Friday, June 26, 2009

Laundry While Traveling

On a recent trip, a woman joked that she could wear her G-string underwear six days in a row. Each day, she could rotate the underwear so as to be covered by a different of one the garment's three corners. After three days, she'd turn it inside out and repeat.
That would be one way to minimize laundry requirements on a long trip. But it's not necessary. Here's a quick and dirty guide to doing laundry on the road.
1) Bring the right outfits.
- Purchase sturdy, quick-drying camping clothes -- underwear, socks, shorts, long pants, long-sleeved shirts -- from an outdoor outfitter or camping gear store like REI or Eastern Mountain Sports.

- Ideally, you want clothing that has a high sunblock rating. I like the long-sleeved, synthetic ski undershirts and I've never gotten sunburned wearing one. Most of the clothing will be nylon or some other synthetic.

- Spend the money and get good stuff. On a four-month trip, I brought two pairs of long pants, a bathing suit that doubled as shorts, a pair of long swim tights, four pairs of underwear, two long-sleeved shirts (one with a collar, one without), a short-sleeved shirt, and four pairs of socks.

- On a long trip, avoid bringing anything denim or cotton: it takes forever to dry and, if it gets wet while you're wearing it, you'll be in for a cold, miserable day.

- I also pick long pants and shorts with liners, as a backup in case I run out of underwear.
2) Do laundry at hostels
- Many hostels have laundry machines. Some are cheap to use, others are a rip off.
- They can be a hassle if they require lots of coins or there's line of grubby-looking folks ahead of you.
3) Send laundry out
Many places Southeast Asia, it's very cheap to have your laundry done. I had clothes cleaned in Phnom Penh numerous times and they always came back folded and sweet-smelling. The price: a couple of dollars for virtually everything I brought.
4) Do it by hand
Tips - In many cases, this is probably the best solution.
- Drying time is effected by the climate. If you're somewhere hot like Venezuela or Australia, you can hand wash at night, put your clothers on the balcony and they'll be dry in the morning. If you're some place cold and damp, like spring in South Africa, factor in some takes longer to dry -- something to consider if you're only going to be some place for a few nights.

- Do clothes in small batches, so this doesn't become an onerous chore. I typically wash the clothes I wore on a particular day, when I take my evening shower.

- Some experts will tell you to bring a flat rubber drain stopper for soaking and washing-- I brought one and and never used it.

- Don't ask hostels or guest houses or hotels if it's ok, just do it.
Technique: - Shower with clothes on.

- Soap with clothes on.
- Rinse with clothes on.
- Remove clothes, wring, and, if possible, hang outside on porch to dry overnight.

- If clothes smell particularly gamey, pretreat by jumping into swimming pool before showering.
Related tips on Packing for an extended trip:
- Advice and spreadsheet of what I brought on an around the world trip in 2007. (too much crap.)

- More Packing Tips
Old but still useful guide on how to buy backpack for travel (I still have and use mine)

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