I remember my first Hawaii discovery.
I was 25, young and in love, visiting Kauai for the first time on my honeymoon. I thought I had everything in the world. A husband. A Hawaiian vacation. A suitcase with all the necessities--bikini, a hot sundress and strappy sandals in the suitcase.
We went to Hanalei Beach. We snorkeled at Anini Beach. We took a boat ride along Napali Coast. We were feted at a luau, me in my hot pink, silk sundress--I loved that sundress--and black, strappy sandals. My hubs sporting his first Aloha Shirt.
One early morning, after breakfast at Wake-Up Cafe in Hanalei, we motored on down the road, in our rental car convertible packed for a day at Kee Beach. The ocean spread out on one side of the car, the fern-draped mountain hugged us on the other. We parked--this was when you could park at the end of the road--and lugged our gear to the beach adjacent to Napali Coast and discovered Kalalau Trail.
In discovering Kalalau Trail, I discovered hiking. (I hail from the Midwest, remember, where there are no mountains. No real hiking trails.)
I also discovered that sexy, black, strappy sandals cut and blister your feet should you try to use them for anything other than what they were made for--standing. But I didn’t care. I was hiking Napali Coast. I was traipsing along Kalalau Trail. We didn’t get far.
My new-found love for hiking graduated to backpacking after our honeymoon, and I strapped on a pack, carrying a sleeping bag, tent, cookware, food, water and more on my back. My husband and I explored national parks this way, and when we moved to Kauai, a few days later, we lit out for the territory--Kalalau Trail. This time, wearing hiking shoes.
I became the type of backpacker who a) gets elated when I have just the tool--a tweezers on my Swiss Army knife to remove a thorn, say--when I need it; and b) gets upset if I don’t have exactly what I need.
That mentality translates beyond backpacking, too, to my island-hopping suitcase. Over the years as a writer for OutriggerHawaii, I’ve learned to keep some very handy tools and items in my suitcase. I never remove them from my suitcase between trips, so I don’t have to remember to pack them. What’s more, like the backpacking pack rat that I was, they take up very little room and weigh next to nothing. But they offer a myriad of uses.
Here’s my list of what every suitcase in Hawaii should contain:
1. Stuffable hat: For sunny days on the trail or the ocean. Or, shopping, too, I suppose.
2. Waterproof stuff sack/backpack: For hiking of all kinds, but especially for hiking in misty, rain forests.
3. Foldable water bottle: So I don’t have to buy single-use plastic bottles of water. I even finagle flight attendants into filling these, instead of a tiny, plastic cup that, seconds later, goes in the trash.
4. Pareau: For use as dress, bathrobe, swimsuit cover up and beach towel.
5. Raincoat: Because you never know.
6. Fabric bag from Muumuu Heaven: So, I can say no to plastic bags at the grocery store, book store, gift shop, wherever. It also comes in handy if I come home with more stuff than I packed. Know what I mean?
7. Phone car cell phone charges: Because sometimes I forget to pack the real one.
8. A selection of tea bags: Because I do not drink coffee.
9. A three-inch bamboo spoon/fork combo: Then, I can say no to plastic utensils.
10. Cheap slippahs: They are accepted everywhere.
What about you? What items are your packing must-haves?