“Your hotel room looks like a Gypsy camp.”

This comment was made a few weeks ago by the unfortunate fellow I shared a room with at my companies yearly national convention in Rosemont, IL.

I have a good reason though, I swear. Too many times have airlines lost my bag. Too many times have I been stranded in another country with naught but what I had the sense to put in my ultralight carry on. I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore. I was never going to pay to check a bag again (especially in Europe where the prices for check baggage are simply INSANE, at times more than my ticket!).

So I started paring down what I would bring to travel more and more. It started with five days clothes. Not it is down to four, including what I wear for the flight. As I mostly travel by air I had the space considerations and TSA regulations here in the United States to consider as well. Basically, it started having me reconsider entirely what I packed and why.

This isn’t a new phenomenon for me. My job has be traveling a lot for work. My hobby has me heading into the back country with only what I can fit in (usually) a 60L backpack three seasons of the year. It was kind of natural that gram counting and trying to streamline my travel system would start to overflow from my sport into my ‘normal’ life.

I’ve been thinking what I would post here, and I think I’ll start with my little life code about traveling weekly. My wife is starting a lovely blog about moving to the United States which I will refer to later, and this has encouraged me to share my own little journey.

So back to the title. Why did my co-worker call my hotel room a Gypsy Camp? Well, the laundry line strung up in the middle of the room likely had a lot to do with it. Since an experience in 2007 where my checked luggage did not follow me on to Europe for almost a week, my father (a veteran world traveller by virtue of being an exploration geologist) turned me on to in-the sink laundry. There are a bunch of advantages to it and a few cons as well which I will list below;

1) You can pack less. This is the big one. Having the ability to do Laundry yourself, on demand, means you can simply bring less clothing with you when you travel. How many pairs of briefs or socks do you need for a two week trip? I know folks that pack fourteen. I pack four, including the ones I wear on the plane. Why? I simply wash three pairs when I get down to my last clean set. That sets me up for a week. I will only need to wash twice for 14 days on the road.
2) You have a back up in case you’re stuck with the clothes on your back. It happens. Even if you don’t pack light, you can pack these in case your luggage is lost or bag is stolen. My wife and I survived with me in a single set of long wearing clothes for five days in Nottingham, UK last year when B.A. sent my bag to the wrong country. It always pays to be prepared.
3) You save money. In a lot of places. First you can save money on checked bags. Most airlines, unless you get priority status in their network, charge at least $25USD to check a bag. This figure can spiral to insane levels. You can also save on the absolutely ludicrous rates hotels charge to do laundry, and it is even cheaper than waiting at a laundrymat you find locally if you shop the items I will explain later.

1) Dry Time. This is the only really big con, you will need to hang dry your laundry. In humid climates (England) this can take a while. Plan accordingly if you’re catching an early morning flight unless you want to run the risk of packing a damp bag. You also want to think about the dry times of the items you pack. Cotton white socks will take 50% longer to dry than wool socks that wick moisture.
2) Consumability. Make sure you pack your travel soap, line and clothespins accordingly for how long you will be out. This stuff runs out. Plan how much you need.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons. Yes, my hotel room often looks like a Bedouin tribe has moved in. Yes, I am comfortable like that. As Tyler says, I am enlightened.

So if this sounds like a good option for you to be able to shed extra packed clothes, take a backpack on a two week trip somewhere exotic and generally shed weight form your travel life… here is what you will need.

10 feet of light silnylon cord will do you fine in most hotel rooms. Just look for two spots to knot it up and keep it looped in a ziplock when you pack it up.

Sounds weird, I know, but this will help you maximize the space on your drying line. Get a bag of the cheapo plastic ones from the dollar store and keep eight in the same ziplock with your cord and soap.

Tyler says there isn’t anything you couldn’t blow up with enough soap. I don’t think this is what he was thinking of. I use two kinds of soap…


This is the Tide Travel pack. They come three in a little plastic clamshell pack (which I usually toss) for about a dollar fifty. They are a bit bulky, but one will do half my laundry in a sink of warm water. They are reliable if a bit more expensive and bulky than my other option…


These are Sea to Summit soap leaves. You get fifty for about $3.50 at REI or most other outdoors stores. They act in exactly the same fashion as the more traditional looking Tide detergent packs, with four leaves giving enough suds to do a sink full of laundry. That puts your at about 12 washes per pack. They are about the size of a breath strip, so you’re getting about 29 cents per wash to the 50 cents per wash of the Tide packs AND you’re saving a bunch of space and weight.

So there you have it, my first travel tip typed up and posted. Maybe someone will actually find it useful. Most likely, I’ve just killed 45 minutes on my flight to Minneapolis.

Travel safe.


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