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The Best Travel Clothes: Our Guide To High-Performance & Fashionable Travel Clothing

We talk about our favorite travel clothing and help you find the perfect travel-friendly clothes to keep you comfortable on the road.

Packing

We’ve been nerds about travel clothes since our first trip to Europe back in 2006 — now we have a closet full of the stuff. We’ve loved watching travel clothing evolve from hideous outdoorsy gear designed for hikers to high-fashion clothing made from high-tech fabrics.

Well, now we’re using our years of experience as a travel blogger and gear junkies to bring you our picks for the best travel clothing currently on the market.

The Current State Of Travel Clothes

travel clothing
What travel clothing looks like now.
What travel clothing used to look like… yikes.

So what’s the deal with travel clothes these days?

We’d argue that the “travel clothing” market hasn’t changed much but the “performance clothing” market is actually what’s pushing the category forward — so these days, we consider travel clothing and performance clothing essentially the same thing.

And it makes sense because many of these new high-performance fabrics offer a ton of benefits that compliment both everyday wear and travel.

Even mega-brands like Levis, Gap, Dockers, Lululemon, Uniqlo, etc. are starting to offer fashionable “travel-friendly” or “performance” clothing but most things are made by small niche brands (which we’ll cover later in this article).

The Good

Travel clothing is finally being designed to be fashionable/stylish so you can easily wear them in Paris, Milan, or New York without looking out of place.

In fact, our #1 travel clothing rule is that we’ll never wear any “travel clothing” that we wouldn’t wear in our everyday lives.

Second, high-tech clothes continue to evolve because more companies are developing better fabrics and competition is driving innovation.

The Bad

Unfortunately, travel clothing tends to be expensive and there are two main reasons for this:

First, many of the fabrics used are high-end so the raw materials are expensive. Second, a majority of travel clothing is made by small companies so they can’t mass produce their products (and thus lower costs).

Another negative thing about travel clothing is that there are many options for men but very few for women. This is probably because guys tend to stick to very basic items and they nerd out on “high-tech fabrics more than women.

So what can you expect to pay? Nice merino wool socks will be $10-$20/pair, a pair of pants will range from $70-$200+, a wool shirt will be $50+, etc.

The Benefits of Travel Clothes & Performance Wear

Osprey Farpoint 40 Review | Capacity
Travel clothes make living out of a backpack much easier

So what’s so great about travel clothing? And do you really “need” to shell out your hard-earned cash for these high-end garments?

We’ll be the first to say that you certainly don’t need to dress in technical fabrics when you travel. That said, many of these fabrics can make certain aspects of traveling easier but they’re more of a “nice-to-have” than a “must-have”.

Alright, let’s get to the common benefits of travel clothing/performance wear.

Durability & Multi-Day Wear

One of the main benefits of travel clothing is that you can wear them multiple times without having to wash them. This means you can pack fewer items so you can travel light

Odor-Resistance

Many of the fabrics used in travel clothes have anti-odor properties. Merino wool is naturally odor-resistant but some synthetic materials are manufactured in a way to reduce odor.

Quick-Drying Abilities

Quick sink wash!

If you plan on washing your clothes while you’re traveling it’s nice to have items that can be hand-washed and air-dried quickly (i.e. washing your socks and underwear in the sink). Quick-drying fabrics can also be beneficial if you get caught in the rain.

Wrinkle-Resistance

While it’s hard to completely prevent wrinkles when you’re living out of a suitcase, many materials have anti-wrinkle properties. In general, synthetic materials resist wrinkles better than natural fabrics but it depends on the fabric.

Lightweight & Packability

Travel clothing makes one-bag travel much easier

Performance fabric tends to be lightweight so it won’t weigh down your luggage as much — for example, a pair of tech pants will weigh half as much as a pair of jeans. Lightweight fabric also tends to dry quicker than something like cotton jeans which soak in water.

Moisture Wicking & Breathability

One of the most important factors in keeping comfortable is keeping dry. Moisture-wicking fabric helps pull sweat away from your skin and its breathability lets the moisture escape from the fabric.

Stretch and Comfort

Working up a sweat ain’t no big deal!

