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Old Sep 1, 09, 9:05 pm   #1
 
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PAPER Formula: Folders, packing cubes, compression bags, garment bags, bundle packing

As the title indicates, this is my evaluation of the most used packing devices with pros and cons and usage tips. With an easy to remember packing mantra at the end!

Folders:
I like those quite a bit. They do work and are probably the best method for packing dress shirts and easily wrinkled garments. Not necessary (or rather counterproductive) for sweaters and trousers.

Lay two shirts over one another, fold in one act as if it was one shirt. This provides extra crease cushioning. Place in folder. The next two shirts are placed in the folder with the collars in the other direction. Then ties are wrapped around the shirt bundles with the ends neatly tucked in between the shirts so that the ends don't get bent. This is the best carry method for ties I have found and I tried them all! Finally the folding board is placed on top of the bundle and the velcro is closed. This will prevent accidentally snagging the silk ties with the velcro and will create a little extra slip for the shirts. You can even wrap a suit AROUND the 18" folder and use it in an Airboss style bag. Works great.

They can also be used as a shelf or a separation wall within a bag. Fragile documents can be hidden and protected in the slot where the folder bottom slips into. Finally, they can help give structure to an otherwise floppy but lightweight bag.

I prefer the 18" folder but just got a 15 inch model to use in a duffel bag and in two personal item bags I have.

Packing Cubes:
Packing cubes are great for organization but they only start to really help when they are used to compress items. Otherwise they are only good for organization but add weight and bulk. Everyone will have to decide whether that's worth it. If you want to compress it is wise to choose flat packing cubes because those will achieve compression easier. Otherwise, think about the position or pocket that a packing cube might go into, so you buy the right size. Packing cubes do make great cores for bundle wrapping. Fragile things packed inside a softly filled cube that forms the core of a clothing bundle will usually emerge unscathed.

Compression bags:
Compression bags like the one EC makes can also be good for space savings IF the items are indeed compressible. This applies mostly to knits and jerseys (technically knits) as well as fleece wear and down jackets. Using a compression sac on a pair of jeans is not very useful. The compression bags do have one advantage, though. Once they are properly packed and compressed they get quite stiff. This can give structure to an otherwise soft-sided bag and can protect the contents of that bag very nicely. Compression bags usually hold the vacuum for the duration of a trip but oftentimes I found mine inflated when I unpacked. It is important not to overpack these compression sacs and to squeeze the air out until the thing is hard like a board. This will somewhat wrinkle the contents. So don't put dress shirts in there.

Forgot to say, compression bags are pretty ideal for dirty laundry. They keep any odor in and usually the laundry items are underwear which can be quite compressible at least for us men.

Garment bags:
There are the full-blown garment carriers with and without wheels. Those are usually a waste of space and weight in the case of those with wheels in particular. The wheeled version with a hard frame do protect suits from wrinkling quite nicely, though. They are also pretty idiot-proof to pack and I think that is part of their success.
And then there are garment or suiter inserts for rollaboards or even carry-on shoulder bags. These can make sense depending on how well they are constructed. The better you can fix the suit in place and the nice the upholstery on the crease bars that sit in the fold lines, the better the suit will be protected. It pays to put these in their own pocket on the lid of the case. Travelpro does that and many others, too. Victorinox 4.0 luggage just has them hanging there. Not a good solution.
Otherwise, I posted a number of suit folding techniques here and on OBOW with pictures and a video. With these techniques you will be perfectly able to pack a suit without a garment insert in any bag.

Bundle wrapping/packing:
I am not a fan of this technique. It takes too much time and is not practical enough to justify the space savings. It is also really not suited to pack dress shirts.

The space saving you can get from bundle packing is due to a decreased total number of folds. Basically each fold makes the item thicker. If you can decrease the total number of folds you can decrease the volume of the bundle.

Depending on the clothes you can actually get away with less volume when you fold neatly. This is the case for socks and underwear. Rolled socks will take up more space than neatly folded ones. They will also be harder to compress.

