The Easy Approach to Packing a Suit in Your Backpack

Knackpackers love using their Knacks for both work and personal travel and are passionate about traveling with just one bag. But when their trips require a suit, whether for an important client meeting or a friend’s wedding, we get a lot of questions around whether it’s possible to pack a suit in their favorite backpack.

The answer is a resounding yes! Although suits are bulky and are traditionally carried in long and awkward garment bags (which are really a pain to carry around airports), we’ve come up with some helpful tips for safely packing your suit in a backpack.

Not only is it far more convenient to travel with your suit in a backpack, but if you follow our tips, it will come out on the other side still looking sharp.


the best backpack for packing a suit

Quick tips for packing your suit in a backpack:

  1. Select a large backpack that opens like a suitcase.

  2. Minimize wrinkles by laying material between your suit coat and pants and using wrinkle-release spray.

  3. Fold, don’t roll, your suit.

  4. Pack your suit coat and suit pants separately (see detail below).

  5. Pack your suit last. Leverage packing cubes and shoe bags to optimize bag space.

Keep in mind that your suit will get some wrinkles when it is packed into any bag. So we’re also going to share some quick fixes for removing wrinkles when you’re on the road and don’t have access to an iron or steamer.


The Easy Approach to Packing a Suit in Your Backpack

Choose the right backpack to carry a suit

You can’t pack a suit into just any backpack. The best backpack for carrying a suit should be able to open like a suitcase. If your backpack only opens at the top, you’ll have to either roll your suit (a big no-no) or try to lay your neatly folded suit in the backpack without it folding in on itself (easier said than done).

With a Knack Pack, you can open the expandable suitcase compartment and easily lay your folded suit flat. Because of this feature, carrying your suit in your backpack isn’t much different than carrying your suit in a traditional wheeled suitcase.

Additionally, you need to ensure that your backpack is large enough to hold your suit without too much folding. Ideally, the height of your backpack should be greater than the width of your suit coat measured from across the suit coat’s shoulders. A typical size 42 Regular suit coat measures 19” across the shoulders so you want a backpack that is at least 19” high - like all Medium and Large Knack Packs.


expandable backpack for travel

Create fabric movement between the folds

Obviously, minimizing wrinkles and creases in your packed suit is a priority, and the key to doing this is to enable slight movement between any folds of fabric. This movement will help keep the fabric from creasing and, when you get to your destination, the wrinkles will release easier.

Here are some tips for creating fabric movement:

  • Use non-colored tissue paper - If you have access to white tissue paper, place it between every fold in your suit.

  • Use a dry-cleaner bag - Plastic dry cleaner bags do a fantastic job of minimizing wrinkles and, after you’ve finished using them for travel, you can keep them out of landfills by re-using them as covers for your suit while it hangs in your closet.

  • Turn your suit coat inside out - If you don’t have tissue paper or a plastic dry cleaner bag, turn your suit coat inside out before you fold it. First, pop both shoulders inside out (the arms will now be on the inside of the coat and not the outside like normal). Then, fold the suit coat in half so that both lapels touch. Most suits have a silk-like lining fabric that can play the part of the tissue paper or dry cleaning bag in a pinch.

  • Don't overpack - Compressing your suit creates wrinkles. If you are having trouble closing the zipper of your bag, you’ve packed too much and you’re going to have a wrinkled suit when you arrive at your destination.

Fold, don’t roll, your suit

If you love wrinkles, go ahead and roll your suit. For the rest of us, folding your suit is the way to go. While folding may leave a few creases, they will be much more manageable than all the wrinkles that rolling will create.


Pack your suit coat and pants separately

The best way to minimize wrinkles is to put your suit coat and your pants in separate dry cleaner bags. To pack your suit coat, lay it on a flat surface, slip a dry cleaner bag over it and arrange the arms straight down the front of the coat, ideally with tissue paper between the layers of fabric. Then fold the suit coat in thirds, from the bottom up, and place it in your backpack. Next, lay your pants on a flat surface and slip a dry cleaner bag over them. Then fold the right side over the left side, so that the legs lie on top of each other. Finally, depending on their length, fold them either in half or thirds and pop them into your backpack.

