9 Items City-Dwelling Dudes Should Keep in Their Bags

By Mikey Rox on 23 January 2011 27 comments
Photo: Yi Chen

Every urban guy who counts on public transportation — and his own two feet — to get from point A to B knows that a good satchel is essential.

Granted, carrying that bag around day in and day out can be a nuisance, but it’s required, if only because we no longer have the luxury of junking up the back seat of our SUVs like our suburban buddies.

Which type of bag you choose — backpack, one-shoulder, murse — is up to you, but the contents should remain the same: practical, no-nonsense items that can stop the bleeding, feed the beast, and help you avoid the walk of shame. Even in the rain.


I’ve been caught in a storm plenty of times, and it never fails that I forgot my umbrella. Frankly, that's the last thing I think to bring along when I’m cross-checking my bag. Having learned my lesson again and again, now I keep a small pocket umbrella tucked away in the bottom of my attaché. Better safe than soggy.

Dining/Activity Coupons

This might sound silly to some, but I keep a whole slew of Restaurant.com gift certificates and clipped coupons from the Entertainment Book on hand. It’s very convenient to choose a place to eat or relax after a long day of traveling the city when there’s 50% off or buy one, get one free at my fingertips.

Snacks (Non-Chocolate, Non-Crushable)

You’ll save money if you pack your own snacks, because you won’t be tempted to indulge as you pass the newsstands or convenience stores on every corner. A dollar here and a dollar there really adds up. Hard and gummy candies and other sturdy snacks (they should be able to withstand the wear and tear of travel) are also great while you’re waiting, like in the doctor’s office or, say, when the subway shuts down and you’re trapped for a few hours. It happens — and you’ll never be hungrier than in those ostensibly life-or-death first moments.


Seems obvious, right? It is. Which might be why I pull my hair out every time I can’t find one. The worst is when I get to the ATM to make a deposit and all the chained-to-the-desk pens are missing. Now I store five or six at a time in my bag. Gotta put that money in the bank, folks.

Clean Underwear

Two reasons: A) after the gym, and B) the morning after. We never seem to think those situations through, do we?

Business Cards

An extra stash means that you won’t miss out on important opportunities, potential new clients, and impressing that hot guy or girl you’ve got your eye on at the end of the bar. Think about it this way, too: You come across rather unprofessional when someone asks for a card and you can’t come up with one. Makes you look like an amateur in a room full of power players.

Antibacterial Wipes

Roll your eyes all you want, but I promise you this is the single most important part of a properly packed carryall. I use mine after meals, when I’m sweaty, and to sanitize after a subway ride, among other things; they instantly make me feel fresh and clean when no restroom is available to wash up. I buy mine in packs of five 48-count cylinders for about $10 at my local wholesale club, but space-saving options (smaller packs) are available at your nearest convenience or grocery store.

First-Aid Supplies

You’d be surprised how many situations require rubber gloves and Band-Aids. I’ve been in circumstances where people are bleeding, and I often need adhesive bandages to relieve the chafing that the backs of my shoes cause when I don’t wear socks. It’s just good form to be prepared. Your first-aid kit doesn’t have to take up a lot of space, either. Just throw a few necessities in a Ziploc bag and tuck it away. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but if you do, it’ll save the day.

Extra Phone Charger

My phone dies at the most inopportune times — like right when I’m supposed to meet my husband at a crowded place — so I’m sure yours does, too. It’s the one thing that throws me into a panic because I don’t want people to think I stood them up, or worse, that something has happened to me. Now I keep an extra USB charger in my bag, so I can plug in wherever I’m at, and I carry a rechargeable battery to juice up even quicker. Expect your friends to pat you on the back too when you save their hides from lack of power. What a guy.

What item(s) do you keep in your bag at all times — and why? Let me know in the comments section.

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27 discussions

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Guest's picture

Great tips for anyone, man or woman. As someone who just moved to a city with public transit, which I am now taking to work at my new job, I found this helpful. I'm still trying to figure out what I need to throw in my bag that I haul with me around the city every day.

Guest's picture

I always have Colgate Wisps, cologne, and condoms along with most of that which you have above.

Mikey Rox's picture

Wisps are a good idea, but they can be expensive. Why not just carry a travel toothbrush and paste? Much more economical - though admittedly not as cool.

Everybody - male or female - should have condoms. So kudos for that. Personally, I'm married so condoms are now just a reminder of the good ol' days, but I still carry a few just in case my friends need them. And they often do. Lucky ducks.

Guest's picture
Jon C.

I always have a water bottle and earphones.

Guest's picture

Don't you have to buy restaurant.com certificates for each place you eat at? Are you saying at one point you just shelled out a whole bunch of money on gift certificates without an actual plan on if/when you were going to use them? That's like the exact opposite of what this and many other PF sites have been advocating, and I agree with them. Buying lots of gift certificates in advance lead to overspending and lack of attention that can easily destroy whatever savings they might offer.

Mikey Rox's picture

Thanks for the comment, Arvin.

Yes, I have to purchase a GC for each restaurant at which I plan to dine, but that doesn't mean I shelled out a whole bunch of money. I wait until the $25 GCs are 80% off and buy two or three, which costs me a total of $6 for $75 worth of savings. The best part is, they never expire so I can use them whenever I want. And I don't buy more if I still have some in my bag. I think it's a great way to enjoy the luxury of eating out every now and then while still saving a ton of money.

Guest's picture

A notepad, most of us carry smart phones of some sort but sometimes it's just easier to write things down.

Breath mints or gum or better yet, a toothbrush.

Also - if you're concerned about a morning walk-of-shame you'd better be prepared for the night-before-the-walk-of-shame. Pack condoms.

Mikey Rox's picture

Thanks for the feedback, Dave.

