After traversing the world many times a year for more than 20 years, Tara Strangwick ranked herself as a travel pro. When she was asked to test some Kathmandu packing cells, she scoffed, but agreed. What happened next, she describes as an epiphany.
As Kathmandu’s Group Technical Development manager, Tara travels regularly to China. All up, she reckons she’s been there at least 60 times.
“I’ve been round the world loads and loads of times - for work but I’ve also done lots of personal travel. I hit 40 countries recently. And now, travelling with children, well, that’s a whole new equation.”
Tara describes herself as a ritualistic traveller. “I thought I had totally dialed it in. Everything is very organised. I have a spot for my passport, my tickets. I have to have my specific wheely luggage. I always pack a pair of socks for the plane.”
In August, Tara was packing for a trip to the UK with her family. Kathmandu’s product team asked her to test some new packing cells.
Just another thing?
“I knew that packing cells were a popular product but I always thought I didn’t need them because I’m so organised - and I don’t need any more stuff in my life. I’m not into gadgets.
“But I took them home and started packing. I used a medium one for all the cables and electrical stuff. I used a large one for each of the kids clothes, so that we could put their stuff into one of our bigger bags. That’s when the epiphany hit. The next day I went out and bought some more.”
Tara ended up with a large packing cell for each person’s clothes, one for dirty washing and one for the kids' notebooks and pencils.
“These innocuous little products actually changed my life,” Tara says.
“In the UK, we were living out of a car, crashing on people’s couches and we would just bring in our packing cells instead of the whole bag. If the kids jumbled up their packing cell, it didn’t jumble up the whole bag. And when we would go into a cafe or restaurant, I would grab their activity books, journals and pencils to keep them entertained.”
A few months later, Tara was packing for another work trip. She would be travelling to Vietnam, where the temperatures were topping 30 degrees, and northern China where it was -2.
“I had to pack everything from a bikini to a down jacket - and that’s a challenge. I needed a down jacket but I didn’t think I had room. But I put the down jacket into a compression cell, compacted it down to save room and suddenly it wasn’t a hassle to take anymore.
But wait, there’s more.
When the trip was over, Tara might have chucked the packing cells inside the suitcase and forgotten about them until the next trip. But instead, she’s used them to say organised in the laundry and wardrobe.
“I’ve got an open wardrobe and I hate the clutter. It’s much more organised now. We use them to put linens in. So they’ve got a use for home too.”
A cynic’s tips
After years and years on the road, Tara has lots of great advice for travellers. “I always recommend people have a paper copy of your passport. And when you’re travelling to China, it helps to have your hotel name printed out in Chinese characters. And now, I say to people, "get some packing cells." I dismissed them so easily but they are actually, genuinely a really good product. And that’s from the biggest cynic there was.”