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I thought these two people were the closest male and female expressions of my personal style and influences. How fortuitous that they should both walk into the frame at the same time.

Looking back on my trip to New York, I was better prepared than I was for Washington DC, but I still learned things about myself and how I want to be dressed. Despite my perceived lack of preparation–I packed two days before I left (too close!)–I managed to bring what I needed with no waste of luggage space, and most of my needs were met by what I’d packed.

NYC pack list:

3 pairs of Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans, two black and one dark blue pair
6 long-sleeved Heattech shirts
1 Muji gray cashmere colorblock cardigan
1 H&M black cowl-neck sweater tunic
1 International Concepts short-sleeve turtleneck sweater
2 Nike Dri-Fit jackets
2 Gap men’s sweatshirts
1 Uniqlo gray sweat pullover
1 H&M men’s black and gray scarf
1 Urban Outfitters gray chunky knit scarf
1 Ecco Sculptured GTX ankle boots
1 Nike Lunarglide 5+ running shoes
1 Lands End wool walker coat (with Carhartt beanie) see below:

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At Sutphin Blvd – Archer Ave Station, the last NYC subway stop before getting onto the JFK AirTrain system.

This is an accurate depiction of what I looked like for the week I was traipsing around Manhattan.

I learned some very important things on this trip:

Wool and rain are a bad idea
My Lands End wool coat does well on a regular, dry cold day, but turns into a weight vest when wet. Thankfully I never got so drenched for it to seep through, but next time I travel to the East I’m bringing something waterproof instead. My bag is already heavy. Wearing 3 layers is already heavy. I don’t need a soggy coat restricting me on top of all of that.

Waterproof shoes sont très utils.
I was fortunate that the one damp day on my trip was actually very light rain / barely a shower, but despite that my Nikes got soaked in less than two minutes. What would I have done if I didn’t have my Ecco Gore-Tex boots? They kept my toes warm and dry and my ankles covered. Well worth the $150 I paid for them. It allowed me to still go out on that day and I ended up at the New York Public Library and Grand Central Terminal (where it was warm indoors) and I spent a good 5 hours photographing everything in sight.

Impulsive decisions are made when Kristina feels cold.
Did I really need an Ultra Light Down vest? No. Was I jealous of every slick person on the street in something puffy and down-filled? Yes. So many of the locals? tourists? had opted for cozy-looking North Face puffer jackets or parkas and I wanted in on the action. Thank goodness I was able to be somewhat sensible and went for the thinnest and smallest of the ULD options at Uniqlo–my mind is always thinking toward what would be California-appropriate. I don’t need a jacket rated for -20 degrees F. The locals didn’t seem to be wearing much; some ladies were able to go about in just a shawl and a scarf, but my desert blood quailed at 50F.

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Trying to blend in with the city slickers.

Did I really need this vest? Not really. And I kind of regret it because 1. there is entirely too much feather leak for my liking–every day I’ve worn it since coming back I’ve needed a lint roller to clean myself up when I get home (more than 3-4 errant feather bits. Is this normal?) and 2. my local store had it for $10 less ($39.99) AND it’s on sale next week (Nov 18, men’s and women’s ULD vests go down to $29.) I could have waited. Classic case of Kristina is traveling and wants a souvenir and is conveniently cold and wants more clothes. Now that I know you, damnable pattern, I will make sure I’m bundled up well when I go shopping! Say no to impulse temperature-regulating buys!

Buy all your consumable supplies (beauty products, medicine) at home.
I foolishly thought I could buy my $1 travel Dove body wash at a Target somewhere in New York. Duane Reade wanted $2.99 for a little 0.3 fl oz bottle of body wash. My penny-pinching soul railed at my stupidity for being too lazy to pick it up back home. If there’s a product you simply must use (a particular brand of shampoo, hypo-allergenic facial lotion), it is as important as not forgetting gloves or a hat. I’m lucky to be a fairly hardy person, but hotel shampoos and washes can be pretty harsh or just not do an adequate job. I paid the dumb tax on that one. I’d previously packed bottles of my own shampoo and conditioner before, but I wanted to avoid the pressurization kerfuffle and not have them potentially explode in my suitcase. Well, better to double bag some tried-and-true products than wander Manhattan at 10 pm wondering why the travel-sized section has a crappier per-ounce price than buying the full-sized product.