A toothbrush is a great idea. My mouth starts to feel gross after lunch and if I'm staying out and about until a party or a show it's crucial to have that on hand. I would recommend a cheap plastic case that provides complete coverage of the toothbrush though. Anything less could be unsanitary.

Guest's picture

Always in my backpack: Hand sanitizer, tissues, Tylenol, gum, notepad/s, post-it's, safety pins, flash drives, LED flashlight, some work-related material that I can finish while waiting for something.

Mikey Rox's picture
Mikey Rox

Pain medicine is a good one, Sudeep. I generally keep Aleve in my overnight bag. I seem to get hungover a lot when I'm away from home. :-/

Guest's picture

That's a helpful article. BUT,I wouldn't carry an unbrella in California unless the weather report called for it. Also, I carry a reusable shopping bag in case I stop at the supermarket. Help save the planet and get a nickel back at Lucky store.

Mikey Rox's picture
Mikey Rox

A reuseable shopping bag is a great idea. I actually carry those as well, so thanks for adding that to the list!

Guest's picture

I live in a particularly sunny place, too - Australia. Let me tell you, umbrellas are the best sun coverage you can get - they are a life saver in the midday sun when you're as porcelain as I am!

Guest's picture

Wow, it would kill my shoulder/back to be carrying that much stuff around! I have a very small purse that weighs only a couple pounds when full, and I never find myself "missing" something. In it, I keep my wallet, lipstick and lip gloss, my cell phone, a pen, eye drops, Altoid Smalls, chapstick, a flash drive, a nail file, my birth control, and my grocery store coupons in a side pocket.

Andrea Karim's picture

Better safe than soggy? Seattle would like to collectively disagree with you, sir!

Guest's picture

SUV?! This Suburbanite doesn't drive an SUV! tsk tsk!

Guest's picture
John Von Herget

Sunglasses. Chapstick. Contact lens case & re-wetting drops.

Guest's picture

If you have a smart phone or any phone that allows music to be played, adding earbuds to the list won't take up much more space or add more weigh than you already have. Many are the times I have been earbudless when I could have used them. Don't be that guy who tries to play his music low, but still disturbs everyone around.

Also, I 17th the call for a toothbrush. I actually keep both a toothbrush and a small thing of baking soda in my bag. The baking soda can make not-so-tasty toothpaste, but also deodorizes smelly shoes and whatnot.

As for underwear, you can always flip it inside out in a pinch. Or do a sink wash. I once survived a week-and-a-half trip with only one pair of underwear because I forgot to pack any and only had what I was wearing. I learned really quickly how easy it is to wash and rewear and that a damp pair quickly dries out due to body heat.

Guest's picture

@Raina The key to cutting down on the weight is to only take small quantities of items. I also bring cologne and hairspray in my bag, but I have them in these tiny spray-bottles (the hairspray is non-aerosol). Similarly, I have a mini-kleenex package, and I use a travel-size case for my tylenol. All together, my "just-in-case" items only take up one small pocket in my bag.

Finally, this list would be very incomplete without a pocket-knife or multi-tool.

Guest's picture

I carry quite a few things in my usually diminutive purse, including much of what you have listed here. In my mini first aid kit, I have a few butterfly bandages, an Ace wrap, and a couple of feminine pads, not just for their advertised use: I'm trained in first aid and CPR, and a few times, I've had to use it on injuries. There's one in every group, I guess.

The other thing I don't leave home without is my multitool. I garnered the nickname "Lady Macgyver" one summer! It fits nicely in my clutch purses. Usually, I also have some form of a small flashlight and a tiny sample bottle of lotion that I can refill.

Guest's picture

A swiss army card...you can get one at target or similar stores, much more compact and less threatening than a pocket knife with all the functionality, especially the scissors!

Guest's picture

-Phone charger for sure. and yes, get a case for that toothbrush or you'll have to pull purse lint out of it before you use it very time o.O

-Travel pack of kleenex is a must! (spills, napkin, makeshift fem pad, or if you end up wandering at night and there are no restrooms open/nearby, and you're not a fan of leaves...and when you're exploring the sewers and run into a nest of spiders, they make much better torches stuffers than tampons!)

-Socks! nothing makes you feel fresh like a change of socks. Also, if you've been walking and gt super cold, changing your socks works wonders - this keeps your feet dry, a huge factor in your overall body temperature - can make as much difference as an extra coat, no jokes. This comes from someone with circulation problems and extreme cold intolerance. (*unfortunately, most socks do NOT make good torches, as they are often treated to be fire resistant)

-notecard or two or small notebook to go with that pen

-A lighter! Smoker or not, they come in handy - reading a quick sign or the directions to your next bus stop, even instead of scissors for cutting threads or opening those annoyingly impenetrable plastic containers they use to keep electronics safe from shoplifters and legitimate purchasers alike

Guest's picture

Mikey, I am a 61 yr young female who loves to follow all of your articles. They are well-written and thoughtful. You have a great knack for tackling life's little details and making them all doable. I really enjoyed your article on entertaining drop-in guests with what you have on hand. Keep up the good work!

Mikey Rox's picture
Mikey Rox

Wow! What an incredible comment, Debbie. That totally made my day - and I'm so pleased that you find my pieces thoughtful and informative. That's my goal. Have an excellent afternoon!

Guest's picture

As a city-dwelling public transportation-taking dude, I definitely agree with these items.

Lip balm is an essential for me, especially during dry winters like this. Me and my Kobo have become inseparable (perfect for commutes and inevitably stalled bus rides). And I always have a little notepad and pen in my bag... you just never know when you'll need to scribble something down.

Mikey Rox's picture
Mikey Rox

I live for Burt's Bees! Thanks for the comment, Andrew.

Guest's picture

Pads and tampons