Mark and I have been talking a lot about clothing lately – which is a little strange for two people who, between us, can’t fill a hotel-room cupboard (okay, my stuff does take up more space than his…). But you see, at the moment we’re testing gear for Cape Union Mart and we’re regularly talking about the pros and cons of what we’re wearing, no matter what brand they are. These shorts crease too easily; that shirt looks too old to be included in a shoot for a business-class magazine; these sandals were totally worth every cent I paid.
When you live out of a kitbag, every item of clothing you carry has to earn its space and I’ve learnt that buying good-quality “basic” clothing saves a lot of time, money and hassle in the long run. Of course, everyone will have their own list of must-haves depending on why they travel; the gear I carry has to see me through everything from checking into five-star lodges to trekking through leech-infested jungles, and sitting for hours upon hours on trains, planes and road trips. When anyone asks my advice on packing, these are the five items I always recommend:
1/ A long, simple dress – which can be glammed up for a grand lunch in Raffles, and dressed down for a walk on the beach. This one is made from T-shirt fabric… no ironing required. It was actually one of those spur-of-the moment purchases; I went into Truworths to buy jeans, and walked out with this dress (and no denims). Because no matter how strict your kitbag rules are, frivolity happens sometimes.
2/ A sun hat – travel is unpredictable, and you never know when the bus you’re travelling in will break down, or when you’ll be invited to cocktails on a yacht, or will need to spend hours in the sun photographing elephants at a water hole. So it’s important to always carry a hat (trust me – my body carries the scars of sun damage). I picked this one up at Cape Union Mart recently and have been so impressed – there’s elastic on the inside, which keeps the hat on in the wind, and it folds up and fits neatly into my kitbag. It’s made of paper, so will be interesting to see what happens when it gets wet.
3/ Denim jacket – a staple in any wardrobe, whether you live on the road from a kitbag or in a chic apartment in Paris. I’ll admit I didn’t wear it once last year in Asia but still, I’d never travel without it. Slipping on a denim jacket and pretty pumps can turn almost anything in my kitbag into an outfit I could wear with confidence on the high street. And it doesn’t add any bulk or weight to my kitbag: I always wear my denim jacket when I fly.
4/ Versatile trousers – comfy enough to wear on a long-haul flight, and cool enough to wear in the heat of Asia, where women often have to cover their knees. Plus, I take better photographs when I can climb things or crouch down, and not worry about showing my undies to the rest of the world, which is what would happen if I lived in dresses. I’m testing these loose-fitting purple ones for Cape Union Mart, and am thrilled to have a basic pair of pants that has some personality. Plus, I’ve learnt how to hang them out to dry so that they don’t require ironing.
5/ Durable sandals – I’ve spent years on the hunt for the ultimate travel sandal, and think that these Haviannas might just be them. The heel is slightly raised, which is kind on your Achilles (important when they’re the only pair of shoes you wear); they’re tough, easy to slip on and off, and look pretty with shorts, a dress or longs. And they take up almost no space.
Other useful items in my kitbag: a skinny leather belt; a pair of simple pumps; a bold silver necklace; a colourful scarf; a bright cardi.