If you close your eyes and try to imagine what a traveler or backpacker looks like, what do you see? Is it a young, pale man dressed head to toe in khaki colored outdoor wear (or geography teacher chic) or is it a sun-kissed, dreadlocked hippy chick in elephant pants and strappy vest? Both of the above? None of the above?
Anyway, for a long time I also had a pretty narrow definition of traveler dress sense and kind of put backpackers into either the badly dressed or the barely dressed category. But, it really doesn’t need to be this way! Backpacker chic and travel clothes can actually be stylish and practical.
Choosing the right clothes to take travelling can actually be pretty tough. You need to make sure you have the right clobber to wear for all occasions but at the same time you want to try and pack as lightly as possible. And of course, more often than that the “normal person” clothes you wear in your day to day life back home simply won’t cut it. To be fair, you would be forgiven for thinking that you need to bear a whole new wardrobe or (at least suitcase) of threads before you hit the road.
Right then, let’s have a look and see if we can find the perfect travel clothes for your next trip!
Choosing The Right Travel Clothes
Ok, so, what are the best travel clothes? Well before we give you our list we want to give you some rational first!
There are a few golden rules to finding travel clothes to take on any trip.
The first thing is to try and find items of travel clothing that are versatile and can be worn in a variety of situations. For me, the best traveling clothes are those that perform multiple tasks in one!
Examples of this include the humble vest – it can be worn to the beach in all its glory, it can be worn under a shirt on a night on the tiles, and it can be used as a base layer when things get a bit nippy. Other examples are dark coloured, zip-to-shorts trekking pants – you can wear them to trek, they can *almost* pass for smart, and you can zip them down to shorts and show off your calves. You get the concept right?
The next tip is to pay attention to materials and fabrics. You may be forced to wear your items more than you usually would and washing them may be a struggle. Therefore, look for fabrics that are quick drying so you can cheekily wash them in a hurry, and also look for anti-odour technology in case you end up having to wear the same socks for days on end. Anti-crease fabrics that don’t need to be ironed are also pretty useful too.
Look for light, compact items as much as possible. Jeans will only roll up so much but linen pants will squeeze into even a backpacks side pocket. If you need to pack a winter jacket, then consider investing in a specialist item such as Rab Goose Down. They pack in some serious warmth but pack down so that it will even fit inside a daypack – of course, such hi-tech gear does come with a hefty price tag.
All The Travel Clothes You Will Ever Need
Now let’s get down to specifics. Use this post for ideas, inspiration and also a checklist to help you pack for your trip.
It’s worth keeping travel clothes with sustainability in mind, too. You probably already own some of these clothes but others, you may not.
So, let’s get into the action! Well, sort of, before we get into the list of the best travel clothes, let’s have a look at some bags first.
Firstly, all of these lovely new travel clothes you’re about to buy are gonna need a bag to live inside right? Maybe you already have your luggage sorted but if you don’t, then we recommend checking out the Nomatic Travel Pack.
With the Nomatic, You get loads of space with its roomy 40L interior plus plenty of smart pockets and compartments that let you pack in so much more than you would expect. There are separate compartments for tech accessories, shoes, a water bottle, underwear and socks. Oh, it also comes with a hanging mesh laundry basket to keep your dirty travel clothes away from the rest of your contents.
The team really love these Nomatic bags and have found them to be super comfortable and offer a great amount of room for how compact they feel. The 40l of storage offered them a sweet spot between being able to fit in everything needed for a backpacking trip whilst still being small enough for carry-on travel. They also love the robust material as well as the levels or internal organisation.
If you want to know, you can read our Nomatic Travel Pack review or instead just check it out on the Nomatic site.
Whilst the Nomatic is the ideal luggage option, it is way too big to use as a daypack. The Osprey Daylite on the other hand, is perhaps the perfect daypack. At 18 liters, it’s the perfect size for trips to the beach, city tours or day hikes mixing decent storage capacity with lightness.
There are plenty of internal pockets and pouches designed to hold keys, phones or even cigarettes as well as a quick access side pocket for water bottles. At $65, it’s a bit of a bargain and comes with the Osprey All Mighty Guarantee.
Aesthetically, the daylite is also pretty easy on the eye and can be worn in both outdoor and urban settings.
For the team members wanting a versatile and comfortable bag for everyday use, the Daylite offered the perfect solution. They love that this bag is lightweight, looks cool and offers something that works well for city travel as well as hiking. They also felt it was a great size for packing in day to day essentials without getting too heavy and the panelling on the shoulders and back are great for warm weather conditions.
