Or how to travel around the world for a year in style, minimalism and function.
After nearly a year of traveling around the world, I have become a self-proclaimed expert on what to wear for extended travel. Ok, not an expert, but I've learned a few things. Believe it or not, it is possible to travel without looking like A) a complete neon, techie tool in zip-off cargo pants, or B) a disgusting hippie vagabond in Thai fishing pants. You also don't need to carry much stuff. The following are the items that I have used every single day, in a wide breadth of scenarios. When choosing what to bring, I focused on this criteria:
- Durability - Items that could withstand a year's beating and still look relatively fresh.
- Fashion - Clothing that could be stylish in a Miami nightclub after a month long road trip through New Zealand.
- Function - Almost everything on this list is highly breathable, quick-drying, vented and/or odor-resistant. I was comfortable from 25°-95°.
- Weight - I needed to keep everything as light and compact as possible. This all passed both those tests. Carry less and wash more often.
- Color - Yes, you may look like a ninja, but everyone in NYC and Paris and Tokyo wears black. And black almost never shows wear.
I have loved this shirt. I've worn it to Michelin Star restaurants in Cannes, my brother's wedding reversal dinner in New Orleans and in 50 MPH winds on the Torres Del Paine trail in Patagonia. It's very durable, keeps its shape and is almost completely wrinkle-free. With the top button snapped, it's sharp. It looks great with a tie. It stays cool on hot days. Given the option between this and a dorky Ex-Officio shirt with a million vents and straps, I'd take this every time. Arc'Teryx is simply the best.
Let me start off by telling you how much I hate zip-off pants. They look like they should come with a Blackberry holster attached to them, and they are generally neither functional as shorts or pants. If you're worried you'll get hot on a hike, throw your shorts in your day bag and change off the trail. These pants by comparison look great and function better. They fit like tailored chinos, they stay cool, dry quickly and have a nice reflective selvedge edge. They stretch a little so they are great for hiking and biking. There's a perfect little pocket that keeps your iPhone and wallet snug and out of the way of pick-pockets. I've worn them to clubs, nice dinners and on long day hikes. Jeans weigh a ton and take forever to dry. You'll love these.
Hurley Boardwalk Shorts (2 Pairs)
Overall, these shorts have been great. I bought two pairs, one in black, one in the charcoal shown. The charcoal showed more wear, but I still use the black ones every day. They work equally well as swim shorts and walking shorts. They don't look like ridiculous Australian frat boy ankle length boardshorts. They dry quickly and stretch a good amount. There's no swim lining if you're into that sort of thing. The only thing I'd change is to have them tailored an inch shorter.
Icebreaker Tech T Lite (2 Shirts)
I REALLY wanted to like these shirts. But they just didn't cut it. First, the good: Nice slim fit, high quality look, dries quick, doesn't smell when dirty, stays warm. The black didn't ever show sweat (and I sweat a lot). The cut is fashionable enough to wear to nice places.
Now the not-so-good: The wool gets hotter than other lightweight materials in high heat. When wet, the merino smells like a wet dog. But the biggest problem is that they start to deteriorate after a few moths of wear. Icebreaker has excellent customer service and they worked hard to replace them for me in Amsterdam. But the replacements were dorky graphic tees and they have fallen apart just as quickly as the originals. At $75 a pop, they simply aren't worth the money.
Adidas Element Refine Tricot
These are some of the best shoes I've ever owned. I started they year with a pair of Nike Roshe Runs and they started to fall apart a week into the trip. I think these look better, they're lighter, breathe better and they clean up really easily. I like the minimal branding. I wore them on hikes over glaciers in Iceland, to music festivals, and out on the town. I was really bummed when they fell apart after about 600 miles of walking because I couldn't find them again in my size. Right now, I'm wearing the Adidas Pure Boost. While I like them, they're much harder to keep clean.
Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers (3 Pairs)
Like the Tech T Shirts, I had high hopes for these. And like the Tech T Shirts, they fell apart way too quickly. I read blog after blog saying they were the best travel underwear money could buy. I hand-washed them in cold water with mild soap and hung dried them every time. Even the pairs that Icebreaker replaced are in shreds. I'm thinking that merino just can't handle the number of washes required to get you around the world for a year. The one benefit )if you can call it that) is that with all the holes, they are quite breathable.
If you had to pry one item from my cold dead hands, this would be it. I wear it every day. I wear it on trains and planes and busses. It's my pillow at the beach. It's my blanket when the plane is freezing. I wouldn't call it stylish, but it's not bad with the Lululemon pants. I see a lot of people in lime green and sky blue ones and they look just as out of place on a mountain as they do in a city. Black is passable in more environments and doesn't draw excessive attention to itself as a crunchy neon outdoorsy banner.
I loved my hat. It was crushable, get wet-able, breathable, light and kept me cool. Then someone stole it from me at a festival. I'm definitely going to order another when I get back home. My Havianas have been great and an absolute must when showering in hostels. Havianas are a bit heavier than other flip flops, but they are super durable.
Nau Deft Jacket
It was on sale, packed down really small and looked better than a thin windbreaker. The cut is good fashion, but it's simply not waterproof enough. I've been incredibly luck this year, and I can probably count the number of rainy days on 2.5 hands. Its soaks through, takes a long time to dry and the fabric isn't breathable at all. In combination with the Patagonia Down Jacket, it does keep me incredibly warm. At less than $100 bucks, I'd say it was a fair deal, but you can find higher performing equipment that looks as good.
Icebreaker Base Layer
Maybe it's because I'm not wearing these nearly as much, but I've had good luck with my Icebreaker merino base layer. It keeps me incredibly warm in my sleeping bag on a cold night and the thermals fit snug under the Lululemon pants and Arc'Teryx shirt for really chilly hikes. I got both cheap at the Icebreaker garage sale and they've served me really well.
The hat has held up better than the gloves, but I really don't use either very often. That's not to say they haven't been needed. It dropped below freezing while camping in Iceland and Patagonia and these helped keep me warm. They are both super light and probably wouldn't handle a ton of moisture. I got both discounted at the Icebreaker garage sale.
*Note that I don't own these pictures. I'll be happy to take them down if you'd like me to.