Packing

I have no fixed address, except for a mailbox in Las Vegas. My younger daughter kindly allows me to keep a medium-sized duffle bag of clothes, plus a tote bag of files and family photos, at her house. Otherwise, I am carrying everything I own. So I have to make sure to pack only what I am capable of carrying up at least 2 to 3 flights of stairs. Even properties with no elevators will usually accommodate me so far as to give me a reservation on a floor no higher than that, and I make sure not to book an apartment rental on any higher floors.

I am currently traveling for months with a 4 season wardrobe in two small suitcases and a small backpack. This is possible because, in addition to an ultralight down coat that folds into a small pouch, my clothes are almost exclusively lightweight merino wool which can be layered during the coldest weather and still be even warmer than thicker, heavier items.

Lightweight merino wool is perfect for long-term travel, even in summer, because:


  • It has properties which will kill the bacteria that causes odors, so you can wear it many more times without washing.
  • It absorbs moisture, so you are never drenched with sweat, and yet - as noted above - your clothes will not retain odors..
  • It has insulating properties that allow you to remain warmer during cooler weather and cooler when it's hot out.
  • Your body heat causes almost all wrinkles to fall out within minutes of putting on your clothes.
I was devastated when Ibex announced it was going out of business, because a major part of my wardrobe came from them. However, Amazon is still carrying a lot of pieces, though who knows for how long.

I am also packing a variety of electronics, gadgets and other things which I prefer to have on hand, even though I rarely need them. For the most part, these are things that, when I do need them, I don't want to have to go out looking for them in foreign stores.

Here is most of what I have packed.  (Almost all of these were purchased from Amazon, and those listings will be affiliate links which could possibly result in tiny commissions for me at no exra cost to you, if you click on them. Should that happen, your support will be greatly appreciated.)

SUITCASES, BACKPACKS, HANDBAG & FOLDING BAGS

It used to be that airlines in other countries required your overhead bin bag to weigh 10 kilos or less. Now, a lot of them are starting to require that the total weight of both your carry on bags be 10 kilos or less. Since I'm traveling for months at a time, I doubt I'll ever be able to do that. So I now check my largest bag.

Still, my first priority is that my suitcases must be as light as possible. Though many manufacturers and reviewers consider anything under 7 pounds lightweight, I like to keep my bags under 5 pounds, if at all possible, because I want to be able to carry all of my bags up at least a flight or two of stairs. My preferred combination is a two-wheeled bag with trolley strap over a 4 wheel spinner bag.


This inexpensive Aerolite spinner weighs only 4.62 pounds empty, and that makes up for any imperfections it might have. The worst one is the way it moves with a heavy smaller bag on top of it. It still takes a bit of effort to get it moving, and even more to keep it going in a straight line, but it is still far better than pulling the same amount of weight behind it.

The quality of this suitcase is pretty much in line with its price. Yet, though I've consistently overloaded it and then subjected it to rough treatment from airline baggage handlers, it's still holding up. The seams are stretching, but they haven't broken.

I continue to look at other options, because I'd like a bag that moves better. I don't mind paying more - even a lot more - for higher quality, but I'm not willing to go more than another pound in weight. I haven't found anything I like better thus far, so I just bought a baggage strap to keep it from exploding and scattering all of my belongings across an airport baggage claim.


I put my Aerolite Under Seat into the overhead bins on flights. It has a trolley strap on the back so that it can slide over the handle of my larger suitcase, which is a feature I now insist on. At 4.37 pounds, it's not much lighter than my full-sized suitcase, but this carry-on has a design I've never seen anywhere else.

The very top of the lid zips open, which allows you to store your liquids bag and often used items in a super easy to reach place. I like the front zippered compartments, too. There is a slim one that is perfect for putting my boarding pass and passport, and a very roomy one that is just big enough to stuff my long ultra-light down coat, so I don't have to carry these things all over the airport.

It's not perfect. The extendable handle is very wobbly and there is no handle on the side, which makes it a little harder to carry it up stairs. And, although I've never checked this bag and overfill it less than my bigger bag, the seams are fraying on it. It's not quite as deep as a lot of under seat bags, but I like it's slim lines, and it still holds quite a lot. It tends to go in and out of stock on Amazon, though there is usually at least one color available.

My Travelon Anti-Theft Backpack completes my luggage trio. I put this bag under the seat in front of me on planes and trains. It contains all of my electronics, extra batteries, food and anything else I might need during a journey. I use this with or without a handbag.

My purse fits inside it if I want to use both, but it's got interior pockets for glasses or phones, and a zippered compartment for my wallet and passport. I like a backpack to have two side pockets, so that I can carry both my water bottle and either a tea thermos or umbrella. An exterior zippered compartment allows for quick access items and an interior padded pocket is perfect for my iPad.

