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What Is A Dopp Kit? What Travelers Need to Know

June 2, 2019
What is a dopp kit? Tumi Dopp Kit

What is a Dopp kit? Put simply, the term is used to describe a bag used to stash toiletries for travel. The term is usually reserved for men’s toiletry kits. The female counterpart is more likely to be called a cosmetic or makeup bag.

Both male and female travelers seem to recognize the importance of having some way to segregate their toiletries (personal care and/or beauty items such as medications, deodorant, shavers, toothbrush/toothpaste, other grooming accessories, etc.) from their clothing because of the risk of these items spilling, oozing, or soiling—or of these or other small items getting scattered or buried in a suitcase. With increasingly stringent TSA requirements, travelers are often required to pack their toiletries in checked bags.

But what is a Dopp kit?

The term Dopp kit is an eponym. Just like “Kleenex” is often substituted for tissues and “Jacuzzi” for spas or hot tubs, people started using the eponym (or short-hand term) “Dopp kit” to describe male toiletry kits These bags were popularized and the term trademarked by Charles Doppelt, a German leather maker who produced the first “Dopp-Kit toilet case” in Chicago in 1926. It had a flap fastener that opened wide at the top and retailed for $3.25. You can see an old advertisement for one of the original leather kits here.

During World War II, Dopp kits were issued to U.S. soldiers and they soon gained popularity as coming-of-age or special occasion gifts to civilians, too. The trademark was purchased by Samsonite and then acquired by Buxton before the registration was canceled in 2003. (“Ditty bag” is another oft-used term for the kits, especially by fishermen and sailors.)

Dopp kits are still popular gift choices for milestone occasions (e.g., graduations, job promotions) or simply for a “Bon Voyage” gift before a big trip. Yet, these days, many younger people (and especially, those outside the U.S.) tend to be perplexed when they hear the old term, Dopp kit.


How To Buy A Dopp Kit

Because there are so many choices, here are a few considerations to help you decide:

Materials

Although the first Dopp kits were made of leather, they’re now made in a variety of materials including leather, plastic, ballistic nylon, canvas and more. For environmentally conscious travelers, some are made of recycled materials.

This Chebeague Toiletry Bag by Sea Bags of Maine is made of recycled sails.

This Chebeague Toiletry Bag by Sea Bags of Maine is made of recycled sails.

Leather offers a lux look and many are coated to protect them from scratches and moisture. It’s important to remember that travelers tend to place these kits on bathroom sinks and counters that can be wet.

What is a Dopp Kit? The Komalc Leather Travel Dopp Kit, an Amazon favorite

KomalC Leather Travel Dopp Kit, an Amazon favorite

With 963 reviews, this KomalC Leather Travel Dopp Kit is one of the most popular ones on Amazon. Buyers loved the quality of the leather and the roominess of its one large, undivided interior pocket.

Ballistic nylon often turns out to be one of the most rip-proof and durable fabrics; it’s also easy to clean and generally lighter than leather. Canvas and plastic kits may not last as long but they’re also not as expensive.

Also, be sure to look at the material inside and make sure it’s resistant to spills and stains.

Shape and size

Most Dopp kits are rectangular in shape but there are many variations on the theme. Some have a “low profile” meaning they aren’t very deep and don’t take up as much room in a suitcase. Others are larger and boxier but allow for more storage. Choose a shape and size that will fit your needs.

Number of zippered and/or pocket compartments

Check out the size and number of compartments. Many travelers like separate compartments to help organize their belongings. Some compartments are zippered; others not. (Also, look at the quality of the stitching and zippers.)

Sometimes, mesh pockets and/or elastic bands are stitched into the kit to hold objects in place. Having see-thru compartments makes it easier to know what’s inside.

While some people prefer pockets, Amazon reviewers raved about the single pocket on the Kolmac

While some people prefer pockets, Amazon reviewers raved about the single pocket on the KolmaC

Hangers and handles

Kits with a hanger offer the possibility of placing the kit on a hook or towel bar so it’s out of your way, especially in small bathrooms with no counter space or when you’re traveling with a partner. Having a small side loop or handle can be another “handy” feature.

What is a Dopp Kit? An AmazonBasics hanging toiletry kit

An AmazonBasics hanging toiletry kit

Weight

Given luggage weight restrictions, it isn’t prudent to choose a heavy Dopp kit. If it’s heavy when empty, it’s going to be a lot heavier when filled with your sundries. I would opt for a Dopp kit that weighs less than a pound unfilled.