This one is primarily for the ladies (although no one’s judging anybody here) who want a decent travel purse. Made from lush leather, this beautiful, stylish day purse is another high quality bag from Kodiak who have become one of our favorite brands of late.
This purse is ideal to use as an airport bag and will fit your passport and travel documents perfectly. It’s also great to use as a dressed-up bag to take on nights out whether it’s a slap-up meal, cocktails or a full-blown beach party.
Of course, this is not really that useful as a daypack if you’re going hiking or if you have a lot of stuff to carry. However, the trick to successful travel packing is to pack plenty of practical items and a few luxury items for “best” use.
Many of our team love to keep their most valuable items close by, especially when transiting. Having an additional purse means things like passports, wallets and even hard drives and compact cameras can be kept on the body whilst on a night bus or plane ride. They also love that this doubles as a going out back ticking that all-important box of versatility!
When packing travel clothes, our tip is to bring vests, vests and more vests. Vests are such a wonderfully versatile item – you can wear them in all their glory (and show those guns off), “dress them up” by putting an open shirt over them or you simply use them as a base layer in case of cold nights. Oh, and they are ideal for sleeping in!
You can get vests pretty much anyway. Most high-street fashion chains offer vests for around $10 per pop or even x 2 for $12. Or, you can buy nice, pretty ones with art prints or psychedelic designs on them.
I usually make sure I bring at least one specialist outdoor vest made from breathable, quick-drying, odour-resistant fabric too.
What can I say, our team are a sexy bunch and they love to get those guns out! Who can blame them?
You already have t-shirts right? I don’t need to tell you why these are necessary or where to buy them. All I will say is avoid heavy fabrics and avoid t-shirts that are tight otherwise you will sweat your armpits off the very minute you step out of the plane.
One tip is to bring at least one sports-style t-shirt whether it’s a football (soccer) shirt or a trekking t-shirt. These are useful as they tend to be breathable and quick drying. This one from Patagonia is a great example of one of the best travel tops on the market.
Our team really loves these shirts because firstly, they weigh so much less than traditional cotton t-shirts meaning the save on weight. But they also find that they are much more versatile for backpacking trips as they work well for both time spent exploring a new city and hiking in sweaty conditions. The shirts are also good to use a baselayer with a thicker t-shirt for when extra warmth is required and it’s something our team does often.
I usually travel with 1 or 2 shirts, they are definitely good travel clothes for any type of trip. They are a great versatile item as they can be dressed up or dressed down – you can wear them to go for cocktails or to hit the beach. Ideally, try to choose shirts made from light materials and try to choose shirts that look good both buttoned up, and unbuttoned over a vest – this offers you some variety.
I usually make a point of wearing a shirt whenever I go to the airport or have any kind of encounter with authority; looking presentable just seems to make them look a bit more favourably on you.
Another tip is to pick up at least one technical, breathable, quick-drying shirt as these come in useful for jungle treks.
As we’ve mentioned above, our team are all about versatility and they just love the many varied uses shirts have. They often tend to prefer long sleeve tops for hiking through jungles and other bug-infested environments and when combined with a technical t-shirt above it gives them a mega adaptable clothing set up.
Choosing the right legwear to pack for travels can be quite tough. In my normal life, I usually live in jeans and yet they are often just not suitable to take on my travels. Firstly, denim jeans tend to feel a bit sweaty once the temperature passes 20 degrees (Celsius) and then of course, if you wear jeans to go on a hike they can seriously chafe.
This is where tactical, trekking pants come in. They are made from breathable fabrics, tend to be a bit looser in the fit and are therefore perfect for wearing in weather climes. The downside is that they can look a bit nerdy and you may end up feeling out of place in cosmopolitan cities. The trick is to shop around until you find a pair that mixes practicality with a style you are happy with.
Bonus points if you can find a pair that zip off into shorts – it’s like a 2 for 1! There are loads of different brands out there making travel and trekking pants but to get you started, check these out from REI.
Zip-offs might not be the sexiest piece of gear, but our team swear by them. Again, versatility is the name of the game and when hiking in jungles full of god knows what, ya’ll want to protect your legs! Then again, at the end of said hike when you end up on the beach and want to soak your beaten feet, zip those bad boys off and enjoy. Boom! Whose sexy now!?
For some strange reason I used to be embarrassed to wear shorts which is weird as my hairy legs are a thing of beauty. Anyway, I am over that hang up now and tend to wear shorts most days when I go traveling.
I recommend bringing several pairs of shorts with you. If you have space in your luggage, then go for a pair of “beach”/Bermuda shorts, some more stylish denim/chino shorts as well as a pair of tactical/military cargo shorts with loads of pockets – these are great for trekking, cycling and general adventuring.
