Travel Clothing – What To Wear Over There

“Bring half the clothes and twice the money.”
– Susan Heller

There is a vast array of lightweight, quick-dry and versatile travel clothing available everywhere. For example, pants with zip-off legs double as shorts, and Gore-Tex® (and other similar synthetic textiles) are waterproof, breathable and light. Choose articles of clothing that can be worn comfortably both individually or in layers. Some travelers prefer cotton, which is light and comfortable, but can take longer to dry than other materials. Avoid denim – it is hot and heavy.

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Take The Weather With You

The climate(s) through which you will be traveling are the most important factor when deciding what clothes you need. If you plan on spending three months on beaches, you probably won’t need much more than a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops.

If, on the other hand, you plan on circumnavigating the globe and/or visiting different latitudes during different seasons, your travel clothing requirements will be more varied. You have two options: bring everything with you, or buy / sell items along the way. The first option will burden you with a (very) heavy pack, half full of articles you may not need for months.

The second option will leave you vulnerable to dubious quality and may get expensive, particularly if you have a jagged travel profile. However, you will also contribute to the local economy by buying local products.

Versatile travel clothing

Same guy, same clothes – Thailand – Delhi – Annapurna – Egypt

The best way to blend in is to wear what the locals wear, which is usually well-suited for the local climate. Many travelers prefer to leave home with no more clothing that what they are wearing, and purchase what they need upon arriving at their destination.

Generally, everything will be cheaper where you are going, and shoes, shirts, socks and sarongs are available everywhere. Any town’s market will produce reasonable quality clothing, and it will be a fraction of the price you would pay at home. It may not be brand-name merchandise, but the knock-offs will be close – Mike and Adidos are popular.

Dirty Laundry

If your room has a sink, doing your laundry by hand is cheapest, quickest and most convenient. Bring a small laundry kit with an elastic clothesline, clothespins, drain-stopper, some detergent, and a washboard. Just kidding about the last one – a stiff-bristle brush will do.

Travel clothing might not air-dry in humid or cool climates. Small articles like socks, underwear and t-shirts might dry quicker if you sleep on them. Lay them flat under your bedsheet, and your body heat will do the trick pretty effectively.

If you do use a laundry service, itemize the load by garment and color when you drop it off to avoid any misunderstanding when collecting laundry. The more specific you are, the less possibility of it getting mixed up with someone else’s laundry, or “lost”.

The color of your travel clothing is also something to consider. Dark colors hide dirt and stains, but are more attractive to mosquitoes than light colors. If you are planning on doing any wildlife viewing, clothing with neutral earth tones will have a much slimmer chance of spooking the animals than, say, bright orange or hot pink. Dangling and flashy jewellery and eyeglasses might also frighten some animals away. Conversely, glittery metal objects might attract unwanted attention from hungry predatory fish – or thieves.


Comfortable feet can be the difference between an good trip and a great trip, so it pays to invest in proper footwear appropriate for several climates.

Versatile travel clothes

Same guy, same clothes – Peru – South Africa – Hong Kong

Hiking boots
This will be your most important article of travel clothing, so look for good tread with decent ankle and arch support. Work your boots in several weeks before leaving to ensure they fit properly and won’t rub you the wrong way. It’s best not to start your trip with blistered feet. To give your feet a bit of room without removing your hiking boots (ie. because of the odor), loosen the laces and insert them into your boot, under your foot. This works well on planes, buses and restaurants.

Flip-flops / Thongs
These are adequate for short walks. They are also useful when using shared washrooms and showers, as showers can become urinals if the toilet is occupied – not to mention Athlete’s Foot and other fungi.

Wool socks
They keep you warmer than cotton and retain less moisture. Bring three pairs. When you really use them, they’ll get dirty much quicker than you can clean them. And, it’s always nice to have a clean dry pair handy, just in case.

Tennis shoes and sneakers are heavy and impractical for traveling. However, lightweight collapsible shoes exist for more ventilation or protection than hiking boots and flip-flops. If your accommodation appears to house a variety of creepy-crawlies, give your shoes and clothes a shake before putting them on.

Travel Clothing
  • 1 Gore-Tex® shell
  • 1 fleece sweater
  • 1 long-sleeved quick-dry shirt
  • 1 short-sleeved quick-dry shirt
  • 2 cotton T-shirts – can be used as pajamas and/or when everything else is being washed
  • 2 pairs of zip-off quick-dry pants
  • 1 pair sweatpants – for the same reason as the T-shirts
  • 1 pair long thermal underwear
  • 3 pairs underwear (and 2 bras)
  • 1 swimsuit / board-shorts / rash-guard
  • 1 rain shell – keep it handy during monsoon / hurricane season
  • 1 cotton sarong – dries much faster than a towel and is more versatile. It can also double as a bed sheet or pillow case.
  • 1 cotton bandana
  • 1 hat – a reasonable brim will help shade the sun and the rain.
  • 1 fleece hat
  • 1 pair fleece gloves
Bring the minimum amount of travel clothing

Typical Travel Threads

Whatever you decide to bring or buy, keep your clothes in a stuff-sack which can also double as a relatively comfortable pillow in a pinch. Also, don’t fold your clothes – rolling shirts and pants results in less-wrinkled clothing. Remember, you can always go with only the clothes on your back, and buy what you need along the way.


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