I think I did a really good job packing. I read a bunch of travel blogs, I had various backups, little tools, repair kits, first aid, expandable overflow bag, and lots of little useful things not always thought of. I thought I had everything covered, but some things you learn on the road.
I had packed a travel body wash / shampoo combo and my wife had picked us both up some awesome Lunatec self cleaning travel wash cloths that can be used as loofahs (gear that has already proved very valuable — thanks for the tip, ZINK Year).
As we traveled from hot city to very hot city I started to sweat. Especially as we started to reach locations like Beijing, with less than ideal sanitary conditions, I noticed something. I started to smell!
A smell in hot weather when you are walking 13 miles or so a day (thanks fitbit) might seem obvious to people. I have never really been a very sweaty person, in the states I don’t normally need antiperspirant or deodorant. I smell fine showing once a day even if with a light workout. If I have a real workout I shower after and all is good. Not so much in Beijing I tried to shower 4 times in one day and still couldn’t stay smelling clean. Something wasn’t right and I needed to solve the problem. (I went through this little journey of discovery while a friend was traveling with us, sorry Dina!)
Keeping Dan Clean
We had been in and out of hotels and I had been using a loofah often with the hotel provided liquid body wash. I realized that wasn’t strong enough, back home I always use a soap bar. Buying a real bar of soap and keeping it in a little zip lock bag (you did pack some of those didn’t you) between hotels. This got me most of the way back to normal, but with the extra daypack on my back and hotter temperatures I eventually added travel size deodorant to my arsenal. It is safe to say even if you don’t normally need these kinds of things at home, you might need them while traveling.
Only later did I remember my lush shampoo bar, which is great for travel, and very powerful. I have since used this bar as soap when needed and it works great, definitely cleans better than many of the free shower gels provided by hotels. I mostly have this item for the 24 day camping Safari in Africa, but I’m happy it has already come in handy.
Happy to be back to a nice clean non-smelly person, I figured I should share that nothing beats a real soap bar, a little extra packing space and weight easily worth it.
Keeping Clothes Clean
As long as we are on keeping things clean and smell free, let’s talk laundry. When doing laundry in the sink, we learned from our Vietnemes host family that we needed less water and about 2X the soap in the mix when hand washing clothes. The tip has definitely improved the freshness and lasting effects of a sink clothes cleaning. Also, allowing our clothes to soak in the soap water in the sink a longer time helped improve the freshness. A sink was is really best for use for the times between finding real laundry facilities (which is still highly recommended every couple washes as nothing really beats it). We did have access to several buckets in our home-stay, which is a way better way to hand wash clothes, than in the sink. Our host family really upped my clothes washing skills.
Single use packets of Tide travel (or similar), are highly recommended for sink cleaning. We originally had little sheets of soap, Travelon travel laundry soap, which looked great and travel really well, but they don’t really get clothes very clean and certainly can’t get socks back to smelling fresh after a hike. If you are out of single serve laundry soap, you can find it at little markets all over the world. If you are in a pinch, I have found shampoo, body wash, or directly rubbing a bar of soap on clothes to be effective.
We have also learned some tricks and improved our skill drying clothes while traveling.
When you have a nice sunny desk, hook up a travel laundry line, we love our sea to summit clothes line. Things dry great outside and smell amazing. Remember to keep and eye on the weather, we left a set of clothes drying out through a storm and had to start over. If you don’t have a deck you can string it up as best you can inside, which sometimes makes the room hard to navigate (effectively making a trip wire, which nearly kills me in the night). This works but depending on humidity, AC, and such it can take more than 24 hours to really dry out and then it doesn’t smell quite as nice.
So what to do if you have to sink wash, and you can’t hang outside in the sun, be it lack of space or current weather situation?
We have started to dry pretty much all our clothes using the, Exofficio drying method. While they recommend this for their excellent give-and-go underwear. It works great on t-shirts, travel pants, socks, etc. Basically, a simple 4 step drying process.
- ring out the garment
- roll it up in a towel, like a burrito
- ring out, squeeze, or stomp on the towel
- hang to dry
While this requires extra towels, most hotels didn’t have a problem giving us one extra. We also sometimes just showered using a travel towel and would use one hotel towel to help dry clothes. In a rush or didn’t use the Exofficio method? Don’t worry, you can always bust out the hotel hair drier in a last ditch effort to get your clothes dry for your night out.
Wash, Rinse, and Repeat…
Go out & destroy your clothes again.