What I pack

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What to take my stuff in is the first question. Roll-aboard to carry on or duffel to check? Almost always a back-pack either way. Frankly, I don’t like to check anything. There’s the possibility of it being lost or delayed and the headache associated with either of those events. However, carrying on definitely limits the amount of stuff I can bring and does not leave any room for purchases while I’m traveling. Sometimes I carry on and pack a small fold-up duffel in the roll-aboard to open up later to accommodate acquisitions.

I always bring too much. Except one time. I went to Ecuador for three weeks and brought three shirts and two pairs of pants. I figured I could wash them out. I made the mistake of announcing this to my travel mates and then was treated to the daily remarks about my wearing “that again” or “still?”

So I stick to bringing too much. Recently on a hiking trip in Patagonia, the guide chastised me for bringing too much. And he was right. The thing is, I get sick of wearing the same thing all the time. But as a result of many years of travel, I generally bring the right stuff, maybe just too much of it.

One thing I want to be mindful about is the cultural considerations of my destination regarding clothing. For example, in Bhutan, shoulders and knees must be covered when entering Dzong (temples). In Morocco, modest dress is required throughout the country in respect of Muslim custom. So I always try to familiarize myself with local practices before I pack.

I definitely don’t want to be cold so I bring a variety of layering things if I’m going some place where cold might be an issue. A light-weight fleece jacket, a fleece vest, a 10-ounce down jacket, a combination rain/wind breaker. Sometimes just one will do but recently in Chile in especially brutal weather (wind, snow, rain, all on a summer day!), I wore all four at once. Gloves or glove-liners are essential. Warm socks. Ear-warmers. Long underwear. These are all small items and easily packable in tiny crevasses in my duffel or stuffed in shoes. A change of footwear definitely. After a long hike, flip-flops are divine liberation for my feet after being encased in boots for many hours.

And I always ask two questions of someone who has been where I’m going: what did you bring that you should have left at home? What did you not have and wish you’d brought?

After all, I want to really enjoy a trip and not have sore feet or cold hands.

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