How many pants does a woman need?

In the beginning of June I picked up my carry-on spinner from the garage and started packing for a trip to Colombia. My plan was to visit the hot and humid Caribbean coast – Cartagena and maybe Santa Marta – as well as some cooler places like Medellin and Bogotá in the Andes mountains. When traveling I try to limit my luggage to 22 pounds because I want to move quickly, and be flexible with possible changes in the plans.

A carry-on spinner is the most practical travel companion. It fits into the hand-luggage compartment of an airplane cabin. In addition I take a lightweight backpack with me that goes under the front seat. With this arrangement, I don’t need to wait for my luggage at airports. Moreover I can easily pull it after me a mile or so on a dirt road, if no ride is available.

However, it became apparent later in Colombia that the hand baggage allowance for low-cost airlines operating within Columbia was only about 18 pounds. In practice there did not seem to be any checking of its weight. To be on the safe side I got rid of one book I had already read as well as some other things that would be easy to replace should I need them later.

But 22 pounds of property is not much. My carry-on itself weighs 5.5 pounds and the nylon backpack 1.1 pound. My dear laptop with its battery charger amounts to 2.9 pounds and the cell phone to 0.3 pounds. Adding some medicines and toiletries that comes to 11 pounds. Then another 11 pounds is left for clothes, shoes, books and possible presents.

Experience has taught me that lightweight, black running shoes with tailor-made insoles are the best multipurpose footwear on my travels. I can use them on long hikes and they are easy to wash and quick to dry. Because of the black color they fit all my other clothes and look cool also at informal parties and restaurant dinners. Out of vanity, I packed a pair of copper-colored lightweight sandals for Colombia. I ended up wearing them twice, mainly to prove to myself that I did not carry them in vain. But they were unnecessary.

For a month’s journey, one needs roughly the same amount of clothes as for a couple of days’ travels. The most important requirement for travel clothes is for them to be easy to wash. Hostels, Airbnbs and other types of homestays usually have a washing machine. If they don’t, one can take one’s dirty clothes to a self-service Laundromat or to the closest drop-off laundry. At least in South America there seems to be one in every other street. Small items can be hand-washed in the sink of your bathroom.  Hair shampoo works perfectly as detergent.

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For environmental reasons I prefer clothes made from natural fibers. That’s why I always have a couple of short-sleeved and one long-sleeved cotton T-shirt and one long-sleeved pullover or cardigan. These can be layered on top of each other in cold weather.  A bright colored Guatemalan skirt with an elastic waistband has proven to be most useful.  In addition to using it as a skirt, I raise it to the armpits and change to a swimsuit under it or use it as a cover when coming from a public shower.

My lined lightweight raincoat works well as a windbreaker. On I can sit on it on park grass and beaches.

It has been difficult to find perfect pants for travelling. This time I had bought a pair of dark gray hiking pants of cotton from a thriftstore. I thought I could wear these both in a jungle and in cities without demonstrating too clearly that I am a foreign tourist. In Bogota, up in the Andes, I would find out  that the pants were not warm enough.  Therefore I bought a pair of black, thick cotton pants for 15 dollars. During the last months after leaving Colombia, I have worn those working in our “forest”, visiting relatives in Finland and attending Toastmaster meetings and a summer party in Denmark. They are casual and comfortable.

So the answer to the question about how many pants a woman needs is: one pair!

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