Take a minute and think – “What is the size of your wardrobe?” What if all you had for three and a half years was a bag – 70 ltrs or 1ft X 1ft X 3ft?
This is however my life. Before I started riding a motorcycle, I was this girly girly girl who wore cute dresses and high heels. I always joked if the heel is not 2.5 inches it is not for me. I would buy an outfit for every occasion, wear it once and keep it. I kept long hair and had appointments with my hair dresser every two weeks. I religiously did my pedi and mani once every month without fail.
When I started riding, I started dropping my fashion practices one by one as time went on. First to go was my hair and dresses. I gained a new look of short hair, jeans, boots and shirts or tee shirts. Then with time, I changed my hair from short natural hair to locs. I did less of mani and pedi by the day and just gave my fingers and toe nails some love from home that could never equal to the warm bubbly water in an electric massaging basin in the salons.
I have been riding for 3 years now and clearly a lot has changed in terms of my fashion. Some of the changes occurred naturally but others I had to make them as I was going to be living out of a motorcycle bag for the next three and half years.
What fashion changes did I have to make for the travel?
I thought I had gotten accustomed to the motorcycle lifestyle and fashion but well, I still had my whole wardrobe in the house. All the cute dresses, long pants and heels were still there. I even had a clutch bag or two. So, I still had the comfort of not missing anything if I needed to dress up or dress differently. I had done a ten days motorcycle trip to Tanzania and even then, I think I had too many t-shirts and socks – LOL. I was however riding daily other than for one day I spent hiking. I had no energy or time to do laundry. I wore the same riding gear all through too. This made me feel like a guru but of cause its is a different story when packing for three years.
For three years packing, there is a lot to put in to consideration and more changes to make. I don’t have the luxury of a big wardrobe to choose from. I am more about comfort than fashion. I have let go the luxury of having a few pairs of shoes and multiple dressing options. I am however keen on wearing what makes me feel good and look good. The following are things to consider and I may not have exhausted the list:-
With being away for three years, this means that we will be traveling through all four seasons that is, summer, spring, autumn and winter. To efficiently pack light weight for all the seasons, we had to consider layering of clothes, items that have multiple use and that can be used in more than one season as our best option. We each have 2 thermal vests, 1 long John, 1 detachable winter jacket which has a detachable fleece jacket and the outer is water proof with a water proof hoodie. This gives us more use of the jacket. For example, we can wear the fleece jacket to layer inside the riding gear, or wear it on a cold dry day. We use both when we are in extremely cold weather such as in Antarctica and we will use the same when we get to the winter season in the USA. Our riding rain gear serves for any other activities that may require water proof suit besides riding such as our activities in Antarctica and hiking through the rain. We did not buy or rent the wet suits for Antarctica which saved us $400. We used our riding rain gear which was perfect.
Other items in our bags include:
- 5 t-shirts
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 swim wear
- 2 dresses for me
- 2 pairs of jeans of which one serves as a riding jeans as it comes with removable knee guards and a reinforcement lining for safety. It is also very warm and was perfect for Antarctica as well as very comfortable for riding in dry warmer weather.
- 3 pairs of socks.
- 1 jacket (gift)
- Microfibre towel
- A shared toilet bag
- 1 pair snickers
- 1 pair flipflops
Type of travel – Air, road, sea.
Why is your type of travel a very important consideration for what you pack?
There are many reasons such as weight, distance and weather. For example, a person traveling by air, will be able to carry more weight while a person who is backpacking can only carry what their body can comfortably take without breaking a bone. If you are traveling by motorbike like us, you also need to consider the weight, what other luggage you are going to carry such as camping gear, tools and spare parts (can be heavy) and your bike capability of taking the load with your weight on it. Backpackers, hitchhikers and hikers have to consider the distances they have to do on foot. Other than flying travelers the rest have to consider the weather and ensure your luggage is safe from sipping in water if it rains or your bag can survive heat for a long time especially for motorcycle travel.
Length of travel – time in months or days.
How long do you intend to travel? What are a must carry and what is luxury and not always necessary? Will you have access to laundry services frequently? Are your clothes made of quick dry material if you chose to hand wash? These and many more are things to factor in based on how long you will be traveling. Avoid carrying unnecessary items. A person traveling for a week would be able to pack an outfit for each day and not have too much to carry but if you are traveling for more than a month, you have to really consider what you pack to keep the weight low and be able to have enough to wear.
Activities that you would like to do as you travel.
