Here is a packing list for a five-day trip to France. A lot of this has stayed the same for years but there are a few developments that I wanted to talk about (below).
- Boots (Timberland White Ledge)
- Boxers (4) (2 Ibex and 2 Patagonia)
- Handkerchiefs (2)
- Poncho (Swiss Gear)
- Shirt (T.M. Lewin)
- Shorts (Puma)
- Socks (4) (Patagonia, Smartwool, 2 generic)
- Sweater (Uniqlo merino)
- Tee shirts (3) (2 Icebreaker and Kaipara)
- Trousers (Bluffworks)
- Pills (in CVS bottle)
- Soap (Dove in Matador flatpak)
- Sports tape
- Monoscope in case (Muji)
- Needle and thread
- Swiss Army knife
- Tent pegs (2)
- Water filter (Sawyer)
- Battery (Anker)
- Book (travel reference manual)
- Bottle (Pellegrino)
- Earbuds (Apple)
- Masks (2)
- Pen (Fisher space pen)
- Phones (2) (Apple) (one pictured)
- Reservations and vaccinations
- Sleeping bag (Brave Era)
- Wallet with cash and cards
- Backpack (Osprey stuff sack)
- Day bag (Decathlon)
- Toiletries bag (Matador)
- Packing cube and little strap (Eagle Creek)
- Produce bag
- Zip pouch (Audeo)
I like this firesteel because you don’t have to look after it. If it gets wet or lies in your drawer for two years, it will still work fine when you need to get a fire going. I probably won’t need it for this trip but it’s lightweight and might come in handy.
It came with a little metal striker but I don’t use that anymore. I just use one of the extra blades on my Swiss Army knife.
Needle and thread
I’m doing a lot of sewing these days, which is very calming. I even sew up my socks, rather than throwing them away and buying new ones like I used to.
Packing cube as city bag
I’ll be taking trains and wandering around cities on this trip, in addition to hiking outdoors. In cities and trains, I like to have a separate bag for my tickets, phone, wallet, and earbuds, so that I don’t have to be constantly taking my backpack off. I have a shoulder bag that I could use but it’s kind of bulky – it’s a pain to jam into my backpack for the hiking portions.
So, instead, I have attached a little strap to an Eagle Creek packing cube and I’ll use this as my city bag. If this looks familiar to you, I’m pretty sure that this was a Gucci submission to the Milan fashion show a couple years ago.
The only place to fasten the strap was to the zipper pull. I think the chances of my phone falling out and smashing on the train tracks are about 30:70 but at least it looks good.
This list includes my first ever purchases from Patagonia: a pair of socks and a couple pairs of boxers. When I was reviewing packing lists more intensively last year, I came to the conclusion that Patagonia is some way ahead of everybody on environmentalism, which I guess is not really news to people who follow this. A lot of the start-up companies have good intentions but it takes a lot of skill and experience and money to produce clothes ecologically.
For instance, the start-ups might have some insight into some conscientious method – let’s say they figure out a way to produce shoes from plastic waste retrieved from the ocean. You might think that they will be better able to produce environmentally because they don’t already have commitments and existing contracts and revenue targets. They can start fresh and the entire project can be built from the ground up with an environmental focus. They’ll use best practices every step of the way.
But to be successful – to actually produce the shoe even before making any profit – you need to have a lot of money. You need to hire someone to physically make the shoes for one thing. It will probably be a factory and the factory will probably be in China which has great supply chains.
And so then you have to organize how to get the plastic out of the ocean and transform it into a shoe in China. And my impression is that it’s really hard to do that part of the process ecologically – there will be lots of chemical and physical waste, plus all the transportation. Every time you re-iterate the process, it will become more complicated and more harmful: the soles need to be made from petroleum after all, the factory is a big polluter in some unexpected way, the plastic retrieval method itself is surprisingly wasteful. It all adds up and pretty soon the project doesn’t look all that green after all. But at this point, you are already committed and can’t really back out or re-start – contracts, promises, employees.
Patagonia seems pretty good at this stuff after many years of boring skill-accumulation and relationship-building. Here are a couple stories from their blog, The Cleanest Line, for instance. I realize that a blog produced by a corporation is not the most reliable source but none of the other companies talk so candidly and technically about their impact.
Of course, buying used is better than Patagonia and buying nothing is best of all.
Poncho, paracord and tent pegs
My Swiss Gear poncho has grommets on the corners, so between the poncho, paracord and tent pegs, you’ve got yourself a pretty good emergency tent going. Also (and more frequently) a sun or rain protector or a picnic blanket.
Sawyer water filter
I bought this water filter because of this post on r/onebag.
I don’t use it that much – for me it’s mostly for the armchair glamour of imagining some disaster scenario where I end up needing to drink out of the toilet. Still, it’s very comforting to carry around and has been genuinely useful a couple times. It doesn’t take much space and could be a life-saver.
There are a couple other pieces of equipment that come in the box with this. One is a bag that you fill up with water and attach to the filter. That’s useful because – with this filter – water won’t flow through independently. You have to either squeeze it through with the bag or else suck it through the filter. I don’t bring the bag because I use the filter so infrequently. If I need it, I just screw it onto an ordinary water bottle or, if I’m really desperate, I can use it like a straw and suck water up from a container.
I’m discovering that the tops of bottles are pretty standardized: this filter screws onto most plastic and glass bottles that you buy in stores (at least in Europe).
The other thing they give you is a syringe to clean out (or “backwash”) the filter. Again, this is not worth the extra weight for this trip. I can clean the filter out when I get home. Or, if it gets really gunked up, I’ve found that I can clean it pretty effectively without the syringe by forcing water through it some other way – for instance, squeezing water through in the wrong direction.
Travel reference manual
I’m bringing a copy of the book I’ve been working on for this blog. I ordered some copies in what I hope will be the final form but they haven’t arrived yet, so this is an earlier wire-o version in A5. I was hoping to be all done in time for Christmas but the printing is taking longer than I expected, so we’ll see.
Washing and rewearing
What is the right amount to wash your clothes? On the one hand, washing your clothes has a big impact on the environment – maybe even more than the manufacture of the clothes in the first place. Moreover, doing laundry is a hassle, especially when you’re traveling. Not to mention that re-wearing things will help you in terms of packing and carrying. Finally, hundreds of generations before us survived okay without washing machines. Surely we wash clothes more than we really need to from a strict health perspective.
On the other hand, no one wants to be a slob. A colleague of mine who dresses really well says he does it out of thoughtfulness for the people who have to look at him all day long. I thought that was a nice way to look at it and I’ve definitely been victim and perpetrator from time to time.
The consensus on the internet seems to be that you should wash your underclothing every day at a minimum. In fact, that seems to have been the rule for a couple hundred years, at least for those who could afford to.
For other clothing, it seems like the advice is to just be reasonable – buy good fabrics, spot clean when you can, and keep an eye out. Then chuck it in the washing machine when it’s dirty.
For this five-day trip, I’m only packing three days’ worth of clothes. I’ll do a sink wash in the middle.