Interviews by Adam Erace
Avoid checking a bag at all costs, always wear comfortable jeans, and understand your destination – we asked three notable globetrotters for their go-to packing philosophies and must-have travel essentials.
Clare Vivier – Founder and CEO, Clare V. fashion line
Because I travel a lot, I think about packing often. It sounds ridiculous to talk about this, but a recent trip to Africa stands out in my mind as the best packing I’ve ever done. We went to Tanzania and ran the Kilimanjaro half marathon, and then we were in Arusha and Zanzibar, traveling with Every Mother Counts, an organization we work with at Clare V. that funds maternal health care around the globe. Because we were traveling by Land Cruiser, we couldn’t have hard-case luggage, which takes up too much room. I packed two Weekenders – that’s one of our classics at Clare V. – very lightweight leather, small enough to fit under the seat in front of you on an airplane, but big enough to be a true weekend bag. I tend to think about shoes and handbags a lot, and I wasn’t able to do that packing for Africa. I had two pairs of shoes, covered-toe sandals and New Balance running shoes, and it freed up space in my bags so I was able to bring the perfect amount of clothes. Because I was so particular about bringing just those two bags, everything had to be folded perfectly so things weren’t wrinkled.
My dad was an attorney. I loved that he always dressed very smartly – a button-up shirt tucked into khakis with a bow tie. Maybe that was part of the reason I got into fashion. He dressed nicely for flying, and I think I got that from him. When I’m flying, I wear relaxed-fit chinos, loafers, a button-up shirt, and a blazer, then I’ll pack a sweater or sweatshirt in my carry-on in case it’s chilly on the plane. I also pack a bandana so that I can wear it around my face if I want to sleep or if I’m just too cold on my neck. I’m like the sleeping bandit – but with a Clare V. bandana, so it’s cute.
I just traveled to Denver and Chicago for two new Clare V. store openings, but my most fun destination recently was Cuba. I wanted to be colorful, so I really packed with that in mind. I’m always drawn to red and blue, and I’m really addicted to yellow right now. I love color. I packed two outfits per day, and there was a going-out outfit for dinner, followed by live music or dancing. I try to carry on as often as possible with my Weekender and a Tumi rolly, which is very sturdy.
Anything longer than a week, I’m checking a bag.
Chris Blackwell – Founder, Island Records and Island Outpost hotels
I check if I have a lot of stuff, but mostly I just carry on. I love Rimowa’s four-wheel bags – you can put them above your seat in the airplane. And you can add whatever other bag you might have on top of it, and you wheel it along, so you’re not carrying anything. I always travel with Uniqlo jackets, which you can squeeze down to about an inch wide. Whatever the weather, they can really deal with it: They’re super lightweight and super warm too.
I’m not much of a fancy dresser. Jeans and sweatshirts or T-shirts and jackets and that’s really it – I always have the same clothes. It’s a habit from rock and roll, when I worked in the music business. When you’re on the road all the time, as I was for many years, you pretty much just travel in jeans and whatever is most comfortable. Whether I’m going to Tulum or a wellness retreat in India, I just pack things which are practical and useful and can work in pretty much any environment. This is the same way I dress in Jamaica, and I’ve lived here for almost 30 years. Even when celebrities come to GoldenEye [Blackwell’s hotel on Oracabessa Bay], they pack pretty chill. Jamaica is a very casual place.
Nicolas Dubreuil – Director of expedition cruises and director of sustainability, Ponant
There’s a Norwegian proverb that says, “There is no bad weather; there is only bad clothes.” If you’re traveling to the Arctic, where I was a Ponant expedition leader for many years, you have to pack lots of layers you can peel off like an onion: thermal underwear, long socks, waterproof trousers for the Zodiac excursions. Ponant provides our own branded parka and Dunlop boots for each passenger, so you don’t need to pack those and will still have room for fancy clothes for the captain’s dinner and the cocktail parties. Sunglasses and sunscreen are very important. In the Arctic, there’s only a thin layer of ozone, so in the sun you don’t get tanned – you get burned.
Because we go to the Arctic at the best time of year, passengers don’t need to be scared about the weather, but I think being a little scared of nature is a good thing. When we do a hike, I tell the guides, “Don’t help too much.” People have to be exhausted when they arrive at the summit of the mountain, because they will have more pleasure, and the experience will have the strongest impact on them.
I live in France, but am out scouting new itineraries about five times a year, usually for 15 days at a time. These are remote locations – New Caledonia, the Amazon. I took five trips to the Scattered Islands in the Mozambique Channel between Africa and Madagascar for environmental-, cultural-, and societal-impact assessment. During these trips I spend lots of time with the locals, to know what they want, what they don’t want, and to build a tourism plan with them, because even one backpacker can be a nightmare for an unprepared community. The scouting is important because we come back with packing guidelines for passengers: water shoes for walking in the river, long sleeves for snorkeling because of hard coral, pants for hiking. We inform every passenger by letter, and there’s a hotline they can also contact with specific packing questions.
The best thing you can do to prepare for your trip is to read books and ask questions. Sometimes people will come with an idea – “I will bring thousands of pencils to give to people in the Amazon,” for example, but that’s not always the best for that location because it’s too wet for pencils and the people won’t use them. When you understand where you’re going, you’ll be more efficient at packing. But the most important thing to pack is an open mind.
Top Photo: Svetlana-Cherruty/Getty Images