ELECTRA: intelligent, organised, practical, creative & strong; mum, wife and person.

WANTS TO VISIT: Germany, Portugal, Spain, & France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, USA, Andorra, Bulgaria, Thailand, Phillipines and Venezuela for starters.

13 October 2015

Colour-coded packing cubes


I mentioned in passing that we'd got packing cubes for our overseas trip.

These very simple, light-weight bags are great.  We've already had a chance to try them out.

The sets have 4 different sizes in each, all with mesh, nylon and a zip. The largest has a handle too.


The idea is that you pack like with like ie all your tops together, all your underwear together, all your bottoms together etc.

When you need a top you grab the whole tops bag instead of ferreting through each and every piece of clothing in your pack or suitcase.

We are taking it a step further and using colour-coded bags for each person.  As we only plan on taking 4 checked-in packs everyone's packing cubes will be tossed in together.  So when we arrive at our accommodation the packs can be emptied and cubes distributed according to colour.  

The only down-side is that the stitching on one of mine has already come apart, so I will need to inspect each one and see if reinforcement needs to be done before we go.

06 October 2015

DIY stash sacks for our packs


There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to what to carry your clothing and stuff in, but let me fill you in on why we chose packs instead of suitcases in case you too are in the throes of decision-making.

  • There are some places in Europe where suitcases with wheels are not allowed (ie Venice).
  • We needed to be able to hold our children's hands in busy airports and the like.
  • To save money we will need to walk, bus, train and therefore will be more mobile with a pack.
  • The only time Atlas and I went overseas (for our honeymoon over 2 decades ago!) I remember the wobble of the suitcase and how unwieldy it was dragging it down Sydney's metropolitan streets & on/off the train.


We had already picked up a couple of packs from a garage sale, but thought that we needed at least one more so the 3 eldest of us could carry packs, if not the 4 eldest.  The other children would have their day packs (aka normal backpack).  

Thankfully due to providence we were able to order a pack from Bags2Go in Australia that was heavily discounted, and have it brought back by a family member that was travelling there.

Unfortunately it got ripped in transit, forcing us to think about how to stash it during our real trip.  We came up with the combination of a homemade oxford nylon bag, 2 re-purposed US mail bags (that we had previously got our homeschooling resources from USA in), and a Kathmandu bag that had been the wrapping of a christmas present years ago.  


Some other travellers recommend:

  • Wrapping your pack in food cling wrap (Glad wrap / Saran wrap).
  • Putting your pack into a large thick clear bag (not a black rubbish sack as it might be thrown out) and binding it tightly with packing tape.
  • Using a duffle bag to zip it into.
  • Popping it into a wash sack (usually made from Oxford nylon).
  • Using a pack liner as an outer bag 


As for our ripped pack, we hope that repairing it with duct tape underneath and Gear Aid Seam Grip along the 12cm tear will be all it needs.  Unfortunately once opened the tube of Seam Grip is hard to save for later repairs if needed but would be good in a pack repair kit along with the (mattress) needles, upholstery thread (or dental floss), duct tape, and thimble in case something happens on the road or trail.

15 September 2015

Our new multi-function headgear & The Fabric Store care card


One of the items I saw on a Youtube video about packing for the Icelandic weather was called a Buff®.  Not being part of the outdoors community I had never heard of it before so had to do a bit of research on this famed multi-functional tube of stretch material.

Apparently it originated in Spain decades ago, and has been so well-marketed that the name Buff® is used as a generic term.

You can wear it as a neck scarf, a hat, a balaclava, head band and the list goes on.  This short video shows you more of the ways it is worn:


Convinced that this would be a useful additional to our packing list but not about to pay $40-$50 each I wondered whether it was something I could make. This tutorial showed me the basic dimensions and the rest is history.

The real product is seamless so that is the big difference - the ones you sew will have a seam.

I made ours out of 150gsm black merino tshirt-like material (purchased on special at $12 per metre from The Fabric Store in Auckland) so it is tightly woven and fairly thin.  What I didn't know from the online product listing was that this fabric shrinks. The sales person did tell Atlas about the shrinkage went he went in to buy it but he didn't know to then get extra length to compensate.  It went from 142cm across the width to 133cm.  I was impressed though with the care card (above right) that came with the fabric - no one does that these days let alone understand the features of what they are selling.

I had planned on getting 3 out of each width but ended up only getting 2 widthwise and seaming together a couple of off-cuts to make a 7th.  Oh well - mine has 2 seams.  To accommodate for Atlas' larger head circumference (60.5cm) and Kita's smaller one (51cm), I adjusted their widths (not including seams) to 55cm and 46cm respectively.  The rest of us have a circumference of 56/57cm which works fine with the 50cm base dimensions.  I cut all heights at 48cm. 

I over-locked the upper and lower edges and left them as is, before sewing the lone seam.  I had wondered about turning the edges over and zigzagging them down but don't feel it needs it.  Time will tell how this wears but there certainly isn't any issue with the over-locked edges not stretching enough which I was also mindful of.

The fabric feels beautiful and they are thin enough to be worn as an additional layer as well as being substantial alone.  

However if I were to make these again I would add an extra 50% to the length (so approx. 70cm) as the material is thin enough and has a lovely drape that there wouldn't be an issue with it feeling too bulky. In fact I am tempted to get some more regardless and trial the two lengths to find out what works best for each of us and the way we come to most commonly use them!

There are also Buffs® with Polartec® fleece, reversible, UV protection and with visors to give you some further diy ideas:



If you are making all the same colour 'Buffs®' for your family (and/or need to make different sizes) and want to assign them to specific people, run a few strands of each person's chosen coloured embroidery thread or wool through the inside over-locked seam.

We have used colours to differentiate our packing cubes (recommended by another travelling family as a must-have); and hope to continue it with the travel towels we plan to get too (recommended by a motorhomer).