To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Packing for a Jungle Sketching Trip

Okey dokey! My travel packing list is ready ~ a check-list for the female sketch/journalist abroad. Guys, this will work for you, too, with the exception of some of the girl-things. I'm assuming you don't wear a bra, fr'instance. Use what you can.

I didn't start this list from scratch, since I've been a-travel before, so this is all stuff that I've taken before and know I will use, or things I forgot to take (or wished I had taken). I'm all packed. This will suffice for two weeks on the headwaters of the Amazon River in Darkest Peru, here.

My packing checklist isn't for the glamour crowd. But it will get a sketch journalist through two weeks in the air and on the ground, happily sketching in the wilds of some far off place. There isn't any "little black dress" or a pair of heels involved, and the make-up kit contains only hand lotion and a blusher, so you can be pretty sure you won't be Queen of the Ball!

But you will be prepared to stay clean and dry and ready to change your plans or take off at a moment's notice because you won't be checking any bags or hauling too-heavy luggage.

And with that starry vision in mind, BEHOLD THE PACKING LIST! (it's a PDF you can print out if you want. My gift to you.)

Above are my carry-on bag, my "purse" and my camera. The camera can fit into one of the side pockets on the bag if necessary, but on smaller planes the bag sometimes ends up in a luggage bay out of reach, in which case I can extract the camera quickly and hang onto it. Everything together weighs 21 pounds. Yes!

Now, just to make sure we're on the same page, here's the premise: Annie the Adventurer is going on a trip to the jungle in a foreign land to sketch and draw wildlife and tropical scenery.
  • Her itinerary includes numerous flights and plane changes & many hours in airports, plus a two-hour boat trip down the Amazon and a hike through the jungle to the lodge.
  • She's staying in an eco-lodge, but expects to be out sketching every day, rain or shine.
  • It's jungle, so it will rain, but it will also be in the 80s & 90s, so she won't need a lot of clothes.
  • She doesn't anticipate any gala events, so she can pack for action, not glitz.
  • She's getting a bit long in the tooth (retired, anyway) and doesn't want to carry even half an ounce more than she absolutely HAS to.
  • She has splurged on some travel accessories to make her trip more satisfying and easy.
  • She's me (see below).
Now with that out of the way, I can present the rest of this without apology. The first target is to pack only as much as you can take as carry-on. No bags to check, no baggage lines to wait in, no lost luggage to try to track down while you should be having fun. This limits the amount of stuff you can take, and every item must be essential, but if you have ever lost luggage, you'll know what a treat it will be not to have to worry about it.

So starting at the beginning, for traveling, wear clothes you plan to use at your destination. If it's winter and you're going to the tropics, how do you stay warm at the airport and on the plane (they keep those cabins pretty chilly and now they charge as much as $8 rental for a blanket!)? Okay, hold onto your hat: Wear A Blanket.

I know, that sounds horrid! But take a look at the classy wrap I'm wearing, at right. It's a microfleece throw folded in half, weighing only 13 ounces, and you'll mostly be wearing it on the plane, not carrying it. A clasp with a 3" chain holds it on.

When they turn the heat down in the plane and start exchanging blankets for dollars with the richer (or maybe just desperately cold) travelers, you slip your wrap off, shake it out, and you have a really nice, warm blankie. When you arrive in the tropics, you roll it up tight, and tuck it into the bottom of your carry-on bag for your return trip (you may actually use it during your stay if the weather turns chilly). That's my own idea, and you can have it for free.

Now, exactly what would you wear under the wrap? The best approach is to pack for your adventure, then wear as much of it as you can on the plane.

So first of all wear light-weight safari pants with lots of big pockets with fasten-down flaps. These are handy for holding your energy bar, ID, tickets, passport, etc., and of course will be terribly useful later to carry your sketchbook, watercolor pencils, and sitting pad.

When you are traveling, your passport should generally stay in your passport pouch, which you wear beneath your clothing, attached to some portion of your apparel or body. But in the airport you need to have it accessible (along with your proof of vaccination for yellow fever and tetanus, etc.) and you won't want to be reaching into your bosom or up under your shirt in public, so it's nice to have a pocket to carry it in temporarily. Same with your tickets. The safari pants are fairly loose and very comfortable for traveling, and since the flaps fasten with noisy velcro, you'd notice if someone tried to lift them and make off with anything.

Next, a nice-looking jersey t-shirt. This will be your nicest blouse. For jungle trekking, you'll want t-shirts you won't care if you ruin, because you never know what messy thing might happen to them (monkeys throwing overripe fruit at you, bugs squashing, etc.). But your plane apparel should be a nice-looking shirt for wearing to meals. If your bag is packed too full, you might pull out a regular t-shirt to wear underneath it for the flight.

Beneath that is your light-weight travel bra and panties. This is one place I saved up my pennies and splurged. The blurb on the package says "17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of underwear (Ok, maybe two)." I think they expect you to rinse them out each evening. These undies generally dry overnight, so this is an excellent choice for the tropics. It's no fun to wear damp underthings in a humid environment, clean or not (believe me!).

Here's another place where you can get tricky: if you get black ones, they can double as swimwear. They look good, too, so you don't need to pack a swimsuit unless you really want to. I don't.

The long-sleeved shirt will be necessary at your destination to ward off mosquitoes, but it should still be comfortable in the air-conditioned cabin.

Another splurge is the long travel socks. These supportive socks are designed to help frequent flyers avoid leg clots from sitting for hours in a plane seat, and while they're expensive, they aren't as costly as a leg clot. You could call them insurance...

Your shoes should be wettable/dryable. While you'll pack sandals for wearing around the lodge, leather shoes for hiking would be a poor choice for a tropical vacation, and you don't want to wear sandals on a forest trail in case you meet a snake (this is not very likely, but possible). So breathable fabric walking shoes designed for hot work (running, sports, etc.) are an excellent choice. Be sure they're well broken-in before you start your trip.

So there you are, the well-dressed tropical adventurer, off on your journey to the jungle. In the airport you can hike from terminal to terminal if necessary with the carry-on pack on your back, the "handbag" either in one hand or slung over your shoulder, and the camera bag slung around your neck. You can deal with 21 pounds for quite awhile before it gets to be a burden, especially if it's decently distributed about your body.

Next blog, I'll show you what's in each bag, and why. Right now I'm going to click outta here and open up my Spanish language lesson program, and start repeating after electronic Maria such things as "Quiero ir a la tienda," and "Que pasa?" and "Necesito tomar un taxi a mi hotel, por favor!" Oiga! Be nice! I'm just a beginner!

Hasta luego!


Cathy Holtom said...

A very informative post for travelling, do we get to see your sketching kit too?

irene said...

Yup, it's in the works. I'll try not to skip anything. I'm having too much fun!

Unknown said...

Wow, this is impressive.... I am not going to the Amazon but I really appreciate your list and believe in traveling light. Thanks for your list. E.

Unknown said...

Thank you for taking the time to do this!!

Irene said...

I really love sharing knowledge. Since I'm not teaching the workshops any more, I really miss passing along information to others that might be interested. So this is fun for me, as well as maybe helping you (or at least, entertaining you, hopefully!)

I have the next entry blogged now. Check it out!

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

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