Poshpacking required for this hotel! Pic by Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100
Yes, it’s Rohantime once more as my recent Poshpacking post is currently being featured on the Rohantime website.
Thanks as ever to Sarah Howcroft for picking up on it and publishing.
Watch out for something completely different regarding clothes and packing as wisepacking goes rocking all over the world!
The cloisters at Pousada Convento da Graca, Tavira
Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100
It all began in October last year when Caroline’s workplace approved a week away in March and then Expedia came up with an offer that we couldn’t refuse – flights from our local airport, private transfers from and to Faro airport and a week in a hotel in Tavira on the Algarve.
Not just any hotel you understand, but one that Berlitz Algarve described as “one of the most desirable places to stay on the entire coast” – Pousada Convento da Graca, a converted 16th century convent complete with cloisters and its own church.
We knew that Pousadas had special rates for those of us who are over 55, but as the offer we were made beat a few of the prices we had last year for stays in guest houses or boutique hotels, it would have been madness to turn it down…
Which left a couple of problems.
The first was what to wear during our stay, given that Lonely Planet Portugal‘s comments on the Pousada started with “If you can get past the front door (there’s a bit of an attitude here)”…
The second was packing to cope with any potential dress code, given that we were flying with hand luggage and that our airline – Monarch – had a 10kg weight restriction on hand luggage.
In the end, we needn’t have worried, even though the temperatures encountered during the first full week of March were below expectations after reading the ten day forecasts for Faro and Tavira.
We packed by taking our cue from these forecasts and perceptions based on looking through the photos in the Pousada Convento da Graca section of the website dedicated to the Portuguese Pousadas.
I ended up packing virtually all Rohan kit once more. Four Progress polo shirts, a couple of Stratum long sleeved polos, two Merino t-shirts, two pairs of 2015 Goa trousers, a selection of Cool Silver trunks and a few pairs of M&S silver containing socks.
Wash kit had the usual contents – factor 30 Nivea suncream, disposable razor, King of Shaves shaving oil, Via Sonic battery toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, Lush shower gel, and Sanex roll-on anti-perspirant. Spare shoes? One pair of espadrilles.
Caroline’s choices were somewhat similar and yes, most of it was also from Rohan. Ultra Silver camisoles and briefs, a couple of Serene vests, a brace of Malay tops, a pair of travel linen trousers, a pair of Trailblazer trousers bought during the Rohan sale at Trek & Trail Saltaire and a Malay dress – just in case. Oh, and a couple of Stria long sleeved tops, again just in case.
Our choices coped admirably with both the expected dress codes and the changeable weather conditions encountered. We’d layered up in readiness for the early start to the airport (3am departure from the house with a car thermometer reading – 1C), so these warm layers (Rohan, Peter Storm, Lowe Alpine) came into their own on the cooler nights during our trip.
We didn’t have any problems once we checked into the Pousada or in fitting in whilst wandering around Tavira, eating in family run restaurants such as Bica, Casa Simao and Churrasqueira O Manel or on the local buses and trains used to get us around the Algarve and the ferry used to have a few hours in Spain.
Yes, there was a bit of washing and wearing going on during the week to keep things sweet, but we stayed smart and our bags came in at 8kg each so no worries on the plane!
And we weren’t the only ones using Rohan in the Pousada either as fellow Brits were sporting Rohan trousers or shirts in and around the hotel.
An account of our visit to Tavira will be posted here soon!
Caroline, Sunday morning, 7.15 am, waiting for the car to Faro Airport.
Keith Rickaby, Nikon Coolpix S3100
So, how did things go with the items listed on Portugal Packing v3.0?
Very well actually (and everything bar the worn stuff did go into our respective Osprey Farpoint 40 packs). Virtually all of the clothing taken along earned their place in the pack or on me in the case of the items worn on the plane.
The only mistake I made was in taking along my pair of Peter Storm Soft Shell trousers.
They’ve been worth their weight in gold since I bought them last year, but they were too heavy an item to take along and wear in Portugal, especially given the temperatures encountered (even on the couple of wet, windy and generally stormy days).