Most Valuable Items (MVI?) on this trip:

Nike Thermal Dri-Fit jacket with thumbholes that I wore for practically almost 6 days: I will buy another one of these in the future; they’re multi-purpose, has a tall collar to cover my neck, and zippered pockets kept my valuables secure. It’s the jacket I’m wearing in the ULD vest picture. The long sleeves worked out because the thumbholes made it like a partial-glove over my hand, keeping my fingers free.
Carhartt watch cap: blocked out the wind and kept my head warm. Solid little hat for $7.99 on Amazon.
– Ecco Sculptured GTX boots for the reasons mentioned above.
– a cheap pair of lycra/cotton gloves from Daiso Japan with the thumb, pointer, and middle fingers cut out + plastic dots on the palm-side for traction and grip. I had brought my mom’s 80’s style Isotoners on this trip but I didn’t even bother with those–having smartphone-ready gloves was more useful and if my fingers were a little cold, well, that’s what pockets are for, right?
– all my Uniqlo items were worn to full potential and where would I be sans Heattech? Frozen and/or very sick by now. That stuff works well; I wear it even when it’s not winter because I have no Cold Resistance.

TL;DR: maybe another trip to the East next year and I’ll have bought a proper jacket for wet/dry conditions. Also thank you for reading all the way through this post; I understand that I know very little about cold-weather climates and how to dress for it, so I beg your patience upon reading my pronouncements. What do you recommend is a good-all-weather travel jacket? Should I chance it with wool or go for waterproof down next time? Recommendations and tips for dealing with traveling in wet weather would be welcome!

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22 thoughts on “Lessons in Packing: NYC Edition

  1. I hate traveling in cold weather just because I can’t stand the cold and the days are too short to properly enjoy anything. My only advice for packing in wet/cold weather is layers! If you can’t justify spending a lot of money on something you only once or twice a year, spend it on something that will last you years i.e. a TNF rain jacket – just the cheapest $99 one will suffice. It rolls up nicely and can be stuffed into a bag. Throw in a nice fleece pullover/jacket over a long sleeve tee, a cashmere scarf, some gloves and a hat and you’re good to go.

    Puffers are stupid unless you’re living in the East/Midwest and have negative degree days more often than not. They get too hot, low quality ones shed like crazy and they make you look unflatteringly bigger.

    I’m suprised the Lunarglides got soaked through, I’ve worn my Nike Frees through some pretty rough rain and they’ve been just slightly wet.

    1. So the feather shed is a thing in cheap coats? Ugh. I felt a little stiff in my wool coat, though I was warm–but I noticed that in the puffer vest I was able to bend and move more? I don’t know if it’s a function of having your arms free, but I figured the puffers would have more give vs. a wool coat.

      I’m definitely having a look at TNF, Patagonia, and other sportswear/technical brands for my future travel coat. I don’t mind investing, but I want to make sure it’s the right decision. Any particular brands that have petite-friendly sizing?

      Lunarglides were damp on the top layer and cold inside the toebox, so before it got completely wet I went back into my room to change. My shoes are mostly fabric/mesh with no rubber overlay near the top (it’s a breathable, good running shoe) but that might’ve contributed to the wet+cold feeling.

  2. Interesting you mention the shedding – big feathers or the tiniest tiniest almost 2mm thread like shedding bits? I only notice anything when I wear my black cashmere roll neck with my uniqlo ULD jacket but it’s incredibly fine. But having said that, I still wear mine an awful lot especially now the UK weather is on the decline leading up to full winter. I just like that I don’t really feel restricted when I wear them and they are strangely accommodating of even bigger jumpers which you wouldn’t think would fit underneath. And I’ve just acquired another one as a present from my sister which I will be putting to full use so I guess I can quite honestly say, I’m rather fond of the ULD jackets – they fit my lifestyle.

    And I rarely wear wool coats if I am going away for a trip away … I’m hugely unfashionable and very sensible and I usually wear a Goretex walking jacket which gives me the wet resistance I need but dries out quickly. It’s usually roomy enough for me to fit ample layers underneath as well.

    1. I wear a lot of black, so I saw it shed on day 1. All that’s come out have been small filaments, but a good number of them. I’d say a few poke out at the seams of the vest itself and then the rest of them I just notice on my person when I take the vest off. Are the ULD jackets (somewhat) waterproof?

      Please link me this Goretex walking jacket, I would love to see it. And the wool coat was my naive-idea of staying warm–they’re perfectly fine and dandy in dry, cold wind weather. Wish the pockets were a bit better lined, but that Lands End coat was better than nothing. I had purchased it last year when I weighed more so before this trip I sent it in to the tailor for slimming and it was excellent.

      1. I actually have had mine probably close on 10 years actually. So this is the nearest I can find http://www.millets.co.uk/womens/089541-sprayway-womens-amp-jacket-black.html#read_more which is somewhat similar and mine was about Β£100 at the time. I didn’t go for the most expensive because I couldn’t justify it and I didn’t know how much use I was going to get out out of it but having said that, it’s lasted me 10 years and it’s a bit of a go to coat if I’m having a weekend away anywhere where I expect to be outside. And I also pack a ULD jacket with me to pop underneath incase I’m cold. I bought it as I used to do a bit of walking with the hubs but I’m not good hiking up mountains so it’s proved a good school run coat too. I don’t do fashion when it rains or it’s cold. I think this must be the Chinese genes coming to the fore there. However, I did choose black which is an ill advised colour if you are up on mountains and stuff as the general rule is the brighter the better so you can be easily spotted should you get lost. Sometimes that little fashion gene just has to kick in too :o)

      2. I hear you on the bright clothes for sports. I just bought the brightest orange long-sleeved top for running (Under Armour) so that oncoming cars have a slightly better chance of seeing me cross the streets when I run. I also would love to own some reflective gear for biking/running but those cost me 2 femurs and my first born…ach.