I can - just barely - fit my 12.5" laptop in it, slightly tilted. That makes it impossible reach the contents of the padded pocket, though. So, while en route, I only put things there that I won't need during a trip. But this backpack is the perfect size for my needs. It fits everything I need it to fit without being too big and taking up extra space, but it has the heavy duty wide straps that a lot of fashion backpacks this size don't.

One of the most important factors for me, as well, is that it is very neat looking. With the side pockets zipped closed, it can pass for a very business-like bag, almost like a briefcase. I love this backpack, and I'm not even looking at other options, however...

...it's not big enough for grocery shopping. For me, anyway. I hate grocery shopping, so I try to only go once a week. I generally have to walk quite a bit with my groceries, so it is much easier to carry them on my back. My solution was to get a folding backpack, also with wide straps for the most support.

The ZOMAKE Ultralight backpack also has two mesh side pockets, an exterior zipper pocket and an interior zippered pouch that the backpack folds itself into. So, while it's not sturdy enough to use for a journey, it's actually better in many ways as a day bag for sightseeing.

Sometimes, believe it or not, I need even more bags. So I've got two more folding bags:



  • My beautiful Starry Night bag (it comes in other designs), which is 20 x 16.5", zips up, has an interior pocket and a separate zippered pouch to fold into.
  • Travel Blue Foldable Bag - This one weighs nothing and folds up into a ridiculously small pocket when not in use, so it can be taken literally anywhere. I'm on my second one of these. I use them mostly for groceries and laundry, and they are amazingly strong. After overloading with heavy groceries for over a year, one of the handles of my first one just barely started to come apart. I put a credit card, ID and/or a bit of cash in the pocket when it's unfolded and filled with clothes, so I don't have to bring a wallet to laundry rooms. It's nice and big, holds a full load of clothes - my entire travel wardrobe, in fact.

Bags, Bags & More Bags

I don't mind admitting, and you may have already guessed, that I am addicted to bags. Not just suitcases and packing cubes, but all different types of bags for organization and convenience. And there are sooo many lovely bags of all different sizes. I've tried so many, only to be disappointed, because - unfortunately - size is what matters most.

Bathroom Bags

I've tried regular bathroom bags before, but they were always too bulky. Especially since we've had to start separating liquids to fly, I find it's just easier to use separate bags for everything. While I am still - and always - tinkering with my system, it's working fairly well at the moment. It's just a shame that my two most often used bags, liquids and makeup, had to be cheesy or plain. sigh.

I suspect that this supposedly TSA-approved liquids bag is actually a little bigger than it should be. But the only airport security that hasn't accepted it is Gatwick, which doesn't accept anything except their own chintzy little bags that are helping to destroy the environment. Still, this bag is the only one I've found that fits everything I need, and I think the cheesy little plane on it actually helps to keep airport security from trying to claim it's too big.

The problem I have with bags is the same I have with backpacks: they need to big enough to fit what I need without being too big and taking up unnecessary space. This clear vinyl bag is seriously the plainest bag I have ever come across, but it is the exact size I need for my makeup, so I'm sticking with it until I find something better. Note that, while it may look like the back is white, the bag is transparent on all sides.

I'm still looking for replacements for both of these, but here are the two that I really want to use.

I'm still hoping to make my stuff fit into these Squeeze Pod bags at some point, because I love symmetry, so to have my liquids and makeup in the exact same sized bag - with different color zippers so I can tell which one I need at a glance - would make my heart sing.

The contents of my bags do change, so there's still a chance it will happen...which is why I kept them, just in case.



Whenever I stay for a while in places which have shared bathrooms, I transfer my toothpaste and small tubs of facial cleanser to this cute plastic pencil bag. My toothbrush and small travel towel are already in it. These are my bathroom basics, used at night before bedtime and daytime when I'm not planning to wear makeup. (More colors available)


This gorgeous little Blue Q Peacock Tote (other designs available) is what I use to haul all of my stuff to the bathroom, or to store all of my bathroom bags when I have my own bathroom, so that I don't forget anything. I can fit my liquids bag, makeup bag, shower bag and basics bag in it, then throw my towel and clean clothes over it. The strong woven handles allow me to hang it on hooks or door knobs, and it's made from some kind of waxy recycled material, so I can sit it on a damp floor or vanity without getting its contents wet.





Multi-color Mesh Bags

Again, I can't stress enough how much more efficient I find it to use bags with different colors. It just saves so much time to be able see at a glance which bag you need, even if it is only the zipper that is a different color.



Eagle Creek Specter Packing Cubes

I like the thin slippery parachute type fabric of these packing cubes, though I wish they opened at least a little wider. I get them in all different colors, so that I know exactly which one I need at a glance. That is a real time saver.

Half-cubes - This a variety set of 3, but I pack my clothes in 4 these, separated by season. Though I'm often using two seasons at a time. For instance, long sleeve turtlenecks and heavier pants go in one, while tank tops, bathing suits and shorts go in another.

