Think Long, Pack Light

Three star items and one guiding principle when packing for a summer vacation
By Kati Vereshaka
Kati Vereshaka
Kati Vereshaka
July 13, 2014 Updated: July 12, 2014

“Bansenshukai,” a multi-volume set of secret ninjutsu knowledge written in 1676, lays down information on everything from philosophy to weaponry, battle tactics, and even astrology.

It also contains a principle that is as valid to today’s jet-setting businessperson or holiday reveler as it was for the ninja fighters of centuries past. Bansenshukai warns one not to be overburdened with equipment, stating: “…a successful ninja is one who uses but one tool for multiple tasks.”

Advice on how and what to pack, for long or short trips abounds on the web, but by simply keeping this one principle in mind, packing will be less like re-inventing the wheel and more like a task expertly done in the fastest time.

Of course the first decision is to anticipate the tasks for which you need to pack—then you’ll be able to figure out which tool is best for multiple tasks.

I can only vouch for my own priorities when packing, but this principle has stood the test of time and place.

There is the usual list of things that I will include below, but there are three items that most travelers might just find as surprisingly useful as I have.

Multitasking Star Items

There are three items that I never, ever leave home without: a rayon sarong, at least one pure cotton flannelette square diaper (27″ size) and a pair of harem pants.

Perhaps it sounds rather anticlimactic, but just read and wonder at the list of uses that I continue to find for these humble items.

The Cotton Diaper

The pure cotton, old fashioned flat diaper is the best, most absorbent, hair towel that I have ever used. I had a bunch and originally used them as wipe cloths for my son when he was small and frequently car-sick. As he grew up, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out and in a moment of inspiration I used one as a hair towel.

In my travels, that square piece of cotton has been a pillow cover, face towel, body towel, wet wipe, compress cloth, hair band, wash cloth, tooth brush (with some fancy finger work in very dire circumstances) and I’m sure it has many other uses which I will keep discovering. And it rolls into about the size of two Cuban cigars weighing about the same. It can be easily washed and dries in minutes on a warm day. is your best bet to find these, they come in multi packs and also in organic cotton.

The Rayon Sarong

If ever there was a more versatile item of clothing than the rayon sarong, I am still to find it. It is whatever you want it to be. The more obvious uses are with skirt, shirt, wrap-around, and beach towel, but you could also use it to dry body and hair, as a scarf, pillow, lamp shade, mosquito proof blanket on hot nights.

I have even used it as a sort of make-do portable air conditioner. Just wet it and cover yourself with it when the heat is just unbearable and the hotel’s air conditioning is bust.

It is an effective car window shade if you find yourself in the sunny seat, and I’m sure that if Bear Grills had one, he wouldn’t need to eat so many bugs. The sarong could make a perfect fishing net, or perhaps a humane trap for smaller critters, provided that it’s not neon pastel but a rather more camouflage-friendly hue.

I searched high and low for best rayon sarongs and has a huge range that also includes the traditional Indonesian batik style prints.

Fancy ‘Harem’ Pants

The rayon harem pant was a game-changer for me. My life-long dilemma of what to wear in summer vanished. I struggle with skirts and have problems finding the right cut trousers, while I also loathe wearing jeans. For a while I really had no choice of what to wear on summer holidays or around the house.

Rayon is such a cooling material and the harem pant, also called the Indian pant is cut so that it flatters and forgives the female form like a skirt would, but it has pant legs cut on a bias which makes the fabric drape elegantly with all the practicality of pants. I favor rayon or fine cotton harem pants because they look glamorous anywhere with the right top and a nice pair of earrings. Although in fashion parlance they are Boho-chic, I look for ones that are less boho and more chic.

For 100% rayon harem pants, I found to have the best range and quality.

‘No-Fuss Intrepid Glamazon’ Summer Kit

List of items for the carry-on luggage:

3 pairs of shoes: a pair of flat sandals, a pair of closed-toe shoes and flip-flops for swimming/showering
1 swimsuit
3 pairs of socks, thin, 100% cotton–cotton is absorbent and lets your feet breathe
5 pairs of underwear in the thinnest fabric possible (easy to hand-wash with super quick drying time)
2 bras—one soft and one with extra support
4–6 assortment of shirts and tank tops in varying sleeve lengths and colors, including a plain one that can double as sleepwear
2 sheer silk organza tunics (plain or printed) to wear on top of camisoles for extra glamour
2 pairs of pants: one dressy, one baggy/casual, in fast-drying cotton or rayon
1 cardigan for layering
1 cotton diaper (for infinite uses)
1 rayon sarong
1 neutral color maxi skirt
1 hat that can be folded
Nail clippers/file/tweezers
Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, feminine hygiene products
Electronic gadget of choice (laptop/tablet), plus charger and adapter

Handbag list:

Travel documents: passport, ticket print-out and a memory stick with scanned copies of all important documents
Make-up—Pack TSA-approved miniatures. Practically every brand has them nowadays
Hair comb
Sunglasses/reading glasses
Moisturizer for face and hands
Wet towelettes (you can practically simulate having a shower with just four of these)
Chewing gum
Lip balm
Eye cream/stick with caffeine for preventing dehydration, puffy eyes, and dark circles
Notepad and pen

Kati Vereshaka
Kati Vereshaka