what’s in the bag?

In homage to the regular series over on the delightful Beaut.ie: what’s in YOUR makeup bag?

So what’s in my bag? Well now: all depends on which bag we’re talking about.


The obvious one. The bag that accompanies me at all times. It’s not a ladylike handbag; basically, I hate handbags and love manbags. I never went through the princess phase at age 2.5-3. My mother, bless her, made valiant efforts to turn me into a proper young lady, including giving me handbags as presents for several years in a row. To her credit, she chose well: sober plain minimalist things, no bling or gaudiness. But still: they were handbags and, as we’ve ascertained, I don’t do handbags.

But I do like bags. They’ve got to be practical: be so comfortable I don’t feel like I’m carrying anything, waterproof, well-designed (preferably with added cunning and cleverness), do what multiple pockets on clothing would do otherwise, and strap on to me so my hands are free. You know, just in case I’ve got to do a bit of gesticulating (usually doing the pinkie-finger gesture to idiot drivers), or burst into spontaneous applause, or rescue someone from impending doom (errm, usually myself, from falling over my own feet).

Current main bags:

Tom Bihn Synapse (except mine has grey lining): the most brilliantly-designed backpack I’ve ever met, as well as the most beautiful, best-made, most comfortable, durable, and best beloved. Happily ever after. The End.

Tom Bihn Cafe bag: small version, mine’s the laaaarge and has the Absolute shoulder strap upgrade, which is worth every cent for comfort.

The Café is a very slightly more ladylike alternative to the Synapse. If I’m being very ladylike, I’ll not carry a bag at all: just stuff in coat pockets and in The Beloved’s pockets. Somewhere I do have a tiny clutch, into which I can fit all that Necessary Junk (keys etc.), and then carry it in a (my/Beloved’s) pocket.

Two reasons for liking Tom Bihn bags:

1. the phrase “Portable Culture” on the name-brand-logo business on the front of a bag, and inside it,


It says “Made in USA”, “Made in USA” in Chinese, and “Siquid mantica non capit, domi relinquendum est.” (translation below)


Translation: If it doesn’t fit in your knapsack, leave it behind.

For more, see the Tom Bihn FAQ

2. (label alas not in my own actual bag):

tom bihn label

UPDATE: for more on that label, see some ridiculousness (2012-08-17)

In The Everyday Bag, whichever one is sac du jour, I have a some beautifying stuff. Some is ready to hand, in a clip-in pocket; one or other of the ones below, depending on how much I’m stuffing in it (more in summer):

Tom Bihn clear organizer pouches


  • all-purpose moisturiser: L’Occitane mini tin of shea butter (for lips, hands after washing, anywhere getting dry)
  • glass nail-file: Tesco “make up”
  • Olbas thing for stuffing up nose: great for immediate relief of scent-allergies


  • sunscreen: decanted mini (Muji or Goop tube) of whatever I’m using on face, for use all over: Eco Logical Face for ex.
  • sunscreen: larger decanted main sunscreen: Blue Lizard Sensitive (from the gallon that we’re still getting through…)
  • sunscreen lip balm: BurnOut
  • glass nail-file: Tesco “make up”
  • Olbas thing for stuffing up nose

Some more is buried in the depths of my Cable Guy:

Waterfield (a.k.a. SFBags) Cable Guy, medium

Amidst cables and other useful everyday necessaries, there lurk some titvational items:

  • mini hairbrush: over the years this has been any of the following: an old Mason Pearson, a Denman, assorted folding ones
  • scent: tin of solid Pacifica Mediterranean Fig
  • lippie: Lipstick Queen Medieval
  • handkerchief (old-fashioned cotton variety)
  • painkillers: ibuprofen & acetaminophen/paracetamol
  • decanted mini (Goop tube) of Everyday Shea unscented moisturising body wash, for hand-washing (have to be careful with unlabelled unknown cleansers away from home, re. irritation & eczema) and for cleaning out Diva Cup; rarely necessary to remove and replace it, but once in a blue moon (heh) there’s an exceptionally heavy flow


Well, not really gym. I only bring a towel and water-bottle to the gym. Skanky me.