If you need some advice on choosing the perfect cargo-style shorts, then start with these from REI. They are water resistant, quick drying and have plenty of pockets making them ideal for backpacking and traveling.
Our team love a good pair of shorts it has to be said. Most of us spend a lot of time in hot weather climates so they’re our day-to-day wear. Our team in particular love these cargo shorts because not only are they below the knee (great for temples etc) but they offer increased functionality when it comes to carrying accessories without the need for a bag.
Perhaps the quintessential backpacker item, you can’t NOT own a pair of harem pants if you are serious about backpacking! These are great to wear on those hot, tropical nights, for lounging around your hostel and yes, for Yoga class.
Yes, they are cool travel clothes. However, my advice is NOT to wear them to the airport, when getting visa extensions or for any other encounter with authority – on these occasions, always make some effort to dress a bit smarter.
You can generally find harem pants everywhere in Thailand, India or Ibiza. Or you can check out this rather delectable pair from One Tribe at Amazon.
Fun fact, every single member of our team who has visited Thailand has been spotted walking down Khao San Road in a pair of these bad boys … even if they deny it!
Looking for a way to keep your pants up and keep your money safe?! Well let me introduce to you the money belt!
Money belts are a traveler’s best friend. They are quite simply belts with a hidden pouch where you can discreetly stash bank notes. Travellers are sometimes the targets of both pickpockets and violent muggers and many a wallet has been lost to the ne’er do wells of backpackistan.
Our team never leaves the house without one of these strapped around their waist! They have really gotten them out of some sticky situations in the past when having a hidden, or most commonly, forgotten about until the point of desperation, 100-dollar bill is a life saver!
Protect your cash by investing in this epic money belt.
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No matter where in the world you are going, you will need some kind of jacket. Even if you are headed out to the tropics, it can still get cool at night and seriously frigid if you climb any mountains. At the very least, it will be useful to have a jacket with you when you arrive back home in Seattle/London/Paris on a cold morning.
The kind of jacket you need will depend on where you are going and when. This Down Jacket by Rab is excellent for fending off cold temperatures. Goose down is like magic and will keep you body warm and cosy even in near freezing temperatures. As such, this jacket is ideal for traveling in spring, autumn or if you are headed to the mountains.
It also packs down to a fraction of its size meaning it will sit quietly in your luggage and hardly take up any room at all.
It does have a hood and offers some water resistance in case of rain. However, if you need a proper, full on rain jacket, check out our next suggestion.
Our team always carry a lightweight and compact down jacket on any backpacking trip, even to Southeast Asia! They swear by this Rab jacket as it seems to hit the sweet spot between offering a good level of warmth, especially when layered, whilst being super packable.
When it rains in the tropics, it really rains. Whether you are traveling around India in monsoon, or simply get unlucky in Ecuador, it usually pays to have a proper, waterproof jacket with you when you hit the road.
We have tried a fuck ton of water proof jackets over the years and this is by far the best one we have tried. The Arc’teryx Beta weighs just 300 g / 10.6 oz, making it one of the lightest pieces of performance clothing in your backpack – it packs down to the size of a large grapefruit and definitely weighs less than one. It’s fully waterproof and will withstand a hell of a beating from the rain gods whilst you stay dry.
Arc’teryx gear is also some of the most stylish gear in the outdoor space. It is also, amongst the most expensive gear in the outdoor space too.
Again, the team never leaves the house without a good waterproof jacket and no matter where their trips take them. They’ve tried a bunch of different jackets out over the years but feel the quality of the Arc’teryx Beta combined with its unbeatable weight makes it a winner for backpacking.
Choosing the right footwear to pack for your travels is not always straightforward. Shoes are kind of a bulky item in your luggage so you want to bring as few pairs as possible but you also need footwear for a whole number of situations. Whilst many backpackers tend to spend a lot of time wearing flip-flops (thongs) these are most definitely not appropriate for all occasions.
Converse All Stars, are a bit of a multi-tool kind of footwear. You can wear them for a night on the town and you can do moderate difficulty treks with them. Because they are made from light canvas material, they are breathable enough to wear even in tropical climes so your feet won’t get too sweaty.
Whether you go for the hi-tops or the regular pump style is a matter of preference – both are good.
Our team love Converse in particular because the canvas upper of the shoe is easily folded over so it takes up hardly any room in their bags. They also like that converse can be worn for everyday travelling but can also look decent enough for a night out too.
If you intend on doing some proper trekking or heading to the mountains, then you need to think about bringing some proper technical footwear. Walking boots are (literally) made for walking but they are not always ideal for backpacking as they are big and chunky and can eat up precious room in your luggage.
