Jul 23, 2016

The clothes issue

Packing clothes is still very much an open issue. Suggestions are appreciated. I have found no magic bullet there, but a combination of techniques that help: "the 4 R's".

First, the obvious: in order to travel light, the main point is to bring as few items as possible, and the most compact ones. This entails:
- thinking about what you will really need,
- checking the weather forecasts,
- bringing light clothes and just one warm layer made of top-quality wool like cashmere,
- wearing the bulkiest items on you while traveling,
- showering twice a day in order to extend the useful life of your clothes (my aim is 2 days; 1 week for pants),
- having a good deodorant,
- being extra careful not to stain your clothes, especially when eating.

When going out for more than 3 days, I prefer not to bring full changes of clothes, but rather to rely on washing and rotating. Higher-category hotels often provide a laundry service. This service is not cheap, but not expensive at all when you relate it to the overall cost of traveling.
If no service is available, just be ready to do your own washing in your room. A small can or bag of washing powder occupies no space at all. Be sure to plan in advance the sufficient drying time.

Sometimes luggage space constraints are tough to manage. For instance, you travel for work but you would really like to bring running shoes as well; or you want to keep space to be able to bring back stuff on the way home.
A way to handle those cases is to bring stuff which is nearing retirement age. Bring you old running shoes, and tell them in advance that their ticket is one-way only.

Conversely, you may deliberately keep your bag empty in order to buy new clothes at your destination.

I used this technique a lot in the past when packing shirts. Shirts are often a requirement for business occasions but they wrinkle so easily. There is no way to pack a shirt in a small bag without it ending wrinkled. But, to some extent, you can direct where the wrinkles end up. And actually, what matters is that the shirt front and secondarily the sleeves are smooth. The sides and back may be crumpled and usually, no one will care.

Here is how to roll a shirt to minimize damaging wrinkles:
1. spread the shirt on a flat surface;
2. bring the right-hand front over the left-hand one in diagonal;
3. if you bring several shirts, pile them up, with the one you want to preserve best beneath;
4. if you bring more clothes, add them on top, it will help protect the shirts;
5. fold the shirt arms and bring them smoothly in front;
6. starting from the bottom, roll up the clothes carefully but tightly into a bundle; fasten into position with a rubber band.
The result cannot compare to a freshly pressed shirt, but it is frankly surprisingly good, and you can wear the shirt straight away after unpacking. As a finishing touch, if the hotel can't lend you an iron, you can improve the effect a bit by drenching your shirt in the hot shower and then letting it dry on a hanger.

Bottom line?
The bottom line is that you can live without problem with 0 or 1 pair of pants and 1 or 2 shirts, in addition to the clothes that you'll wear while traveling. I often don't bring spare pants. That's fine, except for the fact that it leaves you totally vulnerable to that rogue ketchup bottle (I love the thrill).

Apart from that risk, rejoice: it means that you can travel for any length of time with the smallest of bags!

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