Pack your suit last

Avoid putting your other clothes on top of your suit, as this creates more compression and more creases and wrinkles. If you’re bringing other, less formal clothing with you, don’t be afraid to roll them up to save space. Make a ‘floor’ out of your rolled clothes in your backpack, and lay the folded suit coat and pants on top of this floor.

 

Pack your dress shoes at the bottom of your backpack

Dress shoes will most likely be the heaviest thing that you pack so place them in the bottom of the bag for a more comfortable carry. Lay one on top of the other with the top of the toe of one shoe laying on the top of the open throat of the other shoe. Together with your rollable clothes, make your  ‘floor’ and lay your folded suit on top. To protect your suit from your shoes, and to keep your shoes from scuffing each other, use a Knack Shoe Bag.

shoe bags for traveling with dress shoes

Pro tips for packing a suit in a backpack

We’ve covered the basics of traveling with a suit in your backpack, but here are some tips for making the process a little easier, and a whole lot more organized.

  • Put your suit in a Knack Packing Insert. Our Packing Insert fits perfectly into the expandable travel compartment of Medium and Large Knack Packs. It will make sure that your suit stays in place while you’re traveling. And if saving space is more of a priority than avoiding wrinkles, you can use the Packing Insert to compress your suit
  • Keep your ties, underwear, and socks inside Knack Packing Cubes. Packing Cubes, like the Packing Insert, can compress by up to 70% to save space, but they’re also great for keeping little things organized. Made from ripstop nylon and a mesh top, you can see what’s inside. Lots of Knackpackers use one Packing Cube for socks and underwear, and another to store toiletries.
  • Pack your shoes with Knack compressible Shoe BagsIt’s important to complete the look of your suit with the right pair of shoes, but we all know that dress shoes are a huge hassle to pack. Relax! Knack compressible Shoe Bags are specifically designed to pack your shoes efficiently while keeping them separate from the rest of your clothes so everything stays clean.

pack a suit in a knack pack

New to Packing Cubes? Check out our tutorial on how to best use Packing Cubes in your backpack.

How to minimize and fix wrinkles in your suit when traveling

Fighting wrinkles on the road is inevitable. That said, here are a few of our favorite approaches to keeping your suit looking fresh in the easiest way possible:

  • As we said earlier, the top tip is to place your suit coat and pants into separate dry cleaner bags and place white tissue paper between any folds. This method allows the suit’s fabric to move slightly during your travels to minimize crease lines.
  • Immediately unpack your suit when you get to your destination and hang it up. Hang your suit coat separately from your suit pants and ideally hang your suit pants upside down from the bottom of the legs to remove wrinkles faster than folding them over a hanger at the knees.
  • If you don’t have an iron in your hotel room, hang your suit coat and suit pants separately in the bathroom while you take a long, hot shower. The steam will help release the wrinkles.
  • Carry a small bottle of wrinkle-release spray, like this one, which also helps to remove static.

 

Why should you pack a suit in a backpack?

All of the benefits of one bag travel apply to traveling with a suit in your backpack. By not checking a bag, you can get in and out of the airport faster, without worrying about lost luggage. Nobody wants to lose a suit right before an important formal event, and having this important piece of clothing with you on the plane will give you peace of mind.

 

how to pack a suit in a backpack

The best backpack for carrying a suit

While many decisions can go into selecting the right size of backpack for travel, if you’re looking for a great backpack to carry a suit, we recommend a Large Series 1 or Series 2 Knack Pack. Both of these bags have a whopping 46 Liters of carry space -16 of which are the expandable suitcase compartment - giving you plenty of room to carry a suit, dress shoes, accessories, and everything else that you need for your trip.