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Packing Tip: Always Pack One Outfit of Quick Dry Fabric

pack one outfit of quick dry fabric

When choosing to pack light and bring a minimal wardrobe on your travel adventures, there is always a concern that you won’t be able to have clean clothes every day.

To which I respond that it is, in fact, a valid concern, but one that shouldn’t be major if you plan ahead accordingly.

And that plan should always include packing one outfit of quick dry fabric.

Because, let’s face it, sometimes travel plans mold and shape themselves as you go and turn out to be nothing like what you had in your head. What you thought might be a relaxed, short day on the town with plenty of time to seek out laundry in the evening, serendipitously turns into a nice dinner, a show, or other fun event running late into the night.

Or, you might just come back from sightseeing all day too tired to give your laundry a second thought. I’ve been there!

In any case, packing that one quick dry outfit can save the day. Instead of being forced to wear that ripe shirt for the 3rd time, you now have the option to toss your special outfit into a sink wash and have it ready and rarin’ for you the very next day.

Quick dry fabrics are typically synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester. Cotton, while a comfortable and breathable fabric, takes much longer to dry and should be avoided in many travel situations.

What You Need

One outfit from top to bottom that is made of quick-drying material. When we say top to bottom, we mean everything from shirts to pants to underwear.

If you can’t invest in the whole quick dry outfit, I find having the base layer as something I can quickly wash and wear to be a help. At a bare minimum, a pair of quick dry underwear is essential, but a base layer tank or t-shirt that can be worn between your skin and outer clothing is even better when it comes to feeling clean.

Test the items in advance so you have an idea of how long they take to dry in various situations (humid, cold, low airflow, etc.).

why you should pack one outfit of quick dry fabric
The above outfit consists of the Royal Robbins Noe Shirt*; the North Face Horizon II Pants*; the Exofficio Crossover Bra*; the Exofficio Give-n-go Lacy Underwear*; and the Tilly Dries Overnight Ankle Socks*.

*Please note this post contains affiliate links, denoted with an asterisk. See our disclosure here.

Why You Need a Quick Dry Outfit

As mentioned before, this outfit will ensure you are easily able to have clean clothes when traveling light. It will be your fallback outfit if time gets away from you and you need an option for clothes that can be washed and dried (or at least close to it) before your next wear.

How to Wash Your Fast Drying Clothes

We have full instructions for hand-washing your clothes on the road right here. The quick and dirty guide is that you plug a sink, add some travel laundry wash, submerge soiled clothing in the sink, scrub, rinse, wring and hang.

Wilderness Wash-ing clothes
Washing clothes in the sink is easier than you think! Please disregard all the non-quick drying clothing in this image.
  • Before hanging, it is best to remove as much water as possible from the clothing. We do this by rolling the wet clothes in a towel and then squeezing and stepping on the roll. This helps to pull the water into the towel. A small microfiber towel works perfectly for this, and you can just wring the water out of that towel before moving on to the next item!
  • Hang the clothing in the most ventilated part of a room if you can’t put them outside. Close to a heating unit (but not too close!) is great, as is near a fan. If all else fails, give the most possible space for each item. For example, one reader mentioned using inflatable hangers for this task since it provides air flow space between the front and back of the top for faster drying time.

Extra Notes: If you have access to a washing machine but no dryer, this quick dry outfit will be the first to be ready for wear. Also, if you find your clothes aren’t completely dry the next day, a quick blast of a hair dryer will usually do the trick.

Put Your Packing Light Worries to Bed

Since starting Her Packing List, I’ve become focused on putting people’s packing worries at ease. Yes, packing super light is not the easiest thing to wrap your head around if you haven’t done it, so with that I leave you with these final thoughts:

It’s not the end of the world if you wear the same few outfits over and over again. It’s not going to rain fire if your clothes aren’t as clean as you’d like. And rest assured, that one outfit of quick dry fabric will be a godsend when time is of the essence.

If this helps to at least alleviate one person’s worry, then I know I’ve done my job. Happy packing!

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. Jenn says

    This is brilliant! I’m preparing for a trip in October, so I’m going to make sure I have at least one full quick drying outfit. While I love the quick drying clothes, they tend to be “sporty,” which isn’t always how I want to look.

    Another thing I’ve found that helps with hand washing clothes is Eucalan. It’s a liquid soap for hand washing and delicates, and you don’t have to rinse it out! I usually do rinse it out somewhat but it doesn’t have to be perfect. It saves time and water. I will always have it on hand. It’s great for travel. I have Lavender and grapefruit scents. It comes in bottles for home use, and they sell little packets for travel. I decant into smaller bottles for travel.

  2. Lacey says

    I have found that the dry sheets of travel laundry soap just didn’t cut it during our last backpacking trip, especially for making things smell clean. The one way I found to get “funk” out of clothes (think you had a garlic heavy dinner then were on a hot train for 12 hours afterward and that shirt is now RIPE), is to wash the clothes in baby soap/shampoo (the most versatile of travel toiletries!), then apply alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the underarm area of the garment before rinsing. Quick-dry fabrics tend to hold onto body odors worse than cotton, wool, etc., so this may save your shirt 🙂

  3. LP Wyrick says

    Try Zote soap for hand washing. It is a bar soap made for laundering that smells great. The bar is fairly large, so I cut a off a chunk and put it in a plastic bag to take in my suitcase (since it is not liquid, it doesn’t take up valuable space in my 3-1-1 bag). It is available at the grocery store where I live and also on Amazon.

  4. LInda Farr says

    I also bring balloons. After washing a shirt, I let it dry on a hanger with a small inflated balloon tucked inside to increase the airflow. In the morning my shirt is dry and the kids have a balloon to play with in the room.

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