So, in principle, for non-fragile and bulky items like jeans, sweaters, fleece wear, khakis and wool shawls bundle wrapping is actually good. These items will also wrinkle less with the bundle method. But as soon as you try to include fragile and easily wrinkled items like silks or dress shirts, it's just not the right method.

If you really plan it out, the bundles can be nicely conceived as units that are easy to access. But that needs way too much planning; and that's coming from Dr.A. Nal Superpacker.

Another thought coming from the bundle wrapping discussion on OBOW: Since bundle wrapping takes time and can make you end up with more wrinkles than ordinary folding but does save space, it is a good method for the return trip where often one needs a bit of extra space. It doesn't matter that the used garments will get wrinkled or that they are hard to access because they will be washed anyway and no particular access is needed.

Conclusion:
I hope this helps my fellow travelers decide which packing aide or device to use. When I read descriptions of how people pack I most often see a random approach. If used judiciously each of these techniques and gadgets can be really useful, so the above should help in that process.

When packing, think of:
- Weight
- Volume (available and occupied)
- Protection (wrinkles, breakage, spillage)
- Access (easy packing and unpacking as well as organization of what you need at which stage of the trip)
- Price (you pay for packing aids)

As a mnemonic device let's put it this way:

P(rotection) - have your things arrive safely
A(ccess) - easy packing and unpacking
P(rice) - think economically, is it worth it?
E(rgonomics) - keep stuff at hand exactly when needed
R(estrictions) - in weight and volume


ADDENDUM: A list of weights for the EC packing cube series, thanks to Alan Birnbaum from OBOW:

Eagle Creek 18-inch folder: 16 oz. (packs thinner than 15-inch for same items)
Eagle Creek 15-inch folder: 9 oz. (holds up to six long-sleeve shirts)
Eagle Creek double half cube: 4 oz. (haven't used this one yet!)
Eagle Creek full cube 10 x 14: 3 oz. (holds four sets of underwear)
Eagle Creek full tube, 4 x 14: 3 oz. (good for socks in excess of those in shoes)
Eagle Creek half tube, 4 x 10: 2 oz. (organizes electronics chargers, etc.)
*Eagle Creek zip sack, 6 x 8: 1 oz. (fits MY toiletries...but not my wife's...)

*replaces full-size 9 oz. EC fold-out toilet kit

Cheers,

Till

Last edited by tfar; Dec 21, 09 at 7:36 pm.. Reason: Added compression bags for dirty laundry tip and bundle wrapping tip
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Old Sep 1, 09, 9:33 pm   #2
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Love the packing folders for shirts.
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Old Sep 2, 09, 12:56 am   #3
 
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Guess you can tell from my post that this is the one packing accessory I wouldn't want to miss. If only they could make them lighter. The 18" model weighs 430g. The smaller 15 incher is still 306g. One of my shirts weighs around 250g depending on material. I wonder if I could replace the bottom board with a chop-chop board.

Comes back from kitchen... Yes, but I'd lose about an inch in length. The chop-chop is much more flexible. I wonder if that plays a role.

I am way too obsessed with luggage and packing. Perhaps I want to escape...

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Old Sep 2, 09, 6:53 am   #4
 
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Very useful tfar. But I beg to disagree on ties

I roll ties, not too tight to stretch the silk, but enough to keep them in a nice wheel.

I do this not just for travel (storing them side by side in a small packing cube) but when I'm at home I store all my ties like this.
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Old Sep 2, 09, 12:39 pm   #5
 
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Originally Posted by Kgmm77 View Post
Very useful tfar. But I beg to disagree on ties

I roll ties, not too tight to stretch the silk, but enough to keep them in a nice wheel.

I do this not just for travel (storing them side by side in a small packing cube) but when I'm at home I store all my ties like this.
Glad you find it useful.

For ties, of course, you should store them as you see fit. But just on principle alone, the less you manipulate the tie the better. At home my ties are hanging on foam upholstered tie rack. I got that thing at BedBathBeyond I think and it is great.

When you role the ties even loosely you bend them more then necessary. You then set them down and make them sit on a small surface of the tie with weight from the roll pressing down on it. If you set them down on the edge, that's even worse because the edge will crumple and the other edge is exposed.. This already applies for ties in a drawer.

