The Best Travel Clothes for Layering

Laura Lopuch

Lean in close: I have a packing secret to share with you.

Packing light and still looking damned good is easier than you think. Regardless of your gender.

Even if you’re the person who packed an enormous suitcase and paid a whopping baggage fee for it on your last trip. You don’t have to do that on your future trips.

Switch to a carry on backpack and add a set of packing cubes and you’ve go the tools you need to pack like a pro.

It’s not necessary to sacrifice style, warmth, or comfort, either.

Okay, you ready for this secret?


So, What is Layering?

The short ‘n’ sweet definition: Packing clothes that play well together.

The real-world definition: Planning your clothes so you put on or take off layers depending on the weather.

In other words, you pack clothes strategically, yet your bag feels lighter and you’re prepared for any type of weather, or a trip that inlcudes multiple climates.

When you pack layers, you’re always wearing the right thing and feeling good. And, how do you achieve this perfection?

The Right Shirts for Layering

When you’re hunting for shirts that layer well, look for two factors: style and fabric.


These are some of the shirt styles that layer well:

  • Long-sleeve shirts
  • ¾ length sleeve shirts
  • T-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Boat-neck
  • V-neck sweaters
  • Henley sweaters
  • Collared shirts 

Other items to layer:

  • Cardigans
  • Tights or leggings under dresses or pants


Look for thinner shirts and layer them close to your body. This style of lighter shirt is called “vintage” or “vintage wash.” The fabric layers beautifully, so you won’t end up with weird bunches at your waist.

Or, go with jersey or a cotton blend with some stretch. These shirts feel comfortable, and aren’t high maintenance.

For the layers further away from your body — think cardigans or sweaters — opt for Merino wool. True, they’re a little bit more pricey, but it’s worth it.

This lightweight wool dries quickly if you get wet but keeps you very warm. It also is stink repellent, so you won’t have to wash as often on the road. On the coldest Colorado days, I grab my Merino wool v-neck sweater to ward off the chills.  

Putting Layers Together

Just eggs for breakfast is boring. You want eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee for a satisfying breakfast.

Same for layering. Don’t pack just t-shirts for your trip. Instead, pack a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, tank top, and henley for cooler nights at a warm destination.

If your destination is cooler, or it’s winter, shift more towards long sleeves and sweaters as you pack. Think of them like pancakes in your breakfast. The taller the stack, the better thy stick to your ribs and will make you feel good longer.

Favorite Brands to Layer


Gap shirts were made for layering. Start your shopping here for quality, comfortable shirts that’ll hold up to your travels and make you feel good.

Check out their vintage wash t-shirt (guys and gals) with shirts available in tall sizing. Be still my heart.


When you’re looking for shirts to layer at rock-bottom prices, you can’t beat Tar-jay. Shirts range from $5 to 20. 

Go with a graphic t-shirt with a cheeky saying, a plain white tee, or a classic henley. Get your layerin’ style on without spending the big bucks.  


My v-neck t-shirt ($15) gets softer and more comfortable with every washing. If I’m feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, I slip this shirt on and suddenly, I feel amazing.

Plus, it’s perfect for layering. The hem doesn’t bunch when you put a tighter sweater over top.


Guys, need good-looking, soft shirts for layering and coming up short on all the other stores?

Uniqlo has ya covered. Shirts — including the infamously pricier long-sleeve — run $15, at the most expensive. Oh wait, their extra-dry shirts designed for breathability and workouts, will set you back $20. So, a whole whopping five bucks more. That’s still less than two drinks at Starbucks.

Old Navy’s Tanks

Ladies, who among you loves to layer a long tank top under a t-shirt for extra coverage? Yeah, me too. Old Navy has me covered.

Their tanks are extra long and slim-fit, meaning you don’t get ugly bunching at your waist. (The very spot where you want to look smooth and slim.) On a non-sale day, a tank like this embroidered top, will run you $20.  


Their vintage cotton shirt ($32.50) is one of my favorite shirts to layer. Soft and comfortable, it makes you feel like a million bucks. Layer it with a tank top underneath, a long-sleeve shirt over top, and a sweater to top it off.


Check out this long, loose-style linen t-shirt ($18) for women; it’s perfect for layering. Slip a tank top underneath for added warmth on cool fall days. Pair it with a leather, or bomber jacket, or a cardigan sweater overtop for extra warmth.

Foundation Pieces for Layering

For cool destinations, I pack:

  • Merino wool v-neck sweater
  • Cardigan sweater (perfect for cool plane rides)
  • Scarf to ward off chilly breezes
  • 2 tank tops
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 1 ¾ length shirt
  • 2 long-sleeve shirts

For the really chilly days, I put on a tank top, then t-shirt, then ¾ length or long-sleeve shirt, with a Merino wool sweater over top.

For warm destinations, I pack:

  • 3 tank tops
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 ¾ length shirt
  • Cardigan (this is a “just in case” because I get cold often)


Look for layering shirts made of cotton, jersey, or Merino wool. “Vintage wash” is code for lightweight cotton — which makes for excellent layering.

When packing, plan your layers to include at least one shirt of each length so if you get cold (or hot), you can strip, or add, accordingly.

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