The art of packing for a sailing trip is as much about what you leave at home as what you pack. More stuff on a sailboat translates into the more time spent cleaning, sorting, and shuffling gear around. Everything brought on board must be small and malleable enough to tuck into a tiny space. Under sail everything must be stowed so that it doesn’t fly around the sailboat while sailing.

All my sleeping gear and clothes for a month of sailing fit in my backpack. Looking at my pack, I’d never guessed I agonized for the past week about what to put inside. The freedom of taking so little came with a downside— I wanted to make sure it would be the right stuff. I didn’t want to end up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean shivering. Or not have my phone charged to snap the dolphins swimming off the bow.

Over the years, I’ve found comfort in more. Every time I worry about something that could go wrong sailing, my initial response is to buy something. Anticipating seasickness, I buy not only medicine buy ginger chews. I consider wristbands and essential oils as well, but then decide against it. When the Coronavirus adds an unforeseen risk that anyone traveling with a fever might end up quarantined for weeks, I invest in a medicine cabinet of immune boosters that include Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Selenium. Other friends suggest oregano oil capsules and something called Quick Defense, but I have to draw the line somewhere, accepting that travel involves discomfort and risk that I can’t buy away.

There’s another twist that makes this trip extra tricky in terms of packing— the mission is to study plastics in the seas so we’ve been asked to leave packaging at home. The last thing I want to do is bring single use plastic to Easter Island, the most remote inhabited island. Unfortunately, most of the items on the packing list that I purchase come packaged in throw away plastics— my headlamp since at home I use a solar lantern, a sleeping bag since mine was stolen from my tent last summer, a long-sleeved sun shirt, the ginger candies, the watch, but I make sure to unwrap it all and leave the plastic at home. The irony of the pile of plastic wrappings from the supplies I’ll be taking for a trip to study microplastics isn’t lost on me.

I take extra care to research everything that I need to buy for the trip, and buy eco-friendly when possible. The rash guard by Waterlust is made of recycled plastic. The sleeping bag from Marmot is made with PET, a type of polyester derived from plastic bottles. Up until now I’ve used tampons and pads to manage my period, but since I want to avoid bringing unnecessary plastic, I buy a SAALT cup that claims that it will last for ten years and estimates that it results in diverting 3,000 tampons and pads from landfills, and saving $1,500.

As I leave for the airport, I’m grateful I can carry everything I need on my back. I think of how easy to manage these few possessions will be for the next month. If it’s not in my pack, I’ll have to be creative and make do.