21 sleeps to Scotland …
We talked about toiletries in my last post, Let’s Pack – Toiletries, so now lets talk about the biggest bulk of any suitcase, backpack or duffel bag… the clothes!
From conversations with many a travelling soul in hostels or hotels, on planes or trains, and chats among my friends and family – it seems to me that deciding on the clothes to bring on a trip is the toughest part of packing. I get that. This used to be something I really struggled with.
I used to hunt through websites and books for that perfect packing list – which of course alluded me as much as the perfect, diet alludes us all. I would stand in front of my closet or dresser pulling out anything I might just maybe want wear while away on a trip. I would think of every possible scenario that could ever possibly happen and make sure I had an outfit for it. The result was always way too much stuff. My suitcase or pack would be burden not a comfort. Why was I creating burdens to take with me, when the whole idea of trip is to ditch those burdens at home and travel light and free?
Well after a few trips of carrying way too much, I started to think about what principles I could apply to how I pack that would reduce the amount I take on a trip without leaving me unprepared. Not only was I keen to stop over packing, I was also keen to make the act of packing a little less stressful. Also, if it made picking what to wear while abroad a little less stressful too that would be fabulous. So over a few more trips I developed some principles that really, really work for me – happy to share them with you here!
Packing (Clothes) Principles:
Leave items that still have price tags at home (or at the store)
If you have not worn it and loved it, it does not come on the trip. There is nothing worse than discovering a shirt is uncomfortable, those pants ride up, or even that something is broken or you don’t know how to use it when you are abroad. That was precious pack space and weight that has been spent on an unworthy item. Test every item you are taking with you before you take it with you.
Leave anything that is too special to wear at home, at home
Clothes that you are not wearing at home are not going to get worn on a trip. We are creatures of habit and will reach for those comfort items more than the new or special almost every time. That summer dress you have been saving to wear again when you next go to Mexico – don’t bother packing it. If you don’t love it enough to wear at home it does not deserve a place in your pack. Only items that bring you joy, no matter latitude and longitude, should be coming with you on your travels.
All tops and all bottoms need to get along
This is a tough one folks but has the most impact. This one principle will make decision making so much easier when you pack and when you decide what to wear while away. Here it is … every top you take should match any bottom you take. So that tank top needs to match the shorts, skirt and the pants you are packing. Those tights need to match every shirt you are taking. An easy way to achieve this is to stick to black, grey and khaki on the bottom; with solids or muted, simple patterns on top. Refer to the next principle if you need more spice than this principles suggests.
Always pack a scarf or pashmina shawl
Some of y’all will think this only applies to the ladies, but for those fashion forward and comfy-in-their-own-skin men I would also recommend this one for you too!
While I have been using the same grey scarf when I travel for 15 years, this is where I encourage you all to add a little more ju-ju (some spice for those of you who do not watch Queer Eye) to your trip wardrobe. Don’t let my easy choice colour deter you from some pizzazz here. Caveat is you need to be willing to wear it with every top/bottom combo you have. For people like me who are fashion-challenged this means a neutral solid colour like grey but for those of you who actually have a sense of style you can kick it up a notch here and get your own look on.
A scarf is great for so many things: when you are chilled and need a little something more than you have on but less than a jacket, a pillow on a plane or train, a fashion accessory, to cover knees or shoulders when visiting churches or sacred locations where you have to cover up, a make shift dress while all your clothes are in the dryer due to bed bugs, as a towel in a pinch, a tourniquet and more. I also use mine to create some privacy when staying in hostels – pick the bottom bunk for your bed, and then tuck you scarf under the mattress above you and let it hand down like a curtain.
With just these principles in play I guarantee you your packing stress will be reduced big time. Don’t trust me – try it! Oh and if you are heading out on a overseas long distance hike trip, I am also happy to share my full packing list with you too. Here we go!
Packing List – Arran Coastal Way, Scotland:
This list takes into account that our trip to Scotland is 2 weeks long , is largely based on hiking 20+km each, includes only a few urban tourist days, includes flights of over 10hrs, and temperature will be summer moderate 20C with rain on a pretty regular basis. This is a long distance hike to different accommodations each night, not a thru hike.
Hiking – Bottoms
- Hiking Capri
- Hiking Pant
- Hiking Shorts
- Undies (cotton recommended) 1 pair/day
If you have zip off hiking pants that’s even better – as you can drop one of the other items from the list. For example if I pack my hiking pants that zip off into carpi length then I don’t also pack my Capri pants. Oh and make sure you trial your pants on an actual hike before you go. Shorts that ride up. undies that crawl or pant waistbands that bunch under your pack straps can cause rubs and even blisters that will ruin days of hiking for you.
Hiking – Top
- Technical Long Sleeve
- Technical Short Sleeve x2
- Technical No Sleeve
- Sports bra x2
I prefer short sleeves over no sleeves as I don’t like the pack straps being directly on my skin and it reduces the need for sunscreen on some hard to reach parts like the back of my shoulders. But if you prefer no sleeves then just flip the numbers here.
I always take 2 sports bras as I find they dry too slow to wash one evening and wear the next day. Also I want to wear the non-sweaty one in the evening after a hike post shower. In a bind, pun intended, you can also use your buff as a boob-tube of sorts if both the bras need a clean and dry. Again, make sure you do a few hikes in all your gear and especially your bras. Falling straps or pressure spots where a clasp is will make you crazy on the trail. If its uncomfortable at home it will be annoying as heck abroad.
