As I’m leaving in just a few days for Ecuador, I’m busying myself with a lot of last-minute stuff. Unfortunately, because I’m one of those ever-disorganized procrastinators, there’s a lot of last-minute stuff. Since I’m trying to be as efficient as possible with all of this, I’ve devised my own method to cutting down on the baggage and lightening the load.
So, here is a look at one aspect of my packing process. Maybe this is incredibly boring, but maybe you can pick up something from it. Let’s take a look at packing clothes when your travel plans are open-ended.
Step 1: Lay out any clothing that you may conceivably want to bring
This may seem like extra work, but I’ve got a bad habit of stuffing things into my bag last minute. Just when my pack is all zipped and ready to go, I rediscover some old t-shirt that would be perfect to bring along. Of course, it ends up stuffed in on top, bypassing the assessment phase that all other articles of clothing have gone through.
It’s better to get these “rediscoveries” out of the way to being with. Start by pulling out any clothing you have—the dirty, the clean, the stuff in the back of the closet, whatever sits in the bottom of your pack from your last overnight trip—and lay it out in categories. These might vary for you, but I’ve reduced it to the following for me:
- Short-sleeved shirts (including short-sleeved t-shirts, sleeveless shirts, and crop-tops)
- Long-sleeved shirts (including long-sleeved t-shirts, sweaters, and cardigans)
- Pants (including leggings and shorts)
- Dresses and skirts
- (I don’t include jackets because I’m sticking to one North Face jacket and layers)
Tip: Don’t be hard on yourself for including almost everything you own in these piles. This isn’t the part where we begin to filter it down. Just get it all out there so that you know you’ve really given everything consideration by the end of the process.
Step 2: Remove three (or more) things from any category
This step shouldn’t be too difficult (unless you are a proper minimalist and really do keep it to the basics that you love). Pick three items to eliminate from any category. Maybe they’re all from the same category, maybe not—at this point it doesn’t matter. You are reaching for the lowest-hanging fruit—that is, things that require minimal effort to achieve a result. If there are more pieces that are easy for you to get rid of at this point, do it. It gets a bit harder from here.
Step 3: Remove one more thing from each category
This might be a little bit tougher. Now that you’ve removed at least three things that were obvious, you’ve got to go through and start making the harder decisions. Don’t remove things that you wear every day at home—why would you?—because you’ll miss them while you’re away.
It’s easy to make exceptions at this point. Don’t do it. Just follow the plan and get rid of something from each category (two, if you’ve still got a mountain of clothes to work with).
Step 4: Roll it up
Now that you’ve eliminated some, start rolling up individual pieces of clothing. This way, you can lay it in neat little piles and really see what you’ve got.
Step 5: Freestyle it
Packing for open-ended travel is different from packing for two weeks or two months on the road, especially when you’re going to be hitting multiple climate zones. Maybe you will be hitting up cities and taking in cultural sights in between weeks in the backcountry, and maybe you aren’t really into wearing your hiking gear during a night out.
What all of this really means is that you are packing for versatility. That doesn’t necessarily mean that each piece has a place in a particular outfit, but that you have given yourself options to make it work somewhere. So, look at what you’ve got, mix and match it, and make the decisions from there. Maybe you’ll find you want to reintroduce something that you’d gotten rid of, maybe you’ve found a gap in your wardrobe that you want to fill.
With that said, I know that I will keep changing up my clothing before my flight (in just 4 days!), but here is a general idea of what I’m bringing (in terms of clothing):
- Two t-shirts
- One button-up sleeveless shirt
- Two sleeveless shirts (one quick-dry)
- Two crop-tops
- One sweater
- One cardigan
- One long-sleeved t-shirt (quick-dry)
- Three pairs of black leggings (two are athletic-wear)
- One pair of convertible outdoors pants
- Two pairs of shorts
- Three dresses
- One Swimsuit
- One Jacket
What are your methods and tips for packing for open-ended travel?