House-sitting: Packing! (The Fun Part!)

Part 5 of an ongoing series

Later I will write a general packing list, but since this is a housesitting focused blog post, I’ll focus on what to bring when house sitting.

For those of you who have traveled before, packing is easily the most exciting part of traveling. Partly because you have the chance to buy new gear before heading out.

When I first went traveling on my own, back in 2013 (which was 6 years ago, sweet lordy Jesus), I scoured through Sierra Trading Post, REI, local outdoor stores, and even eBay. I wanted the perfect anti-microbial, merino wool, high-tech mesh, quick dry, anti-odor, packing list. I must have spent $1000 on new gear (including the $300 for a Gregory pack.)

I no longer do this for two reasons. The main reason is for environmental reasons. Buying new gear is a waste of resources, if I have things that I can still wear. I don’t really need a quick dry, wool shirt if I already have a few Old Navy shirts lying around.

(I should say this now, if you are going hiking, or planning an overnight, or multi-night, outdoor excursion, please ignore all of this. Your success can and might be dictated by your gear, so don’t skimp! Wet clothes can cause a number of problems while hiking!)

The second reason is money. The Gregory pack was great, but it was for hiking. (A number of European backpackers will use a hiking back for its superior ratio of size/capacity and the fact you can strap it to yourself in very comfortable ways.) Now I use a $40 IKEA bag that works so-so. (Splurge in the bag. I think this $40 is a bit of a waste for any serious traveling.)

Now, my needs have changed, as have a number of people’s. We need tech. We need gadgets. Okay, need is a strong word. But many people who go traveling will try to have some kind of cyber-side-income. Or main income. Which means laptop. Which means a bag crafted around a secure laptop pocket.

Later, I will definitely make a Big Ol’ Bag Post, but for now, I recommend checking out reddit OneBag or similar places. A good youtuber to watch is Chase Reeves, who does reviews of bags and sometimes shoes/other gear.

If you already know what kind of pack you’re going to bring, great! Let’s get started on the packing list.

When house sitting, you’ll usually have a washer, so no need for bringing tons of clothes. If this list seems too large, then pare down. It’s all down to weight for me, but for you the metric might be different. It’s also worth mentioning that when you house sit, it’s best to blend in with the locals. Not only does this help remove you as a target for possible pickpocketing/mugging, but you might get better service with the locals!

Unfortunately, I can’t give a specific rundown of what you should buy. Not only do new things come out every day, you should really only go traveling with things you trust. But before buying something, definitely check out the reviews. You never know what you might find.

(This list is written by a male, and my needs. Darcy is going to write a female guide soon! But use whichever one works best for you!)

Right. Let’s get started. The amount of clothes needed will be per Week.

Tops

Summer- Whenever I go someplace hot, I tend to bring linen button down shirts. (I found a stack of them at a local Salvation Army just before summer started. If you’re looking, I’d start there!) I don’t like how t-shirts stick to me, especially in a place that’s humid. I know some people prefer wool shirts since they’re breathable and moisture wicking, but I still feel like they stick. The Airism line from Uniqlo is also growing in popularity as a lightweight, breathable, ultra-packable, and budget friendly shirt. However, if you already have summerwear, bring that. Especially if you’re trip isn’t long (under a month.) Depending where you go, you can go with one shirt, and come back with another. I try not to use this method since it’s a bit wasteful, but if you have some shirts that are soon headed for the trash, you can use those, wear them out, buy new ones and bring those home. This method works well because you’re bringing a few shirts that will be washed often, thereby decreasing their lifespan. 7 tops.

Winter- Wool is the way to go if you have it. If you don’t, consider investing in at least one baselayer. Doesn’t have to be Smartwool or Icebreaker. REI has a good selection of their brand base layer at affordable prices. That can be worn often, and paired with any top. I usually go long sleeves. I have a few long sleeve henleys from the gap that work perfectly for this. Once you have a base layer, I wouldn’t buy any new shirt past that. 1 base layer, 3 over shirts.