Every fabric will have a different amount of stretch. Unsurprisingly, fabric with more stretch tends to be more comfortable since it allows you to move with less restriction.

But you’re always making a compromise when it comes to stretch because, in general, you sacrifice durability/water-repellency for stretch.

Water Repellency

Certain fabrics are naturally water repellent and others have chemical coatings which help keep water from soaking into the fabric.

Note: The chemical water-resistant coatings aren’t permanent so it will become less effective the more the garment is washed.

High-Tech Performance Fabrics Explained

Wool & Prince (wool/synthetic blend) and Outlier (synthetic) Fabrics

There are multiple different types of fabrics that travel clothing companies use to make their products. There is a lot of nuance and technical/marketing mumbo jumbo when it comes to each fabric but we’ll start with the three main fabric categories — natural fabrics, synthetic fabrics, and natural/synthetic blends.

Natural Fabrics

Merino Wool: The best kind of natural fabric is fine merino wool because it has many natural benefits. Merino wool is naturally odor-resistant, soft, fairly durable, wicks moisture well, dries quickly, and works well in both hot and cold weather.

However, merino wool does have some downsides. First, it’s expensive so even a “cheap” merino wool t-shirt will cost around $50. Second, thin wool has a tendency to develop holes much more quickly than a more robust fabric like cotton or synthetics. And third, most wool can’t go in the dryer since heat will make it shrink so it does require a little extra care.

Cotton: Most travelers highly recommend avoiding cotton when it comes to travel clothing because cotton holds on to moisture and doesn’t dry quickly. For example, a cotton pair of socks will trap sweat which will cause odors, blisters, and sweaty feet.

That said, we’re not as militant when it comes to wearing cotton so we still wear cotton jeans and t-shirts. However, we still generally avoid cotton for socks and underwear.

Synthetic Fabrics

Things get a little more complicated when it comes to synthetic fabrics because there are dozens of different variations and each has different performance properties.

That said, synthetic fabrics are usually much cheaper to manufacture but some of the high-end technical fabrics are still expensive.

Synthetic fabrics are very durable, they can be highly water-repellent or even waterproof, many resist wrinkles, they dry very quickly, and they’re lightweight. Some synthetic materials also have a lot of flex so they’re comfortable to wear.

However, there are some negatives. First, synthetic fabrics can become smelly after one or two wearings. Some synthetic fabrics are treated with anti-odor chemicals so that does help.

Next, cheap synthetic fabrics have an ugly “synthetic sheen” and feel fake. Most of these cheap synthetics also make that “swish swish” sound when you walk. That said, advanced synthetic fabrics can look and feel very similar to normal cotton but these advanced fabrics are expensive — so you’ll have to pay if fashion is a concern.

Some cheap synthetics also don’t breath well so they can get pretty balmy in the heat. That’s why you should look for “breathable” fabrics.

Another issue with synthetics is fabric flexibility. The toughest fabrics tend to not have a lot of flex. So if you’ll have to sacrifice a bit of durability for comfort in some instances.

Natural/Synthetic Blends

Travel clothing brands are starting to combine fine merino wool and synthetic fabric to give you the best of both worlds — performance and durability. I heard from someone in the wool industry that there is no performance loss as long as the blend includes at least 70% wool.

You’ll usually see blends in socks, underwear, and shirts.

Again, the main downside with blends is the price as they’re not much cheaper than 100% merino wool.

Enough of This Drivel… Let’s Get On To The Best Travel Clothes On The Market!

Okay, okay… calm down. I’ve broken down each type of garment (socks, underwear, pants, shirts, etc.) into its own section. I’ll try giving specific recommendations when possible (and I’ll try my best to keep the recommendations up-to-date), but sometimes I can only point you towards companies that make tech-wear travel clothes.

I will also do my best to recommend options for all budgets since I know not everyone wants to drop $100 on a t-shirt.

Socks for Travel

packing light socks

In our opinion, a few nice pairs of socks (along with comfortable shoes) are the most important travel accessory. So, if you have a limited clothing budget, spend it on socks. Boring, I know.

Fine merino wool socks are our favorite and preferred style of socks. Merino wool socks with a bit of synthetic material also work well as the synthetic fibers help the socks keep their shape/fit.

