Packing for a Trip is an Art and a Science

Adventure Rolling Duffle, Extra-Large Duffle Bags  Free Shipping at L.L.BeanGoggin_Samson These are the famous words of Steve Elliott who is a co-worker and a very experienced traveler. Steve travels light on business trips but he is also a motorcycle rider and has to be careful of what he takes on trips because he has to support it on the bike. Steve is also an accomplshed photographer and it is amazing what he can fit into his camera bag. His experience traveling the globe has taught him the wisdom of not taking too much when you travel. You only need so much and with experience, you can learn what is important and what is not.

I have my own protocol which I will share with you, but first I would like to entertain you with the major mistakes that I have made in my life and the lessons that I have learned. For instance, in my early skiing and camping days at Tuckerman Ravine, I thought it would be a good idea to pack my food in my pack in Pittsburgh before I left on my 12 hour drive. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of a loaf of bread and put them back in the bread bag. As they bounced in my pack on the way up, and on the hike up, and against the wall of the lean to as I slept, by midweek I had peanut butter and jelly doughballs to eat. Freeze dried foods were the answer. I bought a hockey goalie bag one time because I thought it would be the perfect bag for all equipment and clothing on a trip. The problem was that the space made me greedy and I packed way too much and the bag weighed a ton. I now find that several bags like the duffles from Bean are perfect and have rollers. With the hockey bag on one shoulder and the ski or bike bag on the other shoulder, I was lucky I did not throw my back out of whack. Way too much weight in one bag.

I just finished reading a book by Paul Stutzman called “Hiking Through”. It is his story of his journey all along the Appalachian Trail. It was interesting to read how he sent winter clothing home at the post office and picked up a shipment of lighter clothing from his friends. Obviously there is a lot of planning in arranging food and clothing drops but the mantra of the trail is the lighter the better. When you hike 2000+ miles, you need your pack to only contain the essentials and not extra clothes and food that you do not need. Ramp this up a bit and the packing rules for climbing Everest can be so strict that climbers break toothbrushes in half to conserve weight. When you get to those altitudes, you need your pack to be as light as possible because the effort is really difficult and one thing you don’t need is to be heavy in the pack.

So, bringing it back to my level again, these are my protocols for my different activities:

Skiing- I start from the feet up. Skis, boots, poles obviously. I then pack my socks, longjohns, ski outfit, a couple of t-necks, a sweater, a fleece vest, wool hat, gloves and a baseball cap with a pair of jeans. Most of this can fit in my green duffle and the ski bag and if you overflow, you can use the ski bag for extra clothes. But I try to make sure I have cold weather gear because I can always strip down. But I find that if I go from the feet up, I don’t usually forget anything.

Cycling trips- again, I go from the feet up and make sure that I have cycling shoes,socks, extra cycling kits, including arm warmers, and knee warmers, some rain jackets that can be packed in the back of a cycling jersey. T shirts, underwear, and shorts with a fleece vest are usually the only other thing you need. One time we went for a two day down and back road bike ride on the Skyline Drive in Virginia. We made arrangements to stay at a hotel on the southern end. All we had was a pair of running shorts and a t-shirt stuffed in the back pockets of our cycling jersey along with our wallets. We rode 100+ miles on the Skyline Drive, checked into the hotel, showered, ordered a pizza and sat around in the t-shirt and shorts and went to sleep. The next day, we put the cycling stuff back on again after we had washed it in the sink, and stuffed the clothes in the back of the jersey again. Two 100+ days on the bike with minimum baggage. We had to carry everything so the lighter we were, the better we were.

Hiking like the other two activites is dictated by the length of the trip and the weather expected. But as we have said, the lighter the better. Like the Skyline Drive ride, all of our needs are on our back so it good to save the back and keep it light. Foul weather gear is important but you must look at the weather and if it is warranted, make sure you take it. Hypothermia is no joke so be light but be prepared.

One final word is packing for your daily exercise. I utilize our local county park for running trails and mountain biking. I have made a practice of packing my clothes the night before, and taking my running shoes or bike with me to work. I have found that if I would stop home before I go to the park,I could get delayed with some chores that I can finish after my workout. Also, it is too easy to come home, sit on the couch and put the tube on and be a slug. If you pack your stuff and take it with you to work, you can change in the car like me or go to the mens or ladies room at the park. I have been known to utilize red lights on the highway to make some quick changes in the car. Not recommended unless you have some skill from years of experience like the 58 year old kid. Sometimes you get burned like when I was stripping out of my ski clothes and into a suit for a funeral when a police car pulled me over. As I scrambled to get a shirt and pants on, the officer politely came to the car and told me to be on my way because he was pulling over the guy behind me. Whew. Close call on the road.

In any event, no matter what trip you take, or what activity you do, give some thought on how to pack and how to pack lightly. There are always washing machines and dryers everywhere. At the very least there are sinks and drying racks. So why load up with anything more than the essentials like foul weather gear. Take a tip from Steve. He has traveled everywhere and never had an issue packing light. Thanks for reading.

4 thoughts on “Packing for a Trip is an Art and a Science

  1. Agree! Packing things really needs an art and science techniques or else you’ll gonna have out of whack vacation which you would not love to happen.

  2. Hutch says:

    My son and i learned how to pack hiking the long trail. We started out with way too much stuff of course, but after a few days figured out how to lighten the load by taking just what we “really needed”. Its amazing how little you “really need”!

  3. Pete hilton says:

    It’s interesting Pat – as I read this started thinking about how little you really need in life but we “pack” life with a bunch of unneeded stuff!

  4. Art Bonn says:

    I always pack too much, even when it’s for a 4 month trip. my packing skills are getting better though. Thanks for the tips.

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