Quarter-cubes - I use these smaller ones for socks, underwear, a pair of warm slippers and a silk sheet set.

Eagle Creek Specter Shoe Bag - I don't actually use this as a shoe bag. I use it to put my jammies and a spare set of clothes in my carry on bag, so I don't have to start fooling in my larger bag as soon as I arrive somewhere.  I like it for this purpose better than the rest of my packing cubes, because it is roughly the same shape as my carry on bag and I can just set it right on top of all the rest of the things that are in it. I've had it for years now, and it's still holding up well.

Nylon shoe bags - I used these before I got the multiple shoe bag that goes into my checked suitcase, but I still keep one for when I want to put a pair of shoes in my carry on bag.




Damero Wet and Dry Bag - This bag is for my dirty laundry. There is a large section for wet items, which means I can put my towels in it if I have to pack them before they're dry. Although I tend to keep up pretty well with my laundry, the smaller zippered compartment can hold any few things I haven't gotten to pack before changing locations.

Although my merino clothes don't hold odors, my towels, sheets or random other items could, and the zippers keep these from spreading.



CLOTHES

Icebreaker Villa Leggings - These are my "good" pants. Although they are called leggings, I got a larger size so that they fit loose enough on me to wear as normal trousers, and I don't feel the need to wear long tops over them. They are a mid-weight 260 grams, but I wear them pretty much all year round, except for the very hottest days. For the coldest days, I layer a pair of wool tights under them. I'd had a pair of these pants for years, and they were still holding up fairly well, but I got a second pair just to be safe. 

Icebreaker Oasis Leggings - These are my choice for lighter and/or more casual wear. I have them in both black and gray. They're a fairly lightweight 200 grams, and fit like regular leggings, so I prefer wearing them with longer tops.











Shorts - I have a pair of elastic waist camping shorts that I swear by. They are not too short, super lightweight, comfy and extremely quick drying. Mine are by White Sierra and seem to be discontinued, but these by Columbia seem to be much the same. Available in lots of colors, but I only have room for one pair, so I always choose black.












That's it for my bottoms, I have one in each of my packing cubes, unless wearing one to travel. Here are my tops.

Ibex Funnel Neck Top - I hate for my neck to be cold, but I hate tight turtlenecks even more. These funnel neck tops from Ibex are perfect. A nice light weight and available in lovely colors, as well. Of course, I consider a black one necessary, but I do allow a few colored tops for variety.








Ibex Long Sleeved V-Neck Top - I ordered this in a large and use it mostly as a pajama top. The Ibex Woolies 1 pieces are the most comfortable clothes I've ever worn. I've got the pants, as well, and they act as backups to my other clothes if necessary.







SHOES

I'm still searching for the perfect shoes for travel, and carrying too many. But since I have no fixed address, I want to have a pair for any occasion that might arise. I like to have a pair of mid-calf boots, nice flats, walking shoes, sandals and a comfy pair of heels I can walk several blocks in, if necessary. Needless to say, they all need to be very lightweight.

Boots: My Dansko boots seem to be discontinued, but I find they're a little heavy for travel. I like a plain black mid-calf slouchy flat boot because it hits the sweet spot for protection and ease of packing. Still looking.

Flats: I just want a plain black flat with support and a decently thick sole that won't wear out, that can be used casually, as well as for slightly dressier occasions. It's been surprisingly difficult to find such a thing, but the Naturalizer Brittany Flat is about as close as I'm likely to get, and I'm very happy with it so far.

Walking shoes: I actually want pretty much the same thing in a walking shoe as I do in a regular flat, but even lighter and with a thicker sold. I'm currently making Go Step Lite-Mystic from Sketcher's. They are incredibly comfortable and weigh practically nothing. But the heels slip a bit, and they run a little too short to add heel strips or socks. So, not completely satisfied yet, still looking.

Sandals: I got plantar fasciitis in Paris Disneyland from standing in a line too long on my thick-cushioned, but flat, flip flops. For weeks, I could barely limp along, while trying to show my family around major tourist attractions. Ever since, I've required all of my shoes to provide at least some
level of arch support. I managed to pick up a very trendy looking pair of sandals in a nearby shopping center the next day, and used them for more than 2 years. But though they were still holding up, they were thick and heavy, so I need something smaller and lighter.

These strappy sandals fit the bill, but the straps are a bit loose and there is no way to fix that. So, still looking.

Heels: I use public transportation as much as I can. So if I am dressing up at all for dinner, the theater or some special event, and want to wear heels, I still have to be able to walk several blocks from a subway or bus stop. I want to have a plain pair of comfortable, but nice looking, black pumps that will go with dresses, skirts, suits or pants. And they have to be as lightweight as possible. I've tried multiple other brands and styles, but Rockport's Seven to 7 Ally Dress Pump nails every single one of my requirements.

More to come later, as I list some of the gear I never leave home without.

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