Our trip to Dominica taught us many lessons, one of which was the importance of packing smart and light. When I fly her away this time, we will focus on sink-washable, lightweight clothing that will fit in a carry-on bag. Five days worth of clothes in a carry on bag. Here is the plan…
First, a packing list should include the pack the list is packed in. Try saying that three times fast. Our search for the ideal bag required one which was accessible, durable, easy to carry, and which would conservatively qualify as a carry-on.
We knew this was possible because I had already found such a bag with the Eagle Creek Switchback Max 22″ that I used when working in Afghanistan. It is an awesome bag that I have continued to use, but it isn’t sold anymore. I bought it partly because Eagle Creek has a lifetime warranty! The Switchback Max traveled with me all around Afghanistan (NOT ideal treatment for luggage) and later on business trips to an additional 5 or 6 countries and 10+ states.
I love it because:
- It has a great detachable backpack / day bag that looks like a normal backpack and is big enough for my 17″ MacBook Pro, yet doesn’t feel too big at all.
- I can roll the bag, carry the bag (the larger section has hidden backpack straps too), or roll the larger section and keep the backpack a backpack.
- It has proven remarkably durable.
- Unlike backpacking type backpacks, it opens all the way for easy accessibility.
…and with those points in mind, we set out looking for a bag for her.
We think we found it with the Osprey Farpoint 55 (size s/m). Osprey has an even better lifetime warranty than Eagle Creek does, they call it the All Mighty Guarantee. From the Osprey Website, “Osprey will repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect in our product – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it.“
Like the Switchback Max, the Farpoint 55 has a detachable backpack / day bag and both open all the way for easy accessibility. Both the main bag and the detachable backpack have shoulder straps, and they stow away completely on the larger bag which is nice if you need to check it for some reason.
There are a ton of amazing reviews for the Farpoint 55 (see here, here, here, and here), and one thing many reviews warned about is that there are two different sizes for the Farpoint 55. The S/M (small-medium) version of the bag is a conservative carry-on. The M/L (medium-large) is a little large and your luck will depend on who the gate agent is as to whether you’ll need to gate-check it.
Will it be as good as my trusty Switchback Max? I’ll post an update after I fly her away this summer.
…and now for the travel clothes
There are travel clothes, and then there are “travel clothes”, in much the same way there is camping, and then there is “camping”. I’ve always been able to pack for a week in my Switchback Max, a carry-on size bag. I have an anonymous relative, bless her heart, who will fill up a suitcase my 6’6″ frame can fit in for that same week long vacation. The difference is that I use primarily travel friendly clothing (which happens to be the style I like to wear all the time anyway) and my relative, like most people actually, over packs regular, heavy, everyday cotton clothes.
Travel clothing, especially when vacationing to a tropical environ, should be:
- Lightweight – packs tighter, dries faster, and obviously weighs less.
- Flexible – every shirt should match every pair of pants/shorts if possible, and clothes should able to be dressed up or dressed down.
- Odor resistant – be it treated synthetic or a merino wool blend, which naturally fights odors, odor resistant clothing can often be worn multiple times between washes without smelling gross and feeling grimy.
- Sink Washable – it’s so nice to be able to wash clothes in the sink at night (or even while taking a shower), and have them dry in just a few hours.
- Comfortable and Breathable – you’re going to be hot, make sure you’re clothes can handle it…
With those attributes in mind, we set out to put our packing list together for our 5 day Caribbean adventure.
- T-Shirt x 2
- Button-down Shirt x 2
- Pants x 2
- Shorts x 2
- Socks x 2-3
- Underwear x 3-4
- T-Shirt x 2
- Button-down Shirt x 2
- Pants x 2
- Shorts x 2
- Socks x 2-3
- Underwear x 3-4
- Shoes x 2ea
- Sandals x 1ea
- Normal stuff (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, etc)
- Bug repellent
- Camp Suds (for sink washing)
- Zip lock bags
Honestly, even this list is a little overkill for 5 days. That said, our clothing choices will easily fit in our little bags with plenty of room to spare for souvenirs because of their travel-friendly attributes.
