This is a post in an ongoing feature on Her Packing List called “The One Little Thing“. Each week or two, I’ll be interviewing a traveling lady to find out the one little thing she just can’t travel without. This one comes to you from Diana Szpotowicz.
What one little thing can you not travel without?
My Rick Steves braided laundry line. I know it sounds like such an extra “luxury” item to bring along, but after backpacking with it, it’s now an item that I wouldn’t want to leave home without. I bought it spontaneously — not even sure if I’d use it, but I’m so glad I decided to pack it on a recent trip across Eastern Europe. The laundry line coils up into a small roll when you’re not using it and stretches out to over six feet when you’ve got it hung up. It has a braided texture and has two velcro straps at the ends — perfect for tying to any doorknob, shower handle, bed post, car seat latch or two tree branches, if you’re camping or drying your clothes under the sun.
>> Search for braided laundry lines on Amazon.
Why has this one item been so important to you?
The first time I backpacked solo across Europe in 2012 I was staying in the homes of some friends and family as well as a lot of CouchSurfing hosts. I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries as a guest and constantly ask to use a washing machine, especially if I was staying with students. Since I was kind of dependant on having people offer to let me use their machine, and some hosts didn’t even have one in their apartment, I started washing my clothes in the sink. However I still faced the problem of where to dry my clothes. I didn’t want to them hanging all over a host’s bathroom, especially if they had roommates. I also didn’t want to ruin their furniture by leaving damp clothes all over them.
For my backpacking trip this year, I packed the braided line and had no worries about where my stuff was going to dry. I could easily hang up the line so my clothes dried in one neat place over the bathtub overnight or beside my bed as I slept, out of anyone else’s way.
How packable is it? Does it take up much room? Is it heavy?
It’s extremely packable. It’s about about the size of a cell phone when it’s all rolled up and when you use it it stretches to six feet. It’s flexible and can be conveniently crammed into the bottom of your bag or a side pocket. You could even tie it around something bulky that you want compressed in your bag, like a sweater. The nice thing about the braided design is that you don’t have to carry clips with you to hold your clothes, you can tuck the cloth within the braids to hold up the item. That also allows more items to fit at one time rather than just laying clothes over the line.
Why would you recommend this to your travel friends?
I would recommend this to my travel friends because it’s one of those items you think you might use once or twice, but end up using all the time. When you’re backpacking, you need to get used to washing your clothes by hand. It’s the fastest,cheapest and quickest way to wash them… you certainly don’t want to waste any of your time in Paris searching for a laundromat, do you?
Can you name one incident or situation where you were so happy to have this item with you?
Oh I can name MANY! Honestly, clean clothes are precious when you are backpacking and I always seem to do laundry whenever I get the chance, even if it’s only a few items, because I just can’t predict when I’ll have the next opportunity to clean my clothes on the road. So anytime I checked into a new hostel I would tie up the line against the posts of my bunk bed, near the wall so you couldn’t even see my clothes hanging out. It was really handy when I was travelling through the Mediterranean countries and swimming everyday — I had somewhere to easily dry out my bathing suit. Since the line was hanging up over my bed, I wasn’t worried about any one else in my hostel taking my clothing at night.
How did you hear about this item?
I saw it while shopping at the Rick Steves store in Edmonds, Washington. I had gone to the store to buy a new backpack and while I was there I checked out the accessories section. I wasn’t sure it was even an item I would really use, but it was less than $10 so I thought why not give it a try?
What sort of traveler is this item perfect for?
This item is perfect for anyone — from a backpacker traveling solo to a couple to a family going on a road trip. Even if you’re staying in a luxury resort, you might want to save money by not using their laundry services. If you’re doing a road trip, it’s easy to do laundry on the go by hanging your clothes to dry across the backseat of a car.
>> Check out our essentials for hand-washing clothes on the road.
About the author: Diana has backpacked solo to over 50 cities and towns across continental Europe. An avid CouchSurfer, she likes to meet locals wherever she goes and shares their stories on her blog, Diana Meets the Locals. She’s also had an adventure or two and has plenty of travel tips to share as well. Diana recently spent five weeks in the Balkans, where she fell in love with the energy of Serbia, the nightlife of Kosovo and the Mediterranean beauty of Montenegro. She wants to inspire others to stop dreaming about traveling “one day” and turn those wishes into solid travel plans. You can read about Diana’s adventures on her blog and connect with her on Twitter and Youtube.