~What's that hiding in the corner of your suitcase, Kosh?~
One of the strangest items which you'll almost always find in my suitcases is a Lifeventure pegless clothesline. I don't use it very often for my regular travel for work but I like to know that it's there because every now and then some little calamity will befall any traveller and a nifty little bungee cable that doubles up as the perfect way to dry your clothes may be just what you need.
I'm not talking major disasters. If you should find yourself caught up in a tsunami or an armed rebellion, making sure your clothes are clean and dry might not be front of mind. The kind of mishaps where a clothes line can make a difference are less dramatic. Getting stuck where you don't intend to be and having no clean clothes is the main risk. I have been stranded in Hamburg by snow and ice, faulty planes and the mass cancellation of flights after a terrorist threat. I've been stuck in Austria, France and Spain by industrial action in the first two cases and the failure of the air traffic control system in the last. And to top all those, I spent an extra week in Portugal after the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano brought Europe to a standstill. The only situation where a clothes line won't help you to have something clean to wear is when the airline loses your luggage - and your line is in that luggage. With that exception, when everything gets messed up, don't underestimate the power of knowing you can have clean knickers.
I try to pack the absolute minimum that I need for any trip but I make mistakes. I've been known to run out of undies before I run out of week. I've had turbulence mean I arrive at my destination decorated in the red wine the stewardess was handing to the person next to me. I've also - far too often - found my toothpaste or other toiletries have taken it upon themselves to spurt on my clothes. Sometimes I've realised that the top I planned to wear is a total disaster and I'm going to need to reuse something from earlier in the week. None of these are big issues if I've got my clothesline with me - though admittedly these problems are easier to fix in a hot country than a cold one. I've washed plenty of stuff with hotel shampoo or shower gel in the bathroom sink. Out comes my pegless clothesline and the hunt for somewhere to hook it commences.
~What is it?~
So what is a pegless clothesline? Well at risk of stating the obvious, it's a clothesline that doesn't require pegs. It consists of two slim stretchy bungee cables twisted together in such a way that you can poke your clothes between the twists in the two cables and they will grip light- or mid-weight items. The unstretched length is 1.2 meters and the recommendation is to stretch it to a maximum of about 2 meters. Stretch it too far and you'll get a nasty surprise if it pings back at you and it can be difficult to get the clothes to squeeze into the loops formed by the twisted bungees. To ensure a good grip, it's important to stretch the line so that it's quite taut and the tension helps to hold the clothes in place.
At either end of the line is a sturdy black hook and the main challenge to your ingenuity is finding two things to hook onto. Bathroom hooks and shower rails, clothes rails in cupboards, window fixtures and mini-bar doors are typical targets. Best of all are hotel balconies in hot countries. You may think that if there's a balcony why not just drape your smalls over the rails. Ask my colleague who was too mean to use the hotel laundry and sat beside the pool in a swanky far eastern hotel and watched his pants get blown off the rail seven floors up and then float gracefully down and into the pool in front of some important clients. Or see if you can find a hotel balcony with really clean rails that won't leave yukky marks on your nice clean laundry.
When camping we've not been too proud to run a line between the two end poles of a tent and then displayed our laundry to the passing world. The many ways you can use these clotheslines are limited only by their relatively short length and the challenge of finding an imaginative way to support them.
~Is it big enough?~
Using just one of these cables will give you enough space for a bunch of undies, a couple of pairs of socks and maybe a couple of light tops. You won't be drying the family's entire wash for the week. When we go on holiday for a week or longer we tend to wash a few light items, especially if we're not staying in a hotel long enough to use the laundry service. The lines also come in handy for drying the lightweight towels we take with us as even in a cool room they will dry over night. For holidays we take two clotheslines because that gives us a longer line and the option to loop the hooks around a rail or pillar or something that's too wide to simply hook onto. I don't enjoy hand washing but two lines hooked together will easily give enough space for all the washing I can do before I lose patience with it.
~Not quite perfect~
These lines aren't perfect for all kinds of washing. Heavy items can pull themselves out of the space between he two lines but even that doesn't have to be a problem as you can just drape stuff over the line instead, but if it's heavy, take care to pull the lines tight as the elastic cable will droop under the weight. Shiny fabrics may not grip quite so well either. If your clothes aren't entirely dry when you need to leave a hotel, we just take the line down, complete with all the stuff that's suspended from it and stick the lot in a carrier bag in the top of one of our travel bags. Then at the next place we pull it out, hook the ends and let everything finish drying. Most items stay in place on the line throughout.
~A little travel bargain~
A Lifeventure pegless clothesline will set you back a couple of pounds in any outdoor shop or a little more in a rip-off outlet in an airport. It weights just a few grams and takes up very little space in your luggage. They last for many years and the only problem we've had with ours is the loss of some of the rubber tips on the black hooks. I can't bring myself to buy more when these are still working fine but sooner or later I will inevitably leave one behind in a hotel and when that happens I'll replace it with a slightly different version I've seen online which has rubbery suction cups as well as hooks which means you can attach it to bathroom or wall tiles.
Amazon has pegless clotheslines by Lifeventure for £2.99. Personally I think it's a bargain and a travel essential.