The conventional image of a backpacker is most often someone dressed in cargo pants or shorts, a T-shirt, and easy-to-wear walking shoes. Maybe a few will deck themselves out with woven bracelets, hats, or sunglasses, in an attempt to be more stylish while backpacking. You might even occasionally see them sporting pieces of clothing or accessories from local markets, proudly emblazoned with the name of their destination.
There’s a reason this extremely low-maintenance way of dressing has prevailed among travel buffs for years. For one thing, traveling often entails being on the go constantly and engaging in a lot of physical activity every day. For another, many people would rather not endure the hassle of carting bulky and heavy pieces of luggage around from place to place. These are often incentives enough for people to prioritize comfort and practicality over fashion.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to look your best on your trips, then rest assured that there are many ways to be stylish while backpacking and traveling light. It’s all about choosing the right clothing items and accessories to achieve a perfect balance of style and practicality. The following tips, for instance, can help you get started:
1. Learn to mix and match
When backpacking, you’ll need to work smart with the limited luggage space you have. But just because you can only bring a few clothing items with you doesn’t mean you can’t look fashionable on your trip. How do you do this, though?
Prioritize packing versatile pieces that you can re-wear in different combinations instead of bringing pieces of clothing you can see yourself only wearing in combination with a few other things. Solid-colored T-shirts, denim shorts, pleated skirts, and dark tights are all good examples of pieces that can be used to create a solid foundation for many different outfits. You’ll also want to shop tights, socks, shoes, hats, and other items in colors that are easy to pair with each other.
Naturally, it’s equally important to choose clothes that you can mix and match with the weather at your destination in mind. If you’re headed somewhere cold, consider lightweight sweaters and long-sleeved shirts that are made with insulation technology. These will help save space in your luggage while still keeping you warm. Thicker winter clothes like fur coats or parkas will probably be too bulky to pack, so consider wearing your heaviest outerwear while traveling instead.
2. Prioritize low-maintenance fabrics
Backpacking means you’ll be carrying fewer clothes with you on the whole, so you want to make sure the attire you do bring is relatively simple to care for during your trip. After all, you don’t want to spend your valuable vacation time hunting high and low for a specialized laundry or dry-cleaning service.
If you intend to do laundry during your trip, prioritize garments that are straightforwardly machine-washable and don’t have complicated care requirements. Clothes made of materials that don’t wrinkle easily are also always a good choice, as you can wear these out without having to iron or steam them beforehand. Materials like denim, spandex, rayon, polyester, and merino wool are all good examples of relatively wrinkle-resistant fabrics.
To spare yourself the trouble of worrying about stains, you may also want to decide against bringing too many white or light-colored pieces of clothing. Spilling a drink or accidentally brushing against a dirty or dusty surface and having to change your top in the middle of the day can really put a damper on your travels. Clothes in darker colors will hide unsightly stains better and allow you to go about your planned activities without worrying as much.
3. Include a pop of color
While a classic, neutral, or muted looks always work, it never hurts to add a pop of color to your packed outfits. If you’d like to stand out from the crowds at your destination, for instance, you might consider dressing yourself head to toe in your favorite color. Even if your tastes are more low-key, however, a brightly colored scarf, shirt, cap, or another piece can bring a bit of fun to even the simplest, most utilitarian look.
Traveling to a new place where nobody knows you could also present an opportunity to experiment with shades you might hesitate to wear back home. If you’re looking to update your travel wardrobe, don’t be afraid to explore shades you wouldn’t normally reach for. Vivid hues like neon or jewel tones might look intimidating on the rack, but try them on anyway if they speak to you. Travel is all about being adventurous and taking risks, and you may just discover a new favorite color in the process.
4. Add character with accessories
Rather than packing more clothes, consider taking a few well-chosen accessories with you to help pull together your outfits and enhance your style. Jewelry, small purses, scarves, hats, and the like can show off your personality wonderfully. These accessories are also compact enough to pack without sacrificing a ton of luggage space.
Simple pieces of jewelry like necklaces and earrings can do a lot to elevate even the most casual looks. As such, they’re great for travel days when you’d like to look just a little more put-together than usual. If you have a dressier event than usual on your agenda, like dinner at an upscale restaurant or a theater show, some well-chosen bling will bring the glamor factor without being too over-the-top.
Scarves are another handy, super-portable accessory to have on your travels, regardless of where you’re going or what the weather will be like at your destination. Beyond keeping you warm in colder climates, scarves are a subtle way to spice up your travel outfits. A neutral-colored scarf that matches the rest of your look can pull your whole ensemble together, while a more brightly colored or patterned alternative will draw the eye.
As long as you pack smart, it’s entirely possible to live out of a backpack during your trips and still look fashionable while doing so. Choosing clothes and accessories that are versatile, comfortable, and simple to maintain will allow you to fit a whole wardrobe’s worth of style-savvy into your one bag easily.