- Buyer's Guide
One-Bag Travel: What to Pack for Austria
Austria is a beautiful country to wander, whether you’re meandering the city streets of Vienna, Salzburg, Hallstatt, and Innsbruck, or hiking trails in Kalkalpen National Park, Hohe Tauern National Park, and among its many vineyards. It’s a country that is juxtaposed by the vestiges of enormous Hapsburg and religious wealth, with rugged mountains and expansive lakes.
It is the duality of this place that permeates many factors when traveling the country. Factors that one must keep in mind when traveling to Austria.
Thanks to articles like “The Best Clothes for a Men’s Travel Capsule Wardrobe,” “The Best Men’s Travel Shirts and Jackets for One-Bag Travelers,” and “23 Reasons Why You Should Try ‘One Bag’ Travel,” I decided to take the plunge and attempt ‘One Bag’ travel fifteen days in Austria. To be clear, I’ve one-bagged before, but usually these trips were at max five days – and always within the United States. Although I did my research in part by reading the Lonely Planet Austria guide, some things are best described by a person who has been there.
Firstly, getting there. Your results may vary, but fares from Miami to Vienna were ~$800 – pricey. Here’s what I did: I searched every airfare search engine for flights, but the price was relatively stagnant. After a few days of fruitless searching, I searched all flights into Europe from Miami – this resulted in a $325 trip from Miami to Paris. From there, I searched for flights from Paris to Vienna – this resulted in a $90 flight. When analyzing the schedules, the only caveat was a two-hour layover in Paris. We booked the two separate bookings, flying to Vienna for ~$415, as opposed to the ~$800. I thought of the risks, like delayed flights, having two different bookings, possibly missing the second flight, etc. In the end, the cost saving was too significant a factor. Also, if we missed our flight to Vienna, we wouldn’t be terribly heartbroken to stay a night in Paris.
European airlines, though, are beginning to crack down on the weight of carry-on baggage. Both Air France and Austrian Airlines are enforcing draconian weight limits by weighing every carry-on bag, and if the bag is even a sliver over, they force a check-in. They’re weighing everything as one single item – they had me place my Aer Day Sling on top of my Knack Pack. My wife ended up having to check in her roller for close to $50. Be warned and weigh your luggage before you get to the airport.
The time of year significantly affects which type of Austria will greet you – Spring and Summer is a hiker’s paradise, with places like Innsbruck being known for adventure; expect a lot of tourists in the summer. In the Fall, many operations slow down, but you’ll want to make sure to participate in Vienna’s Wine Hike Day when many vineyards present their latest offerings. Also, Sturm, a very young wine that is only sold for a few weeks, is a cultural delight. Lastly, Winter turns many areas of the country into a giant ski resort. Although gorgeous in its own right, this presents challenges and gear requirements.
The Alps split the country into several smaller micro-climates, so depending on where you plan to travel, you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather forecast – for example, the winds in Tyrol can be harsh, while the rain in Salzburg is ever-present. On one particular drive, I experienced sun, rain, hail, and snow, with occasional bouts of wind. Be prepared – bring a light, packable rain jacket, and make sure your layering game is on point. I got soaked in Salzburg while exploring the Mirabell Palace Gardens and again walking in the rain while in search of pastries in Mondsee. In the Summer, the ice caves are still freezing, and the salt mines are cold – analyze your activities and dress with layering in mind.
Several days saw us visiting posh palatial estates such as Schonbrunn Palace or Belvedere, or walking the halls of Universität Wien, then hopping on a tram and hiking through vineyards and ancient garden paths where Beethoven once walked, ending the day in a nice restaurant like Gmoa Keller. This shift in environment calls for clothing that can mold itself to various situations. Toned-down colors, technical fabrics that look good in a palace but are functional in the outdoors, water-resistant, and durable – for example, a dark blue Woolx Quarter-Zip coupled with a pair of black Western Rise Evolution Pants, and black Columbia Newton Ridge boots. In colder climates, a classy peacoat or insulated jacket would be appropriate.
During the Fall, it’s common to see loads of people enjoying open public spaces and enjoying warm temperatures and clear blue skies. Why? By the end of October, or early November, gloomier and much colder days persist until May. So on any sunny day before that, expect parks, public spaces, or many flat surfaces with direct sunlight to be occupied. Sitting on the grass in Vienna, surrounded by gorgeous architecture, history, culture, and the Viennese themselves, is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. It also serves as a warning to visitors as to what to expect in terms of climate around that time.
