned items (as clothing and jewelry) normally worn or carried on the person


When my baggage was lost in transit, all I was left with was my personal effects

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.