One bag, many names.
There are more words for the portable toilet kit than any other piece of luggage out there.
Dopp kit, toilet kit, toilet bag, hygiene kit, soap bag, shower bag, toiletry bag, and that’s just the start of the list.
Probably the coolest and most masculine-sounding name is the old-fashioned phrase “Dopp kit,” which conjures images of the G.I.s who were issued them in World War II.
At that time the name was still a trademark , named after the German immigrant Charles Doppel who started selling them in 1919.
Since then it’s become a generic term for any rectangular, top-opening toilet kit, but especially ones made from tough cloth or leather rather than transparent plastic.
What Is It?
A classic Dopp kit is instantly recognizable in shape, size, and function:
- roughly rectangular, with two square ends connected by longer sides
- large, single interior pocket (sometimes with small compartments for pieces of gear)
- zippered lengthwise across the top
- about the size of a football — between 8″-12″ long, with the square ends about half as wide
- waterproof or water resistant interior for easy cleaning
Stiffness of the sides vary, so some Dopp kits are rigidly rectangular while others have a softer, more squishable shape.
The goal is universal: to give you a flexible, protected compartment a little bigger than a loaf of bread in which you can store all your toiletries on the go.
Why You Should Own One
The classic single-compartment style of Dopp kit still has a number of advantages over more elaborate shower bags:
1. Simplicity. You take your toiletries and you throw them in there. If you’re worried about your soap rubbing on other things or your toothbrush tasting funny, you stick them in a baggie or a little plastic case, and then you throw them in the Dopp kit. Everything goes in there and stays in there until you need it, no further organization required.
2. Durability. Number one leads to number two — there’s no straps, pockets, buckles, or other fiddly bits to snap off or not-quite-fit. As long as the material and seams are of high quality, your Dopp kit should last forever.
3. Portability. Full, a Dopp kit takes up (as mentioned) about the same space as a loaf of bread. The sides have enough give that you can wedge it into tight corners, too. Empty, it can be folded up into almost nothing. You could carry it in your pocket if you had to, though it’d make a bit of a lump.
And then there’s style. It’s hard to beat a classic leather, canvas, or ballistic nylon Dopp kit. It looks like something you could go to war with, probably because thousands of American men already have.
The Gold Standard: What Makes a Good Dopp Kit?
The best Dopp kits are rugged, simple, and portable.
If you take a look at the photo (or click through to the Blue Claw Co website) you’ll see the basic features that make a good toilet kit:
- tough outer material (heavy-duty ballistic nylon)
- waterproof interior
- portable size with a single roomy pocket (the whole thing measures 4″ x 4″ x 9.5″)
- simple, tasteful style
Basically, it’s a bag you can throw all your little bathroom necessities into and then chuck in a suitcase or carry-on bag and bang around as much as you need. And when you pull it out it’s still going to look good, and all your stuff is still going to be there.
It’s also made in the USA, always a plus for responsible American shoppers, and the leather squares at the end make a firm rectangular shape that gives it more character than the softer, somewhat shapeless shower bags you get in a lot of department stores.
There’s a lot of brands out there making shower kits – Samsonite, for example, owns the actual Dopp brand, nowadays, and does still make shaving kits in a similar style.
However you make your buying decision remember you are looking for a bag that will last as long as you need it and do its job of housing your toiletries from day one.
The bag featured here is the Bay Head Bathroom Bag – this is the Dopp kit I own and use.