In luggage, or in a soft sided packing cube, this problem is compounded. The rolled tie can get crushed and squeezed together from several directions.

The wrapping around folded shirts method has none of these unwanted effects. Ties don't get bent more then two or three times. The bends are well cushioned. There is no pressure on one particular small spot. Even if ties are squeezed in the shirt folder no creases will form. The entire length of the tie and especially the tips are thoroughly fixed and can't be "abused". It always lays or hangs flat and won't get rounded after years (or months) of rolling it.

Moreover, this method allows you a quick reality check on whether the tie really looks good with the shirt.

Try it out, I bet you will like it. I tried out everything before. No dice. The special tie folders were performing ok but just too darn heavy and adding bulk. The wrap method adds no bulk or weight.

When I am at the destination I usually hang the tie either over the trouser bar of the hanger or over the shirt's shoulder.

Perhaps I am too careful. But on the other hand these little silk strips are so darn expensive and my method is quick, easy, free and effective. So why not exercise the greatest care possible when it is so easy?

Till
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Old Sep 2, 09, 6:55 pm   #6
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Curious, do people not put slacks or jeans in packing folders? I usually put everything in them (shirts, underwear, socks and pants). Do others pack only shirts in the folders?
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Old Sep 2, 09, 7:29 pm   #7
 
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I made my own packing folders about ten years ago, using ripstop nylon, edged in bias binding, and very thin, light plastic chopping boards from Ikea, They are roughly diamond-shaped, with a long strip of velcro loop or a shorter piece of velcro hook at the points.

I use the chopping board to fold the clothes into uniform rectangles, stacking them on the folder, then place the board on top and compress the contents as I fasten the points together.

They measure 38x30cm and each weighs less than 100g. One folder will easily hold six long-sleeved tops and two pairs of trousers.
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Old Sep 2, 09, 7:48 pm   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OzBarb View Post
I made my own packing folders about ten years ago, using ripstop nylon, edged in bias binding, and very thin, light plastic chopping boards from Ikea, They are roughly diamond-shaped, with a long strip of velcro loop or a shorter piece of velcro hook at the points.

I use the chopping board to fold the clothes into uniform rectangles, stacking them on the folder, then place the board on top and compress the contents as I fasten the points together.

They measure 38x30cm and each weighs less than 100g. One folder will easily hold six long-sleeved tops and two pairs of trousers.
Thanks. And welcome to Flyertalk!
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Old Sep 2, 09, 11:50 pm   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GadgetFreak View Post
Curious, do people not put slacks or jeans in packing folders? I usually put everything in them (shirts, underwear, socks and pants). Do others pack only shirts in the folders?
I am sure people put all kinds of things in them. I put only shirts, ties and the occasional polo in there. Think about it. The main effect of the folder is that it keeps your shirts, the most wrinkle prone items, rather wrinkle free. The other items don't need that treatment. In fact, they might disturb the sliding function of the packed folder. Shirt on shirt usually slides better than shirt on jeans for example.

Also, the classic "waist in, legs out, wrap around when finished" method for trouser packing is better for the trousers because it avoids the folds at the legs. So by leaving the pants out of the folder you are doing the trousers and the shirts a favor.

In addition, folders add considerable weight and cost. I'd only use as many as necessary. If you pack all your stuff in three folders for example, you just added two pounds of weight and $50 to the luggage bill that are not necessary.

Underwear and socks are the easiest items to pack. You can stuff them anywhere unless you insist on impeccably ironed silk boxers. Socks go in the shoes anywhere. Underwear and t-shirts can be rolled and put in a packing cube but even that is not really necessary. Still I mostly do that.

The only exception I might make to this system is if I travel with a single bag (really a single bag) like the Valoroso 18" tote I just got, that has no compartments that open wide enough to easily lay stuff in there. In that case I can imagine taking a single folder, packing it with one set of clothes and inserting it into the compartment. Still I will probably wrap the pants around the folder and only put the underwear inside. The socks would get rolled and stuff in some corner or used as a cushion for the laptop.


