Does Travel Clothing Suck? A Nomad’s Guide

Does travel clothing suck? Well, that depends a lot on who you ask.

Many a traveler has hit the road with bags packed to the brim – only to find out they packed way too much stuff.

So, they decide to switch things up and buy a bunch of traveling clothing next trip. Instead of traveling with a pair of nice shoes and a couple button downs, they only have merino wool t-shirts, hiking pants, and trekking boots.

After getting face controlled at one too many night clubs, they conclude that travel clothing sucks and only dirty bums wear it.

These intrepid travelers then flip back to overpacking and eventually, stop traveling altogether – because it’s just so inconvenient. Or whatever.

My Take On Travel Clothes

Now, I get the criticisms of travel clothes. The garments certainly aren’t perfect, but things have changed a lot in the last couple years.

Back in the day, brands like Icebreaker and Smart Wool were generally the only decent travel clothing options. And you were almost guaranteed to look like a goofy gringo if you rolled into a bar or nightclub rocking their outfits.

Sure, they worked great for a hike and only had to be washed once every week or so, but they were far from stylish.

Things have changed as of late.

There’s dozens of brands producing travel clothing with merino wool, synthetic fibers, and more. These brands focus on creating travel clothing that’s not only useful, but in many cases – stylish, too.

You could rock some travel pants and a button down from Outlier to nice clubs in NYC, Mexico City, or Bogota, Colombia and look damn good.

Hell, you could wear the same shirt and pants out three nights in a row on one bender of a weekend and still look solid. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Merino wool t-shirts and henleys are absolutely ideal for day-to-day wear, too. Even travel underwear and socks can save you considerable space in your luggage.

Instead of packing 8-12 pair of socks for a couple month jaunt, you only need 2-4 pair of merino wool socks. The same goes for travel underwear.

Tl:DR – Travel clothing doesn’t have to suck these days. There’s up and coming brands producing stylish, useful travel clothes designed to offer impressive functionality and look damn good. 

Why People Say Travel Clothing Sucks

The criticisms of travel clothing are still valid. To many, travel clothes suck. And honestly, I get that. You see pictures of scrubby looking gringos rolling around in horrific outfits like this all the time:

Swag Team Six.

Does it have to be this way? No! But that’s the misconception many have of travel clothing. Many claim that…

  • Travel Clothing is Ugly

There’s definitely some truth to this. Certain brands simply haven’t found a way to produce good looking clothing that’s ideal for travel. Just look what blogger Laura Lopuch had to say about this issue (Source):

Yet that’s exactly what you end up doing when you dress in travel clothing. You’ll walk down a German cobblestone street and be mistaken for an Ikea bedspread. Or a senior citizen tour bus will drive past you, then screech to a halt, the driver thinking you’re a lost old lady, only to find you’re a healthy 30 year-old stomping around town in a dress that looks like your grandmother’s curtains.

  • Travel Clothing is Expensive

There’s no doubt about that. Travel clothing tends to be pricier than regular clothes. In fact, you can expect to pay 2-3X more for clothing designed for travelers. Just look at these prices:

Not cheap.

$110 USD for a damn t-shirt…Brooooo! That’s pricey. However, there’s a flip side to this. These shirts are designed so you only need 2-3 of them to complete your wardrobe.

Instead of buying 8-10 shirts, you only need a couple. Essentially, you pay extra for quality products that last a long time.

  • Travel Clothing is Itchy and Uncomfortable

Many claim that merino wool clothing is itchy. Others claim that travel clothing just isn’t tailored to fit well and tends to be uncomfortable. Again, there’s some truth to that.

Just look what at what this guy had to say (Source):

I decided to try a few merino shirts, including icebreaker, and guess what? They still itch. Maybe a bit less than other wool shirts, but the itch is still there.

Does Travel Clothing Suck? A Nomad’s Guide

No, travel clothing doesn’t suck. In fact, it can be pretty damn awesome for those of us looking to travel light and look tight.

Merino wool doesn’t have to be itchy. Travel clothing doesn’t have to break the bank. You can look damn good in it, too.

P.S: Sorry, ladies. I can’t comment much on women’s travel clothing, as I haven’t worn any. 

Here’s how to make traveling clothing work for you:

~ Travel Socks That Don’t Suck

One of the easiest ways to pack lighter without losing any functionality or style? Travel socks made of merino wool.

As I eluded to early, I used to travel with almost a dozen pairs of socks. I had gym socks, basketball socks, walking around socks, and going out socks.

Now, I travel with three pair of socks. One for the gym, one for going out, and one to walk around in. They’re all merino wool socks and only need to be washed once a week.

I prefer this brand of merino wool travel socks. 

~ Travel Shirts That Don’t Suck

I’m still working on finding the perfect travel button down. While there’s a few options out there, none of them I’ve tried have been absolutely ideal. Yet…

Travel t-shirts? I’ve found one I love and bring three with me on every single trip. I wrote about the Woolly Clothing Short Sleeve Merino Wool Henley here.

It’s a stylish shirt and my favorite piece of travel clothing. I wear one of these bad boys nearly everyday. They never smell and only need to be washed once a week.

~ Travel Underwear That Doesn’t Suck

Adding travel underwear to my wardrobe was one update I made in 2022. I was nervous about updating my underwear, but I eventually pulled the trigged and bought three pair.

And I’m thrilled I did! I absolutely love them. Instead of having 8+ pairs of underwear in my luggage, I have three pair of merino wool underwear. Outside of socks, this may be the easiest way to save tons of space in your luggage.

Again, I bought my boxers from Woolly Clothing and I’ve been thrilled with the quality of the product. Highly recommended.

~ Travel Pants That Don’t Suck

It’s pretty hard to find a pair of travel pants that not only looks good enough to hit the club in, but also are better than a pair of jeans. You only have to wash jeans after 3-4 big nights out.

So, why spend big bucks on a pair of travel pants?

Well, I used to think the same way. Then I tried on a pair of Outlier Slim Dungarees and my whole way of thinking changed. These pants look great, last forever, never smell, and only need to be cleaned after a week of daily wear.

I get compliments on my Outlier pants all the time and I wear them at least 4-5 days each week. They still look new!

Honestly, if you’re going to spend some money on your travel wardrobe and looking stylish is important to you, buy a pair of Outlier Slim Dungarees. Trust me!

Verdict: Travel Clothing Has Evolved!

This isn’t travel clothing of the old. Nowadays, you have options when looking to pack light and look tight.

Does travel clothing suck? Not at all. You just have to know which brands to buy from and where to look. There’s stylish items like Outlier travel pants and Woolly Clothing t-shirts that are sure to have you looking good.

With a little effort, you can throw together a great wardrobe that’ll all fit into one carry-on bag.

P.S: The best place to store all your new travel clothes? This carry-on backpack by Tortuga!
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Jake Nomada

Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.

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