Monday, December 9, 2019

So What DO You Pack for a Long Trip????

8 December 2019

We're getting ready to leave for a six to eight month trip with a variety of climates and temperatures, as well as a variety of activities.  We're headed to a continent that is currently experiencing summer, but we'll also spend some time visiting another continent where it is perpetually winter. 

Yes, we're headed to South America and Antarctica!!!

My standard wardrobe is 2 or 3 pairs of slacks, possibly a pair of shorts, a skirt, maybe 8 to 10 tops that work with all the bottoms, and a couple of dresses.  Add a lightweight jacket and a rain jacket, maybe one cardigan.  No more than 3 pair of shoes - usually 2 pair of Birkenstock sandals and one pair of leather sneakers for wet or cold weather.  A swimsuit or two, a sleep shirt, normal underwear and socks.  A sunhat, a scarf or 2 that can also work as shawls.  That's it.  More than enough for most long-term travels.  I've travelled with more, but got tired of dragging all of my things in a large rolling bag.  So I streamlined what I need to pack into about 20 to 24 items (not including shoes, jackets, swim and sleep wear.)

But with Antarctica, I'll need some extra warm items.  With the cruise, I'll need to dress up a few times.  I'll still need summer clothing, but maybe some warmer items for autumn in the southern hemisphere.

What I've found works best for me is start with the clothes for the hottest part of the trip - so a pair of shorts, a skirt, cotton slacks that can roll up to capris, cropped cotton knit slacks.  Sleeveless or short sleeved tops in cotton, linen, or rayon.  A cotton sundress, and a rayon jumper.  Then add in that cardigan and maybe a pullover top for autumn or cooler climates.  A lightweight jacket and a rain jacket as well.  (I'm vacillating between the cranberry or the olive green water resistant utility jacket.  The green is lighter so packs smaller, and is more casual, so probably that one.)

And then I add a few items to turn those summer clothes into winter clothes - a cashmere sweater, lightweight but so cozy and warm.  "Base layer" tights and shirt (what we used to call long underwear) to wear under the slacks, and a longer and heavier knit pair of slacks.  A long sleeved shirt.  A packable down jacket, a few knit caps or berets, and fleece lined mittens.  Fleece lined socks, which I discovered last year.
And that really is my entire wardrobe.  For those 6 to 8 months of travel, from Buenos Aires to Antarctica to who knows where else.  

There are other tricks.  Notice how my basic pieces are black?  I look good in black, and black usually looks more formal.  It may seem redundant to have 3 pair of black slacks, but they are all different fabrics and different styles - and because they are black, every single top works with every single pair of slacks, as well as with the black skirt and black shorts.

The black jumper is a chameleon.  Really.  Over a colorful tank or tee, it looks casual and fun.  Over a black tank or tee or long sleeved top, it suddenly transforms to a basic black dress.  And those same black tops with the black skirt?  Another style black dress.  But all those separates work with other pieces, so I get twice as many outfits.  Add a shawl or scarf, and it changes the whole look.

I have a lot of high-low tops, or cropped tops, because they look better on my shape (which doesn't have much of a waist).  Those cropped tops also work OVER that black jumper, so it suddenly looks like a skirt.
Another chameleon is that black and almost grey striped sweater.  This is by Eileen Fisher, and was designed to be worn either as a cardigan, or with the buttons on the back so the front looks like a pullover.  Turns out it also works inside out, so it's almost a marled grey shadow stripe.  One sweater, worn 4 ways.  And very warm, despite being a cotton/linen blend.

I personally need a few pair of mittens and a few hats - I tend to lose a mitten here and there, or a hat.  (Why do they not make mittens for adults with that connecting string, the way they do for children?  That was so helpful when I was a kid!  I need that!!!)

This year, I'm packing 4 pair of shoes - Birk sandals, dressy black sandals that actually are Teva hiking sandals, white leather sneakers, and my little black hiking Maryjane shoes that are basically rubber and neoprene.  The sneakers are the only pair that take up much space, and with the changes in climate I thought I should have 2 closed shoes and 2 sandals.  (I learned to always have 2 pr of slacks and 2 pr of shoes - I fell in a lake on a trip once, and spent the entire weekend in wet clothing.)

This totals 26 items of clothing - I probably could pare it down even more.  For example, I'm looking at a lightweight black jacket that might take the place of the cardi and the navy linen jacket, so then I'd be down to 25 items.  But it all fits in my 22" rolling duffel.  In fact, the clothes fit in half the bag - yay for packing cubes!

Oh, and the first photo?  I managed to find fleece-lined socks with penguins around the top!!!  I'm hoping the socks help call more penguins into view!

Similar luggage - the light blue small duffel finally wore out, so I got the same thing in a darker blue.

Yes, I sketched the clothing.  Easier than taking photos of each item, cropping, lifting the background, adding each item to a larger file or photo.  Just a quick sketch, and aquarelle pencil with a quick swish of a wet paintbrush.


  1. Wow, packing explained. You are a marvel and it looks fashionable too. Wishing you safe, happy and well dressed travels!

    1. Thank you! I know thinking about packing can be daunting, but if you stick with clothes you love and that look good on you, it's pretty easy to just pack your personal basics.