The clothes you choose for a trip aren’t only about looking good … though we have nothing against cute. But when you’re traveling, functionality, comfort and the culture in your destination play a part in what you pack as well.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on “travel” clothes. The items in your everyday wardrobe can serve as travel clothes — you may simply need to add a few pieces for specific activities such as surfing or hiking.
Beyond creating a capsule wardrobe — sticking to a single palette so that you can mix and match — we’d like to humbly suggest these particular travel clothes that we always make room for in our bags. Here’s the Travel Gear We Love: Clothing Edition.
The travel clothes you choose should be comfortable, easy to wash and versatile.
I travel carry-on only, which limits me in what I pack for a trip. That being said, I always need a few different styles of shoes and jackets. I want to be able to blend as much as possible, but I also need to dress like me. I’ll tell you this: If you won’t wear it at home, don’t think you are going to be someone else when you travel.
This might seem like an odd choice, but I have a few reasons why they’re among my favorite travel clothes. They are versatile, and they work for my wardrobe. In a lot of the places I want to go, they blend. They are universally loved in many parts of the world. They are comfortable. I can wear them for many, many hours of walking and my feet feel fine (and I do have sensitive old feet!). I have the ones that zip up one side, making them easy to get on and off.
Maybe they give me a false sense of bravado (OK — they do), but part of being safe on the road as a solo female traveler is the energy you put out there.
If I’m traveling and it’s dipping below 50 degrees F, I’m packing this jacket. It’s so lightweight it feels like you’re wearing nothing, but you’re warm. I love having a hood in case it rains. It’s water repellent, which means you’ll be fine in light rain, and OK in a heavy one until you can get to shelter. I layer it over a long-sleeve shirt and hoodie if it’s colder but in most cases, this will suffice. I wear it all through our very cold Indiana winters, down to zero degrees.
The best part? It will literally fit in the water bottle pouch on my backpack. It packs down THAT SMALL. It’s a very affordable price point, and Eddie Bauer has a great return policy.
Simply the cutest compression socks you will find. Wearing compression socks on long-haul flights is important. I don’t care if you’re 20 or 100, the health benefits outweigh the slight irritation. I have the knee-high pink and blue striped ones. I love them.
Why compression socks? On travel days that involve sitting for long periods of time, wearing compression socks reduces the side effects of edema. Compression socks work their magic by gently squeezing the legs to increase blood flow from your legs and feet back toward your heart. Once the blood starts to move, swelling subsides. You’ll also lower the risk of developing blood clots that can lead to deep vein thrombosis. (Check out our post on surviving long flights for more tips.)
I love Bombas. I bought a four-pack four or five years ago, and they still feel like new socks. Seriously, I love them. I have them in ankle, quarter and calf lengths. I take six pairs regardless of the length of the trip and wash them in the sink when I need to. Bombas donates a pair of socks for every purchase. They are not cheap, but they will last for a long time. I buy them for everyone I know — I love them that much.
I’m not a big fan of recommending “travel clothes,” because, for the most part, I’m traveling in clothes I wear at home. And these are no exception, but they are great for travel, and here’s why: elastic waist, so many pockets, soft and thin enough to be comfy and flattering but structured enough to not look sloppy. Pair with sneakers, flats or boots. Versatile. I have two pairs, black and olive.
I learned about Cariuma from Julianne — she always has great recommendations, especially for sustainable brands. White sneakers are the most common shoe right now, and I wanted something to wear around Portugal on a recent trip. I knew I’d be walking many miles and took a chance on taking a new shoe. I was blown away. I have arthritis in my feet, and after five or six miles, I usually start to experience foot pain in even my most trusted shoes. I walked 52 miles in six days in these brand-new shoes, and my feet felt great!
The Cotopaxi Teca Half Zip Windbreaker packs down into its own pocket, making it a very easy-to-pack add-on. If I am going to be biking, hiking, sailing or kayaking, I grab this baby. It’s a great middle layer if it’s on the brisk side or a great top layer to cut the wind. Cotopaxi is a company with a wonderful mission; I love supporting them.
I have a few considerations for my must-have travel clothes list. One: I need certain things (compression socks, elastic waistbands) to keep me healthy and able. Two: I need certain things for certain kinds of trips — European city versus backpacking through the Upper Peninsula, for example. That being said, my favorite travel clothes are largely socks and shoes.
Tara M Boots from The Walking Company
Sadly, my gray and black pairs aren’t on The Walking Company’s website any more. But you can find lots of great pairs of basic “European city” boots by other brands in The Walking Company’s stores and on their website. Mine are your classic lug heel that lace up with a side zipper — not unlike Doc Martens in appearance. I’ve become a big fan of products from both The Walking Company and Aerosoles for heavy-duty walking in urban settings — both typically have great arch support.