Quote:
Originally Posted by OzBarb View Post
I made my own packing folders about ten years ago, using ripstop nylon, edged in bias binding, and very thin, light plastic chopping boards from Ikea, They are roughly diamond-shaped, with a long strip of velcro loop or a shorter piece of velcro hook at the points.

I use the chopping board to fold the clothes into uniform rectangles, stacking them on the folder, then place the board on top and compress the contents as I fasten the points together.

They measure 38x30cm and each weighs less than 100g. One folder will easily hold six long-sleeved tops and two pairs of trousers.
Welcome to FT! Very interesting first post. If you want to be famous how about a complete how-to with pics and shopping list? Certainly an unrealistic and inappropriate request, but, ehy, that's me.

Till

Last edited by tfar; Nov 19, 09 at 5:21 pm.. Reason: spelling corrected
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Old Sep 3, 09, 12:39 am   #10
 
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I just added some thoughts on bundle wrapping to the original post.

here is the OBOW thread on the subject:


http://www.1bag1world.com/obow-light...?lastPage=true

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Old Sep 3, 09, 12:51 am   #11
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I tried the packing cubes but couldn't make them work for how I travel, thought did keep the long thin tube type cube for socks & underwear as it fits neatly into one outside pocket of my carry on.

I must say I'm a packing lightweight, pardon the weight pun , compared to the super duper lightweight packers and professional packers in this crowd. Never hurts, though, to troll for good tips.
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Old Sep 3, 09, 8:08 am   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tfar View Post
I am sure people put all kinds of things in them. I put only shirts, ties and the occasional polo in there. Think about it. The main effect of the folder is that it keeps your shirts, the most wrinkle prone items, rather wrinkle free. The other items don't need that treatment. In fact, they might disturb the sliding function of the packed folder. Shirt on shirt usually slides better than shirt on jeans for example.

Also, the classic "waist in, legs out, wrap around when finished" method for trouser packing is better for the trousers because it avoids the folds at the legs. So by leaving the pants out of the folder you are doing the trousers and the shirts a favor.

In addition, folders at considerable weight and cost. I'd only use as many as necessary. If you pack all your stuff in three folders for example you just added two pounds of weight and $50 to the luggage bill that are not necessary.

Underwear and socks are the easiest items to pack. You can stuff them anywhere unless you insist on impeccably ironed silk boxers. Socks go in the shoes anywhere. Underwear and t-shirts can be rolled and put in a packing cube but even that is not really necessary. Still I mostly do that.

The only exception I might make to this system is if I travel with a single bag (really a single bag) like the Valoroso 18" tote I just got, that has no compartments that open wide enough to easily lay stuff in there. In that case I can imagine taking a single folder, packing it with one set of clothes and inserting it into the compartment. Still I will probably wrap the pants around the folder and only put the underwear inside. The socks would get rolled and stuff in some corner or used as a cushion for the laptop.




Welcome to FT! Very interesting first post. If you want to be famous how about a complete how-to with pics and shopping list? Certainly an unrealistic and inappropriate request, but, ehy, that's me.

Till
Thanks, that is interestingly different than the way I do it in several ways. I use the folders mainly for space and convenience. I like having one thing I can pull out of my suitcase with all of my clothes in it. So I typically only use one folder and put all of my clothes for the trip in it. But Im open to suggestions of ways to improve as I am pushing the one bag effort as much as I can. What is the way you mention to pack trousers, Im actually unfamiliar with that?

I have an upcoming trip that I am planning on using for an experiment. I leave for DCA Wednesday, and have meetings in DC on Thursday and Friday. Then an afternoon train back to NY on Friday and meet Mrs. GF in the city for dinner. Then I head to JFK for a night flight to LHR. Get there Saturday and go to Cambridge until Monday night, then a night flight back to JFK. Current plan is to pack everything in a Red Oxx Skytrain and Metro which will fit inside the Skytrain. Im probably going to pack for the DC trip and bring the clothes for the Cambridge trip to my office on Tuesday. On Wednesday my assistant will FedEx the second set of clothes to my hotel in DC. On Friday on the way out I mail the DC clothes back to my office. That means I only have three days clothes packed at any time. That should be easy in the Skytrain in fact, it will be two days in the Skytrain and a spare day in the Metro (in a small folder). I might not even need to do the mailing thing. I will probably do a practice pack to get the size down. Thoughts?
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Old Sep 3, 09, 11:03 am   #13
 
