Calling all overpackers: If you’re sick of shelling out for checked bag fees and sitting on your suitcase to get it to close, you might want to invest in some convertible clothing. These versatile garments do double duty on the road, letting you put together multiple looks without having to pack multiple pieces. I’ve identified some of this year’s best convertible travel clothing below.
Zip-Off Pants from Columbia
Why pack both hiking pants and shorts when you can bring one pair of zip-off pants that serves both purposes? Columbia offers a wide range of convertible pants, which feature legs that zip off above the knees. Women should consider the Saturday Trail II pants, which are made of lightweight, stretchy fabric that repels water and stains. They come in short, medium, and long for a better fit. Men can try the Silver Ridge Convertible Pant, with a partially elastic waist for comfort and wicking fabric to keep you cool.
ExOfficio Wanderlux Convertible Skirt
There are few garments more versatile than a simple black skirt, but the Wanderlux Convertible Skirt is even more adaptable than most. You can wear this comfy knee-length skirt during the day for sightseeing, dress it up with a nice top for dinner, or turn it into a strapless mini-dress for a completely different look. The quick-drying fabric blend is treated with an antimicrobial finish, which means you can wear this for multiple days without worrying about odors. Bonus: There’s a hidden security pocket where you can stow a passport or other small items.
Nic+Zoe 4-Way Lightweight Cardigan
A cardigan is always handy to keep you warm on a chilly airplane or in an air-conditioned restaurant or museum. The 4-Way Lightweight Cardigan from Nic+Zoe has three-quarter-length sleeves and can be worn in a variety of ways to change up the look: loose and open, crisscrossed and buttoned across the front, or twisted or tied shut.
Mountain Warehouse Travelling Stretch Convertible Men’s Shirt
If you’ll be visiting a destination with a changeable climate, the Travelling Stretch Convertible Men’s Shirt from Mountain Warehouse is an ideal addition to your packing list. The lightweight, stretchy fabric and underarm mesh air vents keep you cool, and the long sleeves roll up neatly into a button cuff to transform the garment into a short-sleeve shirt. It’ll keep you safe from the sun, too, with UV 50 protection.
Meme et Moi Indie Sandals
The chic Indie sandals from Meme et moi aren’t cheap, but when you buy them you’re effectively getting two pairs of shoes in one. These handcrafted shoes come with both a flat heel and a higher heel of your choice, with both chunky and stiletto options available. You can wear the flat version for walking around during the day, then switch to the higher version for evenings out. The Indie comes in black and brown and is made of soft suede with a non-slip rubber sole.
Billabong So Right Sarong
A single sarong takes up barely any space in your suitcase but can serve a variety of purposes on your vacation, from a beach blanket to a casual skirt to a cover-up over your bikini. You can also wear it as a scarf or turban, or drape it over yourself to keep warm on the plane. I like the Billabong So Right Sarong for its fun tropical pattern and generous size.
Norma Kamali Convertible Stretch-Jersey Maxi Dress
This designer dress from Norma Kamali has a striking asymmetrical hem and a bodice that can be styled in three different ways: over both shoulders for a more conservative look, over one shoulder, or tied at the back in a sleek, strapless style. The stretchy, mid-weight dress slips on over your head and is machine washable. The garment can be dressed up or down with different shoes and accessories, making it a versatile pick for multiple nights of your vacation.
Coolibar Unisex Convertible Boating Hat
The Coolibar Unisex Convertible Boating Hat offers as much or as little sun protection as you need. You can wear it as an ordinary wide-brimmed sun hat, or lower the neck drape (which folds up into the brim when not in use) to cover your nape and upper back. The drape has snaps that let you fasten the cloth over the front of your neck as well. The hat is crushable for easy packing and blocks 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
3-in-1 Jackets from Columbia
Not sure how cold the weather will be on your trip? A three-in-one jacket is the answer. These coats have a warm inner layer and a waterproof shell that can be worn either together or separately, depending on the conditions outside. Women can try the Carson Pass Interchange Jacket from Columbia, which comes in more than half a dozen colors and has a fleece-lined hood with removable faux fur trim. A good bet for men is Columbia’s Northbounder Interchange Jacket, which has an adjustable hood and zippered pockets to protect your valuables.
Free People Movement Going Places Convertible Pants
The Going Places Convertible Pants from Free People Movement will keep you comfy everywhere from your airplane seat to a yoga class on the beach. You can wear them as wide-leg pants with a separate top, or pull them up a few inches to turn them into a one-piece with a strapless tube top for a fun, laid-back look. The pants have handy pockets where you can stow your phone or other small items.
Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf
One of the most versatile pieces of convertible travel clothing you can buy is a scarf—especially the Vinyasa Scarf, because it has snaps you can use to pin the fabric in certain positions. In addition to wearing it around your neck, you can fashion it into a cardigan, shawl, shirt, or airplane blanket. This stretchy, sweat-wicking scarf is available in a variety of colors and patterns, so you can mix and match it easily with the rest of your travel wardrobe.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Reversible Clothing and Accessories for Travel: 17 Items to Double Your Wardrobe
- A Traveler’s Guide to Minimalist Packing
- 5 Travel Wear Pieces That Help You Go from Day to Night
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.