Packing for travel

As a prolific list maker, preparing for travel is no exception.  Organising my packing, particularly when flying is a part of the planning process which I cannot deny I enjoy.

Laminated checklists, coloured highlighters, tick boxes, notepad entries, and Evernote templates have all found a place in the process.  Packing Cubes, Ziploc bags, stuff sacks and organisers pouches all come into play when it comes to putting it all together.
Over the years, I have refined some of this, and can now pack efficiently and compactly for travel,  with a weeks worth of clothing in a carry on sized bag.
Additional requirements for boots, technical kit, or gear for an extended trip mean that my 70L Mountain Equipment duffel bag gets brought out.  With a capacity that swallows gear, I have found that for a village to village trek, this was a bit on the big side.
When travelling by car however, the list of kit to take grows with the space available, and all of my self imposed organisational rules go out of the window: spare boots (because I can), spare waterproof shell (because I can), extra insulating jacket (because I can), kitchen sink (you get the idea.).
No matter how efficient my system can be, it all goes out of the window when the additional capacity is presented.  Comfort, luxury or just simple confidence that the kit is there when I need it, it doesn’t matter.  It finds its way in.
I have a decent system, over time I have a number of key rules which I apply to my packing and when applied, they are effective for me.

1.  Make a list.
Based on the activities I expect to undertake, I have a number of modular lists.  The primary objective is to make certain I do not forget anything. The secondary objective is to ensure I do not take anything I don’t need.
The current list of lists I am using breaks down as follows:
  • personal clothing
  • Dopp kit (a topic in itself!)
  • medical/footcare bag
  • electronics/chargers (camera, phone, tablet?, etc)
  • admin (tickets, passport, notepad, pen, cash, cards)
  • walking kit (daysack, boots, first aid, etc)
  • climbing kit (rack, rope, harness, etc)
  • winter gear (tools, screws)
  • running stuff
From these, I simply pull out the individual lists for each module and pack accordingly.  Laying everything out (tick), check against the list (2nd tick), pack (yes, another tick).

2. Be critical
From each trip, the OCD in me causes me to check my packing lists against what was actually used in an effort to refine them further.  There are some items I will not take out. First aid or other emergency kit, compass, maps, and some others irrespective of whether or not they were used.  I simply consider it is not worth the risk.

3. Pack for the trip
Cultural norms, expected activities and imposed dress codes have an impact on the content of my packing list.
If on a climbing trip, I may take less personal clothing becasue I don’t anticipate dining in smart restaurants, but if on a village to village walking trip in the Italian Lakes I do like to dress a bit smarter in the evening so may pack something other than Montane Terras as trousers.  Shorts may be okay for walking in, but will be frowned upon if worn to a waterside restaurant on the shores of Lake Garda.

4. Be critical
Do I need a spare pair of trousers? What will I do if I drip some ragu in my lap?  Do I need a pair of walking socks for each day, or will merino wool Icebreaker sock survive several days?  Can I cut back on underwear and socks and wash them in a hotel sink part way through the trip?
Ah, the travellers’ dilemma.  onebag.com, Lifehacker, and a myriad of other sites offer advice and tips on lightweight travel.  Are you sharing a room with someone?  Do you want them to see your favourite boxers?
It is possible to get by on limited clothing by washing mid trip but is this an admin task you want to undertake? When I know I don’t want to do this, I will pack a little extra.
Lightweight technical underwear, Icebreaker Merino socks, and lightweight Rohan shirts all pack down, wash easily and dry quickly enough if needed.

5. Pack well
As a convert to packing cubes, I have gathered a few.  My favourites are the Eagle Creek system.  They are robust, compact and offer a great method for packing in modules.  I also have a number of Muji cubes which are ligter weight, but have lasted well.  This provides me with a system which works effectively when packing for trips, being able to separate clean clothing from footwear, outdoor gear or other less than clean items.

6. Be critical
What do I really need.  Passport, Credit Card, Phone?  Anything else can be purchased on arrival.

Sounds laborious now that this is written out, but in practice, this is a quick and effective system which allows me to pack efficiently at short notice.  I normally keep a carry on bag with the basics pre-packed – dopp kit, med/footcare, chargers, travel tray (great accessory).  Quickly adding some packing cubes of clothing means I can be ready to leave in a matter of minutes.  Very handy when packing on the morning of the trip!!
Quick overnight kit
Quick overnight kit
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