As you know, I have always dubbed myself the Carry-on Queen and I love helping people convert to carry on travel. Well, thanks to Twitter, I have found my travel soul-mate. A traveler after my own heart. Well, she is alot more adventurous a traveler than I am, but we are totally in sync with traveling light!
I definitely have an issue about checking luggage. The disadvantages (you’re often delayed at the airport waiting for your bags; luggage can miss the flight and sometimes disappear into a black hole; your bags or their contents may be damaged or missing) far outweigh the advantages: convenience. So I never check luggage, even when I travel for five or more weeks. Here are some of my favorite packing tips that can make your traveling life more compact and convenient:
1. I don’t like wheeled luggage because I prefer to walk very briskly and I find that pulling even a small bag breaks my stride while giving me a backache. And the wheels add to the weight of the bag when I have to lift it. Instead I travel with a small backpack and a fanny pack that I sling over my shoulder.
The latter doubles as my purse and as my mini-pack when doing day hikes/bike treks. It also has pouches for a water bottle. My backpack (an old Mountainsmith) has padded straps and a hip belt, compression straps to cinch the load, and at least one additional zippered compartment for smaller items. I’m not going to recommend a specific pack — though I love Mountainsmith — because choosing a backpack is a very individual experience and should be fitted in the store.
2. Rather than rolling my clothes, I now work with my adaptation of the bundle method, a method that is difficult to explain but easy to practice after visiting this web site.
Basically you lay out whatever is your longest piece of clothing (pants, long skirt) and then place another long piece of clothing atop in the opposite direction, and then smaller pieces (shirts, shorts) and so forth. Once they’re all laid in this pattern, you place what’s referred to as a core item in the middle.
This can be a small pouch or sac with a scarf, bathing suit, underwear, buff and socks. I use Eagle Creek’s sacs, which come in a variety of sizes and are very sturdy. Then you fold all your garments over this, one after the other. Once you have this compact bundle, you lift it as a unit and can place it into your backpack. The bundle takes up a lot less room that if you rolled all these clothes.
3. Almost all of the clothes I pack are made of wickable fabrics, which mean that they don’t absorb moisture easily so you stay dry as you’re racing about town, but they also dry relatively quickly when you wash them. I hand wash my wickable underwear, pants, shorts and shirt and they dry in no time.
I particularly love the shirts, pants and underwear manufactured by Ex Officio. They have a great life expectancy, are comfortable, perform well and look good. Most wickable fabrics are synthetics, like nylon and polyester. But two companies I also love have very wickable merino wool tops that I always travel with: a mid-weight crewneck base layer by SmartWool and hoodie by Ice Breaker. These two tops together provide great warmth when it’s cold or separately they can be worn with a skirt or pants during the day or, dressed up with a scarf, at night.
4. I always carry a first aid kit that includes these necessities: Ibuprofen, adhesive bandages (in different sizes), tape, topical antibiotic ointment, topical cortisone or antihistamine cream, oral antihistamine, oral/nasal decongestant, Pepto-Bismol, Imodium AD, antacids, tweezers, scissors, thermometer and a DEET insect repellent (I like Sawyer Controlled Release Insect Repellent ). You can also include a temporary filling product in case you lose a dental filling (But this is only to try to get you by until you find a dentist.)
5. Since something will usually break on my trip I carry four items to help repair almost anything: a long string of safety pins (of all sizes), dental floss — one year in Iceland I used dental floss to keep my hiking boot sole from falling off — a Krazy Glue-type product and duct tape. (I don’t bring the roll but rather wrap really long sections around a pen and carry that in my fanny pack.
6. If I need a beach-type towel on a trip, as I did recently, I tote along a super absorbent product that’s also ultra small, compared to the traditional version. You’ll find you’re your friends will be amazed that you’re your bath towel fits in your pocket.
7. As long as I’m not traveling to a cold locale, I only bring two pairs of shoes with me. The one I wear on the plane is a sport sandal such as the Newport model manufactured by Keen. I’ve worn this shoe on kayak, day hike and urban walking trips. I’ve even climbed volcanoes wearing this shoe. The only shoe I pack is a flat Mary Jane-type shoe that actually rolls up in my luggage and looks good with a skirt or pants at night.
8. Instead of a traditional hat or cap, I pack a multi-purpose buff. Some even come with a visor. Even the simple buff can be used a bandana, hat, neck gator, headband, hair band, and more.
9. A black leotard can be worn with a skirt or pants but also doubles as a health club workout outfit with shorts. Then again, pack a simple one-piece black bathing suit or even a tankini and it can serve the same functions.
10. Instead of packing a pair of pants and shorts, buy a pair of convertibles where you can simply zip off the legs. I wear the Mountain Hardware product, which looks good whether I’m wearing it in the pants or shorts mode. Then, again, you can choose a versatile convertible that also has buttons so that it can become capris. You may want to also look for brand that has lots of zippered pockets to keep valuables whether you’re walking in a city or on a trail.
Jeanine Barone is a travel, food, design and architecture writer whose articles appear in magazines from National Geographic Traveler to Travel + Leisure. You can find more of her travel tips in her new ebook, The Travel Authority’s Essential Tips for Hassel Free Travel.