Fashion shouldn’t be short on function—especially for travelers. The best-dressed road warrior isn’t the guy who looks like he just stepped off of a photo shoot. He or she is the one armed with the best travel clothes: garments that pack well, wrinkle less, and perform all kinds of practical functions, from keeping bugs at bay to concealing money and valuables.
The Best Travel Clothes for the Road
To help you become the snappiest dresser wedged into the coach, we put together a list of the most practical travel apparel around, with a few accessories thrown in for good measure.
A Jacket with Plenty of Pockets
Here’s another garment that helps conquer baggage fees: SCOTTEVEST travel jackets, which basically double as carry-on bags. The SeV Revolution jacket, which sells for $175, has a whopping 26 pockets, as well as a removable hood and removable sleeves (it turns into a vest). And it’s not a bad-looking coat, either.
A Scarf That Carts
We came across a CNET review of the Xubaz scarf, titled “How to never ever ever get a date again: neckwear edition.” It’s true: The scarf, which has four pockets that can hold everything from your iPod to your wallet and ID, might not be the first thing you should grab out of your closet if you’re getting ready for an appearance on The Bachelor. But for travelers, it’s fantastic. The airline’s barrage of baggage fees has forced us to get creative when packing in order to save money, so why shouldn’t we use a scarf as a mini carry-on bag? Besides, this soft accessory offers a convenient place to put an iPod when leaning back for a long nap on a flight.
Not feeling the Xubaz? You can buy a much more stylish version here.
A Shirt That Doesn’t Stink
Planning on skipping the shower for a while? No judgment here, but if you’re going to sit next to me on a plane, I’d prefer that you’d at least be dressed in Icebreaker’s Bodyfit line of merino wool hiking wear, available for men and women. (Shirts start at $55.) The shirts, constructed of several breathable layers, are odor-resistant. This doesn’t mean you can forgo washing forever and expect to smell like a spring morning. But if you’re faced with a string of long flights and stopovers or embarking on a camping or hiking expedition, an Icebreaker shirt is a good bet.
A Wrap That Blocks the Sun
Running out of sunscreen on the road can be a serious crisis, especially for those who just about burn under fluorescent lights. A great backup product—or, alternatively, a product that adds additional armor to your sun-care regime—is the Sun Wrap by Coolibar. It has a 50-plus ultraviolet protection factor (UVP), as well as long sleeves and a flowy front. This wrap is sized for women. But for men, we recommend Nike’s Sun Protect Cap which also has UVP.
Pants That Turn Into Shorts
Unpredictable temperatures are routine on the road, especially during shoulder seasons like spring or fall. You could take a pair of scissors to your jeans when the weather turns warmer than you had planned, or you could go the convertible-pant route.
Pants that turn into shorts are sold by most major travel-supply stores. We like the Halle Convertible Pant from Prana, which comes in three colors and is made of quick-drying, wrinkle-free fabric. Zip off the bottom and the pants are instantly transformed into knee-length shorts. Prana also offers a similar pair of convertible pants for men.
Silky Toes were originally designed as back-up shoes for women who couldn’t take it anymore when teetering in toe-torturing high heels. But they’re also a practical option for travelers. A word of warning: The shoes were not made for a great deal of walking. They’re lightweight, bendy, comfy ballet flats that come in a zippered carrying case, but they’re not durable enough to handle miles-long strolls.
However, I carted a pair of Silky Toes on a trip to Europe and found them very handy. They were perfect to wear on the plane. They feel like slippers, yet one doesn’t look like a hospital patient when walking to the bathroom or transferring between flights. They were also a convenient choice of footwear when padding around my hotel room or heading down the hall to get ice. And the best part: The shoes fold into a compact fist-sized bundle that fits easily into a suitcase or even a large pocket.
A Raincoat That Fits Everyone
This raincoat may not be the most fashionable thing in your wardrobe But really, few people look like a style guru when it’s pouring buckets outside anyway. This one-size fits all poncho will at least keep you very dry. It comes neatly folded in a small packable pouch that’s easy to stash away for weather emergencies.
A Shirt That Repels Bugs
It’s never fashionable to be obsessively swatting at insects. ExOfficio offers an entire line of BugsAway clothing products, including shirts, pants, hats, socks, and even a bandanna. We like the shirts, available for men and women, which range from $35 for a women’s tee to $99 for a men’s or women’s long-sleeve button-down. The fabric is treated with permethrin, a chemical approved by the Environmental Protection Agency that repels mosquitoes, ticks, ants, and other creepy crawlers. The catch? The mosquito-busting chemicals only last through about 70 washes, so you might want to save this shirt for trips to especially buggy locales (the products are particularly useful in destinations where malaria is prevalent).
Undergarments That Keep Your Stuff Safe
Clever Travel Companion, a line of pick-pocket proof clothing, has undergarments that have small zippered pockets in which you can stash your passport, ID, and other valuables. These clothes trump a money belt because they’re comfortable and fit smoothly under clothes. It’s highly unlikely that a pickpocket will manage to get his hand into the diminutive pocket hidden in the tee underneath your shirt, so the product gets our thumbs-up for safety, too. One caveat: Don’t put anything to which you’ll need quick access—such as your wallet—in the underwear’s built-in pockets. It could lead to an awkward situation at the cash register.
A Jacket That Turns Into a Travel Pillow
BauBax’s ingenious travel jacket has a split personality—it doubles as a travel pillow. Choose from a jacket or a sweatshirt, both of which feature plenty of pockets, a built-in eye mask, integrated gloves, and many other cool features. BauBax’s built-in neck pillow inflates or deflates with a simple press of a button.
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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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