Have pockets, will travel


(Illustration By The Washington Post; Windbreaker: Scottevest)

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 16, 2011

I don't check luggage. Never have. Even before the days of checked-bag fees, I refused to play traveler's roulette with my belongings. I'd rather pack light and wear the same black pants all week than suffer damaged, stolen or lost luggage (at worst) or endless waits at the baggage carousel (at best). If it doesn't fit into my carry-on, it doesn't get packed.

Honestly, though? Packing light is a giant pain. It requires tough decisions and a willingness to sacrifice both vanity and dignity (see black pants, above). Carrying on is not for the weak.

Which is why, when getting ready for a long-awaited trip to France several months ago, I found myself wavering. It was just a 10-day vacation, but try as I might, I couldn't fit everything I needed into my regulation 20-inch roll-aboard. City clothes, country clothes, guidebooks, hiking shoes, laptop - none of these things was expendable. Yet I was committed to flying with the proverbial one personal item and one carry-on. What to do with all my extra baggage?

Reader, I wore it.

I'd always poked fun at those dorky traveler's vests and jackets loaded down with all manner of pockets, snaps and zippers, but now I was desperate. If the garments could hold travel documents, cameras and even iPads, as the ads touted, then why not an extra pair of shoes, a bathrobe and a few novels?

Googling around for options, I discovered a world of outerwear that would do James Bond proud. Removable pant legs! Secret compartments! Pockets within pockets! I started out small and ordered L.L. Bean's $79 travel vest, which boasted eight pockets and an outdoorsy vibe.

Then I stumbled onto the Scottevest "system" of "gear management clothing." With products ranging from a 33-pocket knee-length coat to a 13-pocket cotton hoodie, this company turns packing light into performance art. I ended up springing for a 17-pocket windbreaker for $75, choosing a drab green color so as not to attract too much attention from airline personnel.

Giddily, I repacked my stuff. Out of my carry-on and into my vest went my camera, extra batteries, airplane socks and a blindfold, a mini-booklight, a money belt, an immersion heater, an electrical adapter and a converter, noise-canceling headphones and, hanging from a clip, my water bottle. So far, so good.

But the windbreaker was the real revelation. I discovered that in addition to the 17 pockets, I could also fit things into the space between the mesh liner and the back of the jacket. To wit:

four guidebooks

two novels

two pill organizers


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© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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