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Man bags…

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A very fine day on Isle of Man, but we were heading home!

The packing for our visit to Isle of Man was definitely a last minute affair.

I’d been tracking the 10 day forecast for Douglas and surrounding area for a week or so and as the departure date loomed, so did the prospect of rain (and plenty of it!).

Things did look good for the first three days of the nine day break, so we had to balance the packing between clothes for sunny days, clothes for overcast days and clothes for days when there was the potential for heavy rain.

We’d also caught the tail end of a TV programme about walking on Isle of Man and had seen Julia Bradbury sheltering besides the trig point on the summit of Snaefell and trying to do a piece to camera about the weather conditions being experienced.

Words weren’t actually needed, because the visuals provided enough evidence of what she and the television crew were experiencing!

Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if we were pointing the car towards Liverpool or Heysham to catch the ferry to Douglas, but we weren’t.

We’d booked rail tickets to Liverpool, seats on the Manannan sea cat to Douglas and were then heading around the island using a mix of a five day Heritage Travel Card and feet.

We were also using a hotel/guest house mix of accommodation and were eating out rather than using hostels and self catering facilities, so there was a need to take some smarter clothes as well of those that could be used as a layering system during the more inclement weather conditions.

There was also one more thing to consider – after reading up on the reviews of the guest house we were using as our base in Douglas, the potential for washing and wearing was going to be restricted to undies rather than shirts, t-shirts or fleeces.

The main bags were our usual weapons of choice – 2013 vintage Osprey Farpoint 40 travel packs, but as these were packed to capacity, second bags were brought into play.

In Caroline’s case the second bag was her handbag for the trip, a brightly coloured small size Healthy Back Bag. In my case, it was my Rohan Stowaway 20, a packable day sack that normally is packed  into the Osprey and brought into play as and when it’s needed.

We did get creative with our choice of clothing and footwear for the trip and whilst we would have busted any size and weight restrictions on a budget airline for instance, we took a good look at our travel and outdoor clothing and kit and put together a mix that covered all eventualities.

Both my jacket and my windproof fleece gilet came from The North Face. The jacket is a longer length HyVent waterproof one with a hood that goes into the collar, has pit zips for ventilation and the kind of pockets that will take guidebooks, bus timetables, camera, iPad Mini and my reading specs too.

The gilet is a ten year old TNF Windwall with a chest pocket for the phone and handwarmer pockets that will take the camera and specs case.

Tops came from a couple of sources. Crew neck fleeces and zip necks came from Rohan, as did a couple of Core Silver t-shirts, Stratum long sleeved polo shirts and a couple of merino wool based t-shirts.

These, coupled with a Peter Storm merino wool long sleeved zip neck formed the basis of the layering system employed on the trip to combat the expected bad weather.

A Rohan Stronghold shirt also came into play as a wind shirt and a secure place for my passport that may have been required for ID purposes.

Two out of the four pairs of trousers were the usual suspects – Rohan Goas – and these were complemented by a couple of pairs of Craghoppers Kiwi style cargo pants.

Socks and underwear were largely Rohan, but sock choices also included a couple of pairs of M&S trainer socks with a silver content and a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Light Hikers for the days when boots were needed rather than trainers.

And footwear? One pair of Merrell Mesa Ventilator shoes were packed whilst a five year old pair of Hi Tec casual/hiking boots were worn en-route and on various days out.

Whilst the mix of clothing and footwear was much more than I would normally pack for a week to ten days away, it worked and coped with all that was thrown at it – sunshine, wind, rain, squalls and downright filthy weather.

The wash kit and meds combo was the usual one with Lush shower gel, tea tree oil (good as a shaving oil IMHO), sample size toothpaste (courtesy of the help yourself boxes in my dentist’s) along with a disposable razor and my ViaSonic battery powered toothbrush.

With a Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant thrown in for good measure, all I needed to buy locally was a can of Lynx body spray and some baby wipes.

Not convinced about the need for the baby wipes? Trying eating a freshly cooked kipper bap from the kiosk down by the pier in Peel or a bacon buttie down by the beach in Port Erin and you will be convinced about how useful these things can be!

My main bag also had the paperwork – rail tickets, ferry tickets, hotel booking info, the paper only guidebook and travel insurance documents.

Why travel insurance documents for Isle of Man?

Although there’s an agreement regarding health care between the Isle of Man and mainland Britain, there’s no repatriation agreement between the two, so any repatriation after a medical emergency or an accident, has to be covered by travel insurance.

The other thing that needs to be taken into account is that the EHIC card isn’t valid on Isle of Man. Why? Because the Isle of Man isn’t in the EU

But what about Caroline’s bag? By and large, the contents of her bag reflected my choices, even though we hadn’t really talked about what should be taken.

