I’m going to review something a little atypical today for our site, but it’s incredibly important for travelers, just the same: clothing.
Actually, I’ve covered what to pack when you’re traveling abroad before, but this time I’ll cover what clothing you should bring and wear when you’re on vacation, visiting, or even living in a foreign land. I’m also going to gear this towards traveling in the tropics and warm weather climates, so your winter trip to Iceland (or your summer trip to Iceland) or Europe won’t be served by this.
However, if you’re heading down to Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, over to Morocco or sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, or many other places where the thermostat routinely nears 100 F (and the humidity is out of control), this review may offer some help.
I’ll also gear it towards the space-conscious backpacker or traveler, not vacationers filling up five designer-label suitcases for their 5-day stay.
I had a buddy who just retired from a career in the armed forces and hit the road to travel for a year around the world with nothing but an army duffel backpack. His simple wardrobe consisted of camo shorts and long pants and then a dozen plain black t-shirts. They never got dirty (or showed it), went with any outfit for any occasion, and could easily be replaced.
Dry wick shirts
It’s really hard to keep cotton dry in the tropics, whether from sweat, rain, ocean water, or just humidity. Dry wick shirts and shorts – like the athletic gear they commonly sell these days – dries very quickly, doesn’t stretch or sag, won’t be cold when it gets wet, and doesn’t get moldy or smell.
Drawstring pants and shorts
When you wear classic-style shorts or pants, you have to weave a belt through, which means that you also have to carry around a not-so-light belt, as well as take it off every time you go through airport security. Instead, looking for bottom-ware that has a drawstring, so it’s much easier to get in and out, lighter and more flowing, and more comfortable.
No linen, silk, or fabrics that need to be ironed
Ironed? What are you, staying at the Ritz Carlton? We’re talking about going on some epic and rugged adventures in nature, so there will be no time nor opportunity to take out a proper iron and start neatly pressing your shirts. We want clothing that you can fold up and stuff in your suitcase or backpack, and it’s still wearable.
Button down collared shirts
While many other fancier garments may be ill-suited for the heat, humidity, and lifestyle of the tropics, I find that simple button-downed short sleeve collared summer shirts area great. They’re lightweight, don’t take up much space, and the air really flows through them.
One baseball cap
A baseball cap comes in handy, as it blocks the sun, so you don’t get sunburn or heat stroke, can be useful on a rainy day, and is great for when you just jump out of bed and run to the airport too early. It also gives you a chance to rep your favorite team or hometown back in the states (or wherever).
What should you pack (and wear) on your next trip abroad to the tropics? Whether you’re hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru, surfing off the wild shores of Costa Rica, or backpacking through Thailand, this is a good list of what to throw in your bag – and throw on. Of course, check out the above list.
One pair of running shoes
You’ll only need one pair of actual “shoes-shoes,” so I suggest you make them a comfortable, supportive, and breathable pair of running or athletic sneakers. These should cover you even when you’re hiking or just walking around, but if you buy them in all black, you can probably sneak them into a nicer restaurant with a pair of jeans or khakis.
They’re called slippers, sandals, or even thongs depending on where you are in the world, but in the tropics, hot climates, and beach areas, most people just wear them 24-7. Bring ones that can dry easily, not fancy leather ones.
The only other kicks you’ll need are those super unfashionable and dorky aquatic shoes. However, they’re also lifesavers when hopping in and out of boats, climbing rocks, traversing caves, or island hopping. Get ones with a hard sole, not just the soft booties.
Don’t worry about fancy and expensive rain gear and windbreakers, etc. – just bring one of those huge lightweight ponchos that have a hood and covers your whole body, as well as a backpack underneath.
I know it’s tempting to buy those designer knock-offs or gas station sunglasses, but they’re doing some permanent damage to your eyes. Especially when you’re traveling near the Equator with crazy-strong sun that’s also reflected off the water, invest in a really good pair of protective sunnies.
You need shorts, and you need swim trunks. The best invention ever was those swim trunks that look like khakis or regular cotton material, as you can wear them anywhere, day or night, and not worry about drying or changing when you swim, or they get wet in the rain.
One Hawaiian shirt
Just because. It’s fun to have a shirt that gives you a cheezy tropics Fight Club one-man-party persona while you’re traveling.
On a side note: don’t wear a Fedora. Seriously. Just stop.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now: cotton kills , and undergarments are no exception. Especially when you’re traveling in the tropics in 100-degree heat, 90 percent humidity, on long bus and train rides. In fact, the serious medical condition of “Swamp Ass” affects nine out of every ten travelers. Need I say more? Luckily, they make awesome boxer briefs of breathable and quick-dry materials these days that are perfect for swimming, working out, sweating, or just walking around.
One pair of jeans
It’s good to have at least one pair of pants, or maybe two if you’ll be traveling a while. Bring a pair of comfy broken in jeans that you can wear to dinner, on the plane, or just walking around. Or, wear skinny jeans. I don’t care – it’s your fashion funeral.
In addition to jeans, bring along a pair of super loose and baggy beach pants, like the kind that are linen or a cotton blend that you can just throw on with a drawstring and roll up the pants legs if need be. These serve a double purpose, as they’ll be way more comfortable on long plane rides than restrictive jeans.
I’ve traveled since before I could walk or talk (supervised, of course), traversed through Europe by high school (unsupervised), backpacked around the world for a year, and lived abroad since 2011. And what is my daily garment of choice? Basketball jerseys.
They’re loose, comfy, easy to dry, breathable, you look athletic wearing them (even if I’m not), and you can rep your favorite team – a conversation piece as you travel.
Come to think of it, one of these days, I need to get a special AllWorld.com basketball jersey made.