Travel clothing isn’t what it used to be (thank god). Gone are the cargo pockets, reflective trail gear, synthetic “wicking” shirts, and zip off convertible shorts/pants. Travelers don’t want to look like a poor man’s Indiana Jones anymore. And brands have noticed.
Today’s travelers are digital nomads that spend just as much time in the wild as they do at a coffee shop looking for wifi. That shift requires a different travel wardrobe. Great travel gear isn’t about crazy features. People just want comfortable, affordable, durable travel gear that can handle a day hike, but also looks good at happy hour. And that shift away from the mountains to the cafe has had a big impact on the current travel clothing trends.
Today’s travel gear is smarter, more eco-friendly, versatile, and comfortable than ever. But how do you choose between the thousands of travel brands on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo? Which trendy travel gear actually lives up to the hype?
Here’s a look at 5 recent travel fashion trends to help you choose the travel clothing that fits your travel style.
The Best Travel Clothing Fashion Trends: 2018
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are full of “micro” fashion brands hocking the latest breakthrough in travel gear. But the best brands all have four things in common:
- Versatility — Clothes that work on the trail and in the city
- Affordability — Great gear doesn’t have to break the bank
- Style — You’ve got to look Instagram ready, right?
- Innovation — Every game-changer has at least one groundbreaking feature
The difference between a good piece of travel clothing and a great piece of travel gear is simple: Will you still be wearing it five years from now (or the replacement since you loved the first one so much you wore it into the ground and then replaced it)?
When you’re on the road it’s important keep your bag light. That means you don’t have the option of getting sick of something. You’re stuck with what you’ve got. Keep that in mind before you buy that folding pith helmet.
Lightweight Travel Shoes
One of the biggest shifts in travel gear has been the move away from hiking boots. And rightly so. Hiking boots are bulky, expensive, and single-use (aka they’re only good for hiking with a heavy backpack). That’s just not how people travel anymore.
You need a pair of lightweight comfortable shoes that can handle the city streets, beach, and occasional trail. That’s why lightweight trail/running shoes like AllBirds have started dominating the travel shoe market.
These are some of the most promising lightweight travel shoes.
Tropic, the latest entry in the versatile, lightweight travel shoe is no slouch.
These shoes are lightweight (7 oz), comfy, and packed with features that actually make sense for traveling. The 3D mesh lets these shoes breath when you run or hike, and the quick dry treatment means that you can wear them to the beach without having to air dry them for 36 hours. Rain happens. Cliff diving happens. Heck, you might step in a puddle. That shouldn’t derail your travel plans for the next day.
One of the things I like best about these is that you can wear them without socks. Not having to pack more than one or two pairs of socks is a big upgrade to your travel wardrobe. It means less laundry and less hassle. On a personal note, I’m a no-socks kind of guy, but I can get some foot stink, so the anti-odor features are promising. That being said, I’ve never been fully satisfied with “anti-odor” shoes—especially when I take them swimming or to the beach—but we’ll have to see with these.
Tropic has received over $3 million on IndieGoGo, and these shoes are set to ship in late 2018, so I’ll update this review once I get my hands on them. However, I can say that the no slip elastic heel feature and stylish look are points in the pro column. And the price tag ($69) is right where a travel shoe should be.
Finding a truly versatile travel shoe is almost impossible, but I’m optimistic for the versatility and durability of Tropic travel shoes.
I’ve had two pairs of People Footwear Stanley Knit travel shoes, and while I’m impressed with the lightweight shoe (~6 oz), I do have to point out that you can’t have everything in a lightweight package. Yes, these shoes feel great, and yes they look great. But they sacrifice a little durability to keep the weight down.
The sole is starting to wear down a little faster than I’d hoped, they don’t handle the wet very well, and the knit weave is a little too stretchy (they slip off when I’m doing something really active). These shoes only cost $40, and I’ve been pretty rough on them, but that’s what happens with travel shoes. You beat ’em up. If you go in for a “lightweight, 3D printed, mesh travel shoe” be aware that they probably won’t hold up for more than a few months of daily use.
Hydrophobic Clothing: Waterproof, Stainproof, Travelproof
I’m messy. I spill coffee, mustard, wine, and all kinds of other stuff on myself all the time. Luckily, a sloppy joe in Hamburg doesn’t have to mean a trip to the laundromat. Hydrophobic, “stain-proof” travel clothing is everywhere—and it might actually live up to the hype.
Alby Apparel: “Whateverproof” Travel Clothing
Alby makes an entire line of hydrophobic travel clothing—from t-shirts and button ups to underwear, terry cloth shorts, hoodies, and travel pants. And while they’re not as great as the (very convincing) videos of water drops bouncing off of them claim, they’re still a huge step forward in travel clothing for real people.