Her Nike Pac-Lite Gore-tex came into play along with her TNF Windwall jacket, a recently purchases lightweight Rohan hoodie, a zip neck fleece from the same brand and another zip neck fleece from Craghoppers.

A couple of Rohan Stria tops were also packed along with merino base layers, Ultra Silver camisoles, a few pairs of M&S socks,two pairs of Endura cycling socks, her Rohan Trailblazer trousers and a pair of their travel jeans. Footwear? Merrell trainers and two pairs of Ecco Biom shoes.

Did everything work? Yes, is the answer to that one.

We both had more clothing than we would normally have on a break when we’re not using the car to get around, but that was down to the potential weather conditions we were due to face. Out of the six full days we had on the island, only two were rain free.

Was everything used? Just about…

I had one t-shirt that wasn’t worn and a bit of washing to do once we got home, but that was a thankfully minimal task given the properties of the items taken with us and the decision to stick with a couple of colour pallets in the clothing choices.

We did forget one thing though. Weighing those bags!

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LDN kit & caboodle

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We saw plenty of posters and displays for London Fashion Week when we hit London last Thursday, but practicality and warmth factors were in our minds when we were choosing clothes, footwear, bags and tech for the trip.

As it turned out, it wasn’t that cold and we did see a few city types wandering around in shirts rather than suited and booted.

There was a fair amount of Rohan and Peter Storm stuff worn last Thursday as both of us wore merino wool base layers under fleece jumpers and windproof (Caroline) or furry finish (me) fleece jackets and either travel jeans (C) or soft shell trouser (me).

Caroline’s Reiker shoes did the business over the fourteen or so miles walked in the course of the day. Although I’d chosen to wear a newish pair of specialist shoes from a respected brand, the cushioning wasn’t what was required for a day of pavement pounding – replacements are already being eyed up in running rather than outdoor shops…

Our day bags came courtesy of Healthy Back Bag (C) and the man bag I’d bought at Imperial College about eighteen months ago.

Travel toothbrushes and toothpaste kept the breath fresh whilst Tea Tree wipes and small size body sprays kept things smelling sweet (as did the decision to wear merino wool based tops under our fleece jumpers).

M & S socks with silver content also came in useful too as a means of combatting any trainer induced smelly feet…

Anything else? Well, the iPad Mini came in useful as I still hadn’t got a paper copy of the latest Pocket Rough Guide London before we set off, as did a mini map of the touristy bits of the city.

The iPad wasn’t used that much, largely because local knowledge gleaned from thirty years of visiting London came in useful. It did however get used for deciding what our next moves should be as we respectively quaffed a pint of bitter shandy and a half of Aspalls cider in a pub just off Piccadilly.

Did the choice of clothing, footwear, bags and tech cut it? Yes, providing you discount the battering my feet got because of those shoes!

The tech worked fine (the above pic from Harrods is from the iPad – my Nikon digital compact was also used on the day) and that’s just about convinced me to take the iPad out and about on a more regular basis…

And yes, this is the second iPad only posting on wisepacking!

One year packing goodies

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Yes, it’s that Rohan Cool Silver t-shirt again!

As we’ve made several trips over the last year, there are a few items which have earned their stripes.

Such as 100ml bottles of Lifeventure Fabric Wash, 50ml packs of Nivea UVA/UVB Sun Lotion (SPF 30 or SPF 50 depending on the advance forecast for the places we’re visiting), 100ml bottles of Lush Shower Gel (original choice was Flying Fox, but I’ve now swapped to using Rain On My Parade), Lush solid shampoo bars and battery toothbrushes…

I bought a Slim Sonic AAA powered toothbrush, liked it, am still using it and haven’t as yet replaced the battery that came with it. I’ve got spare brush heads, so on the current performance, I should be using it for a while yet.

Caroline picked up a similar device from Clas Ohlson’s store in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last year. While the sign said it was £4.99, the item came up as being £2.99 when it was rung through the till. It’s worked, but Caroline has switched to a Colgate 360 battery powered toothbrush and has found that to be a better buy.

Clothing with a silver content has worked well. I’ve gone on about the Rohan range of t-shirts and underwear for years, but I’ve found that trainer and dress socks from Marks & Spencer have also been worth investing in. Nasty riffs from sweaty feet are a thing of the past!

Caroline tried Rohan’s Ultra Silver camisoles and briefs last year and has gone on to buy another couple of sets as they’ve proved to be quite useful. The fine fabric is comfortable to wear, even in hot climates and each item has been washed at the end of the day and either packed or worn the following day depending on what we’ve been up to.

