Plains, Trains, and Automobiles: Part 3 – Clothes

On a recent 3 week painting trip to Scotland and France I had to pack painting gear as well as clothes for 2 climates: Cool and potentially rainy Scotland, and hot and dry southern France. Everything was casual, but clothes are always tricky. Will I be going out? Do I want to look chic/cool, or just put together enough to get by without offending anyone?

In Scotland my hosts had clothes I could borrow which really, really helped. I didn’t need to pack Wellies but brought waterproof hiking shoes instead, which also doubled as my sneakers. I could have borrowed a raincoat if I needed it. But I found some resale shops (never underestimate the amazing finds in resale shops!) so I bought a raincoat with the thought it was inexpensive enough that I could leave it behind if space got tight. Plus, I needed one to replace a worn out one. I also borrowed a fleece. What I brought were 6 T-shirts – 3 long and 3 short, which I could layer when I was cold, a vest, a cotton cardigan sweater, a large flannel shirt that I use as a painting smock, socks (wool and cotton) and 3 pair of shoes. One I wore on the plane (clogs), 2 were packed (hiking shoes and super light Toms). I also brought 1 pair of jeans, 2 pair of shorts, and one summer weight dress shirt. I was able to do laundry and I wore shirts for a couple of days before feeling like they needed to be washed. On the plane I wore leggings with a long-sleeved top and a cami for extra warmth, and a scarf. This also doubled as my ‘going out to dinner’ outfit, and I could use the leggings for stretching and working out, or if the weather was really cold, as another layer under jeans.

What I found was that I wore all the clothes except the dressier blouse. Everything else got a lot of wear. I did manage to buy a couple of things along the way…Nothing I needed, but hard to pass up. And this brings up purchases that seem like they are ‘must haves’.

I admit I really like books. But damn…..weight wise they are expensive. I only bought a couple, and I’m glad I did, but the cost was my luggage was that much heavier. I was limited on my checked bag to 50 lbs. (40 lbs on certain smaller carriers). Any thing over that costs a lot of money, about $100. My painting gear already had significant weight and with cloths and supplies I was close to the limit. So that terrific ‘deal’ might cost very little until the extra weight fee is added on top of it.

So to sum up about clothes: 1) The less you pack and carry, the faster you can move around and the less likely you are to lose or forget something. 2) think in layers. 3) You can find amazing things in resale shops. 3) Think about what you REALLY need instead of what you would like to have ‘just in case’. Anything you pack should have more than one use or function. As long as you are warm/cool and dry, you will probably have enough. 4) Borrow what you can at your destinations.

For a good website with more pointers on packing and traveling light, OneBag is really helpful.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Part 2 Luggage etc….

My personal rule is to PACK LIGHTLY.

This may seem obvious, but it’s rather amazing just how little can add up to a lot of pounds. Easel, tripod, and painting supplies take up both weight and space. To make the trip, anything else has to be able to work really, really well.

Like most of us, when I travel I want to be somewhat hands free so, of course, a backpack seems like the obvious choice. However, the first rule I’m instigating, no matter how cool I think I look with my old, beat up leather backpack, it is seriously uncool when it starts to weigh me down. For travel I’m trading leather in for nylon, and one with zippers and pockets. If I can find a light-weight wallet with a zipper, I might even trade in my leather one for a lighter one as well.

All gear needs to have zippers. Nothing should be easy for a pickpocket to get or for things to fall out. Magnetic closures are not secure. My wallet zips shut and is large enough to hold my passport. (So maybe I won’t trade it in.)

I have found it way too time consuming to fish through odd change to pay for train or bus fare so I keep my native coins in a separate coin purse.

A strong nylon bag with a zipper top can be a great carry on and can hold your purse/backpack as well, especially if you get in a situation where only 1 carry-on is allowed. I’ve been using an Orvis nylon tote (It comes in 3 colors as of this writing) for several trips and is extremely durable. It zips shut, has multiple inside pockets, 2 outside pockets, one of which has a zipper at the base that slips over the handle of my roller, (I have to remember to re-zip so I don’t lose things thinking pocket is secure) and is light weight. Plus, I can carry it on my shoulder. (I also have a carry on roller duffle from L.L. Bean, and generally, this, along with my Orvis, are my go-to bags.) On this trip, because it was long, (3 weeks divided between Scotland and France) I used the L.L. Bean extra-large rolling duffle to carry all of my painting gear and clothes and carried the nylon tote as my carry-on. I had a lot of extra room and everything, tote and backpack, could fit in the roller when I wanted to consolidate.

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On the downside of all of this, when it was all packed, this extra large duffle was at the 50lb limit and was really tiring to roll around, especially at train and bus stations where I had to maneuver stairs and gaps. And there was no way I could lift it, without a lot of help, to store in the luggage sections. On trains the bag didn’t fit in the luggage area at all so I sat with it in the train car entry area. For me, because I was taking my larger easel, and because I didn’t have an intermediate size suitcase, I was limited to the largest duffle.

Obviously rolling suitcases are best. Mine only has two wheels but I’ve helped my friends with their 4 wheeled versions and they are super smooth and easy to maneuver. I would suggest comparing overall weight when empty and making sure it will be long enough to carry a tripod or painting umbrella, if you are taking one.

My take-aways are 1)Keep your gear light but make sure it’s strong and well made. 2) Make sure the length of your suitcase will be long enough for your longest piece of painting gear.  3) Ease of movement is super important. If you can afford to have a choice of luggage, choose wisely. Smaller is usually better.

I’ld love to hear your solutions!