Among all luggage options for men, the Dopp kit is the most mysterious and occasionally out of place. It’s significantly smaller than suitcases and carry-ons, but while it functions perfectly well as a toiletry bag for men or a place to hold shaving supplies, its background veers away from the expected.
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What is the Best Men’s Toiletry Bag?
The answer comes down to how you’re looking to travel and what you typically pack. Although a leather Dopp kit is relatively traditional, modern versions use cloth or synthetic materials. Some hold just a few items – nothing more than your shaving essentials – while others serve as a part of a matching luggage set.
Thinking About Materials
Leather offers body and heft and had tradition and heritage behind it. However, for someone looking to go lightweight if, for instance, you are off to backpack through Europe – will find it too weighty and cumbersome.
As such, nylon and other synthetic toiletry bags have seen their popularity grow in recent years for the fact that they conserve weight without reducing storage area and are relatively packable and compressible.
As an alternative to leather, some men seek out Dopp kits made out of cotton duck. It’s sturdy and heavy like canvas and has a similar tear and abrasion resistance. For today’s world, especially if you plan to keep this toiletry bag in a hotel bathroom as you venture out to explore, cotton duck is frequently waxed and then treated to be water repellent, ensuring moisture rolls off and won’t seep through the fabric.
The Ideal Size
This aspect, too, is up for debate. However, ask yourself this: Do you envision your Dopp kit strictly as a shaving bag or do you see it holding all of your toiletries? On the minimalist end, the bag should hold your razor, shaving cream, and any other supplies you use to groom. Something like this tends to be no larger than a pencil case. On the larger end, it should be no larger than 1 liter in size -“ or about half the size of a standard soda bottle.
Especially if you plan to take it on a plane in your carry-on, a smaller size correlates with better accessibility and won’t take up space in the limited amount of room your bag already has. At the same time, realize that in this scenario, you need to continue following the TSA’s liquid rules regarding ounces and container size.
What to Pack in a Dopp Kit?
The key here is thinking about what you want to pack in your Dopp kit. Do you envision it strictly as a shaving kit, or is it a full toiletry bag? Are you holding other smaller items? How do you plan it pack it — with smaller, travel-size containers, or the existing ones from your bathroom?
Generally, Dopp kits prevent shampoo, mouthwash, and toothpaste from leaking out all over your luggage as you get from point A to point B. Traditionally, this toiletry bag for men is where you place the following items:
- Soap or body wash: Unless you anticipate having this at the hotel, always take along a small bar or a travel-size container of body wash. If you’re into skincare, be sure to bring along your cleanser in a similarly sized container.
- Shampoo and conditioner: The same rule applies as above. Especially if you’ll be backpacking rather than staying in a hotel, take one or both in small travel-sized containers.
- Comb: Due to the Dopp kit’s compact size, bringing along a brush isn’t always recommended, as it takes up a significant amount of space. Combs are thin, and you can slide one between all bottles.
- Shaving razor: Whether you stick with disposable or have a classic, reusable one, bring it along with a cover over the blades. For shaving creams, soaps, and other grooming products, take them along, provided they fit into a travel-size container.
- Toothpaste and toothbrush: Opt for travel sizes if you can, as both take up a large amount of room. However, because you won’t find these in your hotel room, be sure to take along this set.
- Deodorant: Here, too, opt for the smaller travel sizes. Aerosols are considered liquids, and therefore must follow TSA guidelines, while a stick by itself may be too large in comparison to everything else.
- Nail Clippers: Although you can leave these at home for shorter trips, bring along a set if you will be away for a week or more.
- Skincare: Whether you’re thinking about serums or moisturizers, keep it small to conserve room and abide by the TSA’s rules.
Why is a Men’s Toiletry Bag Called a Dopp Kit?
It’s a commonly asked question amongst menswear circles: What’s the difference between a Dopp kit and a toiletry bag? The fact is, there isn’t anything significant separating the two except for a name change that has vacillated back and forth over the decades.
Before you toss everything into your Dopp kit as you pack, here’s what you should know.
German leather-smith Charles Doppelt invented the Dopp kit in 1919, initially calling it a toilet bag, and patented the design a decade later. True to his background and trade, the first Dopp kits were fashioned out of leather.
However, the name toilet bag quickly fell out of favor in the U.S., considered inappropriate for its implications, and instead, Dopp kit became the casual, accepted term to reference. Popularity grew as soldiers were issued leather Dopp kits for both World Wars.
By the 1970s, Samsonite bought out the Charles Doppelt Company and trademarked the name Dopp kit for these toiletry bags.
Based on an interview Doppelt’s nephew did with Buffalo Jackson, the Charles Doppelt Company experimented with different Dopp kit styles over the years, including a smaller version specifically to hold jewelry, and tried out different exterior and interior materials. As another innovation that’s now commonplace, the company turned any excess from the leather Dopp kits into luggage ID tags.
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Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born menswear fashion blogger and copywriter. When not writing about men's style he's also an EDM and synthpop enthusiast.