Check out the videos, I’ll wait:
Everything is based on Alby’s use of Filium a new cloth that naturally repels practically any liquid—including sweat. That means, less body odor, fewer stains, and, ultimately, more time between washes (which is the whole point). The best part is that this stain resistance comes from nanoparticles (aka “science”), not harsh chemical treatment.
Filium is just another in a long line of tech fabrics that claim to protect you from all bad things on the road. And while merino wool is still my go to travel fabric, Filium has me pretty excited about my next bratwurst in Munich.
Dressy Sweatpants (and Other Fancy Comfy Travel Clothing)
One of the most surprising travel clothing trends of the year is the rise of comfy, professional looking clothing—aka dressy sweatpants. Betabrand came out with a few (low budget) pair of dressy sweatpants a while back, and while they look fine, you can definitely tell they’re sweatpants.
However, a new breed of comfy chic travel clothing is here, and some of it is pretty great.
I tried out the Hamilton and Hare Travel Trousers, along with their Pima Cotton Slip on Shirt, and I was insanely impressed with both items. Honestly, they’re both a bit out of my normal price range, but if you’re in the market for a keystone piece of professional travel gear, look no further.
The pants are made of lightweight cotton that somehow manages to travel well thanks to the elastic waistband and button closure. They look like slacks, but travel like sweats. I went with the flecked navy pattern to make them a tad more dapper. But the real hero was the Slip on Shirt.
Jetset Jumpsuit ($198)
The Jetset Jumpsuit, from Encircled, is an exciting, comfy, professional travel clothing option for the ladies. Nothing says “I’m a boss” like a jumpsuit, but the micro modal/lycra blend makes this stylish outfit even more comfortable than it is chic.
If you like to rock something with a little more pizzazz, go for the jumpsuit. And it’s travel-friendly with pockets, a removable belt, and breezy wide leg design. Perfect for networking at happy hour or with a pair of Keds on a beach cruiser. I wish guys had more jumpsuit options.
I don’t do button up shirts often—especially when I travel. There’s not much need to look that sharp, and button up shirts always wrinkle. But the Pima cotton material made this button up feel like a t-shirt, even though it looked crisp when I wore it. Seriously. I looked sharp on my most recent trip to Positano, Italy.
I was actually pumped to go to fancy dinners so I could wear this comfy, comfy bastard. I’m a convert.
Encircled Dressy Sweatpants ($149)
If a jumpsuit isn’t your style, you can still look professional in comfort. Encircled also makes a more casual “dressy” sweatpant out of Modal and Lycra that looks perfect for the plane.
It even includes zippered hip pockets for keeping your valuables safe while you (presumably) pass out in style and dream of making a six-figure income from the road.
Fanny Packs are Back and They’re Awesome (Obviously)
I don’t know when fanny packs took over the world, but I know why—they’re insanely useful. My girlfriend snagged the Patagonia Lightweight Hip Pack ($29) for our hike on the Camino de Santiago, and she hasn’t taken it off since.
A small collapsible waist pack was the perfect “day bag” for keeping her valuables with her (money, phone, passport) while we explored each little town at the end of the day, and the fact that it collapsed down into itself when not in use made it perfect for long hikes when she didn’t need it. Recently she upgraded to a much more functional and stylish Ministry of Culture fanny pack/bike bag.
These handmade, bike-friendly hip bags are perfect for keeping your phone and passport organized on the go. You can even toss in a snack or three to fuel your bike bound adventure. The back loop even includes a place to stash your bike lock while you’re on the move. The broad design and flat shape let it lie flat on your back without adding any bulk and the one of a kind designs are so friggin’ in right now.
Face it, guys. Whatever you call ’em—bum bags, waist pouches, hip belts—fanny packs are back and they’re better than ever.
Honorable Mention: Travel Gear Fixer Upper
Sugru: Fix Anything Moldable Glue
Sugru isn’t travel clothing, but you have to try it. It’s moldable, flexible, and strong. And it can fix about anything. Permanently.
We used it to fix the handle on a kitchen colander. And the grip of a tripod. And a fraying charging cord. Sugru is perfect for electronics and frayed cords, but it’s just a sweet do-it-all utility player on the go.
For about $20, you can fix most of your gear and still have some left over for around the house.
You can look good while you travel the world without breaking the bank by investing in a few key pieces of travel gear and travel clothing that can handle the rigors of life on the road. Just make sure you actually like how they look, or you’ll never take them out of your closet.
- Style comes first: Seriously. If you don’t feel comfortable, what good is a piece of gear?
- Versatility is key: If you can’t wear a piece of travel gear day in and day out (to all sorts of occasions), then it doesn’t belong in your travel wardrobe.
- Make it part of your daily life: If you want to see if a piece of gear will work on the road, incorporate it into your everyday life. I think fanny packs are amazing, but it took me a minute to adjust. Wear one on your morning commute and see how it feels.
- One pair of lightweight shoes, one pair of professional pants, and an outfit for the plane/train/bus is about 80% of what you need to travel the world and look great doing it.
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