Editor’s Note: This is part of a Distressed Mullet series on on Chattajack Prep.
I’ve had the good fortune to attend a lot of races this year and I have had some hits and misses when it comes to mastering the Art of Travel getting to and fro. Or should I say the Art of Paddle Travel. So, as the season winds down and many of us get ready to head to Chattanooga, or as you start thinking about next year, here’s some ideas for making those journeys a little easier.
Good coffee as soon as possible in the morning is just crucial for me. Fortunately, most lodging establishments these days have an in-room coffee maker than will heat up water and allow you to brew a better cuppa than what those ground up brown crayon packets can produce – you know, the ones usually found next to the non-dairy powder from hell in the coffee station next to the microwave. Two ways to go on this – bring your own pre-ground beans and a travel pour-over filter, like this one from GSI or the similar product from UST.
They will require a coffee filter and a mug large enough to accept the base of the drip cone. For that, you cannot go wrong with Avex’s new insulated highball “glass,” the Sundowner. It’s short enough to not worry about accidental knock-over spillage. My only wish for this new offering from one of my favorite bottle companies is that it does not have a lid… I had hoped that perhaps their pint glass lid would fit but sadly it does not. The advantage of having one of these along is that it is wide enough to use for other things – for instance it can also double as a bowl for morning oatmeal or granola, or yogurt and fruit. In that case, maybe bring two.
The other option is a portable french press. There are many on the market – I am partial to REI’s Double Shot mug. The filter is built in to the lid and there’s a small hidden receptacle in the the bottom where you can store another mug’s worth of ground beans.
If you’ll be doing some hotel room food prep, bring along this set of bamboo utensils from To-Go Ware. The set includes knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks. Not only is it light and handy but carry it with you all the time and use it instead of plastic throw-away utensils and you’ll be doing the planet a favor.
The Mullet and I both are always on a quest to find the Holy Grail – and that is the perfect bag, whether it is carry on, briefcase or whatever. For the moment, my favorite case is the Co-Pilot wheeled roller from Timbuk2. This is a clamshell design – meaning it zips in the middle and opens up so you can lay it flat. You then have compartments on two sides for storage.
I love this because it aids in organization. One side can be for paddle gear/paddle specific clothes, the other side your street clothes. Or, one side for camera gear, etc. The zip mesh divider has additional pockets. There is even a separate compartment for wet things, dirties, or shoes. One side has a top loading zippered entrance that will allow you access to that side of the bag without having to open it all the way. And, there is a pocket on the outside oriented in such a manner that if it is in an overhead compartment facing out (the way they are supposed to) you can easily access the items you are likely to need in flight. Timbuk2 has really stepped up their design game lately and it shows.
Need something bigger? It comes in several different sizes:
- Medium sized roller is 22″ in height and is the domestic carry-on legal size
- Small sized roller is 20″ in height and can be carried on board – no need to check it in
- XL Copilot Luggage Roller is 28″ in height and must be checked on regardless
Want a duffel? Then Patagonia’s Black Hole series, from carry on to big ass roller bags are hard to beat. And yeah, the name fits. Like Doctor Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S. or Mary Poppin’s carpet bag – they are definitely bigger on the inside. Expensive, yes, but they will last a lifetime.
If you looked at my house, you would never, ever, ever peg me as a organization nut. But when I travel, I am. I like to know exactly where everything is at all times. I want it to stay arranged and clutter-free. That makes packing up easier and it reduces the chances I will lose something.
Nothing has helped me stay more organized when traveling than the packing cube. Eagle Creek was the first to come up with these nylon and mesh zippered “cubes” but now you can find them everywhere – from REI to Amazon. They come in a variety of sizes and are great for wrangling everything from toiletries to socks and underwear to board shorts and neoprene. They help save space in the suitcase and they make race prep a breeze! Get several in varying sizes and colors. That way you can keep your race kit separate from your street clothes and know which is which. For a race like Chattajack, where you are likely to take every piece of paddle clothing you have because there’s no telling what the weather will do, then you can even go a step farther – use a red cube for your cold weather kit, a blue one for warmer weather kit, and so on. This modular style of packing really makes getting ready on race day so much more simple, organized and stress free.
Most of the cubes come with a handle on one side, so you can pack one up with your after race gear and throw it in the car and use it as a duffle if necessary. Super handy. Super useful.
Got a lot of race electronics? GoPros, Speedcoaches, Garmins? Then check out the school cases from DaKine. They come in a wide variety of sizes, some specific for POV cameras but they are oh so useful. The padding inside makes them great for something like the Speedcoach and there is room for the charger and GoPro mount. They come in a variety of fun colors and patterns, too.
This is the year I discovered a whole array of products from Human Gear that have helped me streamline the stuff I carry in my toiletry bag. First, the GoToob. These are fantastic for soaps, shampoos and conditioners, lotions, or even energy gel or mustard. Light weight but so squeezy it’s easy to get the good stuff out. Leak proof yet easy to refill. They are just awesome. No more buying travel size shampoos and body washes from brands I don’t normally use. No more leaks that get a gooey mess of shampoo all over my toothbrush.
Human Gear also makes a container called the GoTubb. It comes in a variety of sizes and it’s perfect for just the amount of meds and vitamins that you need to take for your trip, or for just the right amount of hair product, Skratch Labs drink mix, cocoa nibs, your favorite spice, or even extra safety pins for those race bibs. Even though these containers are not billed as water tight, I can attest that they are solid. I recently placed some coconut oil in one, forgetting that coconut oil has a low melting point. It quickly turned to liquid in the back of my car, inside my suitcase. Not a single drop of that oil got out of the container.
Keeping it Cold
We love coolers like the Ice Mule soft sided bag style cooler, and I still have a tried and true Coleman that works great for car trips. But whatever kind of cooler you use, you owe it to yourself and your perishables to pick up some CoolerShock packs. These things are AMAZING. They come in a variety of sizes and they really do keep things colder for longer. They won’t leak like the Blue Ice cubes eventually do and they don’t take up as much space. I have had things freeze solid, in the cooler, in the car in the middle of August with these things. They make great ice packs for nursing injuries, too. If you order these from Amazon, you’ll note you can by them pre-activated for a little more; all you do is freeze and use. Save money and order them unmixed. Just follow the directions.
Last but not least….you gotta have a good travel blanket. If you’re a passenger in the car riding home, or if you are flying, nothing can sooth the soul as much as something to snuggle up in from head to toe.
After a freezing red eye home from Utah earlier this year, I vowed never to fly without my Cocoon CoolMax travel sheet. It packs down small but is still ample and cozy.
If you have room for something a little more substantial, and maybe need a sleeping bag option in case you end up couch surfing, then REI’s Helio Sack is a great option. Compressible, warm to 55 degrees or 45 if you get the down version, and you can unzip it completely and use it as a blanket. The down option contains a fill of water resistant duck down. So no worries if the bag gets damp. This is a great spring-summer season bag for SUP touring as well.
Have a favorite travel item you never leave home without? Tell us about it in the comments!!!