Saturday, March 30, 2013

travel packing list and a plea to the outdoor travel clothing industry

Me in frumpy travel clothes in Quito, Ecuador. Come on active travel clothing industry- help out with this!
Last year, I traveled for 3.5 weeks in Costa Rica and Ecuador, spending time in hot and humid rainforest (still need to write up that part of the trip), cities, and a week-long Galapagos Islands adventure.  As such, I needed clothing for:
  • city touristing (Quito, Guayaquil, San Jose)
  • cycling (Quito)
  • hot weather hiking (Costa Rica, Amazon rainforest, Galapagos)
  • potentially chilly weather (Quito in the Andes at 9000 feet)
  •  swimming/snorkeling/beach times (Costa Rica, Galapagos).
I also wanted heavy duty camera equipment and binoculars for wildlife photography and viewing.

I was traveling alone and I suffer from back and foot issues, so I really wanted to minimize my luggage. I did not want to lug around a ton of weight! I also wanted to be able to "carry-on" my luggage on my (numerous) plane connections. 

How did I do?  I ended up with about 17 pounds of luggage in a smallish backpack and another 12 or so pounds in a small daypack, which doesn't sound all that light in retrospect, but worked well on the trip. This was vastly smaller amounts of luggage than most folks I encountered on the trip.  At least 5 pounds of this weight was camera equipment and binoculars, so not necessarily stuff that I'd take on every trip.

Bad photo of my big pack and small pack (on a very petite couch). The big pack was only half full but looks bigger in this picture because it is open for unpacking purposes
 I can't endorse the less-is-more approach enough. Having everything I needed in reasonably-sized packs was just a tremendous advantage on travel days and in transit. I drew frequent comments of "is this all?", and "where is your luggage"?

I created the packing list below as a reminder for my own future use. I still had too much stuff and I look forward to paring this list down on future trips (inspired in part by true lightweight travel blogs, by which standards I took a TON of stuff).  My general approach was:
  •  one set of clothes for outdoorsy activities: zip-off pants, technical T-shirt or long-sleeved travel shirt, which provided sun and mosquito protection
  • rest of clothes for non-outdoor travel activities: meals, city touristing, transfers.
This worked pretty well, with the down-side that I am wearing exactly the same thing in every photo from the trip. I permethrin-treated the long-sleeved outdoor shirt and the zip-off pants which helped a lot with mosquitos in the rainforest bit of the trip. I handwashed my clothes on this trip (as needed), and my stuff remained fairly presentable through the 3.5 weeks trip. See bottom of this post for the list & detailed comments on what I forgot or missed and what I'd leave home next time.

Oh, I dream of presentable yet light and washable outdoor clothing: I dream of light-weight, hand-washable, fast-drying, active (suitable for hiking) travel clothes that don't look so dorky. To be sure, I love the REI-style pants that zip off to become shorts for hiking and outdoor activities.  But, I would also love light-weight, flexible (zip-offs) pants that were a bit more compact (don't need all of those pockets) and not in the canonical frumpy brown/grey/khaki- colors.  I was immediately identifiable as a US tourist (and I saw numerous presumably US tourists in similar gear). At the same time, I don't want to carry my normal clothes (too heavy, eg, jeans. Also too hard to hand-wash and dry), particularly on a trip like this one that had substantial outdoorsy activities where I'd have a lot of outdoors clothes and gear. Also, I'd really love to have "technical" (ie, non-natural fabric) tops that don't accumulate arm pit odor so rapidly-- I was largely in very hot climates and handwashing for almost a month and well, 'nuf said.  Outdoor travel clothes industry: please do something about this.

Tips received in response to this blog:
Please comment if you have any tips on clothing ideas- I HATE to shop and need all the help I can get. One friend emailed and suggested Title 9, especially for the travel dress where you want something that is not bulky but also does not really wrinkle when crumpled up for travel. Update: Athletica has been recommended (see comment). Lightweight weight wool has also been recommended as an alternative to "technical" fabric.  Any other ideas??

The List:
Main pack:
two pairs travel pants (light nylon): one pair zipped off to shorts, one pair rolled up to capris
one pair running shorts
one lightweight skirt
one tank top
2 "technical" T shirts
one long sleeve light-weight travel shirt (light nylon)
3 pr travel undies, 2 bra
1 swim suit
3 pr socks
keen sandles
light hiking boots
light wool sweater
water bottle
guidebooks (3)
small bag of toiletries
small chain and padlock
massage stick
light rain jacket
prescription goggles for snorkling
small backpacking travel towel (useful for drying handwashed items)

Small pack:
digital SLR + 2 lenses
point and shoot camera, underwater cover for point and shoot camera
kindle and ipad
chargers and cables for electronics
money and travel documents
money pouch/small purse with neck cord
spare glasses
cell phone

What I forgot and missed and what I'd leave at home next-time:
What I forgot and missed: cord for use as clothesline, dressier-looking shirt to wear with skirt for nicer meals or perhaps a light summer dress and/or light dressier-looking sweater. I took a casual skirt and had a red tanktop, but while this combo was a bit casual for city dinners. I also wished that I'd had more powerful binoculars for amazon rainforest animal viewing (mine were too small for far-away animals high up in the giant trees).