Rohan’s Travel Linen clothing has also been a useful addition to her wardrobe, as have the three pairs of Goa trousers that I bought last year. Whilst I spent a great deal of time in t-shirts when we were in Lisbon, there were times when I felt slightly underdressed whilst having evening meals.

So I invested in some short and long sleeved shirts in last summer’s Rohan sale and added a couple of polo shirts to my travel collection. The latter can also be washed on a night and worn the following morning and I have gone out and bought another three because I’ve started wearing them at home.

Merino wool t-shirts have also been added to the wardrobe and these are also home and away items. I’ve used them as base layers when heading to the airport at 3am in below freezing conditions and on their own at rock concerts, wandering around town and whilst walking on coastal boardwalks on sunny days.

Anything else? Giant size Lifeventure travel towels have been useful in hostels or guest houses when towels or bathrobes haven’t been available and as part of the wash and wear processes.

Wash the item, squeeze the water out and then roll it up in the towel to get rid of any excess water before hanging the clothing and the towel up to dry.

The last items help to keep my pack organised and at a hand-luggage gauge friendly size.

A collection of Rohan lightweight storage cubes have been bought and used. One large one contains a mix of t-shirts, polo shirts and long sleeves, another is used for spare trousers, a micro fleece pullover and a fleece gilet and then two smaller cubes respectively contain underwear and socks.

Any chargers and adaptors are in a small wash bag pouch from IKEA, any paperwork is in a plastic wallet from WHS Smith and the guidebook goes in a small plastic carrier bag. Meds are in a clear plastic bag along with any necessary paperwork whilst the wash kit goes into one of the clear zipped pouches used to contain the Gillette travel kits I mentioned yesterday.

The Kindle, Nikon, passport, wallet and loose change go in my jacket or trouser pockets along with my reading specs and my spare pair of specs that double up as sunglasses thanks to Transitions lenses.

And tomorrow? What didn’t keep on keeping on!

Snow time…

Greetings from a partially snow covered Yorkshire.

It’s bright, it’s sunny and there’s snow on the ground – just a light cover mind, but snow nevertheless.

It’s not going to last though.

The brisk walk up to the local shop an hour ago wasn’t through a full covering of snow and a quick glance out of the window now I’m back indoors has revealed that the multicoloured gnomes in the back garden have lost their frosty coating.

There is a breeze though and the temperatures are low, hence the choice of layers for that walk.

Which were pretty much the same as what I’d have chosen had I been heading out for a wander through the woods to the pub or for a day out with a pack in the country or on the hill.

First up was an Icebreaker merino base layer, then a Patagonia Snap Neck fleece pullover and then a North Face Nuptse 900 LTD down jacket. On the legs were a pair of Peter Storm soft shell trousers, a pair of Bridgedale socks and a pair of Salomon boots.

Result? Warm and toasty all the way there and back…

If I had been in the country or on the hill, then the chances are that the Nuptse would be in my pack and used when lunch or coffee breaks were declared.

I’d probably be wearing a fleece gilet and a soft shell instead (the old faithful TNF hooded soft shell has just been reproofed with Nikwax Soft Shell proofing) and have a pair of gloves and a mountain cap in the pockets, just in case. Oh, and a pair of base layer leggings too.

The choices aren’t too far removed from what Caroline was wearing earlier when she took Frosty The Snowbike out for its first spin. Frosty is her old Dawes hybrid bike that’s had winter tyres fitted and works a treat (especially now that the brakes have been fixed – the tyre fitter [not me or Caroline!] forgot to reconnect the brake cables)…

A base layer, bike shirt, fleece and reflective waterproof jacket do the job in virtually all weathers on both her leisure rides and her early morning/late evening commutes to and from work.

But layering doesn’t have to be used solely outdoors. We both wear layers around the house over the winter months – they keep us warm and comfortable and help keep the bills down so we’re not laying down the foundations for big gas bills later in the year.

Does it work? Yes, as it was a tactic I first used thirty-odd years ago as the first house I had after leaving home was an exposed, not very insulated farmhouse with single glazing.

We’ve also used the same techniques elsewhere too, most recently in a place that had a wood burner in the lounge.

Not saying it was cold, but we were both in there wearing merino base layers, fleece pullovers and down vests and were just about warm!

Mind you, it was even colder down on the beach the following day – thank goodness for high quality down jackets!

I’ll be going into more layering next week as there’s a round-up of base layer principles and some product reviews too happening on wisepacking.

The snow may be melting now here in Yorkshire, but it’s going to be back…

And we’re prepared for it – right down to the home baked cheese scones that are being baked this afternoon and a good bit of comfort food for tea.

Beef stew with dumplings and mashed potatoes. Cooked from scratch, not from a tin or a supermarket freezer section!