I recently received an email from Emily, a reader in the planning stages for a very long trip. Like many of us here, she was also trying to find the right clothing for her travels, but also not trying to spend an arm and a leg:
Hi there! I’m looking for clothes for my very long term trip (probably over 3 years). I’ll be in all sorts of climates over those three years so I’m planning on doing lots of layering. However travel specific clothes are pretty darn expensive and not always the most attractive/flattering. Are there certain types of fabrics that are quick drying that I could search for at say Old Navy or other cheaper stores like that? Thanks!
Where can I find affordable quick-drying clothes?
I think the key here is to look at the fabrics in your favorite gear and try to find comparative pieces.
For example, Exofficio underwear are made of 94% nylon and 6% lycra/spandex, which is a quick drying combination. You could probably get some “athletic wear” from Walmart, Old Navy, Target, etc. with that material for cheaper, but the kicker is that it might not be treated with the same anti-microbe shield material. So, it won’t be as good.
Some quick drying pants are made from nylon, which you could find anywhere, but then the travel gear version might also be treated with extra sun protection, for example.
My final verdict: Maybe going for just a few key pieces that are in the higher price range and filling the rest of the wardrobe with bits and bobs that can be replaced on the go would be best.
Have any of you traveling ladies been successful at finding cheaper clothing that can take the place of expensive technical gear?
For underwear (if Emily is in Aussie), Bonds have reasonably cheap invisible range of underwear which feel like thin stretchy nylon spandex (I can’t find what they’re actually made of). They dry super quick and are relatively cheap and common to pick up. Also, g-strings in any synthetic material make a huge difference since they’re quick drying and don’t take up a lot of space – if you can get used to wearing them.
I don’t know what the questioner considers to be “affordable” clothing, but will take a stab at answering her question. She needs to shop seasonal sales, both online and at b & m stores, for the following brands: Aventura, Columbia, Eddie Bauer (especially their Travex line), ExOfficio, Prana, REI, Royal Robbins, and similar.
I buy casual clothing from the C9 line (made by Champion athletic wear) at Target. Shopping at Under Armour, Eddie Bauer, and similar at outlet malls saves money. I’m always on the lookout for good buys and usually buy at discounts of 40-70%. I won’t even consider a clothing purchase (except at Target) unless it’s at least 25% off.
Avoid Walmart and similar, even though their clothing is cheap it doesn’t last and won’t withstand the rigors of long-term travel. Check packing lists and suggestions on this blog for more ideas. Buy a quick-dry towel and use it for rolling handwashed clothing (instead of wringing – which causes wrinkles). Using this method, 100% cotton items will dry fairly quickly in a dry climate.
Every consider purchasing second hand? Most of my quick-dry cloths I have purchased at second hand stores, since I know they will get a beating in the woods when I hike (I do a lot of bushwacking). I have a few men’s hiking pants that actually fit pretty good, some really cute/fashionable quick dry tops, amazing travel friendly dresses and I have purchased great brands like Columbia, North Face and Prana for a fraction of new. I does take some digging and often several visits to these second hand stores, but when you find that great gem of a deal, totally worth it. My favorite pair of quick-drying hiking pants are from Prana. Love them so much, I thought I might as well purchase a new pair… well, I paid $7.99 at my local Value Village Store for the used pair and they want $110 for the new ones (plus $50 to ship to Canada)…. hum… I’ll keep looking on the used rack, thanks!
Surprisingly enough, i found a great quick dry t-shirt from Walmart’s activewear section. I’ve also seen some things in Old Navy. They may not be quite as good of quality as the expensive ones, but the are better than the average shirts and seem great to me!
Hi Kristy –
We’d love to hear more about your finds if you ever feel like writing a guest post. This information could be really useful to our readers 🙂
I’ve had luck on e-Bay. Online discount stores like Sierra Trading Post are a good option- check their sales! Check the clearance racks at sports stores. DIG at Goodwill and other secondhand shops. I have a bunch of Chico’s travel knit items for business trips that I got at secondhand shops, and I got most of my quick drying wardrobe for my last trip to Sri Lanka on e-bay and Sierra Trading Post. Keep in mind that you will likely need a lot less than you think, so even if you have to buy new, it may not be as massive as of an expense as you are anticipating. Enjoy your trip!
I am currently buying clothing for my 2 month backpacking trip through Central America. I’ve found quick drying shirts at Walmart (each about $3), second-hand clothing stores for a few other quick drying shirts ($0.85 each), Merrell hiking shoes at Gander Mountain (sale price was somewhere around $40), Merrell stretch pants for $11 at a Merrell store sale, and North Face pants ($35) and shorts ($11) on sale at Gander Mountain, too. I know Target has quick drying clothes for a fraction of the cost, too. And always check places like Amazon (exofficio underwear at $3 each!), Steep and Cheap has constant deals, or ask any other travel friends for local deals. I went into a secondhand clothing store with a friend I’m traveling with in her hometown, and we found some awesome cargo pants for $3. It’s a lot of work sometimes, but you just have to keep shopping. It’s always a good idea to start as soon as possible, so you can always be looking for deals up until your trip, rather than having to buy everything at full prices because you leave in a week!
Excellent info Farrah! If you ever want to do a full post on this topic, let us know.
I’d love to! Please email me more details about what you would like me to do. Thanks so much!