There’s an undeniable phenomenon that happens when we pack for a trip, unless we intentionally try to avoid it. We tend to pack to fill the space we give ourselves. A half-empty bag is uncomfortable, so we fill it. It’s too tempting.
Example. When I pack the Outbreaker travel backpack for a month in Europe, I have a little room around the edges for souvenirs, but not much. When I pack that same backpack for a long weekend? Somehow I still only have a little room around the edges.
I say “somehow” and “phenomenon” like none of this is my fault. It’s completely my fault. I’ll own up to it. Because here’s the thing. When I pack for a long weekend, I like to bring not-strictly-necessary gear to make the weekend a little more comfortable or a little more fun.
For the record, only bring not-strictly-necessary gear if you have room in your carry on after packing the essentials, or if it’s a road trip and you have room in the trunk.
Labor Day Weekend is a prime opportunity to stray beyond the minimalist, only-what-you-absolutely-require packing list. I just got back from Outdoor Retailer where I saw lots of gear that made me want to go on a weekend adventure. That’s what inspired this post.
If your trip involves a beach
Labor Day Weekend is a prime opportunity for some quality time seeking Vitamin D while avoiding UV rays. It’s a delicate balance, really, and one best practiced near an ocean.
Pack the following for optimal sand and moisture mitigation:
Matador Pocket Blanket
I have lots of childhood memories of carrying heavy, rusty chairs to the beach. I’m surprised I never got tetanus, really. There may come a day when I decide carrying a rusty beach chair is worth it, but today is not that day.
I much prefer the Matador packable blanket. It packs up to the size of my palm, is water resistant, has sand pockets in the corners so it’ll stay put, and comfortably seats four. I bought three of them after Outdoor Retailer.
Tortuga Outbreaker Wet/Dry Bag
Do you really want to avoid getting in the ocean on Monday morning before driving home, just so you won’t have to bring home a damp swimsuit? Nonsense. Luggage limitations should be a reason to avoid adventure.
Pack the Wet/Dry bag to prepare for your last minute swim. Pack the swimsuit inside on your way home. It’ll protect the rest of your stuff from getting wet, and the antimicrobial coating prevents mold, bacteria, and odor.
Matador Shower Towel
Most travel towels are made from the same material – a quick dry ultralight microfiber.
The details are what set travel towels apart from each other, not materials.
I love how Matador’s version comes in a silicone carrying case and includes a clip.
You can hook it to the outside of your beach bag for easy access, and the silicone case makes it easy for your hand to identify when you’re rummaging around in a full tote.
If your trip involves drinking outside in warm weather
File under very minor but still annoying annoyances: a lukewarm drink during an otherwise idyllic day spent al fresco.
Sure, you could pack a giant cooler, but you should pack these instead. Especially if you’re getting on an airplane.
If you’re outside on a 90 degree day with 300% humidity, your beer (or coke bottle, that works too) is not going to stay cool for long. Even with a coozie. Enter the brilliantly named Chillsner: a reusable, in-bottle, drink-through beer chiller. Freeze it, stick it in your bottle, and enjoy the ice cold goodness while your friends choke down lukewarm IPA. Chumps.
Rumpl Beer Blanket
Okay, look. Coozies don’t take up much room to begin with. You probably have room in your bag for a coozie.
But you definitely have room for an ultralight “beer blanket” that packs inside itself.
We carried these around in our pockets during Outdoor Retailer because come 4pm, every booth will start handing out beer.
If you’ve heard of the Corkcicle brand before, this is probably the product you’re familiar with.
Essentially, it’s a reusable icicle that you put inside a wine bottle to chill it.
Way more travel-friendly than an ice bucket. The new version allows you to pour and aerate the wine without removing the Corkcicle. Genius.
If your trip involves a hotel room with questionable coffee
Don’t they all? You could, of course, stop into a local coffee shop (which is the ideal situation) but sometimes that just isn’t on the agenda. I like to pack my own caffiene fix for days in which I need to address the addiction quickly instead of luxuriously.
Bizzy Cold Brew
Cold brew is having a moment. Every self-respecting coffee aficionado has tried the ultra-concentrated drink by now, and some of us have become converts.
If cold brew is your caffiene fix of choice, you’ll find a lot to love in Bizzy. You can drink it like a shot, if you’re in a hurry, or dilute it in ice. Each coffee shot is equivalent to two cups of espresso. Don’t shy away from vanilla or caramel, either: they aren’t sweet at all, just subtly flavored.
If you can’t devote space in your 3-1-1 liquids bag for a shot of Bizzy (or five), pack Kuju coffee instead.
The process is a little more involved than just shooting a few ounces of cold brew, so it’s perfect for mornings where you want to go about a semi-normal routine.
Prop up the contraption inside a mug, pour hot water over the grounds, and enjoy.
Each package makes enough coffee for one person.
Cusa Instant Tea
I must admit, I was skeptical when we passed the Cusa booth at Outdoor Retailer.
Instant tea didn’t sound like something that could possibly be good.
I had to eat (okay, drink) my words, however, because Cusa’s version is not only palatable, but enjoyable. The lemon black tea is my personal favorite, but they’re all great.
Each packet will flavor a full glass or water bottle. Enjoy!
In your trip involves breaking a sweat
Sometimes a little adventure is the antidote to the daily grind. If you’re spending Labor Day breaking a sweat, pack to stay healthy and happy.
I rarely feel good about eating a protein bar.
It’s usually a semi-palatable means to an end, a way to stave off a hunger craving until dinner, or a portable way to get enough calories during the day.
RXBAR calls itself the first “clean label protein bar” and displays the ingredients right on the package.
It’s one of our team’s favorite options on the market.
Vivobarefoot Ultra III
Vivobarefoot is at the forefront of “zero drop” shoe brands. When you wear a Vivobarefoot shoe, the heel of your foot rests at the same height as the ball of your foot.
There’s a lot of conversation around whether zero drop shoes are safer, and many athletes are making a switch. Vivobarefoot’s Ultra III is a packable, water-resistant version that’s great for summer. I have the women’s version in white and love them.
Your metal wedding rings can cause a world of hurt if you wear them while working out.
That’s especially true of hand-heavy activities like waterskiing or weightlifting.
If you want to wear a ring while on an adventure, try a silicone version like Qalo.
They’re stylish and won’t cause your skin to literally peel off your hand if something goes wrong (don’t google degloving, just… don’t).
Labor Day Weekend is a great opportunity to pack fun, not-quite-essential items that you wouldn’t have room for in the context of a longer trip. Don’t go overboard, make sure to pack for the adventures you have planned (instead of every possible scenario), and have fun.