What I really didn't need: guidebooks (should have printed or torn-out relevant portions. my biggest weight weenie faux pas), kindle *and* ipad.

What I didn't need but wished I had: lighter camera gear. I like my stuff, but man, the SLR and big lens is heavy.

What I really needed but wish I could have left at home: my light hiking boots. Because of my lingering foot injury from the New Zealand trip, I needed super supportive shoes for city touristing and the galapagos walks. Although the boots are light-weight as hiking boots go, they are huge and heavy and I would not normally have needed them.

Clothing comments: My T-shirts did not hold up well on this trip as they became increasingly difficult to wash (ie, stinky) and started to really almost break-down. Admittedly, I wore them almost daily for two months (these shirts also went on the New Zealand trip). I am wondering if light-weight wool would be a better choice next time?

Changes I'd make to my luggage: Next time, I want a pack that is lockable. I used an old backpack I had lying around because it was light and very basic (no suspension). It's about 20L max, but can be made quite compact when carrying less gear due to clever straps and a drawstring top. It is not lockable, though, which precluded use of luggage storage for this paranoid city girl and made me slightly nervous when it was out of my immediate control. Also, I am considering adding a light-weight compact travel safebag for securing valuables in lodging with no safes or securing valuables in pack. See above about paranoid city girl. My small camelbak daypak worked oK (I left the bladder at home) and I liked using the zippered bladder compartment for cash and valuables which felt secure nestled against my back. I might look into a lighter day pack next time, though.


Climbing above the fog
It's hard for me to get up early and get out the door to ride, but I managed to roll out at 6:10a yesterday and really hit the jackpot.
Sunrise--small bump on the left of the horizon is Diablo. White streak is airplane contrail
We rode through the city in heavy fog, then started climbing up the backside of the mountain. We broke through the fog just as the sun started rising.
Clear views atop the sea of fog
It was crystal clear above the fog, with views reaching to Diablo in the east and Mt Tam to the north. Twin Peaks radio tower and the Bay Bridge towers poked through the fog. It was really amazing.
Moon set
I feel so lucky to have such an amazing commute ride. Thanks to Dan for making my coffee and getting me out of bed!

17 miles
1300 feet of climbing

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fairfax-Point Reyes Station Loop

Point Reyes-Petaluma Road by the Nicasio reservoir
I'm trying to break out of the rut of short city rides, so yesterday I left (relatively) bright and early and headed out to Fairfax for some Marin county riding. My plan: ride the about 40 mile loop out to Point Reyes Station and back.  A good distance for me at the moment.  I haven't been riding much and I'm trying to build up my endurance again.

I rolled out on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, then turned right onto Nicasio Road. It was a glorious day! Warm and almost no wind.  I felt quite zippy, even though the ride was a bit more hilly than I had remembered. It's been a few years since I've done this route. 

Nicasio reservoir. What a day!
Dan caught me a few miles after the turn onto Point Reyes-Petaluma  Road. He'd departed by bike in the city about 30 minutes before I left by car. I'd hoped to beat him to Point Reyes Stations, oh well. 

We enjoyed lunch in the sun-- me pigging out on Bovine Bakery fare, he on fruit and berries from the supermarket.  Then, back via the usual route through Samuel B Taylor Park, Sir Francis Drake to San Geronimo Road. Despite my giant lunch (or perhaps because of it?), I kind of bonked on the last climb. Dan realized that I'd had just one bottle of water in about 3.5 hot hours, and forced me to drink some coke.
After a little rest, I regrouped and spun up the last climb.  All in all, a spectacular ride. I hope to do more ride in marin in the next few weeks!
Fairfax-Point Reyes Station cycling route
38 miles, ~2000 feet of climbing

Directions: Sir Francis Drake to Nicasio Valley Road to Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, to HW 1 to Bear Valley Road to HW 1 to Sir Francis Drake to Samuel B Taylor Park bike path to dirt path to Sir Francis Drake to an Geronimo Road to Sir Francis Drake to bike route into Fairfax (follow signs).