When the storm hit Porto on the Tuesday of our trip, I ended up wearing one of my Rohan Cool Silver t-shirts, Rohan Goa trousers and the same brand’s Silver containing socks and trunks. The top layer was my HyVent jacket from The North Face. On my feet were one of the two pairs of Salomon ventilated shoes that I’d taken along.
Despite the conditions, everything worked well. Yes, I was wet from the bottom of the waterproof to the pavement and the inside of the jacket’s sleeves were damp, despite the pit zips being opened to provide some ventilation.
The rain was teeming down though and as it was still relatively warm, I’d expected some condensation in the sleeves as the linings were solid rather than mesh and also because I was wearing a t-shirt rather than a long sleeved shirt so my bare arms were helping raise those condensation levels.
Now the Goa trousers may be lightweights and meant for tropical use, but this combination worked in their favour once I got out of the rain and into the photography museum we were aiming for during the storm.
They were soaked when I entered the museum, but as I wandered around, they dried out.
So much so that I was able to sit down and partake in one of the many espressos imbibed over the course of the trip. The vending machine coffee was fine, but it wasn’t going to stop the rain, so after a while it was time to get back out there and try and find some lunch.
And yes, the Goas got soaked once more, then dried out again whilst waiting and eating fodder and then got soaked once more as we left the cafe, went to do some food shopping and headed back to the hostel we were staying in at Porto.
End result? Worn/soaked/dried/soaked/dried/soaked and you get the picture by now. Not only did they perform well under the challenging conditions, they also coped well with the heat encountered later in the week and over the time we were in Coimbra plus the lower temperatures and breezes when we were on the Atlantic Coast.
Washing and drying wasn’t a problem with the Goas either. Once we had a decent sink and places to dry kit out, then there weren’t any problems with the washing and wearing of any of the kit we’d taken along.
Caroline’s storm days kit worked as well as my own – the Rohan Thai trousers worked well as did the selection of tops used on the days and her somewhat elderly Berghaus PacLite Gore-Tex jacket. Her Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes did get a soaking, as did my Salomons, but they did dry out relatively quickly and were usable a couple of days later (something we’d anticipated, hence the decision to take two pairs of shoes each rather than lighter or flimsier items).
All of our tops performed as expected, especially the Rohan Stratum Polo Long Sleeved which came into its own on the nights when we could sit outside restaurants to have a meal.
Caroline was also more than happy with the couple of Ultra Silver Camisoles and the matching briefs that she’s taken along. These were used on their own or as part of a low-key layering system on cooler days, but washed and dried like crazy every couple of days, as did her Serene vest tops.
One thing that we did forget (okay, one thing that I forgot!) was our Lifeventure travel sink plug.
The sinks in three out of our five different lodgings in Portugal didn’t come with sink plugs, so necessity was the mother of invention. I plugged some sinks with socks whilst Caroline found that the top from her Nivea roll-on deodorant did the job in one place.
Other than that, it was make do and mend with the plastic top off a Pringles tube or the plastic top from a small tub of Hagen Daaz ice cream. Needless to say, a small amount of food consumption went on before these tops were used in the sinks…
Anything else? Yep, the tea tree oil worked well on the insect bites, as did the tube of gel that was bought in Porto to help combat the results of unexpected encounters with mosquitos.
The lavender oil had helped to keep the flying nasties at bay, but some had got through, resulting in 10 bites on my back, legs, arms and face, even though I had kept myself under the bed sheets on even the warmest nights in Portugal.
What I wasn’t expecting was for one of my pairs of shoes to deteriorate. One of the fabric lace retainers came away and as the two weeks wore on, it became apparent that the shock absorbing materials were breaking down inside the sole unit.
Although the shoes weren’t that old, they had done around 400 miles or so. Given that I have gait problems and also have trouble with my left leg as a result of that stroke a few years ago, I knew that it wasn’t something that I could put down as a problem with the shoes as I’ve been wearing Salomon shoes and boots for years now and not had any problems.
As a result, they were left in Portugal – not in a bin, but with someone who was going to repair the lace retainer and hand the shoes over to a local homeless charity.
On a lighter note, the umbrella that I’d taken along didn’t last either. It went inside out a few times in Porto and ended up being left in a guest house somewhere in Portugal.
