Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Travel Gear: Clean Clothes

For me, freedom is traveling light with just one change of clothes. That still translates into wearing clean clothes every day.

The downside is doing a bit of laundry each day.

The upside is traveling with just a carry-on:
  • I walk past the check-in lines and straight to Security
  • My 35 liter backpack easily fits the overhead bin; if need be, it fits under the seat in front of me with foot room down each side. 
  • If the flight is canceled or delayed, or if I choose to be bumped, I can be quickly accommodated on the next flight because I have no checked bag. 
  • At the destination, I bypass the baggage carousel. 
  • I take a train or bus from the airport then walk to my hotel. I rarely take a cab.
  • I'm never trapped in one place guarding luggage.
  • I get to use the smallest, cheapest lockers in train stations.
No wonder I'm happy to do a bit of laundry each day.

Oh yes, there's one extra advantage: I can avoid unpacking and packing clothes by wearing the same clothes each day. In Japan this works particularly well because in the evening I just change into the yukata that is always provided by the hotel.

Recently I wore the same clothes for ten days straight. I doubt anybody noticed, but if they did, I don't care.

Selfie in a yukata at an Okayama capsule hotel. The washing
machines are in a back alley. I'm steps away from the
lounge where I enjoyed a beer from a vending machine.
Sometimes the hotel has a launderette, or there's one nearby with staff who will do a service wash.

Launderette time can be time well spent. I took the photo at the top of this post earlier this year in Key Largo, Florida. The locals were friendly, the resident dog was hilarious, and I sipped coffee from a nearby coffee shop.

At a pinch, there's always the hotel laundry service. On a business trip to Paris, the hotel charged more to wash my socks and underwear than I had paid for the items at Target.

A friend once washed his clothes in a Norwegian youth hostel by showering in his clothes.

Usually I wash clothes in the hotel room sink. Here's my process:
  1. Apply hotel shampoo directly to areas requiring extra attention; e.g., socks, shirt armpit.
  2. Soak clothes in sink in warm water. (I usually take a shower while the clothes are soaking.)
  3. Occasionally agitate.
  4. Drain, rinse.
  5. Hang clothes over the bathtub. There's no need to hang the clothes carefully at this point.
  6. Squeeze the hanging clothes to remove some water.
  7. After about half an hour, squeeze more water out (mainly at the bottom, where the water has migrated).
  8. Lay one layer of clothes on a towel. 
  9. Roll up the towel.
  10. Pin one end of the towel roll with one foot, gently twist the other end to remove more water. I emphasize "gently"--I've damaged a shirt with this technique.
  11. Hang the clothes. They will not now be drippy, so you can hang the clothes around the room. A trekking pole doubles as a clothes line.
Air movement helps: turn on the bathroom fan and the air conditioner fan.

The key is to travel with quick-drying clothes which will usually be dry by morning. In damp climates, thicker items like hiking socks may not be completely dry, but that has yet to kill me.

I have a trick to avoid the first night's laundry. On the outbound journey I sometimes travel in clothes I will throw away: a business shirt past its prime, socks and underwear I should've tossed a long time ago.

Once back home, there's one final benefit of traveling with just one change of clothes: I'm not faced with a huge pile of laundry.

My complete outfit drying at a guest house on Yakushima Island, Japan.

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