Before we set off, we agonised for months over what clothes to pack, researching tirelessly by reading travel blogs on the subject and canvassing opinion from everyone we knew who’d been backpacking in the past. There are so many different versions of “the ultimate packing list” and most of them completely contradictory, which made finalising ours even more confusing.
It was tempting to go out and buy a completely new wardrobe of travel clothes, and whilst we did pick up a few new bits and pieces, thankfully we steered clear of the stuff specifically designed for travel.
Obviously there are many different types of travel and this post is relating only to the type that we are doing. That’s to say, we’re not intrepid explorers going off alone into the wild for weeks on end on extreme survival-type adventures. Ok, we’ve done a few hikes, but generally even for hiking you don’t really need specialist equipment or clothing, and if you do then it’s usually available to hire. We spend our time exploring cities and small towns, attempting to really get under the skin of a place by eating locally, learning the history and absorbing the culture.
Travel mags, outdoor leisure shops and even some travel bloggers try to sell you the benefits of getting clothes that are specifically made with the traveller in mind. Whilst there are some decent ones out there, often created by people who actually travel, they tend to be really pricey as they’re produced by smaller companies.
The fact of the matter is, you can get pretty much everything you need off the high street and the majority you will probably already have in your wardrobe.
Without going in to a full packing list, here are a few of the worst offending items of travel clobber.
Pin Me For Later!
The most commonly seen are those fashion abominations, zip off trousers. Now in principle these sound pretty good – they save on space as they double up as both shorts and trousers, they often come with dozens of “useful” concealed pockets and they’re both water resistant and quick drying when you wash them.
These jazzy numbers zip off TWICE
In reality they’re hideously ugly and really have little or no practical benefits. Most adults are quite capable of selecting attire that’s suitable for the whole day, and even whilst at home in the UK which has the most changeable of climates, I’ve never had the urge to don a pair of multifunctional trousers.
Think about it, it’s not a quick zip and strip operation – you still have to take your shoes off to remove the bottom half of the shorts, so in my mind you may as well just carry a spare pair of shorts if you’re planning on doing costume changes. Or dress properly from the start!
Are you Bear Grylls? No. Let me tell you this, unless you are trekking for weeks on end in tough, muddy, wet conditions, you do not need hiking boots!
We climbed this in trainers
We’ve completed difficult treks in some pretty diverse terrain and conditions including rocky, wet, muddy, dry, hot, freezing, humid to name a few. And we’ve done it all in, wait for it… Trainers. Yes everyday, non specialist running trainers. Do you wear hiking shoes to walk around in everyday life? Then don’t bother when you’re travelling.
Do yourself a favour and get some sturdy, lightweight running trainers – they’re much more practical for backpacking as you can comfortably wear them everyday and save yourself a couple Kgs in your luggage.
I’m talking a about the full brimmed Aussie style headpiece here, with the dangly strings that go under your chin to secure it to your pate.
Not for me
I have to concede, some people manage to look pretty cool in these, (think Indiana Jones) but actually most wearers without Harrison Ford’s jawline just look like wallies. The bombastic claims the companies that produce these make seem pretty impressive on the surface but just have a think about their relevance in your day to day travel life.
Waterproof? You’re better off with an umbrella or lightweight raincoat or even a poncho.
UV protection? Only for the bit they are directly sat on, the very top of your head – you still need to wear sunscreen on your face and neck so any hat will do.
Floatable? Come on. If you could use it as an emergency buoyancy aid then maybe, but there aren’t many hats that will sink if they come off in water.
And to top it all off, the generous lifetime guarantees some come with will keep you looking like a wally for the rest of your days.
Now I know at this point one of you wise guys is gonna say “But James, you’ve got a twatty hat, there’s photos of you wearing it plastered all over Facebook”. Point taken, but mine was purchased in a moment of madness in the name of fashion.
Having said all of this, I really couldn’t care less what other people wear or look like, I’m certainly no fashionista and if you’re well into your travel gear we can still be friends. Also if any travel clothing company out there fancies sending me some samples in an attempt to try and prove me wrong then I’m open to that as well.
But there are a few rules I’d suggest following when choosing what to take on a trip. Firstly, if you don’t need them at home then you generally won’t need them abroad. Secondly, think about the activities you’re likely to be doing and plan accordingly, don’t get sucked in by marketing. Thirdly and most importantly, be comfortable!
Are you offended?! What travel clothes do you swear by? What travel fashion faux pas make you laugh? Let us know in the comments below.
Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.