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How to Pack for a Weekend Getaway

Sunshine, cold rain, strong winds and hail. No matter what the label says, there is no one jacket to serve all the weather conditions the Midwest can pack into a single day.

Hello, Samsonite? I’m wondering if you make the perfect little travel bag for me?

Here’s my dilemma: How to pack for a weekend. Scratch that. How to pack for a weekend at a friend’s house. Scratch that. How to pack for a fall weekend at a friend’s lake cabin in Northern Michigan when the planned activities include biking, hiking and kayaking and the forecast calls for warm sunshine, cold rain, strong winds and the possibility of hail.

I don’t care what the label claims on my sporty little jackets from LL Bean, Patagonia, North Face, Marmot, Land’s End and Mountain Hardware. There is no one jacket to serve all of those conditions. Fie on the claims.

Living in the Midwest, I’m well aware that for every five-degree change in temperature I need a different layer of clothing. A morning forecast of 40 degrees and sunny requires a coat quite different from the one needed for 40 degrees and raining. In fact, when Weather.com claims early morning temps in the low 30s and midday temps in the middle 60s and evening temps in the low 40s, I defy anyone to figure out one thing to wear all day long. Scratch that. I defy any card-carrying middle-aged active woman to wear one outfit all day. Not gonna happen. 

Guys, on the other hand, tend to pull a Mark Zuckerberg, or an “MZ,” as I’ve taken to calling it. As highlighted in his interview with Matt Lauer, Zuckerberg admitted that he wears the same thing every day. He has 11 gray t-shirts and a stack of identical jeans. In his house, he gets one drawer only for his entire wardrobe, and he doesn’t care. I’m guessing it’s easy for him to pack for a weekend, but then again, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know how to bike, kayak, and there is even the possibility that he’s only a novice when it comes to walking. That’s okay. I’m lead to believe he has other talents.

What I’m looking for is what Mary Poppins sported. Remember her festive little carpetbag? It was, literally, a carry-on, and she travelled with it every time she opened that umbrella. Unpacking it, however, required a full room, since she pulled out of it everything from a floor lamp to a cup of tea. That’s the kind of luggage I’m looking for.

The reason is straightforward. I like to have the exact right thing on when I exercise. Windy is different from chilly which is different from drizzly which is different from rainy which is different from snowy. If the label on my active wear doesn’t include a list of gerunds like wicking and breathing and repelling then it’s not worth the closet real estate it takes to store, let alone the precious inches allotted in a weekend bag. 

So how to pack for that autumn weekend of outdoor splendor? 

I brought everything. I’m not really proud of this, but three factors contributed to my packing excess. First, we were driving. I love driving. It negates that pesky little nuisance called bag check fees, and it negates the need to pack efficiently. 

Second, I own more tote bags than anyone else on earth. Packing in totes is akin to bagging groceries. It doesn’t matter when one gets filled, just grab another bag and keep loading.

And finally, like every over committed person I know, I leave packing until the last minute. I am related to a few people who pack early. They have lists, and duplicate dopp kits and make-up bags. They are efficient and organized and tend to wear their shirts tucked into their pants even at home, on the weekends, while watching football. I don’t entirely hate them.

But I always leave packing for the very last minute. Everything else gets tidied up and cleared and finished, and then, when I’m thoroughly exhausted and it’s about 1 a.m., I realize my excuses are gone and it’s time to pack. 

It makes sense. As my cousin once said, if you pack early, then what are you supposed to do at the last minute? By procrastinating, I find myself fully employed not only in the last minutes, but the last seconds.

Thus I arrived at my friend’s garage, promptly at 5:45 a.m., ready to transfer my weekend luggage into her car. Her eyes were too bleary to pop as I carried four giant totes into the back of her SUV. Within an hour, we were over the Skyway and northward bound.

For the sake of posterity, I post here the mudroom at my friend’s lake cabin. Six of those jackets hanging from the pegs are mine, as are five pairs of the shoes. In the course of four days, I wore every single item I brought. In the photo of me beneath the 45th Parallel sign, I’m sporting not one but two jackets. 

For the record, it hailed.

But if I’d had to pack in a suitcase? Well, that’s why I’m begging Samsonite to make me a magic carpetbag. Please. I could have used the floor lamp.

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