Penultimate ultralight travel day – reflections

Tomorrow I leave Boston and fly back to Seattle, ending a 12 day experiment in ultralight travel (combined, of course, with some lovely visits with friends and family).

I have used everything I packed, except a bulky sweater. I have bought the following to supplement my pack:

– one nice shirt
– one super light Patagonia pullover
– baby powder
– a razor
– socks
– earrings

My dad and brother met me in Detroit and brought with them Christmas presents, which were fortunately all light, but have added some bulk to my pack. We stayed in a hotel together and swam in the pool and had a great visit, but unfortunately while there, my wedding band nearly disintegrated from the chlorine in the pool, and I lost one sock and an iPad charger. My cousin in Boston has a spare charger, so I’m hoping to not need to buy a new one, but we will see. The sock is a great loss, but I was on the quest for some thin lightweight smart wool socks for hiking and trail running, and I found them on sale. The pullover was a result of a Patagonia sale, and will replace that bulky unused sweater in the future.

What I would like to figure out before my next ultralight trip is the following:

– body temp regulation
– vanity/bath bag contents
– laundry system

Temperature: I have had a few fairly miserable days as a result of heat exhaustion and general discomfort from the heat. I’d like to figure out some street clothes that can work for regulating my body heat efficiently, but still allow me to pass for being a normal human walking around a city.

Vanity: I’m sorry to admit that my modest pack of deodorant, toothbrush, dr. Bronners, mascara, and face lotion just didn’t cut it for urban travel. There were just some days when I wanted to dress up or be a little more made up (hence the nice shirt and earrings purchased in Boston before a fancy dinner out). Midway through my trip, I had the pleasure of having four hours of down time to myself at a friend’s apartment. I took a hot shower, lotioned up my sunburnt skin, used face lotion and even a little product in my hair, then took a long nap, and boy I felt great. I’d like to figure out some vanity items to pack to make me feel pretty even if I have been soldiering around a city all day after a grueling bus ride that I had to wake up early to catch.

Laundry: Well, this is where things got dicey. I had access to laundry facilities the first three days of my trip only. This is not the ideal circumstance. In Boston, I hand washed my underwear and swimsuit, believing it all to be made of quick drying fabric. Not so, with the exception of some impractical lacy undies, which dried within a few hours. Everything else needed an overnight, and my swimsuit took a full 3 days (!) at which point I just decided to wear it damp to the beach. When backpacking, I won’t have that kind of time.

When it comes to the rest of my clothes, I’ve tried to pack strategically so that the dirty clothes are at the bottom of the bag, then a barrier (plastic bag from wine bucket at hotel), then clothes that are clean or on the clean side of dirty. However, this system is not perfect, and traveling across Michigan on a bus with a wet swimsuit made for a pretty smelly bag. I’m wondering if Febreeze is the answer or if there’s some trick that backpackers use, like a couple of dryer sheets or something…

All in all, though, I’m pretty happy with the fact that I really only packed one thing that hasn’t been used (and that even includes my first aid kit) and have purchased things mor out of vanity than necessity. The planning I initially did certainly helped, and next time I will hopefully have ironed out some of the kinks.

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