One of the first bits of research I did involved choosing a carry on. I vowed to travel light, as I always had back when I was a twenty something and exploring the world. After our trip to the West Coast this October, when I had mailed half of what I had packed home midway through, I was done with checking luggage and using space bags that ended up weighing the equivalent of kettle bells. Time for a reset.
I found a wonderful site that led me on the path to what I hope will be carefree plane, train, boat and bus travel: TravelFashionGirl. Also, there are numerous YouTube videos showing what (and how) a variety of male and female backpackers and other travelers packed for their journeys. Yes, most were twenty somethings, and included items like denim booty shorts that this “lady of a certain age” will not be including in her wardrobe. But with a bit of adaptation I put together a stylish, functional kit. No white sneakers or baggy cargo pants with too many pockets, zippers, straps and horrible fabrics for me!
What am I packing?
1) Osprey 46L backpack. It meets airline carry on regulations, opens like a suitcase instead of from the top, is comfy to wear from plane to hotel (its not intended for heavy duty backcountry hiking) and is simple in design. You can see a video review here.
2) Packing cubes. Not only do they separate your items by type, they hold an amazing amount of stuff in ventilated little packets. You can watch a how to video on using them here.
3) Luggage scale. This seemed kind of silly at first, until I realized that Vietnam Airlines required carry ons to weigh no more than 7kg (or roughly 15 pounds). What a challenge it has been to whittle down to that! While it seems unlikely that my backpack will actually be weighed, I don’t want to have to decide what to throw away while standing in the check-in line with lots of people yelling at me in a foreign language.
4) Smartwool. I was like, “huh?” when I first read about smartwool in the tropics, but I am a convert. After all, those sheep in New Zealand live through hot summers, right? A company called Icebreaker makes really wonderful things that are 150 weight, are guaranteed not to be itchy or hot, do not wrinkle, wash in the sink and dry quickly, provide natural SPF protection, and (this is key) do not smell. Lots of travelers swear by these as insulation layers in the cold and stand-alones in the heat. I got a black tee shirt and two tank tops in bright colors. And they came with info about the actual sheep who provided me with the wool!!!!
5) Sun protection. For me this was essential. I got a sarong in a cute print from the SPF specializing company Coolibar that can double as a scarf, beach towel, blanket, etc. I bought a great sun hat at Athleta, along with a white SPF 50 mid-thigh length beach cover-up/hoody. I can also wear that as an extra layer for cool evenings or sails in Halong Bay. I have a white rayon long sleeve tee and a white rayon button up collared shirt/tunic to throw on when visiting temples or just plain getting fried in the sun. Both are lightweight, but provide some additional protection. And of course I have a pair of cute long rayon pants from Athleta to cover my legs in the heat and for temple visits where modesty is expected.
6) Layers. Istanbul (where we have a layover) will probably be in the 50s, Hong Kong in the 60s and 70s during the day, Hanoi ditto and then hot from Hoi An to Siem Reap. I calculate I need to be ready for as much as a 50 degree temperature swing! That means layers. Everything I have coordinates with bottoms in basic colors like grey, navy and taupe and tops in white, grey, black and a few brights thrown in for good measure. Scarves add color, sun protection, modesty and warmth when needed. I can layer to my heart’s content, up to my Patagonia nanopuff jacket, which folds up into its own pocket when not needed.
7) Wash and wear, ie quick dry. EVERYTHING. Including undies from Ex Officio, yoga capris and skinny pants from Lululemon, a mid-calf skirt from Athleta and the aforementioned items.
8) Sensible shoes. One pair flip flops, one pair mesh and suede ballet flats from Patagonia, and my trusty Dansko sandals.
So, here is the complete list:
2 pairs long pants (pinky taupe and grey)
1 pair black yoga capri tights
1 white Prana tank as an underlayer and for yoga
1 white long sleeved tee
1 white button up shirt, tunic length
1 white SPF hoodie
3 cap sleeve tees (black, grey, white)
4 tank tops with full coverage in back and high cut in front and good bra strap coverage (azalea, turquoise, pale yellow, pale pink — two are smartwool from Icebreaker and two are Italian miracle fabric from Adea. I don’t think I really need all four but I want to see which ones I use the most).
1 navy skirt
1 pair water resistant shorts from Kuhl (you can get them at REI or Title Nine)
2 bathing suits
1 SPF sarong
1 sun hat
2 pairs socks (one Icebreaker to wear on the plane — my feet always get cold) and one pair quick dry biking socks for whatever)
1 pair flips flops
1 pair ballet flats
1 pair sandals
2 scarves (one very lightweight to dress up tops when going out and one Block Shop Textiles mango chevron pattern for warmth, sarong wear, whatever BECAUSE I LOVE IT.
As for wearable items — that is it!!!
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