Pack Light and Right for Active Adventure Travel
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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Are you thinking of taking a trip that involves hiking, sightseeing, heat, or maybe a foreign country? Apparently such travel is big and getting bigger with baby boomers. Make your trip more comfortable, less stressful, more versatile, and less buggy with a few packing product suggestions from yours truly.
On our recent trip to Thailand via the Sierra Club we were told to pack light. We interpreted that also to mean “leave room to purchase handcrafted items to bring home after shopping abroad.” We also knew we are not the sorts to wear “special” travel pants that unzip at the knee and come in one bland color. Revoke our stylemonger status if we recommend calf high socks with tennis shoes and a worn out t-shirt. Two other factors affected what we brought with us: it would be hot and humid in Thailand and we’d be also helping our mom carry her suitcases. In the heat. Up and down stairs. Every day. So each item we added to our luggage underwent careful scrutiny.
So what did we bring that we recommend for your next healthy, active, good-looking trip?
Kymberly: Let me start with what I did not pack and wish I had: a supply of CocoaVia drink supplements for circulation. (While CocoaVia has gifted me three months’ supply of their product, they have not asked nor compensated me to write about them in this context). I had vanity-busting puffy feet and cankles from the time we landed in Bangkok until our return to LAX three weeks later. Attractive for sure and probably due to the extreme heat and humidity, though that twin and genetically similar personage did not have similar circulation issues.
What I am still congratulating myself for bringing and using daily are my Overland backpack (super comfy straps, insulated, and a fun color to match the sherbet brights of Thailand) and my BlueFish water bottle carrier. (I have had both these items more than a year, which were given to me by the respective companies. Again, I was not asked nor compensated to write about nor pack these products).
Each day we’d load our main suitcases into the bowels of the bus and have available whatever was up top with us, Since many Buddhist temples require covered shoulders and hats off, it worked well to put my back-up shoulder scarf or shirt into the backpack along with snacks, the hat, lipstick and other items I wanted close by (No, not a personal A/C unit, though that might have fit). The little shoulder strap pouch from Bluefish had my money, water, cell phone and camera and went everywhere with me. Take a look at the photos to see that I really mean everywhere. The Overland backpack marked my bus spot some of the time and went along on our forays some others.
The other three companies that came up big for me on our trip are Aventura, Zensah, and Ahnu. Aventura sent me two organic cotton, lightweight tank tops more than a year ago (again, not compensated to write about them now, though we did get the shirts free initially. I bought the third one as I liked them so well). They were perfect for the jungle, city, bus, restaurants, and markets as they washed well, dried overnight, and took up little space in my suitcase. I like to flatter myself that they also looked good on. The black sports bra under my shirt is from Zensah as were the minimalist ankle socks I brought to hike in. (Zensah sent me the socks and sports bra several months ago to try out. Again, I was not asked nor compensated additionally to post about them here). Take a tip from me, those of you with cleavage — underwire bras in the heat and humidity can really chafe. I was so glad to have a soft, seamless support top to rely on, especially for the three hour trek in the bamboo forest and on the interminable Leech Hike (click the link if you missed that story). The socks were also ideal for travel. For one, they stretched out to fit those puffed up feet I mentioned.
As for the Ahnu shoes, they were an inspired choice to pack: lightweight, good on land and in water, super comfy, and covered at the toe for protection though open along the sides for air. I bought the blue Ahnus a while back for beachwalking. Aaaaand, Alexandra and I came home to free shoes from Ahnu to try out as well. More on the new pair in a future (disclosed) post. I definitely recommend such a shoe for this kind of travel.
Alexandra: Oh, crap, I forgot all about that haircut. Yeah, well, our local tour guide gave us battery-powered fans to help us feel like it was only 97 instead of 100. I was dinking around at the Summer Palace with my fan and got it tangled up in my hair. Er, it was not possible to untangle it. I’m a princess, so I tried to save each and every strand. When that didn’t appear to be working, Kymberly came along and cut the fan off my hair. Those were my favorite 10 strands! Truly, I cannot be trusted near most appliances!
Moving on…. I don’t like mosquitos. I dislike leeches more, but that’s no endorsement of skeeters! Right before leaving for Thailand we attended the Natural Products Expo West, where we found Purple Frog Patches. The company is so new, it doesn’t even have a completed website, but I loved the patches because they DID keep away the mosquitos and they are DEET-free. They are like scratch and sniff pads, and you stick them on yourself. They have citronella and eucalyptus. I hope these patches become available, because I feel certain you’d love them too.
From our other posts about Thailand, you’ve probably discerned that I don’t like to be uncomfortable or interact too closely with nature. I also whined when the hot water didn’t work for 5 of the trip nights. You can add a dislike of sunburn to the list. Did I mention that I love my hair and am mad at my fan? Another product that we got at Expo West (in our press gift bags) was Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen. It’s totally free of weird stuff that’s hard to spell (i.e., phthalates) and is full of really good stuff (click the link, as it’s quite an impressive list). I don’t mind if this sounds like an ad (I’m paid nothing for saying this), but it did 4 things I care about – blocked the sun, looked good on me, felt good on my face, and matched my ingredient values.
I also wore my Aventura red capris (they can be rolled up & buttoned just below the knee), plus my Headsweats cap a LOT (I was sent the hat about a year ago). Both wash and dry fairly quickly. You might not think of this while packing so I’ll share my discovery – the hat has a Velcro adjustable closure in back, which meant I could take it off and easily attach it to my backpack or pants loop whenever I went indoors. It’s so easy to lose hats, but I never did. I hope this is a helpful tip for you. Oh, besides keeping the sun off me, the hat kept the sweat out of my eyes and prevented leeches from dropping into my hair. Bonus!
The final item that I found invaluable was the insulated backpack that Alpina gave me at their test kitchen (they were introducing their Greek yogurt & granola pairings) during Expo West (no compensation or expectations involved). It was small enough to use as a daypack, and the insulation kept my water from getting hot. I left my purse at home in favor of the Alpina pack.
We hope these suggestions help you plan your next trip or hike. Having the right items can make all the difference when traveling. P.S. I don’t recommend the battery fan – better to get a hand fan for a dollar and wave it at yourself non-stop.
Whew, are you exhausted now? How about a nice cup of coffee from the Royal Projects at Doi Inthanon? The hand-grinder will totally give you a workout. Trust me on that!
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