If you are in the midst of planning a longterm trip, you are no doubt aware how quickly the costs can start to add up…when you get that total, the last thing you want to do is spend even more updating your travel wardobe…and yet, being comfortable in your clothes while you travel can be essential to having a great trip.
Some people are super low maintenance about this…grab some t-shirts, a pair of jeans, a few pair of athletic shorts and some underwear and they are good to go.
Others obsess over having each piece of clothing be multi-functional, quick-drying, breathable, waterproof modern miracles of travel clothing.
Still others place the emphasis on looking fabulous, no matter what they’re travel situation.
The one thing all these people have in common is that none of these travel ethos are right or wrong…it’s all about personal preference! Most likely you are some combination of the three (I know I am), but no matter where you fall on the travel clothing debate, the absolute first thing you should do before you shop for travel clothes in a store or online is shop your closet.
Obviously, if youdon’t care what goes on your body as long as it’s something, your closet is as far as you ever need go, However, even if you lean heavily towards one of the other travel packing methods, you can still build a base of travel clothes before you ever open that wallet. Here’s a list of items you probably already have in your closet.
- Basics —For warm climates, you’ll probably want at least one pair of shorts. Guys, a pair of khaki shorts are great because they can be dressed up a little, but are still casual enough that you won’t look ridiculous as you are hiking through that jungle. Girls, I lived in a pair of lightweight denim shorts in Central America, but linen or something linen-like that doesn’t wrinkle as much would be great. Leave the booty shorts at home if you’ll be spending a lot of time in very conservative countries. For colder weather, a pair of pants and some form of warm outerwear is essential. I love jeans and will be taking at least one pair, maybe two, on my trip. Just make sure they are lightweight if you are going to be hand washing/drying. Girls, leggings or yoga pants can be good for layering. For the outerwear, it’s really just up to you. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’m thinking about bring my leather jacket which is warm enough that I survived a freak spring snowstorm in Boston when I was visiting a few years ago. It helps if whatever you choose is going to be slim fitting enough to take up the least amount of room, but loose enough that you can layer under it if need be. For either, short-sleeved shirts and thin long-sleeved shirts are great for layering. Most girls and guys have plenty of these, so it shouldn’t be a problem to pick out a few from your drawers.
- Accessories — for girls, a scarf is near-essential. Every time I haven’t brought one on a long term trip, I ended up buying one. A scarf can do wonders when you haven’t showered in 4 days and your hair is a giant rat’s nest. It can make almost any outfit appropriate for visits to holy sites/buildings. Wear it as intended in chilly weather. Jazz up a bland outfit. Use it as a sarong on the beach. Use it as a tourniquet when that shark bites your leg off at the beach. Whatever, there are a TON of ways a scarf will come in handy. I favor light, thin, long scarves that are at least 2 feet wide as I feel these offer the best versatility. Guys, I’m sorry, I have no idea what the male equivalent of a scarf is. For guys and girls, an old baseball cap that you are ok with not coming back can really come in handy, especially if you’re going to be hiking a lot.
- Shoes — ok, I admit it, when I went to Central America for the first time by myself, I bought a new pair of shoes and almost bought another pair of boots. The hiking boots I ended up bringing were an old pair I’d had for at least 10 years and probably hadn’t worn in at least 5 years. The new pair of shoes were sports sandals. In theory, they were awesome. They had cut outs on the sides and heel but with a covered toe so you could easily walk through a stream and then hike up some rocks with no worries that you’d have soggy or banged up feet at the end of it. The tread was grippy enough, they were sleek looking enough that I could look presentable in them if I needed to be and they were relatively lightweight. I even did a test run with them before I left the states to make sure I’d be comfortable and they worked just fine. In theory, they were the Holy Grail of travel shoes. In theory. I hadn’t taken into consideration the fact that the extreme humidity would make my feet swell or the fact that after wearing them for several hours while sweating profusely, they would rub my feet raw or the fact that due to the heat and humidity, they would never really have a chance to dry and would start to smell. In truth, I wore my cheap $2 old navy flip-flops the most of anything, except for my last 5 days when I didn’t wear any shoes (long story — had multiple shoe disasters that left me with only my boots while I was in Belize).