Choosing which clothing to pack and which to leave at home is the hardest part. Should you pack for every eventuality on your trip? Or, pack the bare minimum? For most people, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
One little secret: when it comes to your packing list, most trips are the same. Start with the basic template and adapt your packing list based on weather, destination, and activity.
- The clothes to pack for cold, wet, or hot weather
- What to bring if you’re visiting multiple climates in one trip
- Packing lists for every destination
Build a Travel Capsule Wardrobe
We recommend building a capsule wardrobe, of sorts, when you travel, especially since your carry on serves as a literal capsule in which to store your clothing. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing that looks great together, mixes and matches to create many unique outfits.
A well built capsule wardrobe will cover almost any social situation in any climate, or multiple climates on the same trip. Choose clothing that layers well. Invest in quality pieces are made of quality fabrics.
The keys to creating the perfect travel capsule wardrobe are to:
- Pack enough clothes for one week
- Pack in layers, not in bulk
- Wear the right fabrics
- Simplify your color palette by choosing a foundation color and an accent color
Read more about:
- Capsule wardrobe basics for men and for women
- How to build a capsule wardrobe of maternity clothes
- Adapting your capsule wardrobe for digital nomad travel
What to Wear
There’s no need to buy a whole new wardrobe to travel. In fact, often the specially made “travel clothes” kind of suck. Instead, pull your old standbys from your closet so that you’ll feel as comfortable traveling as you do at home.
When you’re considering what to buy, or what to pack for a particular trip, opt for quality pieces that will be an investment in the foundation of your wardrobe instead of disposable, “fast fashion” clothes that won’t hold up under the rigors of travel.
Opt for fabrics that last, feel great against your skin, and don’t need to be laundered often. We’re big fans of Merino wool for socks and base layers. Because little things matter and often affect the comfort of your trip, pay attention to the details, like underwear.
Carefully choose travel pants or skirts, and your base layer pieces for durability, flexibility, and value. A well chosen travel blazer takes your outfit up a notch for business or an evening out. And if you’re going somewhere less than warm, invest in the right jacket for your trip.
When considering what to pack and what to wear on the plane, wear the bulky items, and pack the lighter, smaller ones. This will free up room in your bag.
Here are some tips for packing challenging items:
Packing Clothes Better & Clothing Care While Traveling
Not only the clothes we choose to travel with matter, how we pack them does too. You shouldn’t pack your travel backpack or suitcase the same way you load your dresser drawers. Packing well is a skill that can be learned. All of us at Tortuga started out with packing problems, and over thousands of miles and dozens of trips we’ve gotten better at it, and we’re still learning, with every trip we take.
We’ve learned that rolling clothes reduces wrinkles and often takes up less space. Packing cubes help keep everything organized in your bag. This is especially valuable on a longer trip, where “bag chaos” threatens to overtake even careful packers after a few days!
Doing laundry while traveling isn’t as daunting as it seems. All you need is a hotel sink or shower. Of course choosing fabrics that dry quickly helps. If you haven’t hand washed before, start with this illustrated guide.
Getting it All Into a Carry On
Building a capsule wardrobe for one week, out of carefully chosen pieces that are the right fabrics, layer well, and are versatile, means that you’ll be free to travel with less. In our experience, traveling with only a carry on travel backpack is the best packing option for most people. You’ll experience greater freedom of movement, save time, and money by not checking a bag or struggling to drag a rolling suitcase.
How you pack a travel backpack matters. Heavy, breakable items, like your laptop, should be close to your back. Preferably in a designated sleeve where it won’t get crushed or fall out.
Follow these guidelines for packing your backpack:
- Heavy items, like shoes, should be centered, vertically, in your bag, close to your back
- Lighter items, like t-shirts, underwear and socks, should be tightly packed at the bottom, supporting the heavier item
- Medium weight items should be packed above the heavy item, near the top of the bag
Compare the options and features in travel backpacks here.
Setout Travel Backpack
The Setout travel backpack is the “just right” travel backpack for most travelers. A maximum sized carry on with simple organization, this bag will let you bring everything you need and maybe have a little space left over for souvenirs coming home.
The weight is distributed to your hips through a robust and padded waist strap. The shoulder straps tuck inside the bag to expand your carry options. With weather resistant treatment over heathered grey fabric, this bag looks understated and classy but won’t be bothered by a rain shower.
Outbreaker Travel Backpack
The Outbreaker travel backpack takes organization to the next level. This feature rich bag is made of waterproof sail cloth and contains so many pockets and hideaways that even the most obsessive organizer will find a place for everything.
Available in two sizes, allowing you to choose how much space you need, this bag is well suited to a range of body sizes, from petite women, to very tall men. The harness system is height adjustable, for the perfect fit.
If you want to elevate your packing, cubes are a simple way to do that. Our packing cubes are designed to fit the Outbreaker backpacks perfectly. Use the big one for outerwear, pants, skirts, and tops. Use the smaller ones for socks, underwear and base layers, or the “extras.”
I use the second small packing cube to contain my cords, bluetooth speaker, dry toiletries, and jewelry pouch. What you use if for is up to you. They’re flexible. The organization adds joy to the journey.
Mastered Basic Carry On Packing?
Looking for more help mastering the basics of packing, or switching to traveling with only a carry on bag? Here are All the Packing Tips You Need to Travel Like a Pro.
Already mastered packing clothes for a standard trip?If you’re ready to take your packing to the next level, here’s an intro to minimalist packing.
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