Public transportation operates smoothly and generally runs on time. The Vienna train system is one of the best I’ve encountered in my travels. As a note, one must purchase and validate a ticket before boarding. There are no turnstiles or gates to go through, but ticket checkers will randomly board a train to inspect. It’s a pseudo-honor system, but if you get caught without a ticket, you’ll pay a hefty fine. Interregional trains are much more formal and can be reserved ahead of time, with seat assignments and food cars.
While in a big city, avoid having a car. Instead, walk or take public transport to where you need to go. Parking is a hassle and can be expensive – it’s not a great experience. Once you need to get out of town, you can still take trains, but I would suggest renting a car. Why? Driving through Austria has been the most fun driving I’ve had in Europe. The roads are just plain fun to drive, a real treat if you enjoy driving, with their multiple curves, hairpin turns, inclines, tunnels, and other road features. Add onto those features the absolute beauty of this place: spying out a valley as you come out of a turn, exiting a tunnel and being greeted by a snow-capped mountain, looking over a cliffside and seeing a churning lake, watching storm clouds spill over hills to threaten the village below. It’s been a delight driving here. This will also allow you to shop where the locals shop and experience the country from the ground. I would recommend driving across the country, starting in Vienna and ending in Innsbruck or even the Italian Dolomites, and taking a train all the way back to Vienna.
A word of caution, though, unlike some other major western countries, Austria is not tailored to English-speaking tourists. Just about all signage, including road signs, are only in German. And it’s understandable; in my entire fifteen days there, I may have spotted only ten or so English-speaking tourists. Most tourists are either German or Austrian. Some cities tailor to specific groups; for instance, Hallstatt accommodates to Chinese speakers, while Zell am See accommodates to Arabic speakers. Some restaurants will have English menus, but you’ll have to ask for them.
Additionally, I noticed that although many in the service industry speak English, they won’t do so unless necessary. I am glad I brought along Google Translate with German downloaded for offline access. The ability to look up phrases on the fly was invaluable, and so is the fantastic feature to point the camera at something and have it translate in real-time (we’re living in the future!). I lost count how many times I used that feature, especially at restaurants where an English menu was not available, or at the grocery store where I wasn’t sure what type of sausage I was buying.
Cell phone reception was ubiquitous, the only time I lost reception was while inside a mountain.
Lastly, bring Euros! Many places only accept cash, even seemingly modern locales won’t take a credit card. Yet, when they do, many accepted NFC phone payments, which was great.
The large Knack Pack proved to be a stellar choice for my use case. Its light weight and size kept me from needing to check it in when Austrian Airlines’ draconian weight restrictions forced my wife to check in her Eagle Creek roller. Additionally, the expandable luggage compartment, along with its EDC features, fits everything in a designated place. I even got a few compliments and questions about it. This bag made easing into One Bag Travel a breeze.
The Aer Day Sling 2 was used once I arrived at my destination and wanted to walk around town. While en route or on flights, the sling served as my tech pouch and sensitive document cache. This eliminated the need for a dedicated tech pouch, and once I arrived at my destination, I rarely needed to swap anything in or out to be ready for exploration.
Lastly, the Arcido Aro, it packed down small and light and was great for longer excursions. The mix of refined aesthetics, coupled with water-resistant materials and storm-guard zippers made it ideal – even when hiking in the rain. Some days required layering, and the Aro stored enough to keep layers for my wife and me, along with snacks, a battery pack, and two water bottles.
Surface Pro 4 + Charger
The Anker PowerLine II and Quick Charge 3.0, as well as the Kikkerland Universal Travel Adapter, were the stars of this category. Used in tandem, they provided a lightweight and efficient solution for charging all but my Surface Pro 4. All three fit easily into any pocket.
I am a massive fan of Moment lenses. Even though I am only rolling with an iPhone XR, when they see my photos, people often ask me what camera I use. They can’t believe it’s a cell phone with some attachable lenses. The 18mm Wide-Angle is my go-to lens, although lately, capturing detail with the 58mm Telephoto has me reconsidering which lens I reach for first.