From our experience, 100% synthetic socks aren’t great but they’re not terrible. Again, avoid cotton if you can.

Obviously, you’ll want to match your socks to the season — i.e. thin, no-show socks for the summer and longer/heavier socks for colder weather.

Our Favorite Sock Brands:

  • Smartwool: The most famous wool sock company. They offer just about every style. Check Amazon to see what’s available.
  • Darn Tough Vermont: Darn Tough socks are made in the USA and they offer a lifetime warranty so that’s awesome. Check Amazon to see what’s available.
  • Unbound Merino: This small company makes merino wool basics but we really dig their all-season ankle socks. They don’t contain as much wool as we’d like but this helps keep the cost down. Check them out at Unbound.
  • Farm To Feet: This is another 100% USA company who makes a small but quality range of wool socks. Take a look at Amazon to see their offerings.
  • Wigwam: Wigwam makes both merino wool and synthetic socks. While they’re not our favorite socks, their prices are pretty good so they’re worth checking out if you’re looking to save a little money. Check Amazon.

Travel Underwear

light packing list - underwear

Ahh, yes. Travel underwear… our old friend. We’ve already written at length about the many benefits of travel underwear, but we’ll briefly (pun intended) cover them again below:

  • Quick Drying: Wash them in the sink and they’ll be dry by morning.
  • Moisture Wicking: This helps keep your skin dry.
  • Breathable: This helps stop you from getting all sweaty down there.
  • Odor Blocking: Stop the stink (or least delay it)
  • Comfortable: You don’t want to spend your time thinking about your uncomfortable underwear.

Synthetic Underwear

Pictured: ExOfficio (men's and women's) and Under Arnour (men's and women's)
Pictured:
ExOfficio (men’s and women’s) and Under Armour (men’s and women’s)

Most travel underwear is made from synthetic fabric which is designed to be soft, lightweight, and breathable. It isn’t the best at controlling odor since some synthetic material holds on to odor but many brands have various manufacturing processes that help combat odor.

The most popular travel underwear is made by ExOfficio (you can read our review here but these guys essentially invented travel underwear). We tend to find the best prices on Amazon.

Patagonia (i.e. everyone’s favorite outdoors brand) has a handful of nice underwear options for both men and women.

Another very popular option is Under Armour underwear. They get a ton of great reviews on Amazon, many people swear by them, and they’re sometimes cheaper than ExOfficio.

For budget travelers, Uniqlo has their Airism line of underwear which isn’t bad but I’m not a huge fan of their cuts. But they’re very affordable so they’re worth looking at.

If you’re on a tight budget, you should check out Target and discount stores like T.J. Maxx or Marshalls because you can find “athletic” underwear for decent prices.

 Merino Wool Underwear

Pictured: Icebreaker Merino Wool Underwear (men's and women's) and Minus33
Pictured:
Icebreaker Merino Wool Underwear (men’s and women’s) and Minus33

Merino wool is actually a very solid choice for underwear — even in the summer. It’s soft, it’s lightweight, it breathes very well, and it’s the best option for resisting odor. The two main downsides are the high prices and durability.

There are a few different brands that sell quality merino wool underwear:

  • Wool & Prince: This is our current “go-to” brand when it comes to anything merino wool. They currently only offer men’s underwear. Check them out on Wool & Prince.
  • Icebreaker: Another popular wool brand is Icebreaker and they make everything from underwear to coats. Browse their selection on Amazon to find a cut that fits your style.

Travel Pants and Jeans For Men

Riding the train through Europe in comfortable pants!

The number of companies making travel-friendly pants and jeans has exploded over the past few years. It’s actually kind of overwhelming but we’ll help you sort it all out.

And don’t worry — all the pants we recommend are actually fashionable so you won’t be looking like a mountain climber while exploring Paris or wherever you’re visiting.

The main thing to remember is that each of the pants on this list has different performance properties so that’s something you’ll want to match the performance to your needs.

Bluffworks Ascender Chinos

Bluffworks, which makes a range of travel garments, recently released their new Ascender Chinos. These are made with lightweight high-performance fabric. The polyester twill fabric has a nice amount of stretch and it has a minimal amount of “synthetic sheen”. The fabric is lightweight so it breaths well, it resists wrinkles, and it has water-resistant properties.

