In a previous post, I described most what I packed for a multiple week road trip involving lots of time outdoors but also some city visits.
Here’s that post, detailing my capsule wardrobe for a week of summer camp in Minnesota, and travel thereafter.
But you know what’s even more helpful than a description of what I put in my suitcase a month ago?
A breakdown of which items I pulled out of my suitcase, and how often. In short, what did I actually wear?
I did not pack light for this trip
As I confessed in my original post, I did not pack in a particularly light way for this trip. I prioritized comfort over minimalism, and knew I could leave excess baggage in the car when it wasn’t needed.
That’s what I did. I used packing cubes and multiple mid-sized bags to subdivide clothing, and I packed and re-packed between segments of the trip with differing priorities.
We traveled by minivan—a conveyance notable for vast amounts of storage space. I preferred to bring everything I might need to avoid the tedious type of shopping during the trip.
We were going to be away for several weeks and expecting weather ranging from 40 – 90+°F. We would be spending time outdoors, getting dirty, but also visiting friends in town where the dirt might not be appreciated.
I took steps to avoid tempting thieves with luggage
I brought a black blanket that I draped over the luggage in the back of the van to minimize risk of break ins. With the van’s factory tinted windows, you couldn’t see any stuff in the vehicle at night.
Even during the day, the black mass didn’t look like much of anything.
We made a point to avoid opening the back hatch at all at nightly hotel stops, pulling our small overnight bags into the front of the van at a late afternoon rest stop. Since we were well organized from the get go, we hardly ever opened the rear liftgate during the day, either.
We only needed to access the large items in the back for our three long, planned stops—summer camp, the cabin, and the multi-day city visit at a friend’s home.
Defining a capsule wardrobe
How is this a capsule wardrobe, if it isn’t a minimalist one for traveling light?
I selected a color scheme, and most (if not all) garments could be mixed and matched or layered in an aesthetically pleasing way based upon color. I made sure virtually every piece could be worn in any combination with the others by shape/style, too.
This is the same philosophy that makes a very small wardrobe work for trips of indefinite length. I just had more pieces with which to work.
What never left the suitcase?
We experienced temperatures mostly below average for northern Minnesota in early/mid June. Nights were chilly; a few days barely reached 60°F. Typical days were cold to cool in the morning, briefly warm enough at midday in the sun to want summer clothing, then warm to cool as evening came on.
The hottest days of our trip (upper 90’s) coincided with travel days in the air conditioned van.
It rained many times, but always in passing bursts of showers. We had a tornado warning urgent enough to warrant a call to our specific location by the county sheriff, but, luckily, did not get to experience an actual tornado.
I packed swimwear, and mine never left the van, let alone the suitcase.
Knowing myself well, that’s why I packed my suit (a UV blocking combo of long sleeved top and mid-leg bottoms by Coolibar) in a small pouch tucked into an accessible cubby in the back of the van. As expected, I didn’t swim, but I was happy to know I could have, if I wanted to, or if the kids begged me to join them.
The boys’ swimsuits were also packed in separate, grab-and-go modules by person.
Tops I packed just in case
I never wore my two least favorite Insect Shield tops: the periwinkle pullover by White Sierra and the olive/taupe safari style Craghoppers shirt.
If I were packing today for this trip, I would leave the taupe shirt at home, but I might still bring the unloved peri pullover.
Why? Because DS1 came home with paint stains on one set of his clothing.
Camp activities are planned by someone else, and they can be messy. The pullover is my “grubby” Insect Shield top. I want it in case a sacrifice is necessary.
Every time I wanted a sun- and insect-protective shirt to layer over my tank, I reached for the bright, coral colored one. I like it better. I like the color. The fit is looser and therefore more comfortable when it’s warm weather. That won’t ever change.
I probably ought to pass the Craghoppers top on to a friend, because my fundamental fashion preferences haven’t changed in decades and likely never will.
What did I wear?
