April 20, 2008

10 pounds of fun in a 5-pound bag

Or, as others might call it - backpacking.

The long-revered tradition of wandering around exotic locales with only a backpack, a camera and a map is something that's always appealed to me. While I love a good stint in Vegas with a roomy suitcase and itinerary full of activities, there is the sailor/explorer/idealist part of me that finds a casual, unstructured trip to be soul-quenching and deeply fulfilling.

Case in point: my first sailing trip to the BVI. An 8x8 cabin that consisted of a bed and one tiny closet, one spigot on the side of the boat to serve as the shower and a head that was less appealing than the ocean, and I couldn't have been happier. When you strip down to wearing no makeup, keeping your options wide open and just going with the flow, having fun just being in a location can be so much more interesting than planning every minute of every day. When I got the pictures back, sure I had a blemish or two showing, my hair was completely undone and my hands were rough from sailing. But our smiles said it all.

This coming June, I'm planning a trip to Europe for about 12 days. I'll be in England for most of it, staying with friends in Oxford, so luggage wouldn't normally be a problem. But we're now talking about spending a few days in Paris pre-England, and in the effort to keep the trip as low-cost as it could be, considering the abysmal state of the US Dollar, I'm looking into hostels. I've never stayed in one, but understand these things: you get what you pay for, and you can't leave your stuff in the room.

Hence, the backpack.

I can deal with the sub-par showers, the no-frills shared rooms and the toting my stuff around with me. But my question remains: how do you decide which articles of clothing make the cut?

In a backpack you'd be willing to carry around all day, there is only so much you can fit, especially bulky things like outerwear and shoes. Here's what the beginnings of my plan look like, as it will easily take 2 months to make final clothing decisions.

1) Tops: 6
2 Oxfords, for warm days
1 Polo, for travel/casual days
2 dressy tops, for city days or casual nights
1 embellished tank, for under cardigans or on its own

2) Bottoms: 4
1 pair jeans, for casual nights and cool days
1 pair linen pants, for dressier but warm times
1 light skirt, ditto
1 pair madras shorts, for casual days

3) Dresses: 1
1 dark sundress for cathedrals, dinners, unexpected semi-formal stuff

4) Sweaters: 2
1 navy, over polos, oxfords
1 black, with jeans to dress up tanks

5) Shoes: 3
1 pair Sperry flip flops for walking
1 pair cheap flip flops for hostel showers (and a plastic bag for storing them)
1 pair neutral dressy sandals, to go with skirts, jeans and dress

6) Jewelry: 1 small pouch
2 pairs studs (silver and pearls)
2 silver necklaces
1 silver bracelet
1 watch
3 long/chunky necklaces

7) Makeup: 1 medium pouch
SPF25 Superdefense
Waterproof mascara
Quickliner in Navy
Sephora bronzer
MAC mineral powder
Clinique eye quartet in Spicy (pink, gold, tan, brown)
Travel-sized brushes
Kiehl's lip balm SPF15
Hair brush, headband, clip, bobby pins
Texturizing cream

8) Others: camera, passport, wallet, iPod, maps

* Swing items: Chi flat iron. Is straight hair asking too much?
Journal. Great for documentation, but will I have time to write?
Fleece jacket. Will I need, and have room for, this item?

And most crucial question of all....

How much of all that will fit into this?

I am a big fan of the rolling clothes technique, can save space like a pro and can hand wash clothes. Any other packing-light techniques are welcome - please share!


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