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sports Mesh Boxer Briefs could be slightly expensive for a single pair of underwear, but they’re worth every cent. They’re high-quality, moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, odor-resistant, comfortable, and offer a ton of support. They also wash easily, even in the shower. Once you’re done, roll them up in a towel for a preliminary dry and then hang – they’ll be ready to go in a couple of hours. I never travel without ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sports Mesh.
This trip was my first time using Western Rise StrongCore Merino Socks. They’re incredibly comfortable and have all the properties you’d hope for in a merino wool product; moisture-wicking, anti-microbial, odor-resistant, and temperature regulating. Additionally, they too wash and dry quickly. My only complaint is since they are shallow, no-show socks, they kept slipping off while I was sleeping. If I could get a slightly higher rise sock from Western Rise, I would immediately replace all my socks with StrongCore.
Woolly and Woolx are not generally considered to be on the high end of merino outerwear.
Nevertheless, this being my first foray into merino wool, the prices were excellent. What I found were incredibly comfortable and highly efficient pieces that have made me reconsider the rest of my wardrobe going forward, not just in travel, but in life! Each shirt was as comfortable as my favorite cotton shirt, even the more substantial 230gsm quarter-zip.
I put merino wool’s claims to the test; after a full day of travel or hiking, they didn’t stink. Even if they did, after a night of airing out, they were as fresh as the day I bought them. They’re also temperature regulating, which was fantastic since I usually run fairly hot. Really, the only downside I experienced is that when merino gets wet, it has a natural funk to it. The smell only lasts as long as the shirt is wet, once it dries (which is quick!) it goes back to normal. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that merino wool requires a little extra care than your run-of-the-mill cotton shirt. Cold wash, no fabric softener, and hang to dry.
Coalatree Trailhead Pants (Black) (Worn in transit)
Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about paying such a premium for the Western Rise Evolution Pant, but there’s a reason why it won the 2019 Carryology Award for best travel clothing. These things check all the boxes for the perfect pair of travel pants or just pants in general. Are they versatile? Yes! I took them to fancy meals, museums, and galleries as well as out on the hiking trail and exploring mountains – they never looked out of place. They have a modern cut to them, but thanks to the fabric wizards at Western Rise, the pants stretch and conform to your movements, crazy comfortable. Lastly, the quality, materials, and construction are top-notch. I additionally appreciate how water and stain-resistant the pants are while offering some neat features, like a security pocket.
I’ve been using Coalatree Trailhead Pants for a couple of years now, and I absolutely love them. They’re immensely comfortable. In fact, these are the pants I always wear when I anticipate a long day of flying. The materials are supremely water and stain-resistant. The Trailhead Pant is cut a bit looser, although Coalatree does offer a slim version, but I appreciate the extra room in the non-slim version. The waist and ankles can be cinched as tight or as loose as you’d like – to be honest, I wish I could get rid of the cinching in the ankles since it makes the pant look too casual. Understandably, I can see why they could be useful for climbers or those only going outdoors, but I personally wouldn’t wear them to a fancy dinner or a meeting. Although I absolutely love these pants, I only wear them on travel days, or days I know I won’t be going anywhere too posh.
As a test, I tried a pair of UB Tech Travel Pants I found at Costco. They were $20 and presumably checked all the right boxes for travel pants. I was pleasantly surprised! The pants include a security pocket, like the Western Rise Evolution Pant, with an additional thigh pocket. They, too, are water and stain-resistant. Also, they are nearly as comfortable as the Trailhead Pant, including a flex waistband, and two-way stretch material. The cut, though, isn’t super flattering, and the thigh pocket does slightly diminish the look, preventing it from being a pair of pants I’d take to an ultra-fancy restaurant. Look, for $20, they’re an excellent deal, and worth it if you’re looking for some basic travel pants that tick the boxes in terms of features and comfort. At the time of this writing, I’ve worn them nine times, and there are no discernible signs of wear.
The Cotopaxi Fuego has been a staple of my cold-weather collection since 2017. This sustainably-sourced goose-down insulator has seen me through Ireland, Switzerland, Iceland, Austria, France, Germany, and various states locally in the US. It’s warm, light, packs down small and has a great look to it.