But I’ll take some stuff with me for swimming, due to the showering afterwards business. In a cosmetics case/pencil case thing (old Clinique GFP from a long time ago, in the previous century), decanted minis of the following:

  • hair stuff: decanted minis of shampoo & conditioner
  • moisturiser: something plain and emollient, for face afterwards and putting on hair before, as a protective mask under bathing-cap
  • oil: mineral or similar: for moisturising afterwards
  • sunscreen
  • plus (not minis)
    • mascara
    • cotton-wool buds / q-tips
    • mirror


I like travelling light. Mainly because I’m the one carrying the bags, and as in 1. above, I like to have hands free. It would all be very different if I had servants and my own means of transport—I don’t drive, let alone have yachts and private jets.

In the zippie plastic baggie (Muji):

the large (3-1-1 / 1 litre size)

In there: assorted decanted bottles and jars. Some are Muji, others are old bottles from 101 other places: I have a sack of them in the closet. I usually also put some of these in small clear ziplock bags in case of spillage. Not all: thicker things don’t go too far if they spill; and it’s not a biggie if moisturising things spill and mix together, but trickier if shampoo gets into everything else. In my experience, however well-sealed and contained they are, the things most likely to leak or spill are liquid washes, shampoos, oils, and deodorant in a spray bottle.

The 3-1-1- bag contents:

  • small tube <100 ml / 3.4 oz of toothpaste
  • shampoo: 100 ml for 2 weeks, 50 ml for up to a week; inside another clear bag
  • conditioner: 100 ml for 2 weeks, 50 ml for up to a week
  • oil: 100 ml; inside another clear bag
    Packing light, I’ll also use this the DIY general-purpose oil on face (instead of rosehip seed oil) and on hair (instead of the DIY hair oil)
  • moisturiser: 100 ml, something that can be used on face and body
  • sunscreen:
    • face sunscreen: 50 ml
    • + if winter: eye-area sunscreen: <25 ml
    • or if summer: body sunscreen (doubling up as eye-area sunscreen): 100 ml.
      As far as I can, I’ll fill the rest of the bag up with more 100-ml tubes of sunscreen
  • zinc oxide cream, for the deodowich (25 ml or leftover tube, if less than half-full)
  • deodorant spray, also for the deodowich: 50 ml; inside another clear bag
  • waterproof mascara

In a small toilet-bag (Muji), which doubles up as my everyday makeup bag:

  • toothbrush
  • cleansing bar
  • shea butter: small L’Occitane tin, either containing it or NOW decanted: used as lipbalm and eye cream
  • sunscreen lip balm
  • lipstick
  • eye concealer: Silk Naturals powder foundation, small quantity decanted
  • solid perfume
  • facecloth
  • razor if going away for more than a few days
  • brush
  • comb
  • mirror
  • cotton-wool buds / Q-tips
  • lash-comb
  • nail-scissors
  • reusable cotton pads (like the cotton-wool ones but washable)
  • Diva Cup if period is due but not yet there
    I’ve never yet been anywhere where I can’t get hold of surgical spirit for cleaning it, so I don’t bring that with me.
  • if the trip involves some obligation / expectation to wear more than the usual Level 1 makeup:
    • eyeliner: solid (cake, Silk Naturals one, etc.)
    • eyeliner brush
    • Silk Naturals perfecting powder

To be honest, unless I’m really stuck for space or packing super-light, I’ll leave that clip-in bag in the everyday bag, even if this means duplicating items above. Its contents are exempt from the liquids & gels rule. I usually remember to move the Everyday Shea (if I’m carrying it around because it’s period-time) into the liquids bag, but have been known to forget; I’ve always managed (so far, touch wood) to persuade the nice security people to let me repack it; then again, I’ve always found it myself mere moments before the tube went through The Machine, a.k.a. into the Jaws of Doom and beyond the Point of No Return.

If I’m going somewhere for more than about a week or so, I’ll also check a bag; in it, the added beautification stuff is something along the lines of:

  • top-up supplies of everything above
  • lots more sunscreen (if summer/going somewhere sunny)
  • rosehip seed oil
  • witch-hazel

They live in another toilet-bag, the 2002/03 ancestor of this:

Eagle Creek Pack-It Caddy (mine’s more square, lost mirror, and doesn’t contain things like Aveeno and Neutrogena. Tsk on free publicity for bunny-torturers.)

Favourite beloved carry-on bag: a 2005 Eagle Creek bag, sort of a cross between its current replacement:

Eagle Creek Flashpoint ORV Trunk 22

and this–like it, my one can be converted (c/o cunning zip-up bag and some velcro) into a backpack:

Eagle Creek Traverse Pro 22

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