Packing Pointers for Lightweights

18 02 2016

oversized-baggage-cartIf you are like me, and you love to travel, you also love things that make traveling easier, right? Well, today, I’m gonna let you in on a few of my favorite packing secrets!

When it comes time to pack for an upcoming trip, I am always ready. I love being organized almost as much as I love being efficient. Yep, I’m that grrrl who invested $349 in the ultra lightweight tent because it only weighed 3 lbs. 7 oz. and I could set it up in less than 2 1/2 minutes. So, when it comes to packing, I’m always thinking about ‘weighs’ to minimize what I have to carry, and reduce the weight (especially when backpacking). (Did you see what I did there?)

One thing that is hard to skimp out on is clothing. If you’re hiking alone in the woods, wearing the same stinky shirt 3 days in a row is fine (unless the bears disagree). However, when I’m traveling to present at a sustainability conference in Croatia or Sao Paulo, I expect to be able to look (and smell) presentable. So, what’s a grrrl to do to look good without carrying 56 pounds of baggage? Pack SMARTER!

 

Nummer Eins (#1) – Layers

1282063_408_mainOkay, so you’re going on a cruise and, although you hope to be spending most of your time in a swimsuit, you also know that there will be some rainshowers and some brisk ocean winds at night. This doesn’t mean you need to pack a parka. Being smart about your layers can allow you to be prepared for the extreme weather without packing your bag to the extreme.

shoppingFind a lightweight, waterproof windbreaker that is big enough to fit over a couple of other layers with room to move comfortably. Better yet, find one that comes with its own stuff sack, so it all but disappears when you don’t need it, and is easy to throw in your daypack- just in case.

Next, forgo that cozy-yet-bulky sweater and go for a super warm undershirt, something like UnderArmour, a very thin, tight fitting underlayer that you can wear under just about any of your favorite shirts. I start sweating if I even look at my UnderArmour, so , thankfully, it also wicks moisture away from your skin!

 

Numero Dos (#2) – Versatility

swim-n-sport-convertible-dress_185162If you have ever watched a late-night infomercial about the new and improved kitchen gadget cuts tomatoes, sharpens itself, disinfects your cutting board, and comes with a GPS tracker, you know that sometimes versatility can get a little weird… but hear me out here. When it comes to clothing- especially women’s clothing- you can easily get creative and make multiple fresh outfits by using one article of clothing in new ways.

For example, there are a number of delightful dresses out there that can also double as a skirt, or a scarf, or a wrap, etc. As long as you don’t pick the one with very distinctive pineapple print, nobody will know that you just got 5 days out of one item! (NOTE: Some of these so-called convertible dresses can be cheaply made, so buyer beware. You don’t want it to convert to a strapless because the straps fell off!)

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Personally, I go for the pants that fold up into capris, and then zip off the legs completely for cute shorts. These are perfect if you plan to visit religious temples where covering up is required to enter, or if you plan to be out all day and know that you will get warm later. Just zip off the pant legs and you can either roll them up with a hair tie and stick them in your purse, or tie them to the back of your pack when on the go.

 

Numéro trois (#3) – Super Underwear

2241-2462_4437_grYour life will never be the same after this one. Imagine only packing TWO PAIRS of underwear for your 4 week trip of a lifetime. Seriously. I’m sure there are lots of brands out there, but I am a diehard advocate of Exofficio. I first learned about them when they were listed on clearance at steepandcheap.com. They claimed to be moisture-wicking, fast-drying, and comfortable. They weren’t much to look at, but I was looking for functionality, not sexuality. So, before my month-long trek through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, I decided to take a risk and bought them online. They were 60% off, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose.

I. LOVE. THEM.

2241-1406_3430_grNow, there are all sorts of cute options too! Want to feel sexy and lacy, while also being able to wash, dry, and put them back on the next morning? Done. I can literally travel the world with just two pairs of underwear now! Every night I simply use soap or shampoo to wash them in the sink, wring them out, and hang them up overnight. By morning, they are fresh and ready to go!

While hiking in Red River Gorge, KY last fall, I totally forgot to wash my undies before falling asleep. So, in the morning, I did the evening routine, with one major change, and was able to wear them again in less than two hours. What’s the trick? After wringing them out, I wrapped them inside my towel, pressing on the bundle so that the towel absorbed most of the leftover moisture. After 2-3 minutes, you then unwrap the undies (which will be just barely damp), then air dry as usual. This has literally saved my arse! I call them my “Super Underwear!”

Now, I know, some grrrls love to stick to all natural fabrics. It’s true that the magic of Super Underwear occurs using a blend of 93% Nylon / 7% Spandex. But have you ever put on soggy cotton undies? Gross. Plus, unless you are buying 100% organic cotton, you are supporting one of the worst industries as far as damaging the environment goes.

Still not sure? Don’t just take my word for it. These were also voted among the top ten ‘Best Gift for Adventurers’ as chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best.

Number Four (#4) – Compression

You know those cheap plastic zippered bags that sets of sheets come in? For years, I saved those, bound and determined to keep them out of the landfill and put them to good use. I store shoes in them, I pack clothing in them. They are a great way to get organized for free! how-to-reuse-stuff-bedding-bagsIf all you are looking for is a way to organize, and not compress, this is a great (free) way to reuse something. Just don’t be sad when the corner of the plastic tears out. No lifetime guarantee on those suckers.

However, after years of trying to find cheaper alternatives, I finally caved and spent the dough on the fancy compression packs that I used to scoff at.

“Thirty bucks for a scrap of tent fabric and a couple of straps? No thanks!”

If you’re an athlete, you’ve heard of compression clothing. Well, travelers should also know how to compress their ordinary clothing for much different reasons.

compression-sacksWhen backpacking, there are compression sacks or bags, which allow you to reduce the volume of your gear in a number of handy designs. I love these, but they are not exactly helpful for keeping you looking wrinkle free. Lightweight, durable, and functional, I am starting to see the value in them. The bags are ideal for stuffing into a pack.

eagle-creek-pack-it-specter-compression-setNow there are compression cubes, which allow you to roll your linens, stuff them, and then compress them. The rectilinear, yet soft design, allows them to maximize space in your suitcase. The volume reduction won’t be as good as with the bags, but it is way easier to simply unzip and pull out the one faoprite shirt you love, instead of pawing through the bag searching for it in the wad of clothing.

Voila! You just saved enough room in your suitcase to be able to bring home a souvenir gong to hang in your living room!

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