Spent time this weekend sorting through my suitcase packing list. Most of it stands from the last three trips – same amount of time on the road, at the same time of year. The main difference is the expected weather conditions for a city located at about the same latitude as Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki, and as far north as Alaska. Last year in April it was cold, wet and rainy in Prague, and colder, wetter and rainier in St. Petersburg. This requires clothes that will withstand the elements; a hoodie and a scarf won’t do. My system is always layer up, so I’ve added a couple of henley-weight long sleeve shirts, thorlo socks, mittens, my knit viking hat, and a lightweight but toasty Mountain Hardware jacket. A pair of waterproof mid-calf boots, a sleek, warm, rain-proof coat, and a serious umbrella will keep me dry. When you pack as light and tight as I do, I’m hard-pressed to fit it all into my main carry-on size case and my compact fit-under-the-seat sized carry-on. I’m hoping to spread it around the two cases, stuff socks and knickers in the boots, use space bags to squeeze down the rest.
I gained a little room because my iPhone doubles as my map, camera, alarm, translator, guides, and flashlight. My iPad is my library, thanks to my Kindle and Nook apps, as well as in-depth museum guide apps. It can do most of the same tricks my iPhone can do. There are no Apple stores, but there are Apple products for sale, so if bad fortune befalls me (like push comes to shove on the metro and thieves make off with my auxiliary brains) I can hope to replace them.
I’ve been setting clothes and shoes aside, ready to pack when the day came. I choose dark colors to get the maximum wear out of least number of items. Bonus: it all but eliminates time spent dithering over what to wear, because it doesn’t matter. The answer is always what’s clean (or clean enough). Last year raspberry was my accent color. This trip I’m adding a couple of blue shirts and socks to my perennial black and gray. The new coat is a soft gray-blue, and my very nice umbrella is sky blue with puffy white clouds.
Packing is pretty Zen. Everything I think might work is heaped on chairs and dresser tops in the guest room, then it’s process by elimination. If I need four long-sleeved shirts and have ten that might work, I pick the four that compliment each other best. I set each item on the guest room bed, marking it off the list as I go. I try on things that look fine, but might not fit or feel right, to be sure. When I’d gone through it all, I launder everything, with a second rinse cycle. I’ve discovered the hard way that walking eight hours a day chafes my tender skin if there’s any trace of laundry detergent left in the denim. And yes, my pants – all three of them – are black or dark gray denim. I am visiting cultural capitals, not the country side, not the coast, not resorts. Blue jeans feel too casual, black jeans seem just that bit more formal and appropriate.
Of course, everything looks better with a cavalier.