The Toiletry Bag - 'Dopp Kit' or 'Wash Bag'

The History of The Dopp Kit or Wash Bag

What are they and why do we use them?

A wash bag is an essential component of luggage. When you are travelling you need to be able to access items that you use in the bathroom with ease.

These items need to be in one place and they need to be stored in a receptacle where, if they leak, they will not damage items of clothing. A wash bag enables you to store bathroom items separately and securely and to pack and unpack a small bag rather than your entire bag or suitcase. You can checkout our extensive range of wash bags here

The Dopp-Kit, origins and history

A wash bag is an item designed for regular travel. In the past people travelled much less frequently and most people didn’t travel at all. Travel was the preserve of the rich and consequently when they travelled they did so with huge quantities of luggage, usually in the form of trunks, which would be carried by porters.

The History of the Wash Bag

The wash bag is a child of the democratisation of travel and the late twentieth century practice of multiple travel destinations and one- night stop-overs. Charles Doppelt was a leather craftsman and German immigrant who moved to Chicago in the early 1900’s. He seems to be one of the first designers of luggage ware to recognise the need for a specific receptacle for bathroom items. His company patented his design for the Dopp- Kit in 1928 and in America the name quickly became synonymous with wash-bag. For an American audience the term ‘toilet bag’ was unacceptably vulgar and thus Dopp-Kit became the preferred usage.

The original Dopp -Kit was an outstanding innovative design and was promoted with the following recommendation: ‘Holds all necessary toilet articles and accessories. Opens wide, stays open for easy use. Closes snug and flat, taking up little space in your luggage’. The Dopp-kit combined two essential design features, easy access and compact when closed. It also featured a waterproof lining.

The Dopp-Kit was an item marketed for men, for in early Twentieth Century America, with the rise of the travelling business man it was men who were the independent travellers, women, when they did travel, would do so for the purpose of a long stay, not serial destinations with one-night stop-overs.

The Dopp-kit became a popular rite of passage gift, given to boys to mark their entry into manhood. During the Second World War, GI’s were issued with Dopp-kits and the phrase became ubiquitous. The Doppelt company was purchased by Samsonite in the early seventies.

What to put in a wash bag?

The History of the Wash Bag

Initially, wash-bags, or Dopp-kits were intended to cater for men’s grooming needs: the razor, shaving cream, brushes and combs necessary to maintain a beard or moustache. Now that facial hair is back in fashion for men, grooming tools are likely to have a place in the contemporary wash bag. In addition, the bag is likely to contain, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and shaving balm. Women are likely to use a wash bag to carry sanitary products alongside other bathroom necessities.

Types and terminology

Scrubba Wash Bag

If you buy this product expecting to be able to store your toiletry requirements, then you will be disappointed. The ‘Scrubba Wash Bag’ is designed to enable ‘backpack’ travellers to wash clothing while they are camping. The bag features and internal wash board and its makers claim that three minutes of washing a garment in the bag will achieve the same results as a washing machine.

Mesh Wash Bag

Some wash bags are made from mesh, enabling you to see at a glance what the bag contains. The disadvantage of using such material is that if any products leak, the liquid will drain through the mesh. The term ‘Mesh Wash Bag’ might also refer to a laundry bag, a mesh bag in which delicate items can be placed to protect them from damage in the washing machine.

Laundry Wash Bag

A laundry wash bag is not a bag for transporting toiletries; it is a bag in which delicate items can be placed, prior to washing in a washing machine.

Hanging Wash Bag

Hanging Washbag

A hanging wash bag has a hook at the top and is designed so that is can be suspended to display all the toiletry products, which are stored vertically in pouches. The bags are usually constructed from pliable, waterproof material which enables them to be rolled. These bags are compact to store and offer ease of access when suspended, consequently they are popular with backpackers and campers.

Roll up wash-bag

A space saving design, the roll up bag, made from flexible, water-proof material, can only accommodate small items. A large item, such as a brush, would prevent the bag from being rolled.

Women’s Wash bags

Now that women are independent travellers, the wash bag is no longer an exclusively masculine accessory. Many wash bags on the market are gender neutral but there are also many bags marketed specifically for women, including designer label products.

Wash bag vs Makeup bag

It’s perfectly possible to use a wash bag as a makeup bag but most women don’t because the contents of a makeup bag are far more valuable than that of a toiletry bag and consequently they are usually stored in a purpose designed bag. Many makeup bags will have a hard-shell case in order to protect the valuable contents, they will also feature compartments specifically designed to accommodate, make up palettes, brushes and other beauty products.

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