It’s also nice that these come in both a regular and tailored fit. I own the tailored fit but it certainly isn’t constricting.

The Ascender Chinos have multiple security features like multiple secret zipper pockets to keep all your stuff safe (so you can throw away that terrible money belt).

The Ascender Chinos sell for $125 via Bluffworks

Bluffworks Departure Jeans

Bluffworks Departure Travel Jeans

There are a lot of people who think jeans make a terrible choice when it comes to travel pants… and they kind of are (they take forever to dry, they’re heavy, they can be hot). But I love traveling in jeans.

Well, Bluffworks helped address many of the “negative” things about denim with their Passage Jeans. These are made from 68% Cotton, 22% COOLMAX Polyester, 9% Rayon, and 1% Spandex so they are super stretchy and much more lightweight than normal denim.

And they included two cleverly-designed hidden pockets that don’t interfere with the normal pockets.

But I’ve saved the best for last… these look like normal jeans and they’re legit comfortable. I wear them even when I’m not traveling and that’s about as good an endorsement I can give.

The Bluffworks Departure Travel Jeans retail for $125

Western Rise AT Slim Rivet Pants

Best Travel Pants | Western Rise AT Slim Rivet
Travel Pants | Western Rise
Images via Western Rise

Western Rise is a small performance apparel company from Telluride, Colorado that wanted to make clothing which performed well on the trails but still looked good in town. We think the AT Slim Rivet Pants do a really nice job of walking this balance.

The AT Slim Rivet Pants look very similar to standard five-pocket pants. The fabric is a durable yet fairly lightweight and breathable (97% nylon, 3% spandex). Western Rise describes the fabric as “air-texturized fibers” so while it is nylon, the fabric has a cotton feel so there really isn’t any of that synthetic fabric sheen (but it does make a swishy noise).

The fabric also has a DWR coating to help repel water in case you get stuck in the rain or spill beer all over yourself. Additionally, there is a hidden zippered pocket for security.

As for the looks, these come in a slim but not skinny cut. They look like normal pants — which is a top priority. I wear my mine even when I’m not traveling.

The Western Rise AT Slim Rivet Pants retails for $128.

Outlier Slim Dungarees

Outlier designed their Slim Dungarees as a “five-pocket pant that we could travel the world in” and they’ve found their way on many of our trips to Europe. These have a great look and I think they’re some of the best looking/most stylish travel pants. unfortunately, they’re also some of the most expensive so that’s something to keep in mind.

The Workcloth Doubleweave Canvas is both soft and lightweight yet very durable. The fabric has a nice amount of stretch and it dries very quickly. It also has a self-cleaning” NanoSphere® treatment that helps it repel water, coffee, wine, and dirt.

The Outlier Slim Dungarees sell for $198

Prana Brion Pants

Travel Pants | Prana Brion Pants
PrAna Brion Pants 

PrAna is a well-established outdoorsy company so most of their stuff is better suited for things like hiking and rock-climbing. That said, their Brion Pant is one of their best-sellers thanks to its fairly modern cut and the fact that they look similar to jeans/chinos.

These are constructed from their durable and quick-drying ‘Zion’ fabric that’s actually stretchy (4-way-stretch) so provides a good amount of movement. It’s also coated in a water repellent (DWR) coating so it will withstand a little water.

So, these might not win any awards for fashion, they’re a solid choice at a solid price.

The PrAna Brion Pant retails for $79 via PrAna.

Everlane Performance Chinos

Everlane Performance Chinos

Everlane recently released their Performance Chinos which I’m also really digging. I own a pair so I can attest that these are very comfortable and they’re probably the most stylish pants on this list.

That said, their Performance Chinos are made from 94% Cotton, 6% Elastane so these are the least “technical” pants on this list as well. But I still think these are a nice option if you’re more concerned about comfort than technical features.

The Everlane Performance Chinos costs $68 and come in four colors.

Ministry Of Supply Kinetic Dress Pants

If you’re looking for a formal/dressy look, but still want a ton of comfort, then look no further than Ministry of Supply Kinetic Pants. These have been described as “dress pants with the feel of sweatpants”.

