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How To Pack Like a Pro

Instruction
posted: 08/15/2006

The pitfalls of checking luggage on an airline are obvious: slower check-in, long waits at baggage claim and, worse, the possibility of a lost bag. A single carry-on, as most seasoned travelers will tell you, is the way to go. The problem is that skiing carries with it certain baggage of its own: You need generous amounts of bulky clothing and some heavy, awkward gear. Try fitting skis, boots, long underwear, gloves, a wool sweater and The Da Vinci Code in a bag that fits in the overhead compartment. Is the carry-on ski trip a possibility—or a pipe dream?

We turned to Doug Dyment, relentless traveler and operator of the website onebag.com, and he accepted our challenge with relish. As his site's name suggests, Dyment is an expert at packing minimally—he promises to send you on your way indefinitely, even trekking around the world, with only a single carry-on bag. A quick ski trip? Don't make him laugh.

Caveat No. 1: You rent, borrow or otherwise obtain skis (and poles) at your destination. Any skier who's ever suffered through an afternoon in rented boots knows that the compromised fit isn't worth it, but skis are generally safe to rent. Which brings us to Caveat No. 2: Your ski boots count as one of your pieces of carry-on luggage (most airlines allow two). That leaves a single bag for everything else. Here's how Dyment would fill it.

Make a List
Dyment uses a variation of the same packing list for every trip. "You could live forever with the items on my list, he says. "If you just stand there with an empty suitcase on the bed, you're going to end up bringing a lot of stuff you don't need. I know my list by heart, but I still pull it out every time. We've adapted Dyment's list for a ski trip.

>2 flannel shirts
>1 fleece midlayer or sweater
>1 pair ski pants
>1 pair jeans, corduroys, khakis or other casual pants
>1 pair dress pants
>1 dress shirt
>base layers — top and bottom
>socks and underwear (up to a week's worth)
>T-shirts
>ski socks, hat, gloves
>parka
>1 paperback book
>sunglasses/goggles
>toiletry bag
>1 pair all-weather shoes

In summary, Dyment confirms what skiers know: "Layering is better than bulky. Five to six layers is enough for anything short of an arctic expedition.

Choose Your Baggage
Dyment notes that most airlines observe the 45-inch rule with respect to carry-on luggage: The sum of height, width and length measurements must not exceed45 inches. So, a bag 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and nine inches tall would be fine—the numbers add up to 45. It should also have soft sides and no wheels. (Bags with wheels are handy but they're heavier and more rigid, so they accommodate less clothing.) Dyment's current favorite is the Tough Traveler Tri-Zip #4032 (20 x 13 x 9), which retails for around $200. It can be carried as a pack, shoulder bag or suitcase.

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Pick Your Travel Outfit
"Most people forget to include what they wear on the plane when they're packing," Dyment says. "If I'm heading to Vail for the weekend, I'm going to wear my ski jacket on the plane." Even if it's 90 degrees at home. "How much are you going to wear it on the flight anyway? They make you take it off to go through security, and then it goes in the overhead." The practice carries over to the rest of your in-flight duds. Wear your heaviest clothes—jeans, fleece or sweater, etc. Carry your sunglasses in a breast pocket or around your neck. (Wearing your goggles might be a bit much.)

Pack
Dyment's packing method, which he calls bundling, is a life-changer. It keeps clothes tight and relatively wrinkle-free. First, lay your bag open on your bed. Place each piece of clothing flat in the bag, beginning with the items that are the most wrinkle-prone. (Dyment suggest shirts and blouses first, then slacks, then things like sweaters.) The "top" of each garment—pant waists, shirt collars—should touch one side of the bag, with the rest hanging over the sides. Alternate directions (i.e., the first item lays left to right, the next right to left). When all the clothes are in, place a "core" in the center. A core is a central ballast, ideally about the size of a football—your toiletry bag, perhaps, or maybe your goggles, gloves and ski socks stuffed into your hat. Wrap each piece of clothing around the core one at a time until the whole pile has become a neat bundle. If your bag has internal straps, cinch them.

Plan For Next Time
Dyment has honed his packing list to perfection by starting from the same one every time. "I print out a few copies, and when I return from a trip, I put a copy in my suitcase for next time."

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