Using the “Layering” Concept for Packing

We’ve all heard of layering clothing, and that’s no joke. It works. But I’ve learned that the layering concept is also useful for packing my gear. Here’s how I do it.

Really, we all do it. In it’s simplest form, it’s an iPhone case. But the concept goes a little deeper. There are two key benefits when layering for packing. I’ll go through each one in this post.

1. Gear Protection

This is the reason that led me to the concept of layering for packing. I was deep in the throes of getting into cycling through Bristol, England for Nomadic Working in 2007, and learning as I went. I had got a set of Ortlieb Sport-Packer panniers for my bike for Christmas, and was eager to put them to-use. The problem was, they had absolutely no padding in them — so if I took a spill off my bike, my MacBook would have suffered the consequences. I needed to protect it, but I didn’t want to stuff an entire laptop bag into my pannier because I wanted the removable pannier itself to serve as my bag when I used it. So I looked around for a laptop ‘sleeve’ that could withstand a knock on the pavement — or worse, getting run-over by a car. The best option out there was the Thule “Gauntlet” MacBook case.

2. Modularization

I bought one at a local Apple store and it worked perfectly. This thing was tough as nails, and as a bonus it was water-resistant. I initially bought the Gauntlet to protect my laptop when cycling, but it proved to be very useful in other situations as well. Some of my bags, like The North Face Excelsior didn’t have any padding in the laptop compartment, so I just left the Gauntlet on my laptop and threw it in… that’s when it dawned on me that I never again have to worry about laptop-protection when buying another bag. The Gauntlett had modularized my setup and made my list of bag-buying criteria smaller and more manageable.

The Gauntlet is just one example of this. Nowadays, I also ‘layer’ my camera, an extra ‘hard shell’ case on my laptop, a dedicated waterproof clear plastic sleeve for my magazines & papers, and of course a case on my iPhone (like everyone else!).


Layering in packing helps keep me organized, my precious investments protected, and makes it easier to shop because my needs are less-specific when shopping for packs, and more-specific when protecting a particular item. I’d love to hear how you’re layering when you pack. If you’re like me, you barely even realized you were doing it!


My latest little hack was buying this set of 5 Globe-Weis Zip Envelopes on Amazon. I had a bunch of paper items floating around my bag and getting all scrunched-up by everything else. These things are a perfect, cheap solution to keeping paper items flat, organized and protected from the elements. Sounds silly, but I’ve had rain seep through my bag and (supposedly sealed) coffee cups leak and ruin papers in there. As a bonus, they’re a great way to ‘divide’ like a laptop, books, etc.