Finding clothing with all of the travel attributes isn’t as easy as it sounds. You get what you pay for, but generally the more expensive, quality, travel clothes will also last for a long time. I generally look to companies that I know will stand behind their products, preferably for life. Patagonia, Arcteryx, Mountain Hardwear, Prana, REI, Eddie Bauer (First Ascent and Travex lines), and LL Bean are some of my favorites. Marmot makes some nice gear, but their customer service has taken a pretty big hit lately on the forums. Columbia and The North Face, while popular, are a step below in quality in my experience.
The other problem is that, at 6’6″ tall and skinny, much of the awesome travel clothing out there won’t fit me.
Here’s some of what we’ve found so far that we really love.
LL Bean Cool Weave Button Down
Yes, LL Bean has a lot of “old person” clothes, but they also have a surprising amount of travel clothes and the best warranty in the business. All of their clothes have a lifetime satisfaction guarantee, and you don’t even need the receipt. I bought this shirt in the ‘tall’ version, and I absolutely love it. It is by far the fastest drying shirt I have ever owned, weighs nothing, and is basically wrinkle free. You can buy it at LL Bean or on Amazon, the reviews for it are excellent.
Eddie Bauer’s Travex Departure Button Down
Eddie Bauer also has an amazing warranty. After dealing with both Eddie Bauer and LL Bean, I will say LL Bean is more forgiving and seamless about things like lost receipts, but both companies are fantastic. This shirt is my current favorite travel shirt. It wears and drapes like a silk shirt, but is actually pretty durable. The first day I had it on my labrador retriever jumped on me with muddy paws, and once the mud tried it just flaked off as if it wasn’t ever there. A silk shirt would have torn. This shirt also dries very quickly, if not quite as quickly as the LL Bean Cool Weave. You can buy it at Eddie Bauer or on Amazon, the reviews for it are awesome.
Eddie Bauer’s Travex Infinity Button Down
My wife LOVES her Infinity shirts. In fact, she may buy more than we allotted for this trip. They are a similar texture to the Departure shirt (the women’s version also gets rave reviews), but have a slight pattern. The infinity shirt comes in long sleeve, short sleeve, tank top, and v-neck hoodie. It hasn’t been out long and there aren’t many reviews on it yet, just know that when I fly her away this summer, I guarantee she’ll be packing at least one of these shirts.
One night of our trip will be a nice date night, and I wanted something to wear that I could dress up, but which wouldn’t waste space in my travel pack. Remember, travel gear needs to be light, flexible, durable, quick drying, etc. Not many slacks meet those requirements. Fortunately, Bluffworks decided to launch their Kickstarter last year and have taken off. Looking at the picture, you’d never know those slacks are ultra light weight technical pants that were built for travel.
Unfortunately, unbiased reviews are pretty hard to find so I will be doing a full in depth review of these in the next few weeks. Nearly every blog-style review you can find on these pants was written only after the writers received the pants free from Bluffworks. In full disclosure, I did write and ask Bluffworks to give my readers a discount for these pants (they are a bit expensive). After the founder asked for, and received, the URL for my blog, I failed to hear back from them again. Take that for what it is…
My initial impression is that these are jack-of-all-trade pants and thus cannot be great at everything. Indeed, they are not as wrinkle free as Bluffworks implies, and the tiniest drop of oil (I was eating a delicious pork roast and splashed a droplet smaller than then this “o”) results in a larger than anticipated stain (1″ circle) that I have not figured out how to remove yet. That said, I still love these pants. I cannot get over how lightweight and comfortable they are, even if they do need ironed occasionally.
Keep your eyes open for my full review.
Travel underwear are a critical and often overlooked component of travel. There are a few options, but the mainstay always seems to be Ex-Officio. Super lightweight, comfortable, anti-odor, and super fast drying, they are the perfect travel undergarments. Ex-Officio recommends travelers pack two pairs of underwear on trips, one pair to sink-wash, one to wear. And posts on the various travel and backpacking forums back these up as among the best travel underwear out there. These are the underwear that will be found in our bags when I fly her away. It’s weird, I know, to show off underwear, but the convenience factor of travel underwear cannot be overstated. I also like the Champion Performance Tech 9″ inseam boxer briefs.
We’ll feature the rest of the clothes we picked for our go bags once our packing lists are complete.
Now it’s time to start your own go bags so you too can be ready to go when it’s time to fly her away…