The Kinetic Pants are made from Japanese Primeflex polyester that has a ton of stretch, resists wrinkles, wicks moisture, and repels water.

The Ministry of Supply Kinetic Pants sell for $145

Travel Pants & Jeans For Women

As we mentioned before, there is a lack of travel pants for women but we’ve tried to find some of the best of the limited choices that are available. One thing to note is that most women’s travel pants tend to focus more on comfort than “technical” fabrics.

Ministry of Supply

Of all the travel clothing brands, Ministry of Supply makes some of the most fashionable and best-performing clothes. Their stuff certainly isn’t cheap but the prices aren’t totally outrageous either.

Their flagship travel pants are their Slim Kinetic Pants which get rave reviews for looks, comfort, and performance. And they can be machine washed and tumble dried.

The Slim Kinetic Pants sell for $145.

Anatomie

Anatomie travel pants

Anatomie is a high-end women’s travel clothing company that’s one of the few brands that focuses exclusively on women’s clothing. Most of their travel-friendly pants are expensive at $225+/pair but they have a ton of different styles and cuts for just about every body-type.

Check out Anatomie to see their travel pants and other travel garments (shirts, shorts, dresses, jackets, etc.).

Betabrand

Betabrand isn’t technically a “travel clothing” company but they’ve made a name for themselves for their dress yoga pants. Yep. Yoga pants that look like dress pants so there are great for being comfortable and presentable. And they’re fairly affordable at $58/pair.

Check Betabrand to see the various styles, cuts, and colors that their dress yoga pants come in.

Prana Travel Pants

Prana Travel Pants

PrAna is one of the few companies who make women’s pants made out of legit technical fabrics. Most of their stuff falls into the “ugly hiking pants” category but they have a few different style pants and jeans that are actually cute. And most of their pants are priced around $80 so they’re not crazy expensive.

Check PrAna to see all their styles.

Lululemon

Lululemon may be known for their yoga clothing but they’ve also branched out to more fashion-conscious athleisure wear that works fairly well as travel pants.

Check Lululemon to see the different styles they have available.

The Best Shirts For Travel

Alright, moving right along to shirts made from high-performance fabrics that actually look stylish.

Wool & Prince Tees

wool and prince t-shirts

We practically live in t-shirts so a few solid-color tees are a staple of any travel wardrobe. While pricy, we love our Wool & Prince merino wool tees. These can be worn for multiple days and I don’t have to worry about washing them.

The have both 100% wool tees and 78% / 22% merino nylon blends. We recommend the blend since it’s cheaper, more durable, and requires less care when washing.

The Wool & Prince Tees sell from $68-$78

Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt

Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt

If you’re looking for a sharp-looking yet no-fuss button up then look at the Meridian Dress Shirt from Bluffworks. It’s made from 98% polyester and 2% spandex so it won’t wrinkle and the fabric will dry very quickly. The fabric can take a beating and there aren’t any special care instructions. We also like how it comes in both a classic and slim fit.

The Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt sells for $98

Bluffworks Piton Polo

I’ve only had my Bluffworks Piton Polo for about a month but I’m already seeing why this is an excellent travel shirt. First, it looks great and I love how it comes in a classic and a slim fit. Next, the breathable pique knit is breathable and it only has a very slightly noticeable synthetic look even though it’s 100% polyester. And like all Bluffworks clothing, the fabric is tough, wrinkle-resistant, and it doesn’t require any special care.

The Bluffworks Piton Polo sells for $68

Wool & Prince Polo

Wool & Prince Polo Shirt For Traveling

My Wool & Prince Polo always finds itself into my backpack. I love the cut and the quality is top-notch. It’s a nice “dressier” change from a t-shirt while still being casual. And you get all the benefits from merino wool fabric.

Wool & Prince offers has two types of polos — a 100% merino wool version and a 78% merino wool, 22% nylon blend. I own the blend version and I love it.

The Wool & Prince Polo sells for $78-$98.

