Mine for the taking…

So, what do I take with me when I’m heading off on my travels?

Nothing new is the first rule. Yes, I spent years taking brand new products on the hill either straight from the bag or from the box, but not any more (unless there’s a Houston size problem and getting something new is the only solution).

All of my recent trips have revolved around items which were tried and tested before packing choices were made and the bag was finally zipped up. Items were also chosen because of their usefulness in the weather conditions that were likely to be encountered, something that was easy to do by adding favourites to the weather listings on that section of the BBC website.

Once the relevant ten day forecasts had been studied, then the final decision on what to pack is made the day before travel based upon what information is to hand at that time. It doesn’t always work as we were caught in a downpour at Sagres on The Algarve last year, but that was it (we just stayed in the hostel at Lagos for a couple of hours a couple of nights later when it rained, and rained…).

Every piece of clothing that’s taken along can be washed and then worn again in a matter of hours. Some items can be worn for days on end as they doesn’t suffer from smellyitis and these plus the other items are simply washed in a sink using Lifeventure’s Fabric Wash or All Purpose Soap.

They’re then air wrapped (swung over the head or in front of you) before being rolled up in a travel towel two or three times. After that they’re left to dry over the bath if I’ve got a travel clothes line with me or hung on coat hangers and scattered around the room, hung on the windows or hooked over chairs or balcony rails. The only items that didn’t dry quickly last year were a couple of pairs of cotton based trainer socks and a locally purchased cotton t-shirt that proved my point.

Two types of technical fabric t-shirts were packed – two Core Silver shirts from Rohan plus two of the same brand’s Essential shirts. The combination of one red, two blue and one white ensured that they went with anything and by the time it came around to wearing the first worn and washed shirt again, we’d already moved to a different town. 

As one location’s accommodation was a few stars above what we would normally stay in, a couple of smart shirts were packed in order to conform to any dress code (we did, others didn’t) and these were also from Rohan. Although it’s years since I wore suits on a day to day basis, I sill have a couple of smart shirts around for business meetings and it’s these that headed off to Portugal last year. They’re light, long-sleeved, have sun protection and natty loops inside to hang the shirts by when they’re drying out.

Now I would normally take just two pairs of trousers on a trip, but I took three on that trip. Yes, it was down to that dress code hotel, but I could easily have stuck to just taking two. I’d taken along a pair of Craghoppers Base Camp trousers and whilst they were comfortable, I wished that I’d just packed the Rohan Trailblazers and Grand Tour Chinos.

All three pairs were easily washed and dried, but it’s going to be the last two that are packed for a long trip – Trailblazers for daytime, Chinos for nighttime. Both pairs had well placed pockets, zipped ones for safer storage and a little bit of give in them for those moments when you realised that the lunch you’ve just had was bigger than you thought it would be.

Socks and underwear came from M&S, Rohan and Zara and a solitary TNF (The North Face) micro fleece zip neck pullover as a warm layer. I didn’t take a jacket, but did take a long-sleeved windproof shirt with a couple of chest pockets. This however was only used onto the plane at Manchester Airport on the way out and once more when we got back to the same airport two weeks later – it won’t be packed again methinks on journeys to warmer climes!

My wash kit was kept to a minimum – toothbrush, travel toothpaste/mouthwash combination, mini shower gel for the first couple of days, a part-used roll-on antiperspirant, one travel size Lynx body spray and that was it. Razors, a bigger shower gel and a bigger can of Lynx were bought in Lisbon and what wasn’t used was left at Lagos Youth Hostel for use by fellow travellers on our last morning there.

Travel towels worked a treat wherever we went for drying ourselves and clothing after washing sessions. A small first aid selection was also packed alongside my usual batch of post-stroke meds and the all-important copy of my prescriptions and my hospital discharge papers that explain why the meds are being packed. 

Other items? A small torch, one fully charged Kindle, my digital compact camera plus charger and plug adaptor, a couple of thin Moleskine notebooks, a couple of pens and a paper copy of the local guidebook. Although I had books with local information on the Kindle, I didn’t find it that easy to access and much preferred to use the guidebook instead. The same route may be taken on future trips or I may simply cannibalise an older copy of the guide and take relevant parts with me or photocopy those parts from the latest edition and take those along for personal use..

And footwear? A pair of smart approach shoes that were branded Rohan, but made by brasher. They were smart, comfortable, had a silver content to keep smells down and did the business in hotels, restaurants and smarter touristy places. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on wisepacking, Crocs have proved their worth over the last year or so, so a pair of these were also packed.

By wearing the heaviest stuff on the plane out and the plane back, all of the above items went into and Osprey Farpoint 40 travel pack. Not only did this satisfy TAP Portugal’s hand luggage criteria, the packed bag came in at just over 6kg on the way out. It was slightly heavier on the way back as i’d had to buy a new digital compact camera whilst in Portugal as my Lumix packed up three days into the trip. I did have another bag on the way back though, but that contained an airport bought bottle of Tawny Port…

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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