Bottoms

Summer- We’re back with the linen. Linen all day. Cut large, if you can find it. I’ve tried a variety of pants and shorts for summer, and linen is by far the best. If you don’t have any, and don’t want to spend the money on them (they tend to be pretty pricey in the States), and you’re headed to Europe, wait until you arrive to buy linen clothes. They’re easily half the price here, if not more. The linen isn’t some crazy high quality, but it’s perfect for summer. If you don’t want to dress in all linen like my uncle at every barbecue, try loose weave cotton. If you’ve been living in a hot place, and you’re visiting another hot place, then wear whatever you’re used to, just check the humidity levels! I used to live in Savannah, and it was crazy humid. However, having a summer in North Macedonia, it’s hot, just not humid. It changes my packing slightly. Bring 3 bottoms.

Winter- Pretty much up to you. I bring 2 pairs of pants. One pair is rip stop cotton, and one pair is Patagonia stretch jeans. The jeans suck for warmth, but I use them when the day isn’t too bad. The rip stop cotton pants are great for keeping the wind out, and they’re baggy, giving me enough ‘dead air’ space to be comfortable. Some people like 1 pair of pants, some 3. This is on you. Wear your normal winter pants. Only buy a pair if you really need to, because unless you’re going somewhere you’ll need snow pants, you’ll be fine.

Underwear

This is where I splurge like crazy. Most of my underwear is about $30 per pair. I just bought a few pairs of the Uniqlo Airism underwear, and it’s not bad, but cut feels a wee bit small. I’m used to the leg on the underwear going down my thigh about 1/4 of the way. These are about half that. I have 4 pairs of Exofficio, and a few pairs of other underwear. I also have 2 pairs of almost knee length, half poly/half wool underwear that are fantastic for winter. I digress. Underwear is, again, up to you. I like the kind that’s all fancy. Anti-microbial, anti-odor, flat seams so it doesn’t chafe, quick drying (which isn’t that quick, so not a huge selling point), etc. Some people like Hanes, or Fruit of the Loom. Totally up to you. Bring as many pairs as you can fit. I bring 10, usually. Someone once said “Pack underwear as if you’ll shit yourself on every day of the trip.

Socks

Summer- For summer I tend to use flip-flops or sandals, so I rarely get the chance to need socks. That being said, I do travel with a pair of shoes and 5 pairs of ankle length socks. They’re small, pack down easily, and are great for summer. If you’re the type of person to bring hiking boots in the summer, then you’ll need longer socks, but I would recommend wool socks if that’s the case. Cotton will chafe like crazy when you sweat.

Winter- Wool socks. 5 pairs.

Shoes

Summer- Sandals, as often as you can. Try not to buy some on your trip, because that is a bad time to break in a pair of uncomfortable sandals. I would bring whatever you have at your house. Anything comfortable, from Old Navy 99¢ flip-flops to Birkenstocks. If you need to bring shoes, try to bring something lightweight. Shoes can be a huge part of your packing weight, and a heavy bag in summer is murder.

Winter- Boots, if you can swing it. Boots tend to have better wet/snow traction, and they’ll create an overlap with your pants, keeping you warm. If you bring boots, also try to pack a pair of sneakers. You might need them for the days your boots are too wet to wear.

Jacket

Summer- Very rarely will you need a summer jacket. I don’t think I’ve been to a single place that gets cold enough during normal hours to need a jacket. I know that some places get cold at night, and if you’re going to be out after midnight, then bring a lightweight jacket. Just remember, a jacket = weight.

Winter- You’ll need a warm coat and something waterproof/resistant. I recommend a 3-in-1. They are made to fit together, providing warmth, dryness, or both when you need it. I would also recommend a puff jacket. A few brands, like Patagonia, make theirs from recycled plastic. I’d recommend not using down, for environmental reasons, but if you have to, try Uniqlo. They’re supposed to have very high down standards, only using down from ducks being killed in China for food. Not to mention, their jackets are very reasonable and pack down into nothing. Which is why a puff jacket is important. I brought a nice, knee-length cashmere (found it in a Goodwill. $15.) jacket to Italy a few years ago. Although nice, totally impractical. Can’t really wear it on a plane, not maneuverable enough to wear a backpack with, and overall not as warm as a puff jacket with windproof cover

Shops

  • REI
  • REI Outlet
  • Patagonia
  • Patagonia Worn Wear
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Lems (For shoes
  • Thrift stores

I listed these as shops to buy clothes in that are somewhat environmentally responsible. STP isn’t, but you’re buying clothes before they end up in a possible landfill. (Of course, not all outdoor brands will trash unsold clothes, but major clothing labels will, so maybe outdoor brands do as well?

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