My travel packing arrangements have fallen into a very regular pattern: wait until <12 hours before my flight, and throw random crumpled up items of clothing into a carry-on sized bag. Push if necessary. I survive, through I forget something and bring the wrong things 100% of the time.
This will come as no surprise to anyone, but Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are hot. “Africa Hot”. And humid. Basically, it’s my mom’s hell on earth. (The ubiquity of cilantro here seals the deal. I can officially think of no worse place on the planet for her. We even had a thunderstorm here this morning!) I have limited experience with nasty hot weather, having totally blotted all memory of summers growing up in New Jersey, so I needed to know how to minimize the temperature related humidity. My usual packing methodology would not work here. Instead, I spent a month reading, thinking and trying stuff out.
Perusing the internet, “loose cotton clothing” constantly comes up as the thing to wear. “Boat pants”, those loose bag like things of cotton you tie on, are spoken of in reverence and revulsion, for their comfort and looks respectively. Long pants are suggested by all out of respect: for the culture, and for the sun. Armed with this knowledge, and the awareness that the stuff in my closet would bake me, I moved on to the next stage: Procurement.
As any good bureaucrat is well aware, the simple purchase of items is not procurement. Proposals must be submitted. Alternatives must be solicited. Guarantees and contracts are required. In my case, this boiled down to a simple, if stupidly time consuming process:
- purchase EVERY SINGLE ARTICLE of “hot weather” clothing from BOTH the local REI stores, sierratradingpost.com and Patagonia. Something like 40 articles of clothing in all.
- Try on for obvious fit and duplication. amazing when you buy from 4 places how many identical item you end up with.
- Evaluate cloth for how it’s going to wear. This is a made up process, in which I wore something, and stood around thinking about being hot.
- The important part – see what Olivia thinks. It turns out, once I’ve settled on a piece of clothing being “good”, I seem to lose sight of anything that matters, like how it looks.
After much good-hearted arguing about “imperialist styling”, and being mistaken at a glance for a good colonist, I settled on just a few articles:
- North face short sleeve shirt. 100% synthetic. Crazy light. It has a tight weave that blocks the sun, but is so light and airy that I hardly notice I’m wearing anything. Favorite shirt.
- Patagonio Sol Patrol shirt. Good long sleeve shirt. Fits great. Very cool in 35c weather. Nylon blocks the sun, has a great color that can protect your neck.
- Exofficio Air Strip shirt. Even lighter long sleeve shirt, but it fits a poorly, with sleeves that are too short and a big boxy body. Was dirt cheap though, so what the heck.
- Exofficio lightweight zippy pants. Never once zipped the legs off. Insanely thin and lightweight, these are awesome. Olivia tried to veto based on the fit, I ignored her and I’m glad I did.
I sprayed my long sleeve shirts with permathrin – a scary chemical that prevents buggies from getting you. It’s been surprisingly bug free, so I have no idea if it’s effective, but for $7 for 3 articles of clothing, what the hell.
Besides the above, I brought a pair of travel slacks and khacki pants, plus 2 pairs of shorts and some underwear, a bathing suit and a lightweight fleece. I threw into the bag 1 Abecrombie polo – my daily shirt back home. It’s way too warm for any non-airconditioned space – I wore it one night in Bangkok, and have only worn it for plane since. My 22” carry-on bag is less than half full of clothing. We used the rest of the space for the odds and ends we’ve picked up along the way.
With this little clothing, I planned on doing a wash every few days. The synthetic stuff is great – wash it at 7pm, and it’s usually dry the next morning. Any cotton clothing takes at least 2 days in this humid weather to dry. Heck, my kahkis are hanging up next to me right now still trying to dry after 3 days.
Final words – if you’re going to buy clothing, hunt around, especially with sierratradingpost.com. Some of this stuff retails for $80/item or more, but can often be found on sale for $25.