I'm a picky packer but these items have earned a place in my pack.
My idea of a rocking Friday night? Why, I'm in my room, all my travel gear spread out, and I'm playing "kit". Whether or not I have an actual trip coming up is irrelevant! And, as many of you know, I love checking out new travel items. Cute, interesting, and small sized products often catch my eye, but they seldom win my heart. For as much as I love messing around with all my travel products, the truth is that very few items win over my heart and earn a permanent place in my pack.
Maybe my years of travel have made me a very discerning consumer - or maybe I'm just getting old and don't want to be bothered hauling around gear that's not 100% up to par. Either way, lately I've been more likely to delete items from my packing list, not add to it. But these following items were the exception. They survived the purge and fought their way to the top of the list to secure a place in the pack.
Let's lay it all out: Sometimes travelling is a gross, sweaty mess of a time. You don't have to be particularly adventurous or sporty to find yourself, um, aglow with perspiration, dust, and dirt. Just a simple walking tour or dash through a train station will do it!
I originally picked up the PackTowl Nano at my local sports store because, well, it was just so tiny and cute! (And, yes, "cute" does seem to play a big factor in my gear selection.) I had vague ideas that it might be useful as an emergency washcloth while traveling on the train but I had no idea just how handy it would be. Happily, this teensy little towel punches well above its weight!
I did use it as a washcloth a few times, but where it really earned its stripes was as a brow mopping, sweat collecting handkerchief-towel. It easily absorbed oodles of scintilating back sweat after a bike tour (I told you travel is gross!) It was a lifesaver to mop down my face and neck while stuck on a boiling train platform. Its extremely absorbent material soaked up all the available moisture and instantly made me feel a little more civilized.
I loved that the PackTowl Nano came attached to its own stuff sack with a wee little clip and that the sack was mesh on one side, allowing for some extra ventilation. (However, if you do get the material saturated, I'd advise you to quickly rinse it out in the sink with a tiny drop of soap and let it air dry - it should be ready to pack in about an hour.) There's also a caribiner clip to attach it to your day bag. Ultra tiny, ultra light, ultra cute - and happily it's ultra handy as well. PackTowl Nano - you've earned a permanent spot in my pack!
Sunglasses from SmartBuyGlasses
There's an old adage that, to get one good photo, you have to take 100. When it comes to my poses, however, the ratio is even wider. I'm a squinter and it's my own fault. I'm never wearing sunglasses!
It's been nearly 6 years since I've had a new pair of sunglasses. And I've long abandoned my old ones - they were perfectly good but once I updated the prescription in my regular glasses, it was just too off-putting to keep switching back and forth. But I knew I had to protect my eyes - and Ryan was getting tired to retaking otherwise perfectly good shots!
Enter SmartBuyGlasses to the rescue! Ordering a new pair of Burberry sunglasses online was as easy as picking a style (okay, that wasn't too easy, there's a ton of designer frames to chose from) and finding my prescription (alright - I've got to get a file for these things). In a matter of days, I had my new shades in hand!
I love that the sunglasses were carefully protected for their trip through the mail. They were shipped in a sunglasses case, and placed in a hard cardboard box with spare, non-prescription lenses, and then wrapped in bubble wrap. It was great peace of mind to know that such an important purchase was protected and I loved all the deluxe designer touches in the packaging. It felt like I was unwrapping a package on Christmas morning!
I've long known that I should make room for sunglasses in my pack for the sake of protecting my eye health - and, of course, it's great to cut down on all my squinting photos! But I also love that I'm not blinded by the sun when I look up at architectural details on walking tours and that I feel more confident when joining cycling tours on sunny days. And, as you can see, they were the perfect accessory for a beautiful autumn hike with Oliver by my side!
The collapse-a-bill hat.
This post is filled with confessions. I'm not much better about taking care of my head than I am about taking care of my eyes! But I KNEW I needed to wear a hat much more than I did. I burn so easily and I dislike intense summer heat. There was an easy solution, I just had to implement it. I had to start wearing a hat!
But hats can be finicky. I needed something that could accommodate a ponytail and also something that could be squished up so it took next to no room. And I found it in Outdoor Research's Switchback Cap - but I think a much better name would be "The collapse-a-bill!"
(Collapse-a-bill -> collapsible -> the front bill of the cap can collapse. Sometimes I just crack myself up!)
You see that seam in the center of the hat's bill? It allows the hat to be folded in half and the lightweight remainder of the material can be scrunched up, making it extremely easy to pack. It takes up no space or weight in a day bag, making it the perfect hat to add as a 'just in case' item for a long day of exploration.
The hat has a tiny zippered pocket (for a key or some emergency money) and can easily be hand washed. If I were to make my purchase all over again, I might chose another color over the pink. That is one bright hat! But, to each their own for color selection. While I still don't really enjoy having to wear a ball cap, I am getting better at recognizing how important it is to do so and I'm glad to have found a product that's so pack friendly.
A spork that really "lights my fire".
I've eliminated a lot of food related odds and ends from my pack. I used to travel with emergency instant oatmeal and immersion coils for boiling water! And maybe there's a time and a place for items like that, depending on where you're going and what you're doing. But trip after trip I found myself lugging around items "just in case" that I never used.
The Light My Fire spork has been the exception. While I don't use my spork ("spoon-fork") on every single trip, it usually makes at least one appearance. I love the Light My Fire brand for their lightweight, durable, easy-to-sterilize plastic that comes in bright, cheerful colors. I also like that one edge of the fork end has a serrated tine. It's not quite a knife but it does come in handy. I also like that the spoon is on one end and the fork is on the other. It's been an nifty tool to have on hand for late night leftovers and assembling light meals based on market finds and I never regret having it in my pack. Not too shabby for a $3 item!
Picky packing has paid off for me.
I'm always on the lookout for gear that makes my pack lighter and makes my trip more comfortable. And these items fit the bill! (Or should I say that they fit the collapse-a-bill?) I really believe that every aspect of travel should be a pleasure, even the packing. And while I know my packing obsession is a bit, well, not so normal, I hope it inspires other people to get excited about packing, to get excited for their trip, and to enjoy their trip with gear that always helps and never hinders.
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