Packing- An Empty Bag is like an Empty Canvas
These days, packing doesn't have to be just throwing a bunch of things in a bag. There are lots of ways to be organized so that you can easily find things without emptying the everything out.Today I'm going to give you a tour of my empty bag and packing gear. The organizing accessories have become pretty crucial for me to keep my sanity while I'm on the road for weeks at a time. My bag has a tendency to explode all over my hotel room and this method helps to tame (not solve, sadly) the problem. I also need to pack quickly on occasion, these organizers are great for helping with that too.The suitcase or backpack you choose can make a big difference, as well as organizing bags and pouches called "packing cubes".My particular bag, the TriStar from Tom Bihn, has three compartments and four pockets, along with loops that can have smaller pouches snapped in to it. I like to seperate my things like this-This compartment is for flat folded things. I put my dresses, pants and dress shirts here. I also keep my down pillow in this compartment, under the clothes, and strap it all down tightly.On the opposite side, I use the zip-up divider to create a two sections. One is for a cube with my tops in it, the other is for my shoes.The center section is for everything else. I put my toiletries, underwear cube, electronic accessories, as well as paperwork and job related items there.The snap-on pouch system on the bags from Tom Bihn is really handy. They make organizing pouches in many sizes that clip on for easy retrieval. For example, this yellow pouch is where I keep contact lenses, medications and small loose items. I have other ones I use for electronic cords, pens and pencils and one for jewelry. After traveling with this bag for 4+ years, when I need something it's almost a reflex to reach in to find the pouch I need.The packing cubes are where the magic in this system lies. I have started using these ones from Eagle Creek because they are the lightest material available. The silky fabric also slides in and out of the bag with no effort, and they just happen to fit the compartments in my backpack perfectly. Rick Steves also carries low cost cubes I like, lightweight and made of mesh. These are superior in some ways as you can see all of the contents of the cube before you open it.The large white cube will be for tops, all folded and rolled. When I open the cube, I can quickly see what tops are in there. The smaller green cube is for underwear, socks and pajamas. I don't bother with folding here, I just stuff it all in and zip it up. The blue cube is a flat-fold packing cube. It comes with a plastic sheet that supposedly helps you fold dress shirts. I don't bother, but it does keep folded pants and dresses neatly stacked. I'm just starting to use one of these folded cubes again because my flat-fold clothes kept falling out on my last trip and caused quite a wrinkled mess.The small cube on the bottom is my toiletries kit, another Tom Bihn find. This is the maximum size container for carrying liquids on to a plane, like those travel zip-loc bags. This one has clear plastic sides and a hook on the inside for hanging it up in a bathroom. It's pretty minimal for a toiletries kit, but I find being restricted to that small size is helpful since this is where a big chunk of a bag's weight will lie. Also consider that if you bring a typical toiletries kit bag, you'll have to get a smaller bag like this for the liquids anyway while you are in transit. I prefer to just keep it small and all together.The last bag is one that I won't pack anything in- yet. It is a Rick Steves folding tote bag. This is a lightweight bag with a zipper on top that unfolds to a pretty decent size. I'll keep it in my backpack until the end of my trip, when my backpack is overflowing from purchases. On my return flight, I'll stuff my backpack full of wine and treats and more wine (observe the wine stains on the inside of my bag 😳), then I'll use the tote bag as my carry on for going home. It's also a good grocery shopping bag for European picnics.So this is my basic set up before packing. Next up will be deciding what to put inside.