|Arctic Footwear (top right: -60 degree boots)|
Anyone who travels by air is familiar with the "advanced-Tetris" challenge of preparing checked luggage. Packing for the Arctic has been quite the brain-teaser. After months of collecting bulky cold-weather clothing (like giant down jackets and multiple pairs of knee-high insulated boots) and expensive, fragile technical equipment, it was time to squeeze it all into the airlines' size and weight limitations. Plus, it would be good if my audio and video gear actually works when I arrive.
After covering the floor of my studio with all the items I wanted to bring, I began placing things into my two suitcases. At first it seemed possible that everything might fit, and I felt relieved. Then I got out the scale. Um... about 20 pounds more than my weight allowance. Yikes!
Next followed a good 8-or-so hours of executive decisions about what could possibly be left behind. Sunhat and multiple tubes of sunscreen? Come on... how often is it really going to be sunny up there? It's autumn, which means we'll be rapidly
loosing daylight as the trip progresses. Furthermore, how much bare skin am I even going to haveexposed in Spitsbergen's freezing temperatures?! OK- out! Leisure items, like books to read for fun,
quickly disappeared. As did things like pajamas, dressy clothes and my towel (cotton t-shirts will have to suffice). I halved my supplies of shampoo and hand lotion (apparently a necessity in the cold, dry north. I will be rationing mine).
Still, I had too much weight and, not wanting to leave any of my audio gear behind, eventually I began resorting to more desperate mountaineering "cut-the-handle-off-your-toothbrush" packing techniques. I took my duct tape off its "heavy" cardboard center and wrapped it around an empty film canister instead. I ditched boxes and stuff sacks. I pondered the minimum number of socks I could get by with for 5 weeks. I peeled off labels. And finally, I got my bags to exactly
50 pounds each. In fact, the guy working at the check-in counter was impressed at my precision.
With two flights still to go, now I just have to hope that no one checks the weight of my carry-on bags!