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I will use either a packing folder or a similar size packing cube for my "main" clothes depending on the type of trip. I use smaller packing cubes for everything else. Easier to see what you have, easier to get through security (since most of my cubes are either completely transparent or are see-thru on one side), and together they weigh about one pound (excluding the main folder/cube)

I use a TB Tri-Star and can fit everything I need in it with room to spare. With my netbook-sized daybag inside, the whole things weighs in around 16 lbs. Add about 3 lbs if I bring the netbook and power cord.

And I don't double up on shirts in the folder or packing cube. I just fold them gently and pack each shirt opposite (one shirt collar to my left and pointing up, next shirt collar to my right and pointing down.)

I've actually found that using a packing cube the size of a folder and making sure it is kept in place by internal straps sometimes causes less wrinkles than a folder.

The final secret--a travel sized bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release. I used to travel with a portable steamer but it was too heavy. The Downy works well.
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Old Sep 3, 09, 9:43 pm   #14
 
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Originally Posted by GadgetFreak View Post
Thanks, that is interestingly different than the way I do it in several ways. I use the folders mainly for space and convenience. I like having one thing I can pull out of my suitcase with all of my clothes in it. So I typically only use one folder and put all of my clothes for the trip in it. But Im open to suggestions of ways to improve as I am pushing the one bag effort as much as I can. What is the way you mention to pack trousers, Im actually unfamiliar with that?

I have an upcoming trip that I am planning on using for an experiment. I leave for DCA Wednesday, and have meetings in DC on Thursday and Friday. Then an afternoon train back to NY on Friday and meet Mrs. GF in the city for dinner. Then I head to JFK for a night flight to LHR. Get there Saturday and go to Cambridge until Monday night, then a night flight back to JFK. Current plan is to pack everything in a Red Oxx Skytrain and Metro which will fit inside the Skytrain. Im probably going to pack for the DC trip and bring the clothes for the Cambridge trip to my office on Tuesday. On Wednesday my assistant will FedEx the second set of clothes to my hotel in DC. On Friday on the way out I mail the DC clothes back to my office. That means I only have three days clothes packed at any time. That should be easy in the Skytrain in fact, it will be two days in the Skytrain and a spare day in the Metro (in a small folder). I might not even need to do the mailing thing. I will probably do a practice pack to get the size down. Thoughts?
Can you let us know your packing list? You might be able to get away quite easily with just a second set of clothes that your wife can bring you for the second trip when you stop over in NYC. The mailing thing sounds complicated to me; and costly. Time is money, too. You would probably be able to fit everything in the Skytrain anyway. I mean altogether you are gone for a total of six days. That's an easy fit even if you don't do laundry.

In the interest of light packing I'd still use the wife as a "laundry exchange agent" when you meet her on Friday. You pack beforehand and give the clothes in a plastic bag to your wife (or place it in the car she will use to meet you, so she cannot forget to take the bag). You then just repack the Skytrain in the trunk of your car. Actually bundle wrapping for that instance would help because you could easily take the old bundle out and replace it with the new one.

I'd take one shirt per day, one set of underwear per day. And only one extra pair of pants in addition to those you are wearing. If your feet are odor-free and you don't walk much you can dare to go two days on the same pair of socks. I know I can; maybe I am blessed. And one extra pair of shoes. That should be really all you need. You wear a reversible belt (if you are taking black and brown shoes, otherwise choose belt in color of shoes) and a sport coat on the plane. Possibly top that with an overcoat or trench or anorak. Cambridge will be a good bit cooler than DC, I suppose. A nice sweater for layering and changing the look a bit might also be a good idea. Or a fleece jacket.