It had served its purpose though in Somerset, London and Porto and as it had cost me the princely sum of £1, I wasn’t going to complain about being ripped off by a pound shop…
Because we’ve undertaken two visits to Portugal this year and our bag contents were changed from our original Portugal packing list to contend with the very different weather conditions encountered in July and September 2015.
v2.0 covers the stuff that was taken along in July when there was little chance of rain, but a very good chance of high temperatures and top of the charts UV levels, even in Lisbon – our destination and base for the week away. Fortunately, the weather conditions at home were approaching those in Lisbon.
The drive to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and a pre-flight night in the Hampton by Hilton hotel was a late one as Caroline had spent virtually all day at a family wedding. A swift change was made when she arrived home and the car was taken off the drive and pointed towards the M62 in search of the airport.
Baggage choices? Our trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 packs as usual as yes, we were travelling hand luggage, but on an airline that neither of us had used before – easyJet.
And the contents of the bags?
In my case they included a security friendly travel size wash bag that had been bought for the journey. It was originally full of predominately Gillette products aimed at travellers, but a little pruning and replacement ensured that the new contents covered all eventualities.
The disposable razor and small tube of toothpaste were retained, but in went a plastic cased Dove roll-on anti-perspirant instead of the smaller capacity metal aerosol.
That was followed by the Slim Sonic Toothbrush I mentioned a few posts back, a bottle of Lifeventure Fabric Wash for the clothes, a 100ml bottle of Lush’s Flying Fox shower gel for me, a small bottle of tea tree oil, a similarly sized bottle of King Of Shaves shaving oil and two small bottles of Nivea Factor 50 sun cream (Tesco had them on a 3 for 2 promo and they were worth the investment of buying a couple of deals each on Factor 50 and Factor 30 creams…)
Did they work? Oh yes and even though we were keeping the protection topped up, we still came back a little browner than we were when we left the UK.
As before, my usual prescribed meds, yellow Warfarin book and repeat prescription forms went in along with a pack of indigestion tablets and a few sachets of recovery powder (just in case there were too many glasses of vino collapso or local lagers imbibed over the course of a day…
Worn items included a pair of Salomon ventilated trainers, a pair of Rohan Goa trousers, one of four Rohan Core Silver t-shirts (the rest were in the bag along with a couple of Rohan Element t-shirts).
Why so many t-shirts? As good as all of these shirts are, expectations of 30+ C meant that for once I was playing safe and wearing two shirts per dayrather than one a day. I did however regret not having a polo shirt or two as a smarter option as we were eating out so much over the course of the week.
Rohan Cool Silver trunks and suitable socks completed the worn outfit and yes, there were spares in the bag of these. Other packed items included another pair of Goa trousers, my Nikon Coolpix digital compact camera and charger plus my Kindle and charger, a newly purchased Rohan Stowaway Daypack 20 packable day sack and a travel towel. Oh, and a copy of Rough Guide‘s Pocket Rough Guide to Lisbon plus a pair of Next espadrilles for sock free days or nights out…
Caroline’s clothes packing wasn’t quite a mirror image of mine as she packed a couple of Rohan Serene vest tops, a Rohan Malay Linen Plus top and a few other items from that brand’s travel linen range too.
Footwear choices were a pair of Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes and a pair of Merrell sports sandals. Her day bag was a Rohan Stowaway Daybag 3 packable handbag to hold her passport, camera, travel wallet, tissues, sun cream and a small bottle of water.
Was everything used?
Yes, it was and the washing and wearing processes also worked well too, even when washing out trousers. Washing was typically done on a morning before we went out and left to dry on hangers next to the windows once the clothing had been rolled up in a travel towel as a means of squeezing out any excess water.
The Rohan Goa trousers were just right for the trip thanks to a lightweight fabric that washed and dried quickly, two zipped pockets to take wallet, camera, reading specs and guest house keys and protect them from thieving bar-stools.
We knew that there is an ongoing problem with pickpocketing in Lisbon, but the owner of the cafe we ate in when we first arrived was quite forthright in his views when he warned us of the dangers of losing stuff (we did meet a lady who had had her smartphone stolen on a tram in Lisbon when we were in the queue for the flight home a week later…).
