The Pack Light Part – 11 Days

If this is your destination, how much clothing do you really need?

8 days safari, 3 days city. Average low temperature 50°, average high temperature 83°.

Airplane outfit: tie-waist linen dress, leather jacket, high boots, hat; hooded sweatshirt tied around the waist, leggings in purse.

I’m not going to lie, I’m damned proud of how I pack. Despite the fact that on every trip longer than a long weekend that I’ve taken in the last ten years, I’ve ended up with at least one outfit too many, I have this down to a science.

I will confess that not really giving a shit how I look is half the battle:


Put in a more positive light, I never think I look as good as when I am outdoors, with a healthy tan, enjoying myself. No one sells a primer that can mimic that look.

I also have many, many experiences of having too much stuff and wondering why I brought it in the first place. Over the years, I’ve whittled down my bag, each trip taking one more thing out, and realizing I still don’t want for anything and, inevitably, I’ve still packed more than I need.

So here’s what the inside of my bag looks like:

  • 4 pair underwear
  • 2 bras
  • 3 pair socks
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 pair convertible pants
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 tank tops
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt
  • 3 dresses
  • 1 pair bike shorts
  • 1 weatherproof shell
  • 1 pair sneakers
  • 1 pair sandals

I’m not going to bore you with my toiletries, so I’ll give you the tl;dr version: no makeup, sephora samples for everything else.

Same tank top, different color

I could get away with less. I’ve been contemplating ditching my boots altogether and just going in sneakers and I can’t really think of a reason why I don’t want to do this, so we could be down a pair of shoes already. I could ditch the jeans, one of the t-shirts, and one of the dresses and still be ok. But I’m going to keep them. Because there’s no reason to be ascetic about this. I have the room in my bag, and I don’t need to prove anything.

I am most comfortable in dresses. I’m like a child in that I will, given half a chance, end up sitting cross-legged and dresses allow me to tuck my legs up under me without concern. Dresses are also comfortable – way more comfortable than pants which, no matter the style, are constricting your midsection. And my midsection is where I put food. So my packing list is always dress heavy. I have two jersey dresses from Reformation, one of which has accompanied on every trip since I bought it 8ish years ago, the other was a companion dress purchased recently on the chance that the first dress should simply sublime one of these days from overuse. These dresses are super comfy and if I absolutely had to, I could dress them up. And while we’re at it, my plane dress is also Reformation – I’m a total #refbabe. Dresses are the only thing I want to wear on a plane (see midsection issue). If the plane is really hot, terrific, I’m already in a dress; if the plane is freezing, I’ve brought emergency layers. Bonus: dresses don’t have to avoid the bathroom floor the way pant legs do. The plane dress is also an I-am-a-human-and-can-mingle-in-a-city dress so that I’m not going out to dinner in Johannesburg in a dress that may or may not have elephant dung somewhere on it. And the last dress is also a city dress. 3.5 days, 2 dresses. Easy.

Are you sensing a theme?

For the days on safari where I don’t want to wear a dress (or maybe the evenings when it’s cooler), I have two kinds of pants and three kinds of shirts. It’s probably overkill. The particular sweatshirt I brought for cool mornings and evenings is a miracle of technology. It’s what I run in during the winter. It’s super warm. So I could theoretically wear a tank top every day and just put the sweatshirt on over it and be perfectly fine. So I don’t exactly know what the two t-shirts are for. It’s possible that by the time I hit publish, I will have unpacked them.

It won’t rain…because I’m bringing a rain jacket. I bring the hat even though I don’t particularly like wearing hats and do not care if I get sun on my face. The more I think about it, the more I’m not bringing the boots. Screw the boots.

You’ve read this far, you deserve this.

Will I be wearing the same thing more than once? Yes. Possibly more than twice? Possibly. But believe me when I tell you that no one cares. No one is looking at you or judging you. I did 2 weeks, in winter, in Europe in a carry-on bag: 2 dresses, 1 pair jeans, 1 skirt, some tops, boots, and pumps.

Finally, I think it goes without saying that I am a big fan of stretchy tank tops. I’ve bought them from H&M, Charlotte Russe, and possibly Forever21. I spend no more than $7 on them, buy them in every conceivable color – even ill-advised ones – and take them everywhere.




6 thoughts on “The Pack Light Part – 11 Days

  1. This is great advice, although I also like skirts. With stretchy waists.

    But, I want to know more about the sweatshirt. Please?


  2. “My midsection is where I put food” is one of the exact reasons I hate pants and love dresses. This post is “Italian finger kiss” and definitely helping me through jet lag in India. On a trip wherein I packed exclusively dresses and workout gear.


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