I’ve always viewed a winter get-away to warmer weather as a bit of a luxury, but this year with the exceptionally harsh and unrelenting cold, it feels more like a life line. With a ten day trip to the Yucatán Peninsula (Cancún, Isla Cozumel, Tulum) planned and booked at the end of last year, anticipating the vacation became almost as important as actually getting there. With the extra time to prepare, my packing became more thoughtful, more streamlined and more precise. This trip I got a few things right for once and I’m happy to share what I learned. —AJ
Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel 45L: I’ve used the Black Hole Duffel for the past 3 years without a hitch and now have the wheeled version as well. The 45 liter size is perfect for a 5-10 day trip and when the baggage handlers in Cancún took their own sweet time unloading our bags in an afternoon downpour, the laminated DWR finish proved to be completely weather-proof.
American Optical Original Pilot Sunglasses: These are classic Armed Forces issue aviator shades. I got mine with polarized lenses for fishing and the bayonet temple design for comfort and fit. They are lightweight, extremely well made and assembled in the U.S. I bought them as an affordable backup for travel, but they may have taken the top spot in my lineup of eyewear.
Beulah Blue Water 7/8 Wt Fly Rod: This is my second rod from this small Medford, Oregon company and I’ve been pleased with them both. I brought this because it’s a compact 4-piece and was built specifically for the rigors of saltwater fishing. After 8 hours of casting to bonefish I never felt any arm or hand fatigue and when I was lucky enough to hook up, the rod had plenty of strength to fight and land these powerful runners. Better yet, it’ll be the perfect rod for striper fishing in Maine come July.
Topo Designs Chambray Topo Shirt / Accessory Bag: The simple little nylon Accessory Bag works well as a dopp kit or camera bag for organization. The Topo Shirt in lightweight chambray is ideal to throw on for an all-day adventure, but nice enough to wear for cocktails at a resort bar. Watch the fit on these shirts. I ordered a full size up from my normal sizing to get it right. (I’m a size L in Gitman Vintage, a size XL in Topo)
Sleepy Jones Jackson Pocket T-Shirt: I’m a pocket T-shirt aficionado and the Jackson might be my new favorite. Made in the U.S.A. with super soft cotton and a thin strip of red piping at the top of the pocket, it’s subtle tweak on a classic staple. The fit is just right. Not too boxy. Not a modern slim fit either. Think Dennis Wilson on the gatefold sleeve of his classic album Pacific Ocean Blue.
Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch: Last year in Maui I battled through Denis Johnson’s Vietnam behemoth Tree of Smoke, this year I brought The Goldfinch, an equally hefty read from Donna Tartt. Dense and detailed, but never dragging, it’s a contemporary story of a young boy in New York that loses his beloved mother and is forced to forge his own painful path toward survival.
Blackbird Perfume Moto Oud: Blackbird has scaled back their retail presence in the Northwest and has focused on perfumes, accessories and grooming products. This compact roll-on of their Moto Oud perfume is sized perfectly for travel and is just the right sappy/leathery scent when you’re in and out of the salt water a dozen times a day.
Nikon Coolpix AW100: This is the pocket camera I always carry on vacation and on fishing trips. It’s packable, rugged and waterproof. It’s fun to take into the water and I never worry about dropping it or banging it up. I’m not a perfectionist when taking photos and the Coolpix does the trick for capturing spontaneous moments and the occasional fish worth sharing.