Appearance and design

Some more costly Dopp kits come in posh leathers with designer logos or labels. They may offer monogrammed nameplates and come in a choice of colors. While they serve the same basic function, these kits offer a “feel-good factor” for those who can afford them.Retailing at over $300, the Ghurka Barber No. 287 Toiletry Bag is a high-end designer Dopp kit

Retailing at over $300, the Ghurka Barber No. 287 Toiletry Bag is a high-end designer Dopp kit

A Tom Ford dopp kit that retails for over $1500

A Tom Ford dopp kit that retails for over $1500

Finding the perfect fit

Many years ago, my husband invested in a ballistic nylon Dopp kit made by Hartmann. It’s no longer available but it has stood the test of time and use. He’s carried it all over the world and always remarks how much he loves it. It has a split design that opens in the middle with two zippered compartments on each size.

The bottom line: Choose a Dopp kit that you love and it will become a regular travel companion.


See my article on Forbes on The Best Travel Dopp Kits.


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What is a Dopp Kit?

  • Reply
    Carol Colborn
    June 3, 2019 at 10:02 am

    My husband introduced me to his buddy leather Dopp kit when we married in 2008 and started traveling together. He has recently parted ways with it. With restrictions in luggage, he allows me to pack all our toiletries together in 2 large zip lock bags of travel-size stuff.

  • Reply
    Kemkem
    June 3, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    I’d never heard that term before. Good to know. I use a combination of Dopp kits and yep! Biploc. I like the weathered brown leather kit.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    June 4, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    I did need to have Dopp Kit defined for me. Thanks! I currently use one of the hanging styles, but I really like the way the KomalC Leather Travel Dopp Kit looks–it would make a great gift.

  • Reply
    Jeff & Crystal
    June 4, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    While I had never heard that name for them, I have used a toiletry satchel for years. Now that I know it is a Dopp Kit, I will be sure to use the phrase.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 4, 2019 at 6:45 pm

      Toiletry “satchel” sounds a little British? Do you think?

  • Reply
    Lori
    June 5, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Interesting history on something we use nearly every day — and now I know what to call it. How fun to see the original ad, and the Amazon leather looks similar but I love the single zippered flap.

  • Reply
    Judy Freedman
    June 5, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    My boyfriend L uses a dopp kit when he travels. I like some of the ones you featured. Maybe I should get a new one for him as his is really old.

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    June 5, 2019 at 8:58 pm

    Ha! Never heard the term Dopp kit before. Thanks for the education. The hubby is definitely in the market for a new one, so I’ll make sure he sees the post and gets motivated to get shopping.

  • Reply
    Mark Spivak
    June 6, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Hopefully someone can answer this. Years ago I remember seeing a toiletry holder that was flat, plastic, and could be hung in a garment bag. It had the advantage of keeping everything spread out (as opposed to the Dopp kit, which can be awkward to fit in a garment bag and is easily crushed). This gadget was designed for women’s cosmetic, but I’d use it if I could find it.
    Thanks!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 6, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      My humble suggestion: Check out the hanging toiletry kits in the cosmetics section of TJ Maxx. You might find one that suits your needs.

  • Reply
    Mark Spivak
    June 6, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you. Never been to a TJ Maxx, so this will be a new experience.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 6, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      OH MY GOSH! One of my favorite places ever….but you have to be a bargain-hunting kind of person:-)

  • Reply
    Mark Spivak
    June 6, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    You also have to be willing to go to the mall, so it might take a while—but I’ll get there.

  • Reply
    Mark Spivak
    June 6, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Jackie K Smith
    June 6, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    A whole new word and world opened with this post. . .we use Ziplock bags these days and have stashes of such containers tucked away in drawers (most of which we’ve been handed by the airline when in Business Class – and there they are unisex packs). Most interesting article, Irene!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 7, 2019 at 8:06 am

      Everyone seems to have a different go-to favorite and toiletry stash style:-)

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    June 8, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    I just love this story Irene. I had no idea of the history of the dopp kit. I know my Dad had one just like the one in the ad you shared. Nice bit of nostalgia that’s for sure.

  • Reply
    Valerie Delzer
    June 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Dopp Kits for Men, Cosmetic Bags for Women, or gender-neutral ziplocs for anybody. The choice is personal and varied and I don’t think gender plays as a big a role in it anymore. Do you?

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