July 26, 2012

My Minimalist Travel Wardrobe

I love to travel. Over the years, I've visited fantastic places like Japan and Fiji, Turkey and Easter Island, the Czech Republic and the Galapagos Islands and have loved every minute of it. After my first few trips, I quickly realized that packing super light is the only way to travel.

I can't travel without a good raincoat. This basic black coat is from Patagonia and has saved me in several downpours.

When discussing travel wardrobes with other world travelers, I've come to the conclusion that too many people are concerned with what others are going to think about them based on their clothes. I don't think I've ever thought differently about a fellow traveler with fascinating travel stories by what shirt he or she is wearing. I've chosen these clothing items to join me on my trips because of their versatility, various pockets, and ability to dry quickly and keep their shape while I hike, bike, run for trains or swim in tropical waters.

From my typical travel wardrobe, you'll notice that most of my items are black or gray. These basic items are in dark colors that hide dirt and can fit into nearly any situation (except maybe a black-tie ball). I intersperse my wardrobe with a few colors and a bright scarf to liven it up. I only bring two pairs of shoes: a good walking/hiking pair and some flip flops. If I know I'm going to a wedding, fancy party or to a more cosmopolitan area (e.g. New York City, Los Angeles) I may throw in some nice jeans, flats or a dress. However, these are my typical items that I bring on every trip, and to make it even easier, I keep them all in one area of closet so I can grab-and-go.

I bring several long sleeve shirts that I can use for daily wear, sleeping or for layering. Wearing all three of these shirts together keeps me warmer than one bulky sweater. The top shirt is one of my favorites: it's a Patagonia wicking top with a big pocket on the back. I've used that pocket for my wallet and money, to store additional clothing and for holding my lunch for the day. The second black top is another wool Patagonia layering piece with a zip neck and the third shirt is a Scottevest Women's Q-Zip in Violet.

I've really fallen in love with the Scottevest brand. Their well-made and versatile clothes are full of pockets, which is a necessity for light packers. I purchased the Women's Lightweight Vest for its 20 pockets (including one huge back pocket) and have taken it on every trip since.

I always take a scarf or Buff to wear around my neck on planes or in cold weather, as a blanket on the beach or protection from the sun. I purchased this scarf at a shop in midtown Manhattan for about $3 and I love how soft it is.

I always bring some sort of leggings, yoga pants or workout pants with me. They usually do triple or quadruple duty as loungewear, workout wear, pajamas or a layering piece to put under my pants or shorts.

Finding good travel pants seems to be a struggle for women travelers. While my Merrel Lanaia pants/skirt combo are looking a little wrinkled in the above photos, they are actually excellent travel pants. They are seven clothing items in one: zip-off pants, shorts (which are not dumb-looking like most zipped-off shorts), capris, a skort (the shorts and skirt together), a skirt, a skirt/pant combo or a skirt/capri combo. These were the only pants I took on a trip to Chile and Easter Island and they traveled/washed and dried like a charm.

Whether I'm going to a warm or cold climate, I always have one or two t-shirts and a few tank tops to use for hot weather, layering and for sleeping.

If I'm heading to the tropics, I will throw in a bikini and a rash guard. The flip flops are always in my bag for hot weather, lounging around a hostel and walking to and from an outdoor onsen in Tokyo.

I really only bring about 3-4 pairs of underwear and two bras or sports bras. They are always in rotation — one pair on, one pair drying after being washed and one pair waiting to be worn.

My tried and true Ryka shoes have hiked mountains, walked cobblestone streets, and have been soaked in downpours. They are starting to show their age and I will have to replace them soon, but these types of nondescript shoes are perfect for the traveler who packs light.