Travelers have different interests out there of what they want to do and see. There are so many activities which includes but not limited to mountain hiking, water sports, cycling, bird watching, photography, trekking in forests, wildlife spotting and the list is endless. Whatever your travel interests are, you need to pack appropriately. Each activity require different gear and you need to get it right for comfort and safety.
Your sense of fashion – what do you like wearing.
Do you like to go for dinner in that cute little black dress or are you comfortable in whatever is clean in your bag besides plain under-wears? Do you love some make up on once in a while? If you love some make up once in a while, take time to know what you can carry and can serve you for a long time and in many ways as a full make up bag may not be possible to carry. Are dresses your most comfortable outfits or is jeans and shorts. Look into what you love and feel most comfortable in. The wrong clothes just for the sake of packing can make you feel miserable out there which can trigger shopping desires ending up in unnecessary expenses. When traveling your comfort is your first feel good factor. Make sure the clothes you pack make you feel good and are very comfortable. Don’t forget the weight bit – wink
How often are you able to do laundry and what laundry options do you have? Most of the times if backpacking you will get hand wash laundry options where you can do your own laundry or pay for a machine wash. You would want to save as much as possible on the laundry services so it is better to pack a fair amount light and quick dry clothes. This will help in washing them at night and can dry overnight and ensures you have something clean to wear often. That goes for your intimates. No heavy cotton boxers for guys please not unless commando is your thing. I think ladies are safe here. Please do not carry the regular towel, invest in a microfiber towel. They are high absorbent and quick dry.
Different travelers use different packing options. It will either be a suitcase, backpack, motorcycle panniers and top bags or box. Your consideration should prioritize on the following:-
- safety – you should be able to secure your valuables.
- weather – your choice of bag should be water proof and able to withstand exposure to heat especially for motorcycle traveling.
- durability – you need a bag that will last you the longest as they are expensive to replace,
- volume – Ensure it is the right size to take in all your luggage to avoid carrying multiple bags with can be very difficult to manage and you risk loosing some.
- Compartments in the bag – A bag with multiple compartments helps you organize your luggage and gives easy access to items without having to pour out everything to get one item. It also helps in separating clean clothes from dirty ones. Travelers dirty clothes are not only dirty but they stink!!!
- Comfort – put the wrong bag with 20kgs on your shoulders and you will need to top up your medical insurance policy. Your back pack should be as comfortable to carry as possible and with a hip belt and the right shoulder straps to manage weight on your body. Similarly, your motorcycle bags should not be oversize (wider than the bike or higher than your head), should seat comfortably on the bike to ensure good weight distribution, water proof and withstand heat.
Weight of the luggage
Regardless of your mode of travel, never pack more weight than you can carry. I once received guests in an Airbnb. It was a family of four but their girls were between 10 and 15 yrs. I looked at the little ones offload their luggage from the taxi and quickly ran to help the youngest when their mother shouted STOP! I thought, well, you really don’t think she needs some help? silently in my mind of-cause. She went ahead to explain to me that she has taught them how to pack for their travels and the rule is always “pack what you can carry without help” regardless of whether you have to walk a mile, climb ten staircase or ran with your luggage. That was one big lesson to me right there.
Bulkiness of the items you would want to carry.
Avoid bulky items at all times as they take lots of space denying you the space you desperately need to fit your most needed items. For example, puffy jackets and the voluminous kitenge outfits etc.
I remember before starting this adventure my dressing table and bathroom cabinet looked like an entire chemist. I don’t wear make up and so I would not even want to think what that would look like if I added make up to it. I had so much that I did not need and even never used. Your toilet bag should be small and be able to carry all you’re essentials.
I have the following in my bag: –
- Shower gel
- Facial scrub
- Body lotion – head to toe.
- Arimis – yes
- Body splash – I don’t wear a perfume daily. When riding I prefer a body splash. It is also cheaper for me to wear that and spare the perfume for those non-riding days.
- shower cap
- Tooth paste
- Tooth brush
- Shaving cream
- Nail cutter
- Ear buds
- A few tampons and pads – I stock the rest away.
- A piece of bar soap for washing under wears after the shower.
I pack all these in relatively small packages that are able to last me a month and refill once they are over.
This article summarizes what I basically carry and gives guidance into packing for long term traveling. I may not have exhausted everything but I hope I have shared good information to help you pack for your next trip. What is important to note is that you can find anything and everything you need anywhere and so do not panic pack or do it thinking that you need to carry so much just incase you cannot find. Some brands will not be found everywhere but there are equally good or better options out there.
Let’s travel light and right. Hope you love my fashion on the road. Pictures shared on this blog show my before riding, during riding and on the road.
Tag me your best dress up on your travels on instagram @wamuyu. Let’s have fun.