After writing my capsule wardrobe post, and the night before the trip, I actually added five garments to my already long packing list. In addition to what I listed, I brought:
- lightweight, ankle length jeans by NYDJ
- white cotton short-sleeved turtleneck
- Tilley sleeveless, dark brown jersey funnel neck travel top
- Coolibar UV protective, cropped open front cardigan in melon/coral
- sheer, floaty silk vest/scarf in shades of melon/coral/pink and white
While adding items last minute can be a very bad idea, especially for over-packers, these were excellent choices for this trip. All the pieces could be worn with many other items; most could layer with everything else.
A look at the last minute weather forecast convinced me to bring them, and the cooling trend did continue during our time away.
Comfortable choices to wear while driving
In addition to providing warmth as layers on our coldest days, my short torso means that automobile seatbelts can sometimes hit me at the neck. That’s bad (for safety restraint reasons), and it isn’t a terrible issue in my van, but even the feeling of seatbelt webbing against my shoulder, where it belongs, can be irrititating.
As the only driver doing ten hour days, I realized that I should take every possible step to avoid discomfort. I wore these lightweight—but neck covering—tops on all the days where I drove more than a few hours. I wore the sun protective coral colored wrap over them to shade my arms.
These were good outfits for travel days, protecting me from the hazards of a long drive, which are different from those I would face in the woods.
Camp clothes vs. car clothes
My camping clothing could have served for this stage of the trip, but I prefer not to wear the Insect Shield clothing when it isn’t necessary. I want to avoid excess pesticide exposure where conditions don’t warrant it.
I did feel my investment in insect repellent clothing was justified. There was definitely a plethora of ticks in evidence.
A young child in our dormitory cried loudly while his dad picked them off his body almost every night; another was brought into our room on the head of one of the friends we brought along. (Don’t worry: he got it off before it was attached.)
I never found a tick on my boys, who wore Insect Shield pants almost exclusively, and treated tops and hats at times as well. I did pull one tick from the ends of my long hair after walking along a trail with encroaching brush.
All of the bottoms I packed for the trip—including the last minute addition of jeans—were worn many times and felt like good choices. I wouldn’t change anything about what I packed for my lower body. Layering these over long underwear gave me comfortable clothing right down to the coldest 40°F night.
The same goes for shoes. My second pair of Ahnu Sugarpine sneakers (the waterproof ones) didn’t leave the van much, but I was glad to know they were available if needed.
I never wore the Propet sandal-alternative shoes at camp, but I enjoyed having them in town. My sneakers and my Crocs were worn every day.
Lessons learned from this wardrobe
Upon reflection, I packed so much because what I needed on this trip was really two separate wardrobes: one to protect against insect born disease and sun exposure while spending all day outdoors, and one for more benign conditions in town.
Why? If I don’t want to wear Insect Shield clothing when it isn’t needed, I’m going to need more garments.
That’s hard to avoid unless I’m willing to wear the same treated pieces constantly during the outdoors segment of a trip. Unless I’m flying in and subject to weight restrictions, or carrying all my stuff by myself for long distances, I won’t make that choice.
In the end, my luggage fit the space I had available to carry it. Organizing with packing cubes and smaller suitcases meant it was easy to access what I needed, when I needed it. Planning ahead meant that I always had wardrobe choices that made me happy; I felt appropriately dressed in a social sense as well as adequately prepared for what nature offered.
That scarf I added to my original packing list just before my post? I wore it a lot, got multiple compliments on it while at camp, and it kept my neck warm.
I brought two pairs of utterly frivolous—but absolutely me—earrings, too.
Packing clothing that you love, and that makes you feel good about yourself, is always good sense. Just don’t pack too much of it at any one time, and make sure it coordinates with everything else you’ve brought.
Oh yeah, and the kids were warm enough, protected from insects, and shielded from damaging UV rays, too, but I think that’s a separate post that wants writing…