Anyone who’s looked at pictures of the expedition must have noticed that in nearly every picture I’m wearing the same vest, whether I was conferring with party secretaries or slurping soup or goofing off. If you couldn’t see the vest, it was probably hiding under another layer on a cold day.
Yep, every day for a month, I was wearing my used-to-be-brand-new Scottevest. It’s still like new after hard wear and several launderings. And yes, I ordered a men’s vest, because it fit me better and it’s longer in the back–better coverage, you know.
Before this trip, I’ve used my favorite shoulder purse or backpack for carry-on and daypack purposes. In them, everything has a place and I make an effort to put each thing back in its place. This is an important ADHD tool. Otherwise, I’m back inside, hunting my whatever while everyone else is already out the door and on the way to the airport.
But when either of those bags is loaded, it’s not long before I’m experiencing every ounce via a nagging, squirmy ache between my shoulder blades.
With the Scottevest, I wear my carry-on and don’t even notice the weight (not a bad addition to my American-in-China weight loss plan–”weight lifting” all day without feeling the extra effort).
Another big plus is security. A few years ago my prescription eyeglasses were picked out of my backpack in the chaotic push-and-shove of a market far away from home. After spending the rest of that trip not able to read, I’ve been slightly paranoid when everything important is riding out of sight on my back. With the Scottevest, I can opt to have nothing in back, and hug everything in front. Besides, I think all those pockets would leave a thief confused and dizzy.
There are less expensive travel vests out there, but I rate the Scottevest high above the others I’ve seen because the Scottevest pockets are integral to the design, not sewn onto the outside. Maybe this wouldn’t matter to svelter people than I, but I don’t need any additional bubbly bulges.
Scottevest advertises 22-24 pockets. I never did manage an exact count. I just know that every couple of days, you could have heard me shouting, “I found another one!” Photos of the vest aren’t helpful for trying to count, because there are pockets hidden within pockets.
In my vest, every pocket (that I finally discovered) was populated with pretty much the same items every day. I knew exactly where to reach for my passport or chapstick or afternoon meds or whatever. That’s a lot of mind-easing for an ADD brain that’s always subconsciously tense wondering what it’s forgotten this time.
The vest came with a card in each pocket suggesting how to use that particular pocket. But I suppose each “vesty” comes up with his or her own most convenient uses. And each trip has its own needs. Here’s how I used mine for this China research expedition.
Upper outside pocket #1: Business card case. Current public transport ticket and/or multi-travel card. Hotel room key or card.
Upper outside pocket #2: Sunglasses case. Petzl headlamp–about the smallest out there. It’s handy during electric outage or anytime a flashlight is needed–especially when it’s right there at hand in its pocket.
“Handwarmer” pocket #1: Antibacterial wipes. Bandanna to use as towel, sweat wiper, napkin, personal-sized table cloth, etc., etc. Tissue packet–always at hand when t.p. isn’t where you expect it to be. And there’s still room to warm a hand.
“Handwarmer” pocket #2: Available for the unexpected–and for warming a hand.
Inside left side
Upper “phone” pocket: Extra camera batteries, memory card, flash drive.
Pen pocket: My favorite sort of pen.
Lower “ID” pocket: Sweetener packets, since apparently nobody but me needs them in China.
Deep pocket: Water bottle. Kindle. Umbrella. Journal (not pictured–see what I mean about losing things if I don’t put them where they belong?). Magic Wand Scanner in its hard case.
Shallower pocket on front of deep pocket: Passport, Boarding pass (not pictured), my favorite travel wallet.
Inner right side
Pen pocket: another pen or a pencil
Phone Pocket: phone
Side-zip pocket below phone pocket: Spider mini-tripod. Camera (not pictured because it’s taking the picture) in its wrap-around case.
Big zipper pocket: All the stuff that usually is in the “cosmetics” section of my purse–chapstick, toothbrush, lotion, eye drops, lozenges, etc.
This pocket is the bottom half of the vest back, side seam to side seam, zipper to the bottom hem. There may be 20-something pockets, but this is the one that makes people say, “Oh, wow.” ( or “ha ha” or “flat-butt”).
This was the perfect place to carry and protect Esther Nelson’s China, the Shutterfly photobook that was our reference/reminder of specific details to look for and a wonderful conversation starter that yielded unexpected stories and connections.
I also discovered that on a long bus or train ride, I could stuff my back-support cushion (a cheap throw cushion) in that pocket. It was just the right position, and wouldn’t let me leave it behind when the ride was done.
Message to the folks at Scottevest:
You’ve created a nearly perfect vest for travel. After wearing the vest all day every day for a month, though, I wished for just a couple of adjustments and 1 addition.
I wish I’d brought along a lightweight, fold-up backpack for the occasional item (acquired in the middle of a day) that was too bulky or poky to fit in a vest pocket. Maybe that would be a bonus you could add to a vest purchase.
I’d really have appreciated if the main front zipper were a 2-way, opening from the bottom when needed. Even a loose-fitting vest, when fully packed, becomes snug. It would be more comfortable and less strain in the vest, especially when sitting, if it could be zipped up from the bottom a few inches.
If each zipper pull had a rounded loop where it attaches to the zipper, it would pull more easily from whichever angle it was grasped. With the square loop, I often had to juggle the zipper around to get it straight so it it wouldn’t hang up.
If the deep pocket had an elastic strip sewed into the vest side of the pocket with sections (like in one of the hand warmer pockets), the deep pocket would hold water bottle, umbrella, etc. upright. This would be good for the fit and hang of the vest and for ease in quickly finding the right item.
One of the beauties of the Scottevest is that it’s adaptable to each person’s preferences for pocket use. S0-o-o-o how about if the key holder and clip with lens cleaner were fastened into the vest by clips and rings and if several or all pockets had rings so the wearer can choose the pocket to fasten the key ring or lens cleaner clip into? As it is now, the cleaner clip was not where I wanted it and I kept getting tangled up with its cord.
My travel companion liked my vest so much that I left it in China with her. So I need to get another one before my next trip. Since I’m almost always too hot, I think I’ll go for the lightweight vest this time.
As photos from the Esther Expedition photos are uploaded, you can see them anytime at my Esther Nelson Shutterfly share site. There’s a map there too, of our expedition locations.
Subscribe to Tell Me When To Pack. Use the links to the right or click here.
If you make a purchase after you click on some product links in a post or after you use an on-line shopping link in the sidebar, I receive a small commission, which costs you nothing extra. I recommend only items that I think will be of interest to my readers and that I probably have used personally or wish I did.
I hope you’ll also visit my other blog–NoelPiper.com