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Minimalist Travel Clothing Packing List: 6 Cities, 25 Days, 2 Outfits

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Even though I’m already a light packer, the capsule wardrobe trend recently inspired to pack even less (clothing). Usually, I’ll travel with about four outfits that I can mix and match with each other but this past winter, I cut that in half. In essence, I wanted to create a minimalist travel clothing capsule that I could tweak slightly depending on the destination (add in a swimsuit, take out a sweater, for beach vacations — vice versa for cold climate trips).

Minimalist Travel Clothing Challenge

I traveled to 6 cities for 25 days with only 2 outfits.

For 25 days this past winter, I put this test to the test and traveled to 6 different cities throughout the U.S. — Seattle, New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Portland (Maine), and L.A. — with only 2 outfits. That’s a total of:

  • 9 articles of clothing (not including undergarments)
  • 6 accessories
  • 2 pairs of shoes

Best yet, I built it from my existing wardrobe and it took up about half a duffle bag. At the end of my travels, I never felt like I’d been unprepared for weather or the types of activities I wanted to do. Below is what my minimalist travel clothing capsule looked like, and how it functioned in action:

The Pants

For pants, I brought one pair of basic, black yoga pants (Lululemon, $98) and one pair of black jeans (my jeans are by Just Black, pictured below are BDG jeans, $58). This way, I could easily have an outfit for outdoor adventures and workouts, everyday wear, and nicer dinners.

travel pants

The Sweaters

To keep warm, I included two sweaters. One black sweater (Oak + Fort, $38) and one light grey sweater (Ann Taylor Loft, no longer available). The black on black look with a necklace was typically my go-to for nicer dinners, and the chunky grey was just as good for yoga classes as is it was for hanging out.

Travel sweaters

The Tops

Packing light is all about layers. For warmer days and workouts, I had a basic black tank for workouts, Azalea $39). For everyday wear, I had one white t-shirt (Gap, $25), and a printed t-shirt (Anthropologie, no longer available) that was quirky enough to get me out of a black-and-white style rut. Typically, tops are where I’ll throw in something less basic — since it’s a lot less to pack an extra top than an extra dress, pants, or shoes.

t-shirts

The Outer Layers

Packing for winter almost always means having more stuff — after all, a sundress is much smaller than a sweater. To stay warm, I had a thin pair of leggings (Uniqlo, $4), a black beanie (similar hat shown below, H&M, $30), a scarf (similar scarf shown below, Zara, $30), a down jacket (Columbia, $110), and a pair of gloves (Smartwool, $25). Mostly, the cold-weather add-ons didn’t make my bag bigger since I wore most of them as I moved between cities.

When I went to L.A., I left the under armor and gloves at home but otherwise kept everything the same.

hat-scarf-gloves

coat and leggings

The Accessories

With only a few articles of clothing, accessories are an easy and lightweight way to give outfits a new life or dress up a plain look. For these trips, I traveled with a tiny pouch that had a necklace (similar necklace shown below, Of a Kind, $48), sunglasses (similar sunglasses below, Asos, $22), and a pair of earrings (Bird of Virtue, $20).

sunglasses-earrings-necklace

The Underwear

I traveled with 5 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of socks, and 2 bras (one normal, one sports). Sorry, y’all, I won’t be including photos of those (#awkward).

The Shoes

For 23 of the 25 days, I traveled with just one pair of shoes, a pair of low, black booties (similar boots shown below, Toms, $75). However, I had a pair of black sneakers (Nike, $80) for the weekend in Seattle — how could I not go for a hike in those mountains?

shoes

TL;DR

Traveling with two outfits for almost a month might seem crazy. Then again, there are fashionistas who live their lives with less than 30 articles of clothing. If you’re feeling inspired by the capsule wardrobe trend and want to create a minimalist travel clothing wardrobe for yourself, just remember:

  • Choose clothing you already love and wear a lot
  • Stick to neutral colors but don’t be afraid to add a dash of boldness
  • Opt for items that pack down small over those that don’t
  • Learn how to do laundry while traveling
  • Pack in something small and light, like the Outbreaker duffle

Of course, your minimalist travel clothing capsule will be unique to your style (as it should). Just have fun and don’t be afraid to travel with less!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ja May 1, 2017 at 6:40 am

One of my favorite super-versatile travel looks is also one of my regular twice (or more) a week looks at home–a dark colored (black or grey or dark denim) pencil or A-line skirt. In warmer weather I wear it with sandals. Cooler weather, black or bright colored nylon tights. Colder weather, wool tights. Freezing blasts of snow and cold—leave the skirt in the bag and switch to the wool leggings or pants I brought for that reason.

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Jessie Beck May 1, 2017 at 9:16 pm

Yes! Skirts are great for mixing it up — I love how you can swap out a pair of tights and instantly transform a look or adapt it for different weather. I actually had a friend in San Diego who would wear a dress but pack a pair of tights in her purse to switch from the hot days to cool nights easily.

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Betty May 1, 2017 at 7:13 am

Recently traveled to area that was HOT and very humid (things did not dry quickly). It’s always presents a problem for me. By mid-day clothing is really sweaty (sometimes just airing it out helps, but….) So for 26 days in this type of climate when things don’t dry overnight what do you suggest? Doing some hiking, some cities, kayaking, temples.

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Jessie Beck May 1, 2017 at 9:26 pm

True — that is tricky. I’ve always found that packing light for cold weather was harder (because I always want to wear a ton of clothing to stay warm) but for a trip like that I’d probably do 1 simple dress, 2 pairs shorts/leggings (I do 1 pair shorts, 1 pair leggings… but the shorts do get kinda gross since I wear them more), a light jacket/sweater, and 4 or so tops. You’re still packing about as many articles of clothing as I did in my example (and in less space) but swapping sweaters for tanks.

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Hannah May 1, 2017 at 7:38 am

Great article.
We’ve been travelling for 7 months and are about to head to Autumn/Winter in New Zealand, our first taste of the cold, so your winter additions will help us plan our op/charity/factory shop purchases on arrival.
We have 25kg of checked in bags in two small backpacks because I travel with an 11 year old, two laptops, an iPad, a kindle, a medium sized first aid kit and, most recently, two full sized pillows.
We have both developed a capsule wardrobe with three pairs of pants/shorts and mix and match tips because it is helpful to have one clean pair of trousers when one is on and the other is in the laundry. We have also avoided white because we’ve had washes where colours have run.

Top tip: South East Asian countries are generous with their bleach and full sun drying so we now always turn our clothes inside out before sending to the laundry.

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Jessie Beck May 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Well done on your packing list! And totally agree that white normally doesn’t last that well — I usually throw it in because otherwise I’ll end up wearing all black (which I’m not totally against…)

I also found something similar in Madagascar/East Africa as you did in SE Asia. For whatever reason, the strong sun there just faded colors more quickly. I’d probably suggest bringing clothes you don’t mind getting roughed up a bit in those areas.

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