Saturday, January 22, 2011

Around the world girl – and the merits of paper underpants

A friend at work was telling me how her mother had just embarked on a three-month cruise around the world. The mother and her sister were traveling together and the itinerary sounded great – Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean/Central America, through the Panama Canal, Fiji, Australia, Asia up to the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, ending up in London and flying back to the U.S. from there.

I’m sure there are many advantages to doing this sort of trip as a cruise, namely that you don’t have to continually schlep bags around. But you’d still have to pack for three months and for a wide variety of occasions and climates.

I have a hard enough time packing for a three day trip let alone for three months. (I have issues with being able to pack light but I’m in a 12-step program)

Are you looking for packing tips for your trip around the world? Lonely Planet posted a short article recently with some thoughts and considerations for extended travel from a true road warrior, like the type of person who can live out of a backpack for extended periods of time and is a blackbelt in hostel survival.

I don’t have a lot of experience with that kind of hard-core travel, but I could relate to the question of what category do you fall into when it comes to packing:

The Boy Scout: prepared for anything
Lifeboat Survivor: one who packs only enough to forestall death, or at least social ostracism

I definitely fall into the first category and have had to learn the hard way not to drag everything and the kitchen sink with me on trips. (blame my parents – someday I’ll tell the story of a fateful road trip to Florida with my packrat Dad and a filled to the brim Ford Gran Torino station wagon)

Disposable undernancies: my Mom and her sister Clara have some good stories about traveling to Europe in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s as young carefree lasses. Coming from a pretty strict religious upbringing in South America, I can only imagine how it felt for them to experience the freedom of travel and wonders like the Eiffel Tower, the ski slopes of Switzerland. They were not backpacking, it wouldn’t have really been that mainstream at the time I don’t think and it doesn’t fit their personalities – but in a nod toward convenience and packing lightly, they apparently hit upon the seemingly genius product of paper underwear.

Designed to be disposable, you could have a new, clean pair every day and not have to worry about packing a bunch of skivvies, let alone lugging funky dirty laundry around with you or having to deal with washing clothes on the road. Sounds like a good idea, but I have to wonder about the structural integrity of a pair of paper briefs. I can’t help but think of a hospital gown, crinkly, ill-fitting and tearing easily. And no word on whether this sort of thing was common at the time or just a quirk of the Hernandez girls. I guess it might cut down on the temptation to get involved with romantic encounters while on the road.

I have not come across such a product in my own travels, nor have I really looked, but I’m sure a quick online search would yield something (maybe a company like Magellan’s). Frankly I’m a little afraid to look. These might be sold alongside those plastic jars that are to be used for peeing in when you’re in the car for a long time and can’t get to a bathroom, let alone Depends type products. What would you call them? Paper Pants. Or Underpaper. Maybe Disposa-brief. But I digress.

Aside from the option of disposable clothes, some small packing revelations gleaned over the years: pack outfits, not clothes. Chances are, I don’t need that many pairs of shoes. Risk of needing formalwear – low. And don’t take hardcover books.

What are your tips or thoughts on paper undies? Here’s the link to the Lonely Planet piece:
How to pack for a round-the-world trip


  1. Why pack or wash dirty underwear? Wear these disposables instead. They’re lightweight and ultra-compact for easy packing, and the soft, breathable cotton is biodegradable for very low ecological impact. If you wish, you may wash the briefs a few times before you toss them. Imported.

  2. Whoops - here's the link.

  3. Yes. They have a bikini version. And people have actually purchased them - "Love the convenience and not having dirty underwear in the suitcase. Fits well. But, if they are all cotton, why do they smell so bad?"