I don’t wear flats very often. Since I started working from home exclusively, I like a really comfortable chunky heel, or I live in tennis shoes. But when I need to split the difference and walk a lot, these are a go-to. They’re called Tree Breezers, but they feel like clouds. No slipping on my heel or very narrow feet, no pinching my long toes, no weird creases. And they’re sustainably made. I threw mine in the washing machine after road-testing them in Manhattan, and they washed beautifully.
I put a lot of miles on my hiking boots in some rugged terrain — I live in Colorado, after all. But I first bought these when I lived in Indiana for a six-day backpacking trip through the Upper Peninsula, my first big hiking adventure of any kind. Nothing like starting off with a 42-mile trek carrying 35-plus pounds on your back. These allowed room for my feet to swell, and I didn’t lose any toenails. They have high ankle coverage for stability on uneven, rocky surfaces or when carrying a load, and they’re waterproof for stream crossings.
If I’m flying for a hiking adventure, I’ll usually just wear them on the airplane, because they’re too big to pack. (And I have Global Entry, so I don’t have to take off my shoes in security.)
I first bought Aerosoles in Times Square, when I wore out the shoes that I had been wearing to walk all over the Big Apple. And I first bought these black Sketchers in Las Vegas, when I decided it would be a good idea to walk every inch of the Strip and more in a single day and nearly hobbled myself. They’ve become my go-to for any journey (unless I’m wearing my hiking boots) because they’re soft and comfortable, cool, let my feet swell, and slip off easily on an airplane or in the car. These also go through the washing machine amazingly well.
Believe it or not, of all the fancy, technical hiking socks out there, I love the basic, cheapest REI midweight wool hiking socks. They’re so thick and cozy. They provide amazing cushioning not only under my Salomons but also under my Tara M boots, because my ankles are bony, and zip-up boots always gap. They’re wool, which means they wick moisture and keep your feet healthy. They’re like a warm hug for your feet.
I’m still seeking a pair that doesn’t make my skinny butt look flat and dumpy. Lululemon’s Ready to Rulu joggers are the best so far. You can’t beat a pair of soft pants with an elastic waistband (crucial for someone with IBS and dangerous swelling of the extremities when sitting or flying). Even better, they have pockets, super handy when you’re juggling things as you travel. And they’re basic enough to dress up or down — essential when it comes to travel clothes.
Don’t get me wrong — I love Cariuma shoes, too. They look super cool and are made even better. They have a skater pedigree, so they’re sturdy…but they’re also sustainable, constructed of cork and recycled materials. And the company is a B Corp, with all the good that comes from that. But the socks that Cariuma makes to go under their shoes are the real deal. They actually don’t get sucked into your shoes no matter how much walking you do, and they hide under almost anything. Good no-show socks have been my holy grail, and I’ve found them. Right now you have to buy the shoes to order the socks, but I’m counting on this to change soon.
As a fallback, check out ZeroSock’s Women’s Bamboo Super Low Invisible Socks. They don’t suck, literally, no matter how much walking I do. And when I travel, I need travel clothes that can withstand walks.
I had a really hard time writing my section of this blog, because all of my travel clothes are so old that they doesn’t show up on websites anymore. Yet my gear is still going strong, which is why I love it so much! Take my midweight blue Patagonia jacket. I bought it from REI when I bought my Salomon boots and everything else I needed for that 2015 backpacking trip, under the advice of some super helpful outdoorsy dudes.
(Seriously, if you need a lot of travel gear, go to REI. The people who work there are passionate and know their stuff. The return policy is phenomenal, as are the store’s environmental practices. And a co-op membership pays for itself in no time.)
At the time that I bought this jacket, I knew nothing about Patagonia. But since then I’ve become a devotee — I’ve even read the founder’s book. I can’t love a brand more than I love Patagonia. (REI is a close second.) And this Patagonia jacket is my grab-and-go for just about anything outdoors. It’s a great weight for cool days, and it can go under a heavy coat or over a few layers with ease. It has pockets galore, all with zippers. It’s extremely washable, stuffable and smushable, and thin enough that I can tie it around my waist when I get too warm.
It will last forever; and if for some reason it doesn’t, Patagonia will repair it. I wish that all of my clothes were made by Patagonia, except that I have to come out of the mountains sometimes.
Travel clothes can be hard to recommend, because what you pack for a trip is very dependent on your destination, activities, body type and personal style. But there are a few pieces we love that go the extra mile. In fact, they’re so helpful that they go nearly all of the extra miles with us.
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