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Your Go-To Guide for Affordable Quick-Drying Travel Clothes

Your Go-To Guide for Affordable Quick-Drying Travel Clothes

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Here at HPL, we love to pack light. That’s why we are obsessed with quick-drying clothes. 

One outfit that can be washed and worn multiple times on a trip…yes, please! 

But we know that specialty quick dry travel items don’t always come cheap. That’s why we’ve shared some of our favorite tips and tricks for finding affordable quick-drying travel clothes.

Why We Love Quick-Drying Clothing at HPL

Reason #1: It ensures you have clean AND dry clothes when you need them

Quick-dry materials allow you to wash your clothes when you get back to your hotel from a day of exploring and they will be dry and ready for you to wear the next morning. You can rely on fewer items of clothing when you know they can dry quickly. 

Not only is this perfect for packing light, but it’s also great if you unexpectedly run out of clothes or something gets lost or damaged. It’s easy and stress-free to wash quick-dry clothing and know that you will be able to wear it again soon.

I wear many of my items more than once without washing but sometimes things just need a wash and there are also some non-negotiables like my travel underwear

Not all hotels have laundry facilities and even if they do have a washing facility, they may not have a dryer available. Having quick-dry clothing means that you can still get your washing done and not have to stress about it drying in time.

Reason #2: Unexpected downpours won’t ruin your day

Quick-dry clothing is also perfect for if there’s a lot of unexpected rain at your destination. A little bit of rain never stopped any of us from exploring a new destination. Although, we can all agree that being stuck in wet clothes for hours is less than ideal.

Clothing made of quick-drying fabric will literally dry while it is on your body which means you won’t be stuck in soggy clothes while trying to enjoy the rest of your day.

Reason #3: Chafing and blisters are less of an issue

Often quick-dry clothing is also moisture-wicking. Moisture-wicking fabric pulls moisture away from your skin into the top layer of fabric, where it can quickly evaporate. 

This means that even if you’re sweating in a hot and humid climate, you can avoid the dreaded chafing because your clothes won’t stay damp for long. This is also great for preventing blisters.

Women in rain in affordable quick-drying clothes
A little rain never stopped us from exploring

Reader Question: Where can I find affordable quick-drying clothes?

I received an email from Emily, a reader in the planning stages of a very long trip. Like many of us here, she was trying to find the right clothing for her travels, but also not trying to spend an arm and a leg. This is what she asked me:

“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?”

Tough question.

It’s all in the fabric

I think the key here is to look at the fabrics in your favorite quick-drying gear and try to find comparative pieces.

For example, Exofficio underwear is made of 94% nylon and 6% lycra/spandex, which is a quick-drying combination. You could find some of these materials in the sports section at Walmart, Old Navy, or Target. The kicker is that it might not be treated with the same anti-microbe shield material. So, it won’t be as good but it will still be quick-drying.

Some quick-drying pants are made from nylon, which you could find anywhere, but the travel gear version might also be treated with extra sun protection, for example.

Many sports clothes are made from moisture-wicking materials. If you’re looking for quick-dry leggings and t-shirts for your trip, consider buying activewear instead. This not only serves a dual function but there are many activewear brands that are more reasonably priced than specialty travel brands.

You can get a FULLSOFT three-pack of moisture-wicking polyester/spandex leggings for under $23 on Amazon. Bonus, they have pockets!

Affordable quick-drying leggings
FULLSOFT 3 Pack Leggings for Women

Seek out cheaper travel-specific clothing

Don’t be afraid to purchase pre-loved travel gear. One of the perks of travel-specific clothes is that they are often made from materials that wear better than normal fabrics.

They stay looking new for longer no matter how many times they have been worn and washed. You’ll likely receive the item looking almost brand new.

If you have booked your trip in advance, a great idea to find affordable quick-drying clothes is at seasonal sales both online and in-store.  You’ll be able to get good quality travel pieces at a much more affordable price. Monitor your favorite shops often to see when their sales are. 

You can also shop at outlet stores for your favorite travel brands at a much more reasonable price. 

It’s more affordable if you need less of it

The great thing about quick-drying clothing is that one item can be worn and washed multiple times on a trip. This means you don’t need to stock your whole travel wardrobe with quick-drying clothing. 

Invest in a few key pieces that are in a higher price range and fill the rest of your travel wardrobe with bits and bobs that can be replaced on the go.

If you need some tips for packing the perfect travel wardrobe check out the Handbag Packing Masterclass

Fabrics to Look Out For

There are specific fabrics that we love at HPL for traveling. When shopping for clothes that are quick-drying, some fabrics you want to look out for are merino wool, nylon, polyester, rayon, and fleece. 

Not only is merino wool quick drying, but it is also odor-resistant which means you may not even need to wash it while you are away.

Synthetic materials like nylon and polyester are moisture-wicking – they pull moisture away from your skin and allow it to evaporate quickly. Not only is this helpful when you’re wearing the item to keep you fresh, but it also makes these materials quick to dry.

Rayon although not as good at wicking moisture like nylon and polyester, is quick-drying and wrinkle-resistant.

Fleece absorbs much less water than other materials. You can wash your fleece clothing before you go to sleep and it will easily be ready for you to wear the next day. 

Bamboo, although not quick-drying, is still one of our fav travel fabrics. This is because it is odor-resistant. So although you might not be able to wash this while you are on holiday, you can wear it multiple times before it starts to smell. 

  • Thinner fabrics in general dry quite quickly even if they are not specifically quick-drying. Shopping for thinner fabrics rather than shopping for specifically quick-drying items is an easy way to save money on your travel wardrobe

Have any of you traveling ladies been successful at finding cheaper clothing that can take the place of expensive technical gear?

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Sarah says

    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.

  2. Dianne says

    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.

    Happy traveling!

  3. Renee says

    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!

  4. kristy says

    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!

    • Brooke says

      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 🙂

  5. Catherine says

    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!

  6. Farrah says

    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!


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