On packing

I’ve been on an efficiency kick for the past six months, looking for persistent short cuts in life to ease the pain of day-to-day living. My current focus is on the perfect “pack” for a week’s worth of travel.

First, the backpack. I use an Eastern Mountain Sports backpack I picked up in 2001 when I was at McKinsey. Briefcases are nonstarters — I choke them in a few seconds — so a four compartment backpack with a padded sleeve from Eagle Creek for laptop protection is a major necessity for efficient travel. The biggest compartment gets all the power cords (laptop, cellphone, etc.) tucked on the bottom, then the laptop goes into the padded slip case. In the mesh zip pockets on the sleeve go — eye shade for plane sleeping, contact lense case, reading glasses, Restoril (sleeping pills), Advil (gel caps), Treo, iPod and eye drops. I also slip a book in with the laptop (on the non-screen side to protect the screen from cracking under too much pressure). The sleeve comes out as soon as I board and is tucked under the seat in front of me. I keep the laptop on standby. This is the best way to have everything I need for the flight in a container that insures no space-outs and losses
In the next pocket is a three-slot file folder — made of nylon — also by Eagle Creek. This has folders in it for expenses, itineraries, reading material, and any meeting prep material I need on the trip. On top of this goes assorted electronics and a second book.

The forward two compartments hold passport, tickets, spare index cards (I live on index cards: to do lists, call lists, lists of lists ), spare AA and AAA batteries, office keys, passcard, rolaids, earplugs and assorted detritus including spare change tossed in there before the metal detectors.

For clothing, I pack a single duffel bag (I loathe wheeled luggage). In there goes three dress shirts, folded and starched, three pairs of pants, underwear, one set of workout gear (shorts, t-shirt, white socks), four pairs of dress socks, and shaving kit. I wear a blue blazer (essentially a wearable “purse”). The whole secret is hotel laundry. If not … everything can be worn twice if I avoid eating with chopsticks.
Thus equipped I can safely walk on to any plane, stow everything, overhead compartments or not, and shave at least an hour off of every trip avoiding luggage check-in at the front end and the baggage carousel at the other.

Over the years I have observed:

  1. Books are killers but essential. I’d rather read than eat.
  2. Spare shoes are not essential unless you plan on some serious hiking. Then things get tight in the duffel bag.
  3. Thank god no one wears suits except for special occasions and court appearances.
  4. Mini-anything is a godsend in the shaving kit department.
  5. Ship stuff accumulated at the destination home via fed ex, etc.
  6. Pack two days before, not the day of to avoid packing freakouts.
  7. Question everything and ask yourself, “Did I use it?” If not. It doesn’t come next time.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write