In the Suitcase: Making a List, Checking it Twice

This past weekend Jon and I were heading out to Shenandoah National Park for a night of camping at Low Water Bridge Campground and hiking Old Rag, a popular and strenous hike to one of the prettiest peaks in Virginia. I spent the past few days beforehand preparing for our getaway – lugging out the brand-new wedding tent, sleeping bags, foam mats, propane lantern, headlamps, bug spray, food, etc. etc. On the morning of our departure, I was checking through our packing list to make sure we had toothbrushes, hiking boots, first aid kit, towels, ketchup, aluminum foil – check, check, and check. We grabbed as many items as our arms and hands could carry and loaded them into the trunk of my car.

Of course, for all my carefully made lists and checking, what did we leave behind? MY BAG. Well, I had carefully packed my hiking shoes, first aid kit, headlamps, towels, change of clothes and a bunch of other essentials in that duffel bag. The bag itself just didn’t make it with us. Jon insisted it was my fault – how could I not keep track of my own bag? I argued that it was his fault – I was busy keeping track of every other bag and piece of equipment that came on the trip, and my bag was sitting right next to HIS bag, was it so hard to take mine with his since he apparently was only tracking one bag and I was tracking 20? There I was, trying to get a campfire started with a pile of wet wood from the torrential downpour that started the precise minute we stepped into the campground office, fanning two fires at the same time (campfire and my internal rage). Regardless who was at fault, Jon has basically learned never to leave my bag behind, ever.

So, lessons learned about packing lists in general and how to avoid angry wife handling fire because neither of you thought to check if her bag was in the car.

1. Keep a list of all your basic essentials that go with you on every trip, and laminate it or put it somewhere where it won’t get lost. For example, the morning of a trip, I am always scrambling to grab things that couldn’t be packed ahead of time: glasses, phone charger, phone, camera battery, allergy meds.  

2. Keep your toiletries separate from your regular bathroom items and take inventory after each trip. Is there a full tube of 3oz toothpaste? Is that lotion or shampoo in the unlabeled bottle? Is your saline solution topped off? This way, you won’t have to spend any time before a trip trying to remember items and won’t end up washing your hair with body lotion.

3. For trips involving a lot of baggage (like camping or skiing), make a list of all the items AND the bags. I was pretty peeved that my hiking shoes stayed home since there was no way I could take my FitFlops hiking, even if they are designed for fitness.

4. Keep these lists in a folder with your passport and other travel documents, or e-mail it to yourself. This way you won’t have to re-brainstorm them every single time while risking the chance of leaving an item off.

Happy packing!

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