I don't know your shirt size but mine come in at around 250g per shirt. So let's say you pack 3 shirts plus 3 days of boxers, t's and socks. That should be about 1200g max. Count 400g for the EC 18 folder. A leather sole size 9 lace-up shoe weighs easily 500g each, so 1kg for a pair of shoes.

My size M Polartec 100 (not sure but I think so) fleece jacket weighs 445g. An equal warmth thick cashmere pullover weighs 345 grams. Notice something...? Well, the sweater doesn't have any pockets or zip and the fleece jacket does, so that might account for the weight difference.

Pants, let's see. A nice pair of pleated Super 100 wool pants in 34/32 weighs 426g. My Perry Ellis Portfolio Travel pants weigh 467 at the same size. So count another 500g per pair of pants.

Add around 500g for 311 baggie and razor, brush, comb etc.

Let's add up:

Shirts + underwear: 1200
Folder: 400
Sweater or Fleece: 500
Pants: 500
Shoes: 1000
Grooming: 500

That's 4100g, quite exactly 9lb.

Pack socks in shoes, shoes in plastic grocery bags. T's, shirts, and undies in folder. Wrap pants around folder starting with waist closest to folder. Put shoes in bottom of compartment or up the sides with heels pointing down. Put pant/folder bundle in bag. Put fleece or sweater on top to have it at hand. Toiletry bags go on top of that towards the narrow upper edge of the Skytrain or between shoes and clothes. If you do wear a trench or anorak, the 311 baggie can easily go into an outside pocket.

The pant packing method I mentioned can be used in your case but it comes basically down to the same thing. When you have a suitcase that you fill with folded clothes, you first put in the pants. You put them in with the waistband first and let the legs hang outside the edge of the suitcase. Then you fill the suitcase and finally fold the legs over. Not a single crease in your pant legs.

Since you probably have two EC18 folders anyway, this method would be super elegant. You could pre-pack the entire bundle at home as described above and put it in a plastic bag. Then you just swap out that the old bundle against the prepacked plastic bag. In principle you wouldn't even need to take stuff out of the plastic bag if it's neatly packed.

Very sweet arrangement, no? The second compartment is completely free for the Metro bag. The Fedex circus shouldn't be needed.

If ever, on your way back, you have more luggage, you can take the Metro out of the Skytrain and it will be your personal item.

So you are at 9lb packed items, 4lb four the Skytrain and 3lb for the Metro. That's 16lb. Probably your gadgets and papers in the Metro will be at least another 5lb. Be ready for a 21+ lb bag. I am 36, 6ft, 160lb and that's where I feel stuff is getting heavy but still doable. You'll have to see for yourself and you always have the backpack option. That weight is heavy on a shoulder but very easy if carried on the back.

Take care,

Till
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Old Sep 4, 09, 9:46 pm   #15
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Wow, thanks so much for the detailed response. It is full of great suggestions and thought provoking ideas. I will be thinking a lot about this as I pack. And I pack enough that I usually dont think much about it, so that is really saying something. I will post more as I sort out things among the options. The Red Oxx Metro came today so I am pretty sure I will be going with the Metro in the SkyTrain. As you said, the difference between having it on the shoulder and the back is huge.

As far as the switch, I really think shipping is better. My wife wont be driving to meet me, but rather she will be taking the train to the city and then meeting me after she gets off work. So she would have to take the clothes on the train with her and keep them at work. Also, if something goes wrong, such as Im delayed or she has to work late I could end up going to JFK with no clothes. So I think the shipping is less stressful. The fleece was a good reminder, it is already getting chilly there. I will probably not take an extra pair of shoes. I have a pair of Mephisto loafers that are easy on and off for security and decent for walking. I usually travel with either them or a pair of dark colored Mephisto technical walking shoes. I am more serious now about working out so I may take trainers but I will likely just wear the Mephisto walkers and not deal with the laces for a few trips through security. My downfall on packing is, perhaps not surprisingly, gadgets. I think I took 6 phones with me on one trip. Im really working to get a handle on both the gadgets and their chargers. I have it down to one or two chargers and everything else USB. Ill post more as my packing lists mature. Thanks again for all of the help.
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