Oros is a company to keep an eye on; they’re producing some exciting pieces, taking inspiration from NASA and utilizing Aerogel technology to act as their insulator. It’s all impressive-sounding, but I wanted to give it a try for myself. The Oros Explorer did precisely what it was meant to do; although thin, it kept me warm in near-freezing temperatures. With a mix of polyester and elastane, it has a nice stretch and give to it that creates a tapered silhouette. Sometimes it was slightly annoying to put on because it’s quite form-fitting, but that would be the case with just about any quarter-zip.
The Icebreaker Reversible Pocket Cap was a last-minute purchase because I wanted a cap that didn’t take up too much space, and would look good no matter what I was wearing. This fits the bill perfectly. Not only does it pack down small and thin, but it provided the right amount of protection from the cold. Admittedly, it was only near-freezing a couple of times; nonetheless, it did the job. The reversible nature was excellent, although I was perplexed by Icebreaker’s decision to have a floppy tag sticking out of the gray side. I had my wife cut it as far down as she could, even though it’s nearly impossible to entirely remove without undoing some stitching. If you cut it down far enough, it’s not noticeable. I found a new staple for my wardrobe.
Old faithful, the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II boots go for a mere $70, but over the years, I’ve been impressed by how long they’ve lasted. I’ve walked hundreds of miles in them since 2017, and they’re still going strong. They’re comfortable, waterproof, and provide an adequate level of traction when hiking. Additionally, you may have noticed I only brought one pair of shoes; that’s because, in all black, they look great just about anywhere, from the hiking trail to the high-end restaurant. I wouldn’t play sports in them, but for everything else, they’re great.
Out of everything I took on this trip, there were a few pieces that stood out from the rest of my gear. Pieces that are invaluable, and will become standard in my travel pack, or pieces that necessitate an extra mention.
Arcido Aro – The Aro is admittedly just a daypack, but it’s a daypack that is done in a thoughtful and classy way. The use of Kodra, the color scheme, double water bottle holders, YKK zips, its shape, and volume all work together to create a light and packable daypack that is not only functional but looks great. At one point, I did groceries and managed to fit just about everything in it – good thing it looks its best when packed out! The Aro is now my go-to packable bag.
Anker Quick Charge 3.0 – With one Quick Charge 3.0 port, and three PowerIQ ports, this small USB charger was enough to charge all my devices each night. It’s light, compact, and gets the job done. I also love that the prongs fold into the chassis for a clean, square profile.
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sports Mesh – I never travel without ExOfficio. Sure, there may be cheaper options out there, and sure, there may be higher quality options, but for the money, the Give-N-Go Sports Mesh underwear offers an excellent balance of price versus quality versus functionality. Easily washable, odor-resistant, and quick-drying – ideal for the minimalist traveler.
Western Rise Evolution Pant – Despite the initial sticker shock of the price, I have to hand it to the folks at Western Rise, they’ve created pants that are not just fantastic for traveling, they’re excellent for life. Built with quality materials, and with an eye to detail, I am confident that my Evolution Pants will be with me for a long time. As I look at my day-to-day wardrobe, I can’t help but wonder how I can scheme my way into replacing my other pants. The cut can be slightly tight, especially around the quads, but I’ve noticed that after several wears, they’ve settled in nicely, and I no longer feel the constriction I once did when I put them on. Lastly, they’re super lightweight and pack down unbelievably small for pants.
Oros Explorer Quarter-Zip – I appreciate what Oros is doing with their line of cold-weather gear, and the Explorer Quarter-Zip does exactly as advertised. It’s lightweight yet warm, form-fitting yet comfortable, and easily packable. The use of SolorCore (Aerogel) as an insulator is inspired. I wish I had more opportunities to use it, but unfortunately, it didn’t get down to freezing often. Nonetheless, for the purpose of One Bag Travel in cold climates, this one is a no-brainer.
Even though it took some planning and lots of forethought, one-bag travel has got me hooked. I am an anxious person by nature, so not having to worry about checking a bag, or taking multiple bags through security, or fighting for overhead space, made traveling significantly more enjoyable. There was a sense of freedom and agility that came with only having one bag to worry about. Also, it’s great only needing to watch after one bag. Lastly, loading and unloading the car was laughably simple. One-bag travel is the way to go.
This article was written by Jovanni Bello. Renaissance man, adventurer and cell phone photographer.
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