Monday, September 16, 2013

What to Wear--10 Tips on Basics

So you are conforming to airline regulations & planning to pack light, but what in the world are you going to wear without looking like the proverbial Ugly American?

Tourist in Paris, Heat Wave 2013
Comfort is a key component in traveling, but there are definitely places & situations that courtesy requires some spiffing up.  We love our jeans, but they aren't appropriate everywhere.

Here are a few basic travel clothing tips:

1.  Unless your travels take you on an archaeological dig or off on a stint on a farm in the hinterlands (& they well might, 'cause I've done both), any jeans should be unfaded & in good repair.  Colored (e.g., white, black, lavender) or very dark or colored jeans, even though identical in cut to your everyday britches, make a dressier appearance. Women can wear them with heels & a nice top to make them acceptable many places, & men can even wear good jeans with the right jacket for a relatively dressy look.

2.  Given a choice between jeans & khaki, I prefer the latter for pants most of the time.  Khaki goes with almost any color, including that traveler's standby, black. You can dress up your khaki-based outfit, but if you are off for dusty activities, khaki also hides the grime better than any other color (which is why it is the color of choice for safaris, & why it will be in my suitcase for Mongolia next year).

3.  Appropriate headgear for your destination climate is important, to protect from sun or cold.  Choose white to reflect heat, or a dark color to retain it.  A brim can help shade your eyes from relentless sun, & if dips low in the back, will protect your neck, too.  Wool will keep you warm, even when wet.  Make sure your hat is packable so you don't have to risk leaving it in the overhead bin.

4.  Scarves, for both men & women, can perk up a light-traveling wardrobe, & are practical for hair covering when riding in the open air, if you need sun protection on your shoulders, or fashionable warmth when the sun dips low.  A large onecan become a cover-up sarong on the beach.  Scarves take up little room & give you an instant wardrobe change.

20-yr Old Shower Clogs with Gripper Soles
5.  Although men can sometimes get by with a single pair, women usually at least need two pairs of shoes.  One pair of shoes should be comfortable for extensive walking, with the other pair also comfortable, but suitable for dressier occasions.  Depending on climate & time of year, sandals with good may be the best choice for the second pair (caveat:  don't try to put a lot of miles on sandals, even those advertised especially for walking).  Everyone also needs a pair of good shower clogs with non-slip soles for the beach, hotel room use & safe showering.  Recent trips to Iceland & a planned expedition to Machu Pichu required hiking boots, so I searched for the very lightest available.  By watching for online off-season sale I was able snatch up an easily packable pair that weighs mere ounces for a truly bargain price.

 6.  A water-repellant jacket with hood that can be layered is a traveler's classic, but a lightweight, perhaps disposable, hooded poncho will take up less room in your daypack & may be more suitable for rainy season in the tropics.  If heavy rain is likely at your destination, a folding umbrella is a good idea, though make certain it is a sturdy one that won't blow inside-out in a stiff breeze.  Do remember that even in the tropics it can get quite cool in the highlands, which is why I pack a jacket & slacks for Costa Rica.

Layering was the key to comfort in Iceland in June 2013.
7.  It's a rare trip that I don't carry a simple black swimsuit.  Even in northern climes swimming or public bathing is a common activity, & a hot tub in Reykjavik is the perfect place to view the Northern Lights.  I like a lightweight cover-up for modestly getting to & from the water.  Depending on the itinerary I might pack a hand towel or old thin bath towel that I can either pass on or throw away before continuing on where I won't need it.

8.  Skirts are my frequent choice for travel because they are comfortable, & in hot climates they are cooler to wear even than shorts.  Tops that don't have to be tucked in make the entire outfit comfortable, plus they cover
your money belt.
A skirt was my cool choice for a cruise to Isla Tortuga.

9.  Synthetic fabrics travel well, but are hot in tropical climates, so sticking to natural fabrics is a good idea (especially for undies).  Breathability is the key to comfort.  A loose linen blouse or shirt is tops for comfort in heat & humidity.  A few on-the-go wrinkles are acceptable, & hanging clothes in the bathroom while you shower will smooth them out a bit.  A portable steamer works well, but I leave mine at home to save precious luggage space.

10.  Don't forget a belt that does not contain metal.  Look for one made of webbing with a plastic closure so you don't have to remove it during airport screenings.  Remember that even though those new or freshly laundered pants had a snug fit when you leave home, they are bound to stretch out as you go.  You'll be climbing, stretching & bending over more that you think, & droopy drawers are less than flattering.

If you take the right articles of clothing you won't have to carry too much.  What tried & true must-take clothing items do you pack?  Feel free to post your recommendations below.

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