Fortunately, these Saloman X walking and hiking shoes offer much of the support and protection of walking boots but are a bit smaller and lighter meaning they will snuggle nicely in your backpack.
For the team they always try to travel with a good pair of walking shoes (not boots) on their trips. This means that they are always prepared should they want to go on a hike. They love the Saloman X in particular as they are light and comfortable to wear walking around a city day to day too and don’t make their backpacks too heavy.
Sandals or OluKai ‘Ohana Flip-Flops
Sandals and flip flops are the preferred travel footwear of many backpackers. They are cheap, airy and easy to kick off when you hit the beach making them the obvious choice for many. They also slot into backpacks very easily taking up hardly any space whatsoever.
However, thongs are not suitable for all occasions. Remember that they offer no protection for your feet and many travelers have stubbed or broken their toes on uneven pavements whilst wearing them. Also, if you wear thongs to ride a motorbike or scooter, please be extra careful where you put your feet.
If you’re wanting a good mix between lightweight and durable, we would suggest you check out Vivobarefoot’s line of boots and shoes. They do a great job of freeing up your feet and being relatively breathable, so if you’re not too keen on sandals, they might be a good option for you.
My advice is to bring a good pair of shoes or sneakers and wear flip-flops only for the beach. You can find flip flops pretty much everywhere but if you want a good pair that won’t fall to pieces after a week, then check out this pair by Olu’kai.
Standard flip flops might be the backpacker sandal of choice, but our team prefer the extra support these offer with their cross-over strapping and adjustable back. It means that if they’re out and about and the terrain does turn a little more challenging, then they can simply summon their inner mountain goat and crack on!
At some point your travel clothes will get smelly and dirty. When this happens, try to avoid storing them with your clean clothes as the odours will spread. The solution is simple enough, pack a travel laundry bag – you throw your dirty stuff in it and when it’s full, you take it to the laundry.
You may even want to consider buying a travel wash bag – a water tight, rubber laundry bag which you use to actually wash your clothes inside simply by adding detergent and shaking it about. Obviously the standard of washing you get isn’t the same as what you get from a machine, but it is quick, cheap and very ecological.
Over the years we have sampled many laundry bags and wash bags and this one by Scrubba has become our favourite.
It might seem like a simple enough thing, but you’d be surprised how many laundry bags our team have been through before settling on this one! Others on the market rip easily, get stinky themselves or leak their stank right through their porous material! This bag on the other hand not only solves those issues but offers a great place to actually wash your undies too!
Never leave home without underwear. Socks and underpants are the foundations upon which all empires are built and I suggest bringing at least one full week’s supply of underwear with you.
When you’re traveling, underwear tends to get seriously sweaty and you may even sometimes be forced to live in it for days on end. To countenance the sheer griminess, bag yourself some breathable, odour-resistant underwear.
Now we’re talking! The team are big fans of these keks and they wouldn’t go anywhere without them! So, next time you look at a picture of one of us… well, use your imagination! Once they switched from plain old cotton to these technical undies, they’ve never looked back!
So yes Sunglasses can be picked up for a couple of dollars on pretty much every roadside in Southeast Asia. However, these are almost always low-quality items that offer no protection from the sun, can actually cause eyesight problems and more often than not will break within a week or so.
The team felt these glasses hit the right balance between being stylish, protective and not overly expensive too. They are also super durable too which for our clumsy gang is a real bonus!
Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.
So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉Buy on REI!
How We Tested The Best Travel Clothes
There is no perfect or exact science when it comes to testing out travel and outdoor gear. When it comes to the best travel clothes, however, we’ve got heaps of experience over the years with various different bits of gear on various trips.
Of course, the best clothing for travel is a subjective matter, but we’ve tried a lot of shiz out, so we think we’re well equipt to give you a few pointers! In terms of testing, we were sure to give each item a proper test drive and pay close attention to things like seam stitching, quality of materials, breathability, weight, packability, comfort, fit and of course style!
We also looked at how well each piece of gear fulfils its primary purpose. For example, so if we’re testing out a waterproof jacket, then we’re going to be rating it on how well it keeps out the rain! You get the idea! Finally, we looked at the cost of each item. More expensive gear was treated more harshly than cheaper items that were given a few more passes.
FAQ about the Best Travel Clothes
Still have some questions about the best clothing for travel? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:
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Final Thoughts on Travel Clothes
Well that’s all for now. We hope that by now you have some idea of what travel clothes to take on your next trip. Did you find this guide useful? Did we perhaps miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.
See you on the road… hopefully sporting some great travel clothes!
Want a more specific guide? Have a look at our dedicated backpacking packing list next!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!