Hiking – Outer
- Gortex Jacket (shell)
- Fleece jacket / layer
- Toque (Buff can work)
- Sun / rain hat
- Departure Day Decision: Gortex rain pants
If you do not have Gortex outer layers bring the very best rain gear you can afford, borrow or already have. Arriving at to your accommodation soggy at the end of the day is all good when you have a bath and heat available – but what if you don’t make it, get lost or are tenting? Sogginess can make for some morbid outcomes if you cannot warm up and dry off at the end of a hike day.
Also, make sure you can put all the things on – trial having your no sleeve, short sleeve, long sleeve, fleece and shell on to make sure they all fit and are comfortable. If you cannot put your rain shell on over your fleece and base layers, you need a bigger one. You want to have things fit nicely over each other. Not too tight or you will be uncomfortable but also not too loose as you will lose heat in those spaces.
Hiking – Feet
- Hiking boots
- Hiking runners or sneakers
- Flip Flops
- Smart Wool medium hiking sock x3
- Hiking liner sock x3
- Running sock (ankle) x2
- Compression sock (knee length) x2
- Departure Day Decision: Gaiters
This is largely where personal choice comes into play – there is nothing more important that finding the shoe or shoe combo that works for you. If you need some help deciding and want to know why I prefer a hiking boot and running shoe combo, check out my blog post 8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet. No matter what your footwear preference is you need to test it over and over again. Make your decision early and train in them.
I take a number of socks because I have specific combos for my boots and my runners which I toggle between everyday depending on the trail terrain. I also take more than a couple Smart Wool Medium Hiking Socks as I find they tend to stretch when moist or after a day of travel and that is blister city for me if I don’t switch them out for a new pair. When you are training, find your combo and adjust this list accordingly.
Hiking – Head
- Toque or Buff
- Sun / Rain hat
I go nowhere without my Patagonia Beanie so this may something that you don’t need to bring with you if the weather where you are heading is always moderate. I love mine for cool morning starts, pints on the patio with the sun setting, and to block the light when sleeping on planes or train stations.
The sun/rain hat should have a decent rim on it to keep the elements from your face and neck – a good brim is also good for keeping the bug netting off your face if we have to resort to this measure when the Scottish midges get too bad.
Hiking – The Other Bits
- Day Pack (rain cover)
- First Aid Kit
- Hiking Poles*
- Buff x2
- Sunscreen (face/body and lip)
- Bug Spray
- Trail Guide, Map, Compass (waterproof map case)
- Phone, Camera (Ziploc bag)
- Some extra Ziploc baggies (to transfer your snacks into)
- Carabiner x2 (to dry clothes while walking)
- Departure Day Decision: Hiking Poles
Many of these items will also be part of your sight seeing tourist days as well – your phone, camera, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, Ziploc baggies are all daily items no matter the activity. Even a Carabiner or 2 should be clipped onto your lightweight day bag or purse so you can clip on anything you buy, secure your water bottle, secure the purse to your clothing (if you are in a high rate pick pocket city), etc.
All The Other Things
- Top and bottom pajamas (cotton)
- Sleep mask
- Earplugs or headphones
- Cotton tights or light pants
- Cotton No Sleeve, T-Shirt or Long Sleeve
- Cotton button up (or Technical UV Button Up)
- Journal and pens
- Scarf or Pashmina
- Light weight bag or purse
- Light weight water bottle
- Cotton undies 1 pair/day when not hiking
- Small Ziploc of dry laundry soap
I am a big advocate of natural fibers when technical gear is not required. They just feel comfortable and cozy and I like to have what is immediately next to my body be as natural as possible. So I am all about the cotton undies everyday on a trip even if you have to bring a few extra pairs as they don’t wick as well as synthetic fibers. Also, I always wear cotton tights, cotton tank or tee, a cotton button up shirt, my scarf and compression socks on a long haul plane trip. This keeps me in cotton, gives me layers for when the temp changes on the plane, keeps the feet swelling down and is almost like being in pajamas without the world knowing it.
Do you have to do laundry on your trip? To have your hiking clothes available for sight seeing or vice versa you may need to do a little laundry. If you can find a laundromat great but I tend to not worry about that and just hand wash a couple of items each night or every other night. I do not put any of my technical gear in the dryer so a sink wash and a hang dry works for me – especially in the United Kingdom where most rooms have a radiator heater for quick drying.
Departure Day Decisions … prior to departing I will check the long term forecast and make a decision on if Gortex rain paints are needed. I will bring them if we they are forecasting a 50% chance of rain for 50% of the hiking days. I have read the guide book and continue to read blogs about the trail and will use this info to decide if Gaiters or hiking poles are needed. I will bring Gaiters if 50% of the trail is either high grasses, through overgrown bush or over gravel, pebble, shale based trail. This will keep the ticks at bay and the rocks out of my shoes which are blister makers. I will bring the poles if there is a 50% elevation gain or drop on 50% of the hiking days. This will keep my balance up and reduce the pressure on these four decade old knees.
There you go – now off I go to put all these items together!
Next week I will post some packing tips – some things I have learned that help make the actual act of putting stuff in that duffel, suitcase or pack easier before you go and when you are off gallivanting.