I’ve got a road trip coming up, work duties permitting. A total eclipse of the sun will, a few days from now (as I type this in mid-August), cross the state of South Carolina just a few hours’ drive from my house, and I aim to be there for it. This is a bucket list-worthy event, and it rates a tasty supply of fine cigars to mark the occasion—not just for the eclipse itself (I will be puffing a Cuban H. Upmann Royal Robusto during eclipse totality) but for the entire trip. I’ll be covering quite a few miles in my old retired Ford police car during the next week, and let’s just say it is a car in which smoking is allowed. Plus, I’ll be spending a couple of days at my cousin’s house halfway there. He’s making the drive down into the darkness with me. And because he loves fine cigars as much as I do, and because he worships the ground I walk on because I write about cigars for a living, I know I have to travel equipped to impress.
This raises the issue of how best to pack a supply of cigars for a trip in such manner as to keep them fresh, undamaged and at constant humidity—no mean feat. We don’t want to subject our fine smokes to physical damage, either from jostling or from wild swings in moisture that could make a cigar split open. I will be using a number of devices to hold and safeguard my stash for this trip.
Before we go any further, though, let’s deal with the matter of cellophane and whether a cigar ought to be stored in its cellophane or not. With most Cuban cigars, you won’t have any choice: They generally come gorgeously buck naked in the box. But most cigars available in the domestic American market come cellophaned, and I say that’s a good thing. My recommendation is that you leave every one of them in the cellophane until you are ready to smoke it. This applies both on the road and at home. A cellophane wrap slows moisture exchange, so if your storage device gets out of ideal humidity range in either direction, the cigar has a buffer and won’t itself go out of range so quickly. (Room for error!) Also, the cellophane provides extra protection from physical damage if your cigars do any jostling against one another, and it even serves as an extra layer of prophylactic protection from tobacco beetles. The critters can eat through cellophane, but supposedly if one does so, the plastic will kill the little monster.
Every cigar lover who ever has occasion to travel ought to equip himself with one of the modern, hard plastic travel humidors (“traveldors”) that have become ubiquitous to our pastime and are available in fine cigar shops everywhere. Some companies call their products cigar caddies; others call them herf-a-dors or travel cases—you get the idea. They are fairly inexpensive and nearly indestructible. I own a Lotus five-cigar traveldor, something I received as a free gift in a big cigar bundle buy. Units similar to this are widely available for under $30 retail. I’m going to use the Lotus to hold a few precious Cubans for the trip.
I choose the Lotus for these particular cigars because these Cubans are uncellophaned and in need of maximum physical protection. Travel cases like this are made to order for such a mission. The cigars are gently pinned in by foam lining the inside, so jostling is minimized. There is even a small humidifier button built in, and a few drops of water will suffice to keep my smokes fresh for an extended trip. A note to remember about travel cases like this one: On some, a plastic latch might occasionally come loose when you’re opening or closing the unit. Do not despair and throw your case away. The unit is not broken. The latch will slide right back into place—no harm done. I should also mention that larger units are available and commend themselves to the traveler who may sometimes wish to send through a bigger supply of smokes in checked luggage.
In addition, I own two fine leather cigar sleeves. (One of them, inherited from a long-departed uncle, may be older than I am.) These will hold some of my other very fine smokes.
Leather cigar sleeves or cases are also widely available at cigar outlets and range from cheap to expensive. They are perfect for carrying two to four fine cigars in the inside pocket of a jacket, or however you will. Here’s a nugget of insider’s info on these leather cases: It is a good idea, when you are not using them, to keep them stored at the same humidity as your cigars—maybe in one of your larger humidors, or in an ice chest or storage bin where you keep unopened cigar boxes.
If you make the mistake of storing a leather accessory in a dry environment, the moisture-starved leather will begin pulling the essence right out of your cigars the moment you put them in the sleeve. My cigars are stored in around 68 percent humidity, and my leather sleeves are kept in the same bin (for that matter, so is my Lotus case), so I know when I hit the road I won’t have a problem with thirsty storage units drying out my cigars.
For my spillover stash—a sizable selection of lesser-order, more casual cigars (after all, I can’t smoke a $10 baby every time)—I use a 1-gallon zip-close freezer bag with a Boveda 2-Way Humidity Control pack. You can’t go wrong with an 8-gram 69 percent Boveda pack for this application.
This setup will keep your stash pegged at 69 percent humidity for weeks. The pack will let you know when it’s expired (it will become stiff), but then you can swing by most any cigar store to pick up a replacement pack for a couple bucks. Incidentally, these packs work well for regulating the humidity in home desktop humidors, too. Different sizes and different humidity levels are available.
Into that gallon zip-close I will also toss my two leather cigar sleeves, and away I go. Now, it is true that a zip-close bag does not offer the hardened protection of a travel case or even of a leather sleeve. You’re going to have to take extra care that your cigars don’t get sat on or otherwise smushed. But you accept what you can get for 25 cents, right? A lot of us don’t have the budget for a fine, protective case of any kind; it’s all we can do to afford just the smokes. (Believe me, more sympathetic I cannot be.) So if times are tight, just go with the zip-close and the Boveda pack—and spend your real dough on the cigars, secure in the knowledge that your smokes will be just as perfectly conditioned as those from your boss’s $200 Dunhill case.