Get Your Pack On

I am writing this from Johannesburg, South Africa, where I am on tour with Dave Matthews Band. I always struggle with determining what to bring overseas. Paying attention to what you need and not overpacking is essential. For example, I would love to be able to take my digital SLR camera, but with all the horns I need, extra reeds, gig clothes, regular clothes and miscellaneous stuff, there is no room. So I take a smaller camera that I can put in a coat pocket. Making sacrifices and trimming down to the necessary gear is imperative and makes for a much easier journey.

List Needs vs. Wants.

I always have a packing list that outlines my needs as well as some of my wants. I include essential things like gig shoes, gig clothes, AC adapters, my horns, reeds, business cards, laundry bag and computer, etc. I find it helps take the guesswork out of packing if I see an overview of what I’m taking. I have lists for overseas as well as domestic travel. Change it as needed and stay flexible.


Don’t take lots of little bags; rather, consolidate your stuff. You’re bound to forget something if you have too many things to remember to pack and repack. Leave room to bring home souvenirs from your journey … maybe some new music or some cool gifts. Basically, don’t stuff your bag full before you go. Bringing back memories is something we all like to do.

Watch the Weight.

Weight is an issue, too, when traveling. Airline rules keep changing, and it has become quite a hassle to stay on top of things. Keep the weight you are carrying to a minimum. Overseas, you will find that certain airlines even restrict the weight of your carry-on bags!

In general, remember that you will be carrying your own gear. After a few days on the road, the little things like extra bags, too much stuff and too much weight will likely be a drag on you physically and emotionally.

Happy travels, and don’t forget your cell phone charger!

About author

Jeff Coffin

Jeff Coffin is a three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist, composer, educator, and author. He has been a band member of Dave Matthews Band since 2008.  Jeff also teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Jeff has published “The Saxophone Book,” co-wrote “The Articulate Jazz Musician” with Caleb Chapman, and released “The Road Book” in late 2019. Jeff is a Yamaha and D’Addario Performing Artist and Clinician.  Visit and for more information.

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