Staying Warm While Traveling Light

Ever since I became a guest professor at a Midwest university every January, I’ve had to endure Indiana’s wintery weather. I’ve survived well—even when traveling with a carryon only—thanks to my down coat.DownCoatAndStuffBag

I purchased the coat at least seven years ago from a Lands’ End catalog. As I recall, I paid $99, and I’ve worn it so much, the cost is surely down to a fraction of a penny per wear by now. The coat has a zippered closure and zippered pockets both inside and out; it’s toasty warm, lightweight, and machine washable. What else could I possibly want?

It wasn’t until I began making week-long business trips without checking any luggage that I came to appreciate yet another fabulous feature of my down coat: packability.

In addition to one carryon and one personal item, most airlines allow passengers to bring a coat on board. But carrying a fluffy coat around an airport or stuffing it into an overhead bin isn’t my idea of good coat management. So I bring along a small stuff sack.

When whizzing through an airport or using a busy restroom, instead of having to wear the coat indoors or try to keep it from dragging on the floor, I just stuff it into the lightweight fabric bag and sling the drawstring handle over my wheeled carryon’s pull handle.

Even a fluffy, adult-size down coat can be stuffed into a small fabric sack.

Even a fluffy, adult-size down coat can be stuffed into a small fabric sack.

When I board the plane, if I don’t check my wheeled carryon at the gate and must take it aboard the airplane, the bag-stuffed-with-coat is counted as a second personal item and is not allowed. When I don’t have room for the stuffed bag in my personal item, I just take the coat back out and wear it while boarding the plane. Later I stuff it  into the sack again and store it under the seat in front of me. If I get chilly during the flight, it takes but a moment to remove the coat and put it around me. Meanwhile, the sack keeps the coat from getting dirty on the floor.

Some coats are sold with their own stuff sacks or even the ability to be compressed into the coat’s pocket. You can even make your own bag. I recommend using a strong, lightweight fabric such nylon and including a little plastic cord lock on the drawstring.

One problem unique to down coats is the continual escape of little feathers. Snowy white down poking through a navy blue nylon shell is very noticeable. At first I just pulled the feathers the rest of the way out and discarded them. But I soon realized that action would deplete the filling. So now I leave feathers poking out wherever they want to (since I can’t shove them back in). But I render them virtually invisible by coloring them with a black Sharpie marker.Feather in coat

I like to think that little trick will postpone the day when I’ll have to buy replacement travel coat. Fortunately, the stuff sack shows no signs of wearing out.

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Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister Diana has gathered packing pointers over the years on numerous domestic and foreign trips. Most recently, she travels in conjunction with the publication of her latest book, 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.

© 2014 The Savage Sisters

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