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Travel Clothing: When & Where You Should Consider It

I hate to admit it but I was once a skeptic of travel clothing. I basically thought who in their right mind would spend $80 on pants. I didn’t care if they warded off malaria with their built in insect repellent, sheltered your legs from harmful rays with their UV protecting fabrics, resisted wrinkles, dirt, and overall wear and tear, dried quickly after sink washes, and also doubled as a pillow or backpack. I seriously wondered how anybody could believe that clothing could harness such super powers – they are just a pair of pants.

Then one day I had a freak out of sorts (one of those life changing/the best thing that ever happened to me kind of freak outs) and I dropped out of graduate school, bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica, and found myself in REI (all in the same day). I blew $80 on a pair of PrAna pants and thought heck if I was going to make all these changes I might as well go big. These pants not only dried wicked fast after a rainforest downpour, but also propelled me into a whole new existence.

Truth is I can’t stand spending money on clothes and I discovered that if I actually invest in some quality goods I don’t have to shop as much nor own as much. I can’t believe how much more comfortable traveling is with a few pieces of quality, lightweight, quick drying travel clothing.

If you’re idea of travel is a weekend trip to New York City or Paris you’re probably not going to need the latest in quick drying, ultra light clothing that can also double as a hammock or emergency sling. But if you’re on a month long trek through Southeast Asia and you’re carrying everything with you on your back you will definitely benefit from some travel clothing. Here are some instances where you should consider travel clothing:

When You’re Short On Space

ExOfficio said it best, “17 countries. Six weeks. One pair of underwear. Okay maybe two.” Travel clothing is great when you’re short on space. Exofficio underwear wicks moisture, resists odors, and dries quickly after sink laundering so you could really travel for months with only two pairs of these. Could your regular cotton undies hold up to this kind of adventure?

Look for socks made from bamboo like Goodhew’s Dragonfly footies. Bamboo has amazing moisture management and antimicrobial properties thanks to the bamboo. You can go days without washing these babies plus they dry fast after a wash in the sink or mountain stream. As for pants, get yourself a pair of convertible pants and you can leave shorts offer your packing list.

You can also pick up a few compression sacks – they won’t make your clothes magically lighter but they will pack your clothes down smaller so they take up less room in your pack.

When You’re a Freak About Wrinkles

Unless you want to pack your clothes in those nifty packing folders that minimize wrinkling and maximize space, you’re probably going to want to pack some wrinkle-free clothing. Cotton is a not so friendly travel fabric – it is heavy, wrinkles easy, holds moisture, and takes a long time to dry.

So to avoid looking like you just got dressed out of your carry-on bag, choose clothing that is blended with synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon. You don’t necessarily need specific wrinkle-free travel clothing; clothing by Patagonia, ExOfficio, and Columbia are good bets.

When You’re Looking For High Performance

Keeping dry is vital for keeping a cool body temperature in the summer and keeping warm in the winter. People in the hiking community say that cotton is a “killer” because it takes a long time to dry and can even freeze, causing hypothermia in the wearer.

I highly recommend some breathable, quick-drying travel clothing if you’re headed anywhere hot and humid. Technical clothing with super wicking powers, like Icebreaker or Patagonia Capilene, is pretty much a necessity for both comfort and safety during cold weather activity.

When You Want Incredible Versatility

If Rolf Potts can make it around the world without carrying a single piece of luggage and you can’t seem to fit everything you need in your carry-on, you probably need to reevaluate how much you’re packing. Potts accomplished this feat by wearing ScottEVest apparel, super lightweight and wrinkle-free travel clothing with plenty of pockets to hold all travel necessities.

I don’t really expect anyone to head out on a month long trip without any luggage, but there are some ways you can cut down on how much you pack by including items that can serve multiple purposes. I’ve previously raved about my beloved Patagonia Vitaliti Skirt; I hiked the entire Kalalau Trail in this skirt, gave it a quick sink wash and then dressed it up for a night out on the town. I don’t go anywhere without packing a skirt that is both great for hiking and sightseeing that also dries quickly, resists wrinkles, and is super cute and comfy(see more travel skirts).

LOKI products are the king of versatility. Their jackets have built-in face shields and mitts that can then be deployed when weather necessitates it. They also have a down jacket that can be folded up into a cozy down pillow. With 14 pockets in the ScottEVest’s Ultimate Cargo Pants and a whopping 18 pockets in the ScottEVest’s Tropical Jacket/Vest, you will have no need for one of those annoying money belts and you might even be able to get away with a smaller pack not to mention look less like a tourist.

Do you believe in travel clothing? When do you consider travel specific clothing?

[Photo courtesy of thephotographymuse]