@sroberts advanced persistent incident responder

Minimal Packing for Maximum Travel

I started writing this at the end of March right after two trips in a row. I’ve since done another type of packing, moved, and now I’m finally catching up, so forgive some out of date thougths.

I’ve basically travelled non stop for the last two weeks, home only for last weekend. Back to back travel of fairly similar lengths makes it easy to compare, experiment, and plan a bit better.

Planning

On some level everyone has the same process for packing:

  • How long are you going to be gone?
  • What events do you think you’ll be going to?
  • What do you think you need for each of those events?

For my last two trips those amounted to:

  • Length: A week-ish in both cases
  • Events:
    • Most of what I did in both events was attend a conference as a representative of GitHub
    • General work time
    • Socializing with other Hubbers
    • Usual day to day stuff
    • It was also safe to assume at least one high end dinner
  • Needs:
    • Conference Hubbering: GitHub t-shirts (a benefit working for a company that’s based on being low key & productive)
    • A nice dinner & drinks out
    • The usual casual hanging out/living stuff

Trips

May 13-16: FOSE Conference

This was a 4 day trip to Washington DC to man GitHub’s booth at the FOSE Government IT conference. Most of our time was spent manning the booth, meaning GitHub tshirts (we wear them almost always). We also had one nice “team dinner” out and general chilling.

My Bag for FOSE

  • 6 Tshirts (2 blank grey, 4 GitHub tshirts)
  • 2 collard shirts
  • 2 pair of jeans, 2 pair of shorts
  • 5 socks
  • 4 pairs of shoes (gym shoes, flipflops, loafers, & Tom’s)
  • 2 sets of gym clothes (shorts & UnderArmor shirts)
  • 8 pairs of unmentionables

For a four day trip this was entirely too much. I never made it to the gym, only wore one collared shirt (on the trip back no less), and had extra tshirts, socks, jeans, etc.

May 19-25: BreizhCamp

This was a bit more extensive, as it was a longer trip, involved 2 cities (Rennes & Paris France) and a few more events. Hanging out at the conference was the same as booth duty, GitHub tshirts and jeans. My “buddy” coworker and I also went out for a very nice (Michelin ) lunch, so I had to have something appropriate for that. General hanging out needs also apply.

My Bag for BreizhCamp

  • 6 tshirts (2 blank grey, 4 GitHub tshirts)
  • 2 collard Shirts
  • 1 pair of Jeans
  • 4 socks
  • 2 pairs of shoes (One pair of loafers, one pair of Tom’s)
  • 6 pairs of unmentionables

I took considerably less for this trip and was considerably happier for it. While I try to make it to the gym it’s so tough while travelling it rarely happens, and ditching that space and weight made everything much more comfortable travelling wise. I even had some spare room in my bag. Same thing with minimizing on shoes. Two pairs covered basically all my needs.

Luggage

For both of these two weeks I packed a single bag; a 2010 North Face Surge I backpack (the model before this one). This was my primary travel bag.

In both cases I also included a small, fraying, soft sided tweed shoulder bag from the Old Navy to use walking around. This is great because I can roll it up and either lash it to my backpack or put it in with my clothes.

Toiletries

Honestly this is a tough one. In 95% of hotels a certain set of things (like soap and shampoo) are always included, yet things like toothbrushes never are. Not sure where the line is. I tend to pack a small plastic bag with:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Foot Powder (For those loafers especially)
  • Body wash (Often from a hotel I visit regularly)
  • Lint roller
  • Mouth wash

Hardware

Not clothing related but certainly relevant to packing for technical folks. For the FOSE trip I took a 15” MacBook Pro & iPad Mini. This is ideal for getting things done but is a decent amount of weight and basically never left the hotel room. For BreizhCamp I took my 11” MacBook Air & iPad Mini and it was great; the Air is light enough to carry all over without ever noticing and perfect for the kind of work I typically do on the road. The iPad is great for the and some reading but not much use otherwise.

Changes

  • Always carry MacBook Air vs Macbook Pro
    • Every trip I debate taking my work 15” MacBook Pro or my personal 11” MacBook Air. This needs to stop being a debate: the MBA is the ideal traveling machine. I usually get lots of things done on trips, especially writing, catching up on emails, etc; things that the MBA does just as well as the MBP.
  • Stop carrying my iPad
    • I tend to bring my iPad on trips, mostly so I have something light to carry when dragging my 15” MacBook Pro seems like too much. But with the MacBook Air I have a real computer small enough to carry around all the time.
  • Get a GoRuck GR1 (or maybe GR2)
    • I’ve thought for awhile that moving to a more travel friendly bag. The Surge has been great, but it’s divided up a bit more for a typical school day than travelling. The GoRuck is bigger, divided less awkwardly, and a bit more understated (even if it is a bit more tacticool than I’d go for). The price is a lot to get over, so I still haven’t pulled the trigger, but it seems like for a longer trip it would make a huge difference.
  • Get a PlugBug
    • Charging is one of the biggest annoyances, especially when travelling abroad. Especially if you avoid using random untrusted USB ports (which you should). The 12South PlugBug makes it easier to charge multiple devices off one outlet, especially if you only have one adapter.

Lessons

  • Less is undoubtably more. Less weight & volume is more comfort, more freedom, and just a more enjoyable trip. I’m learning to take a really critical eye.
  • Get things at the destination, it’s easier than you think. Many hotel chains even have “rental” workout gear and many things are cheap enough it’s not worth the cost to pack them.
  • Having a second “walk around” bag that’s only enough to carry my MBA makes a huge difference. You don’t want a full backpack just to go to a conference with a small laptop.