Bluffworks Threshold Performance T-Shirt

You might be seeing a pattern here… but Bluffworks is back with their Threshold Performance T-Shirt. This ultra-lightweight t-shirt is made from a blend of 66% Polyester, 29% Lyocell, and 5% Elastane so it has a ton of stretch, it wicks moisture well and it is very breathable. The fabric is thin (which is why it’s airy/breathable) so if you like a little more heft to your shirts then you might want to look elsewhere.

The Bluffworks Threshold Performance T-Shirt sells for $45

Wool & Prince Button-Ups

bluffworks travel blazer - style

Wool & Price has a number of both short-sleeves and long-sleeve button-up shirts made from merino wool. I own one of their button-down oxford shirts and the fabric is very sturdy — I’d say it makes a nice choice for cooler weather as I can see it getting a little warm in the hot weather.

They also have a new wool/linen blend which will be more airy and breathable so these look great for warmer weather (I’ll be testing these once they get back in stock).

The Wool and Prince Button-Up Shirts sell for $98-$138

Outlier Merino T-Shirt

Outlier is another high-end brand which makes excellent products and one of my favorite items is their Ultrafine Merino T-shirt. It’s made from 17.5, 195gsm Merino Jersey Wool so the fabric is sturdy and drapes a bit better than many other merino t-shirts. And it comes is a lot of nice colors. But like all other Outlier products, the ultra high-quality comes at a very high price.

The Outlier Ultrafine Merino T-shirt costs $110 each or three for $295.

Unbound Merino Wool T-Shirt

Unbound is another small company offering 100% ultra-fine 17.5 micron, 190g Merino wool shirts at affordable prices. I own a few of their shirts and while their shirts might not be quite as nice as other 100% merino shirts on our list, the price is a bit cheaper.

The Unbound Merino Wool T-Shirt sells for $65

Uniqlo Airism Shirts

When it comes to budget basics, it’s impossible to beat Uniqlo’s Airism line of shirts. We own a few different Airism items and they’re not terrible but they certainly aren’t nearly as nice or perform as well as the other items on this list — but they’re cheap.

Check Uniqlo to see what they have because always changing their stock.

Women’s Travel Shirts

Ok, here’s the deal… there aren’t a ton of “performance” shirts for women that aren’t ugly. But here are a few decent items we’ve found:

  • Ministry of Supply is a great choice for high-performance clothing that still looks fashionable. And while their prices aren’t cheap, we consider them very reasonable. They also have nice dresses and other items.
  • Unbound Merino has a black v-neck 100% merino shirt in a women’s cut for $65.
  • Anatomie has a number of cute tops made from travel-friendly fabrics but they’re expensive.
  • Lululemon has some decent options but many of their items lean heavily into the athleisure.

Cold Weather Travel Clothing

Most of the items on this list will work well in colder weather but you’ll want to pair them with other items to get achieve maximum warmth. The key is layering — which basically meals combining a few lighter layers to achieve warmth without the bulk.

Base Layers

A base layer is technically anything that is worn directly on your skin. Socks and underwear fall into this category but it also includes items like shirts, undershirts, and long underwear.

In the winter we’ll throw on long-sleeve merino wool or synthetic long underwear and this helps keep us warm and dry when we’re outside all day.

For the best selection, Iw recommend checking out REI as they carry all the major long underwear brands. If you’re trying to save a little money, check out Uniqlo’s HeatTech line of long underwear since it is cheap.

Mid Layers

Visiting Toledo, Spain with my trusty Patagonia Nano Puff jacket

A mid-layer is anything that is worn between your base layer and your outer layer. Its main purpose is insulation and it can be a sweater, vest, down jacket, hoodie, or just about anything. Sometimes the mid-layer can act as an outer layer if it isn’t that cold, and in the summer you probably won’t need a mid-layer since keeping warm isn’t generally an issue.

When it comes to tech-wear, the main pieces are Merino wool sweater/jackets, fleece jackets, and down (or a synthetic variation) jackets. The piece just needs to allow internal moisture (sweat) to evaporate through the fabric. It’s also nice if the piece is lightweight and durable.

Fleece is always a popular choice because it provides a good amount of warmth, durability, and breathability without being too bulky. There is also a variation of fleece called hard fleece — which is basically a fleece with a smoother and more durable exterior. Most hard fleece garments are also more water-resistant than normal fleece.