        So the Sprayway jacket is basically a light waterproof shell and then you use ULD under for warmth? Interesting. Does it ever feel too warm or bulky under all those? I imagine if it’s that cold or wet I suppose staying dry is all that matters.

  3. I’m from the tropics, so I can’t do real cold either, I shake really bad (when sitting). But I refused to buy a puffer 1) b/c I think they look like bugs, granted this was 7 yrs ago and they’ve gotten more stylish now 2) not worth buying a coat for 2 nts that I’d never wear again.

    1. That’s my jam right now–I want to have something that will last but since it’s just going to be used (barely) once a year, is it really worth investing in an extra coat when I can somewhat muddle through with the wool coat I already own?

      Puffers are cut a lot better now, I think. It’s also a matter of how the manufacturers design the quilting–I think I like smaller panels near the front.

  4. Another thing about wool and rain is that wet wool can start to smell really bad haha! Aah I usually wait til my destination to buy shampoo and the like but I guess it does depend on how expensive things are where you’re going. Those smartphone gloves sound really nifty, might go hunt them down for myself!

    1. I’ve tried the ones with touch-capacitive tips at Muji, and they’re ok but the glove size is still too big. The ones at Daiso (which is like a Japanese dollar store) fit me better, but it does expose three of my fingers on each hand.

  5. “Buy all your consumable supplies (beauty products, medicine) at home.”

    Totally agree with this. I also only took a carry-on for my last trip, so I ended up decanting a lot of stuff and buying solid perfume and soap (all from LUSH, bless). I definitely recommend doing something like that, and you won’t have to worry about anything bursting in transit either!

    1. I’ll have to check out both of those stores more in depth. I only know LUSH sells bath bombs? and I’ve never tried those–do they ever clog up tubs? They look huge.

  6. Every year I think I block out just how cold it gets nyc, and always pack my cute coats which means I wind up freezing my tail off. In fact I stood in line for a Megabus in frigid wind coming off the Hudson not two weeks ago. Luckily, I bought a hideous, but toasty warm puffy coat this year so hopefully I’ll be prepared for our next couple of visits this winter. Now if I could just break down and buy black waterproof boots.

    1. Where did you get your puffer?

      It seems to me most of the East Coast bloggers are on that Sorel snow boot trend πŸ™‚ I don’t know how bad it gets in DC, but I know it’s pretty wet. I don’t think people actually go to work in Hunters, do they?

      1. It’s Ralph Lauren from Macy’s—the least ugly one I could find.

        People definitely do wear Hunters to work (and switch out their shoes in the office), and I see a few Sorels, but I kind of want something a little more understated, like Loeffler Randalls.

  7. A very interesting post! I live near the arctic circle (in Europe) and 50F is definitely not a puff or wool jacket weather for me πŸ™‚ It would have to be a lot colder than that! Usually I would wear a leather jacket or a trench coat with the additional scarf.

    If you don’t have use for a warm jacket in every day life, I would buy one that’s rain and windproof and good for layering. Then just add as many (wool) layers underneath as needed πŸ™‚ Wool tights are also a savior on the days when you need some extra warmth.

    1. I’m thinking windproof-rainproof is the way to go, and like Sue mentioned above, using something like Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down or cashmere/wool layers under for warmth. Achhh. Aaaaachhh! I wish I were hardier.

      Thank you for stopping by πŸ™‚

  8. Gads! I recently made the mistake you made with the body wash. My reasoning was that I was too lazy to go out searching for 3oz sunscreen day before a trip and didn’t want to check a bag. Figured, oh hey, i’m sure it’ll be cheap in Costa Rica. WRONG! A small 4oz tube of the usual stuff at a CR Wal-Mart cost $13!!! That was the cheap option. A slightly more uppity option was $22! For some Hawaiian Tropics / Nivea / Banana Boat sunscreen! I Was appalled, but also had no choice.

    Blech. Had I known, would have definitely gone out searching for a smaller sized sunscreen to carry with.

    1. Crazy prices! But I guess they have to import it from somewhere and so the tariff probably goes sky-high after all the exchanges it goes through. Expensive lesson learned! Don’t be lazy, just drive out and buy ALL your supplies. We know our home area better than the place we’re traveling to and what they might have on stock, right?

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