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 smartest 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.
To help you become the snappiest dresser wedged into coach, we put together a list of the most practical travel apparel around, with a few accessories thrown in for good measure.
SeV Revolution Jacket (Photo: SCOTTEVEST)
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. We’re a little bummed, however, that the 26-pocket jacket isn’t available for women. The maximum amount of pockets on offer for women is 22, available on the Classic Vest for Women ($100).
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 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.
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.
Magellan’s Sun Wrap (Photo: Magellan’s)
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 florescent lights. A great back-up product—or, alternately, a product that adds additional armor to your sun-care regime—is the Sun Wrap ($85) from Magellan’s. It has a 40-plus ultraviolet protection factor (UVP), as well as long sleeves and a flowy front (drape the front around your head to create an elegant head wrap). This wrap is sized for women. But for men we recommend Magellan’s Tilley Outback Hat ($76), which has a 50-plus 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 Monarch Convertible pant from Prana ($78), 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 knickers. Prana also offers a similar pair of convertible pants for men ($80).
CitySlips (Photo: CitySlips)
Cityslips 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 Cityslips 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. Prices start at $24.95 per pair.
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. The Welder Raincoat Freecut by Muji, which bears some resemblance to a dollar-store poncho, will at least keep you very dry. It comes neatly folded in a small packable pouch. And it’s customizable. Cut at the dotted line around the hem andcuffs of this coat to achieve the perfect fit, no tailor required. The unisex product comes in four colors and is available online for $12.75 at Muji.us.
BugsAway Shirt (Photo: ExOfficio)
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 bandana. 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
SmarterTravel editor Caroline Morse recently wrote a product review about Clever Travel Companion, undergarments that have small zippered pockets in which you can stash your passport, ID, and other valuables. These undershirts and pants, which start at $24.90, 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.
Storm Logic Jacket (Photo: Exofficio)
A Jacket That Turns Into a Travel Pillow
This is one of two Exofficio products that made it onto our list: an ingenious travel jacket with a split personality—it doubles as a travel neck pillow. The Storm Logic jacket is a decent piece of apparel to begin with. It’s quick-drying and windproof, and it has plenty of pockets. But roll the puffy garment into its special built-in sac and—presto! —it’s now a neck pillow. The jacket is available for men or women, and, at time of publication, is selling for $99.91 on the Exofficio website.
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