Out of all the things we took along with us, there was only one piece of kit that required a rethink. I’ve no doubt that the Rohan packable day sack will come into its own in the UK over days out and periods away over the coming months, but I have to admit to making a personal wrong choice by using it over the first few days in Lisbon.
It was a bit too big for what I wanted to carry around with me and I ended up buying a small cotton bag that sufficed for the rest of the week. The Rohan item won’t be wasted though, because there’s at least one trip coming up soon where it will be in its element, so it will be used again and again. The cotton bag purchased in Lisbon will be inside to use as a shopping bag…
Thanks to Rohantime for posting this one from the wisepacking files a few minutes ago!
Yes, we’re twelve days into 2015 and if the news/opinion/conjecture is anything to go by, it could be a good year for travelling.
Will the exchange rate (pound v euro for example) stay favourable?
Will air fares come down thanks to the price of oil and changes to APD charges?
Will George bite the bullet on Budget Day and drop APD charges as a sweetener in the run-up to the election in May?
Will more people head off to foreign shores as a result?
Or will they stay at home in the UK and take advantage of the current lower fuel prices?
And lower food prices if self catering thanks to supermarket wars?
Will travellers cut down on tech and talk to real people in hostels and destinations rather than immersing themselves in what’s onscreen on their smartphones, tablets or laptops?
Or realise that you can travel on hand luggage only, even if it’s a three-six month trip?
(I suspect that the lady Caroline and I were talking to in Tavira may have cut down on her bag sizes after seeing our Osprey packs. A few Brits staying in the same hotel were similarly gobsmacked when they saw us checking out on our last day there…)
Or realise that by flying hand luggage only, you can cut out hold luggage and bag in the cab boot charges – more money for nights on the town, a better meal or sightseeing…
Or realise that staying in one, two or three places rather than five, six, seven or more can be a more worthwhile experience as you can see more, pay less, relax and linger over breakfast rather than rushing out for a train to get to the next port of call…
(Best example of this is the American guy I met who had arrived in Bergen that morning, had joined the Norway In A Nutshell tour and was heading to Oslo from Myrdal then onwards to Stockholm and then to Helsinki – Scandinavia ticked off in 24 hours! D’oh…)
Our trip list for 2015 has been discussed, but there’s a couple of late suggestions going into the melting pot.
One is a visit to Northern Ireland to visit Bushmills, Giant’s Causeway and the Armoy motor cycle road races.
The other is to visit a place that’s been mentioned a few times, but has come to the fore once more thanks to the book I’ve just finished reading, watching Casablanca last week and news stories over the last few days.
I’ve walked in the Jura and in Provence, but we’ve never been to Paris.
Snugpak GeoGrip Gloves: £19.95
After a hat or a Buff, another useful accessory is a decent pair of gloves.
If I’m away in what promises to be cold, wet or wintry conditions, then I take a pair and always pack at least one spare pair.
Why? Because I was very glad that I did a few years ago when I took a pair of performance fleece gloves off in order to take one shot on a motor driven compact camera when I was doing some cross-country skiing in the Lillehammer area.
I’d put my gloves over the top of my ski poles and although the time elapsed between taking the gloves off, taking the shot and going to put the gloves back on again was less than 30 seconds, they’d already frozen up. Spare gloves were dug out of my pack and donned before continuing the day out. Yes, it was that cold!
Now I haven’t had the chance to try these Snugpak GeoGrip Gloves out in total anger yet, because the main rainfall has come overnight around here and we haven’t has yet had any snowfall either, so not even the snowball test has been carried out as yet.
When the snow does arrive (and the Met Office think there could be some in January), I’ll dive back on here and let you know. In the meantime, the gloves are going to go in the car in readiness for such eventualities, largely because when we had the last batch of decent snow, there was about six inches of the stuff appeared overnight.
So, what makes these Snugpak gloves worth £19.95?
They’re made from neoprene, so they’re water resistant and offer warmth too. The neoprene allows the user to wear them when wet and helps in the drying time stakes whilst the rubber palm grips allow the user to grip ski or walking poles, cameras, maps, coffee mugs or a medicinal dose from a hip flask at the end of the day out.
