What I’m up to

We’re nearly halfway through 2020, and I have been thinking what to do now with my packing list project. I’ve been pleased with the results so far. Trawling through the packing lists on r/onebag and r/heronebag has yielded fairly coherent packing lists (COVID notwithstanding) and, more than that, the people on the subreddits have been very supportive. So I’ll carry on reading the Reddit packing lists, keeping a spreadsheet and posting the results here and on Reddit.

There’s less evidence that the weekly roundups are landing with anyone but I’m still going to try to keep that up too. It helps me to feel connected to packers and travelers and to see what’s going on in the community. I started out covering mostly gear reviews but that got a little grim, so the focus now is more travel experiences and the environment, which is more inspiring to me.

As for the men’s and women’s packing lists, I think the idea is to continue improving them for the rest of the year. I’ve been fairly faithful to the results from Reddit so far – I’ve tried to make my packing lists reflect the most popular Reddit choices with a few exceptions and data failures that I’ve talked about here. Over the next months, I think I’ll broaden my criteria a little bit. The Reddit results will still be the starting point but I’ll try to bring in other research too, like reviews and comparisons on the web.

My goals with the packing lists are also shifting a bit. The original goal was that the pack should (1) be light and minimal and (2) cover everything you need while traveling: hot or cold weather, formal-ish dinners, exercise, productivity, entertainment, etc.

Minimalism and versatility are still the main goals but there are other goals that are now pushing towards the fore. Above all, how these products are made: what chemicals and dyes are used for the manufacture and then thrown away, are the merino-wool sheep treated well, what happens to your backpack when you throw it away. From reading the brand websites, I get the impression that many people who work for these companies are kind of conflicted about these topics. I feel that the social responsibility stuff moves kind of slowly and always in the context of “Yes, let’s be greener but let’s also meet our minimum sales targets that keeps this company afloat.” So I think this might be a good place for me to dig in as an amateur.

Beyond minimalism, versatility and sustainability, there are the usual questions when you buy a product: how much does it cost and is it good and beautiful? I think I can pretty much rely on the many product reviews and product comparisons that are out there. I thought of maybe doing a critics’ rating / users’ (i.e. Reddit) rating like they do on Rotten Tomatoes.

I kind of feel like a fraud in that I have tried only a handful of the items in the men’s list (and my wife a few in the women’s list) but I really think that buying and testing each product is about the least efficient way I could go about this. It would take forever, cost a fortune, and I’d end up throwing a bunch things away. I own a few things in the Reddit lists already and I’ve recently bought something else – the Uniqlo Airism boxer briefs – but in general I’ll hold off on buying the things in the list until my own stuff wears out.

Another issue is complementarity or just the relationships of all the objects to one another. I’d like the clothes and objects to fit together in the packing cubes nicely, the packing cubes to fit in the backpack nicely, the right objects to be easily accessible in the backpack, etc. I’d also like the clothes to suit one another in a pleasing way and be capable of combining into different outfits. I don’t really have an approach to this yet, especially as I still haven’t bought most of these items.

Finally, it occurs to me that everyone has a very different experience with these lists based on where in the world they are when they look at my blog. The websites for all the brands might not work in every country. The products might not be available everywhere or, if they are, there might be huge customs and shipping costs. The prices are different everywhere. I guess looking into these questions makes for the livelihood of thousands of professionals, so perhaps I won’t get very far with this. Still, I’d like to give some thought towards improving the experience for people who visit the website. Ideally, given the international nature of this project, I’d like it if everybody in the world could order the same items on the internet and have them delivered to wherever they are without paying wildly different prices.

What I’d like to end up with (and this might not be this year) is a beautiful pack, something that sparks joy. I’d like to know how it was created, that it was taken from the earth gently and can be gently returned. I’d like it to be really well-planned out and for people to feel good wearing the clothes and putting on the backpack. There are lots of objects in the world that are crafted thoughtfully and beautifully – Qing vases, chippendale desks, Santoni shoes, iPhones. There’s no reason that you can’t put thought and care into objects just because they’re produced on a more massive scale.

I guess my approach for finding the right products sustainably-produced is just to do a good amount of research on each item and then a long-ish post with a conclusion about what the best product is. I think it might be a little like Wirecutter but just for the packing list and with the considerations above in mind.

I’ve also added a page in the menu about conflicts. For right now, I think my only real conflict is that I’m in the Amazon Associates program. As time goes on, I frankly hope to make contact with manufacturers, bloggers, travelers, etc. because I think that will help me to get to the pack I ultimately want. I’ll try to stay reasonably transparent and honest with everybody as I’m doing this.

Any questions, criticism, comments, please get in touch!

One reply on “What I’m up to”

When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks a lot!

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