There are hundreds of fleece jackets available on the market at all price points, so we’d check out the selection at REI and buy whatever fits your budget.

Another popular choice is down jackets — although a lot of companies now use synthetic down (Primaloft, Coreloft, etc.) and most people prefer synthetic material to natural down. Synthetic down is incredibly lightweight, compressible, breathable, and it retains warmth even when wet.

It is pretty crazy how compressible these jackets are — some can compress to the size of a shoe. When compared to a fleece jacket, a synthetic down jacket is more water-resistant, more wind resistant, more packable, and lighter. 

Nearly every outdoor brand makes lightweight down/synthetic down jackets. One of the most popular and fashionable brands is Patagonia — check out both Amazon and REI for the best selection. The Patagonia Nano Puff jacket is probably the most popular lightweight puff jacket on the market so it’s no wonder it’s a favorite among experienced travelers (it’s what we use).

Outerwear

Hamburg Travel Guide

Outerwear is generally the final layer and what protects you from the elements (wind, rain, snow, etc.). The problem with outerwear is that it encompasses a huge range of garments that perform a huge range of functions. It can be anything from a simple waterproof jacket for summer showers, to large winter coats capable of withstanding a harsh Scandinavian winter.

I’ll start off by diving into waterproof jackets since that is probably what most people are interested in learning about. Most traditional waterproof jackets are called hard shells. These are 100% waterproof and they have that plastic-y feel and sound. If you want the ultimate protection from the elements, this is your choice.

However, being impermeable to the elements means that the material doesn’t breath — this is less than ideal because it doesn’t allow your body’s sweat to evaporate. Basically, it traps in moisture and makes you feel all clammy.

Some high-end hardshell jackets have breathable fabric, but even those aren’t as breathable as softshells (which we’ll talk about later).

Unsurprisingly, most waterproof jackets are made by outdoors companies, so trying to find a stylish one isn’t super easy. However, there are plenty of decent-looking options by Marmot, Patagonia, and The North Face. The most annoying part is that most companies plaster big logos on their jackets — which I’m not a huge fan of.

However, in the summer I generally recommend that a traditional rain jacket is unnecessary — mainly because it doesn’t rain a lot and most jackets are too heavy for summer travel.

However, Ultralight Rain Jackets are super lightweight (they only weigh a few ounces) and they can be packed into a pocket, so they’re easy to carry around in a daypack. Ultralight rain jackets won’t have very good breathability, but you’ll only be wearing them in the rain, so it isn’t a huge issue.

The best ultralight rain jackets are the Outdoor Research Helium II, Marmot Super Mica, and the Montane Minimus (they all weigh under 10 oz).

When it comes to breathability, it doesn’t get any better than a softshell jacket. Softshell jackets aren’t technically 100% waterproof, but they’re essentially waterproof. They’re well-suited for urban travel because they’re more comfortable than a hard shell and they’re more stylish.

Again, there are hundreds of softshell jackets, so I recommend visiting REI (click here for Men’s and Women’s) to see which ones fit your budget and style preference.

Heavy Coats

If you’re traveling during the winter, you may consider bringing a heavy winter coat. In some instances, you may be completely comfortable by layering a base layer, a few mid-layers, and an outer layer. But, sometimes, you need a heavy coat — especially if you’re traveling to Northern or Eastern Europe in the dead of winter.

Puffy down coats provide an amazing warmth-to-weight ratio — which is always something to consider when traveling. Combine that down coat with a base layer and a warm mid-layer, and you’ll be staying toasty. Natural down is the warmest, but it becomes ineffective if it gets wet.

On the other hand, synthetic down isn’t quite as warm, but it still works if it gets wet and it dries quicker. Different coats have different amounts of water-repellant, so this is something to take into consideration.

For the best selection of insulated coats, I recommend checking out REI simply because they have the best selection. Look for one that fits your personal style.

If you’re looking for the ultimate protection from the elements, you’ll want a standard waterproof, winter coat. A lot of coats have a 3-in-1 system that contains a waterproof outer shell and an interior insulated lining. Again, REI is a good place to start your search because they have the best selection.

More Travel Gear

Here are some more helpful “best of” travel gear guides that we think you’ll find helpful!

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Packing

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