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The Packing Problem

Posted by on August 14, 2012

I absolutely love traveling, and I love packing. Together, Varun and I have traveled to India and North Africa, and many cities around North America. Nothing is as thrilling as buying plane tickets and ditching town. Except packing. Packing used to be a lot of fun when I was a kid. I would carefully write a packing list, fold clothes neatly and somehow survive the trip, clothed and warm.

But here’s where it breaks down. Adult Amelia is way less easygoing. I just can’t seem to pack through all of the What If’s. I should pack a rain coat. But what if it’s cold? Do I want a rain coat and a sweater? Or a rain coat that has a fleece lining? But that would be too hot for hiking. Should I bring two raincoats, one light and one heavy?

Add to that that there’s hiking and fine dining involved, sight seeing and sports, cold nights and warmer days. What on earth am I supposed to pack?

Am I over-thinking this? Seriously. I just can’t get past the possible scenarios. I look at my bag and look at my closet, and wonder how to choose. Should I go the simplistic route and just pack lots of mix and match? Should I go for the cute look? Comfy? Sporty? Functional? Sometimes, I just think my estrogen is in overdrive. And then I talk to Varun and realize that yes, yes it is.

Varun: So how long are we going for?

Me: Um, I guess 9 days total.

Varun: Oh great. That will be easy to pack for.

Me: ??!???

Varun: Well you just take everything, right? Just dump in all of your shorts and shirts and underwear and you’re done.

Right. Why didn’t I think of that…

So, I’m curious. Any packing tips? How do you avoid multiples and packing for too many what-ifs? Any travel essentials or tricks you want to share?

3 Responses to The Packing Problem

  1. Jinny

    I’ve always figured that if you’re unsure if you should bring something cause you don’t know if you’ll need it, just don’t pack it, cause you can probably buy it somewhere if you’re in a bind. 🙂

  2. Ryan Miller

    Well, I can only speak from a guy’s perspective, but I am a guy who travels a lot (current trip=week in London, week in Belgium, week in Cusco, Peru) and refuses to check luggage lest it be lost or delay a connection. And on this particular trip I’m attending two semi-formal academic events of three days each and hiking the Inca Trail, so…

    Anyway, my main strategy is to pick dual-use items. Examples:
    1. REI button-downs. Not formal enough for conference wear, but they wick and dry as well or better than t-shirts, while still being nice enough for dinner most places.
    2. Nike running shorts. Can be used for athletics, obviously, but also have cargo pockets for hiking/touring, mesh inners so they work as bathing suits, and thin enough to wear as boxers. Plus of course they dry very quickly, so easy to wash.
    3. Grey polypropylene socks. Sold as an inner-layer for hiking, but as they’re thin and grey they pass as dress socks, too. Dry instantly.
    4. Merrill waterproof crossover sneakers. Super-comfortable for general traveling, gortex so your feet don’t get soggy in puddles, enough support for light hiking, and grey color is innocuous enough to get into most restaurants, if not exactly formal.

    And a few other tricks besides:
    1. Long underwear tops/bottoms aren’t as convenient as jackets, but they’re a real lifesaver if it’s cold and take almost no space/weight. Same for a synthetic hat.
    2. Real gortex raincoat. Joins the Merrills as the expensive items on this list, but worth every penny. Absolutely dry, absolutely windproof, but uninsulated and lets water out, so you don’t sweat. True windproofing and a long-underwear shirt will do right down to freezing.
    3. Ties instead of jackets. Yes, jacket with no tie is all the rage, but tie-with-no-jacket is almost as formal at a tiny, tiny fraction of the space and weight.
    4. REI Flash-65 backpack. Set up like a proper-hiking pack, so you can carry it all day without strain (frame a must!), and just at the maximum size for carry-on luggage.
    5. REI and target expand-a-bag/bag-in-a-pocket. Need to buy groceries or souvenirs? Gives a little extra space to get them back.
    6. Victorinox’ insanely comfortable small messenger bag. Enough space to pack for a minimalist overnighter, goes under the seat with my valuables (computer, etc) when I’m on the plane, comfortable day-bag when touring, small enough that art museums allow it in and it can slip into the backpack if I don’t want to carry it separately. Doubles as my shipping-wine-home container since I don’t want to check the backpack with stuff I don’t want lost.

  3. Team Oyeniyi

    I travel light, except when I carted a wedding dress half-way around the world.

    6 pairs of knickers, 1 pair dress shoes, 1 pair runners, 1 pair jeans, track suit, good dress, good trousers, 6 tops, socks, jacket/coat. Other items as applicable – eg bathers to Florida, but not Tasmania in winter!

    What-ifs? Buy if necessary.

Thoughts? I love hearing from you!