There’s an emphasis on the amount of dexterity available on these gloves. I haven’t had any problems with a lack of dexterity on the usage so far in milder conditions, even though I still have some problems with my left hand.
That’s down to the after effects of that stroke I had ten years ago and whilst I’ve almost got full use of my fingers once more, that usage comes and goes from time time as a few supermarket till operators will testify to after I dropped a load of loose change all over the place when paying for purchases!
As far as the right hand goes though, there’s no worries, which is a good job as I am right handed. Gripping tightly and using cameras or fiddling with keys when I get back home isn’t a problems and neither is opening and closing straps or zips when I need to get something from a pocket in my pack or whatever jacket I’m wearing at the time.
The GeoGrips are easily donned and removed thanks to their stretchy cuffs, they can be clipped together and then onto a jacket when necessary and they’re easily washed too (it’s a hand wash though, not a machine wash).
Other gloves are available and on the usage so far, the GeoGrip Gloves are performing favourably. When the snow or the rain really hits home, then they will be taken out and used in anger along with a select few that I’ve been using for a few years now (I’m a bit fussy when it comes to gloves!).
If you want to keep warm – get a hat!
Hats come in all shapes and sizes – mountain caps, wooly numbers with ear flaps, ones that look like they should be getting stroked whilst the owner says something like ‘We’ve been expecting you Mr. Bond…‘ or pure and simple hats like the Eider Garmish Beanie (£20) that’s pictured above.
Yes, it’s bright and noticeable, but that’s something that I’m never going to be worried about. Yes, my usual choice of hat colour owes a lot to a Henry Ford quote, but there are times when something that’s bright and colourful is preferable to having a whole outfit that wouldn’t be out of place at a gig by The Mission, Sisters Of Mercy or Fields Of The Nephiim (and I have been to gigs by two out for the three bands mentioned there – the middle one is the odd one out!). Not saying that I wear a lot of black, but I just happen to wear a lot of black…
There’s a practicality to wearing a hat. It can be a style statement or a piece that like the Eider Garmish Beanie in that it’s designed to tie in with other Eider clothing. It’s also a practical choice too as around 40% of body heat can be lost through the head. Wear a hat and you should feel warmer in no time.
If it’s cold and crisp and even, then the warmth should help matters. If it’s snowing or raining, then a waterproof hat could come in useful or you could simply put your waterproof jacket’s hood up (unless of course you’re the bloke I served about seven or eight years ago who said he wouldn’t be seen dead using his jacket’s hood! There’s always one…).
There are also times when wearing a hat indoors can be useful. The only times that I’ve worn a hat indoors have coincided with heating breakdowns in shops or at home or the one time when I went away for a couple of days and returned home to find that all of the pipes in my rented house had frozen up – time to get a hair dryer out on the pipes as recommended by the plumber who was working on a similar problem a few doors away from me.
There are alternatives to hats though – such as the ubiquitous Buff.
The Buff is one of the most useful pieces of kit in both Caroline’s and my own outdoor or travel wardrobes. We both have a few variations on a theme by Buff and makers of lookalike items with the standard and Polar Buffs proving to be the most useful and long-lived weapons of choice.
They’ve been used as neck gaiters, pulled over the face in cold weather, used as a balaclava in cold weather or worn as a helmet liner in wintry weather. Buffs have also been used as hand towels, packing for small crockery items bought abroad and as handkerchiefs on occasions as well (and washed soon after because only one of the Buffs I have is a green one!).
I’ve used mine whilst walking, cross-country skiing, climbing and whilst travelling. Caroline uses her examples around town, whilst commuting to work on the bike, whilst out on longer rides and also when she’s travelling. Her sons use Buffs on really long bike rides and travelling (the eldest son) whilst her youngest wears his on his Suzuki 650, for climbing or when jumping out of aeroplanes. During one trip to the States, he took off in a plane 34 times in a fortnight and landed in a plane twice – the other 32 landings were ones made with the help of a parachute…
There will be another gift-related post later on today – missed yesterday as there was a food and drink buying session taking place. Ours was the smallest trolley load in each of the supermarkets we visited – anyone would think the shops were closed more more than one day this week!