How to Never Carry a Bag in the Winter: An Aggressive Pocket Experiment

Haley with pockets

I’m always carrying an offensive number of bags. Two strung on each shoulder, one slung across my chest, another cutting off circulation to my fingers—I’m like a walking coat rack but make it diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease. And why? For what! I’d like to blame New York (the need for a surplus of totes was the second thing I learned when I moved here), but I suspect the problem is me. I’m not planning properly, or I’m planning too much, and my boyfriend, whom I ask to mercifully rip out my lower back muscles at least once per day, is paying the emotional toll.

Last spring I started documenting my strap-laden getups on Instagram. “Am I carrying enough bags?” I asked in each caption. In return, people started sending me their own bag photos with the same question, and as has become tradition, our answers to each other are always “no.” It’s never enough bags. Never! But if I’m being honest, it is enough. It’s always enough. And if we’d like to retain the ability to look up into the sky as retired old ladies, it’s far more than enough.

So it is with joy in my heart muscle and caffeine in my unblocked veins that I tell you there’s another way. Because we are three months into fall and 11 days away from winter and that means we are wrist-if-not-elbow deep in pocket season. Big pocket season. A little layering and market strategy and our days of never having a free hand can be behind us. Winter comes with all kinds of inconveniences, but this isn’t one of them. Below, for your sake and for mine, I’ve proven the lengths one can go to forgo a bag entirely when it’s cold out. A scientific celebration of the unsung upside of winter.

Bagless Winter Day #1: Keep It Lite™

Items carried: keys, phone, wallet, tinted lip balm, headphones

I decided to start off with what we in the tampon biz call a lite day. All I’m carrying are the essentials—entry to my home, access to the internet, formal identification, something for my dry lips, and the ability to block out the sounds of my location and species. Still, there are days when I’d consider this enough to warrant a bag, which is why this is an important exercise. Here I’m not employing any trickery: I’m just wearing a standard winter coat with two front pockets. I also layered a cardigan with a small pocket underneath, but I could have just used the storage available in my pants.

-Before buying a winter coat, make sure the pockets are roomy, secure, and easily accessible.
-Favor cardigans with pockets over those without.
-Call your mom.

Bagless Winter Day #2: No, You Still Don’t Need a Bag

Items carried: keys, phone, wallet, tinted lip balm, headphones, book, sunglasses, gloves

With the addition of a book, some spare glasses, and a pair of gloves, this is a more typical winter haul for me. The book is key—to me it’s often the straw that breaks the camel’s bagless attempt (I’m the camel). But accommodating this load wasn’t actually challenging at all. I favored a reversible jacket, i.e. one that has outside and inside pockets, and layered it over a denim jacket that’s famous in my closet for having lots of storage (a quality of many denim coats, actually). This getup felt great. Literally bury me in outerwear with a pocket that fits a book; there is nothing better.

-Double pockets are an underrated feature of reversible jackets. If you have one, make use of both sides!
-Look for a denim jacket with inside pockets—they’re super common and will work for you in the summer as well.
-Layer these over each other and revel in your compartmental genius.

Bagless Winter Day #3: Roving Bodega

Items carried: keys, phone, wallet, tinted lip balm, headphones, book, sunglasses, gloves, iPad, phone charger, hand lotion, reusable bag, nail polish, non-tinted lip balm

Maybe so far you’ve been rolling your eyes—you forgo a bag all the time! What’s the big deal! To which I ask: Have you ever carried so much stuff you had to name one pocket your “beauty vertical”? My final frontier in this experiment involved such a gaggle of items I kept forgetting where things were. You can call that an occupational hazard of being an expert in the field, but it’s worth the freedom. To accommodate this many items I had to “shop for the pocket”—i.e. choose garments for the specific (gigantic) size of their pockets. This cargo jumpsuit and puffer coat had such big ones (and little, clever ones) I wanted to shake the hands of their designers. In the end, storing this stuff was a winter’s breeze.

-If you’re a freak for a hands-free lifestyle, shop specifically for cold-weather garments with huge pockets.
-To make extra room for things, consider a smartphone necklace (no spoilers but I do plan to debut this one as my winter necklace…).
-Wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming in these pockets.

Are you convinced? What bagless hacks are up your voluminous sleeve? I’m ready to be impressed.

Photos by Franey Miller.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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