I always over pack for trips. Weeks ahead of my departure date, I begin to agonize over which suitcase to use, what clothes to pack, how many pairs of shoes I'll need and whether or not I'll be able to iron things that get wrinkled. And no matter how much I think about it beforehand, I always end up having way too much in my bag and wearing only half of what I've brought.
The same holds true for my camera gear. On each of two consecutive trips back East to see family, I packed three different cameras and ended up shooting only one.
So as I began to plan a 10 day trip around the Northwest--the longest vacation I'd taken in nearly 20 years, I was determined to pack smartly and lightly. I did my research, devouring content from travel blogs written by savvy world wanderers. You Tube reviews became my best friend. After all the research, I settled on a simple plan: One bag, radically different clothing choices and one camera.
The Bag: A GR2 backpack from Goruck. I'd honestly never owned a backpack and never considered living out of one for 10 days, but the more I read, the more I realized that a backpack made really good sense. You're forced to consider each item you pack. The limited space encourages thoughtful organization. And if you buy the right backpack, you can carry it on an airplane, skipping the dreaded baggage check and claim all together. I narrowed my search down to a half dozen, then three and finally settled on the GR2. The Goruck packs are not the cheapest, but they're designed and built (in the USA) to military specs and will last a lifetime. I couldn't find a negative review anywhere and most people just raved.
Clothing: Merino wool shirts and socks. Travel pants. Travel underwear. A light windbreaker. My biggest revelation during this process was that I was not only packing too much, I was packing the wrong stuff. Cotton and many synthetics wrinkle when packed. On the other hand, Merino wool hardly wrinkles at all and if it does, a few quick shakes when you pull it out of your bag dismisses most wrinkles immediately. And while you can get one or two wears out of a cotton shirt, a wool shirt resists absorbing body odor. You can honestly wear one Merino wool t-shirt for a week straight, give it a sniff and it smells just as fresh as the day you put it on. Honestly! I chose a few short sleeve and one long sleeve t-shirt from Woolly. I packed two pairs of North Face Motion travel pants, my lightweight North Face windbreaker, wore my Van's sneakers and packed an additional pair of lightweight hiking sneakers. And two pair of travel briefs did me just fine over the 10 days.
The Camera: Deciding on the camera gear I'd bring was a difficult decision. I had sent my Pentax ME off to Eric Hendrickson for a CLA with the intention of taking it on the trip. I flirted with taking my Pentax Spotmatic with the 8-Element 50. My Nikon F2AS was calling out to me from its camera bag. And my nifty Minolta XD was certainly small and light. In the end, I decided on the newest of all my film cameras, my Nikon F100. While not the smallest or lightest of my SLRs, it felt like the most dependable of all my camera bodies and auto film loading would be nice while changing rolls on the go. I also treated myself to a brand new Special Edition Nikkor 50/1.8 AF-S lens from B&H Photo and packed six rolls of Kodak Portra 400 in the GR2. I let the F100 read film speed off of the canister and set the camera to autopilot for the trip, insuring days of carefree snap shooting.
I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight from Oakland, CA to Seattle, WA. Here are some shots from around Seattle.
I'll be posting more shots soon from Portland and Salem, OR as well as the few days I spent in Vancouver and Victoria. I won't bore you though with endless vacation pictures.
Some takeaways...the F100 performed admirably--what a great camera! I carried the Nikon on my shoulder almost constantly with a Think Tank strap and the camera never got in my way. The 50/1.8 AF-S is one of Nikon's sharpest lenses with super fast, silent autofocus. Portra 400 really does well at its box speed. I usually over expose by a stop, but you really don't need to with this exceptional film. And I didn't miss hauling around extra cameras.
I learned that I can live for 10 days out of one single bag. It was nice walking on the plane for the return flight to SFO with my pack, stowing it easily and not having to wait at baggage claim. I loved the GR2 so much, I bought a smaller Goruck Echo to use as an every day carry. Merino wool definitely is the ultimate travel clothing. I could have packed even fewer shirts and have been just fine. All the online research really paid off. One bag traveling really reduced stress before, during and after the trip.