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30 Days to Packing a Better Bag – Day 7: Choose Your Travel Clothing – Technical Gear

day 7: research technical clothing options and benefits.

Welcome to Day 7 of 30 Days to Packing a Better Bag.

At Her Packing List, we highly recommend packing a bit of technical clothing (as part of your layering technique) into your bag in order to be more efficient.

Technical clothing, a term you might have heard tossed around at your local outdoor and travel gear shop, consists of fabrics that have been invented or improved by science. These fabrics tend to stay warmer, dry quicker, or block wetness better than normal fabrics, and, in the right situations, help to save your life.

Yet, even if you are into casual city travel, the addition of technical clothing proves worthy, so don’t let your eyes glaze over before finishing this article!

Technical Clothing Benefits

Whether it’s because of the fibers or a special coating, some technical clothing has the ability to repel water, dry quicker, block UV rays, insulate better or repel bugs. Depending on the type and style of trip you plan to take, there is sure to be a type of technical clothing that can make it better.

Wicks Wetness: When in extreme conditions, staying dry can protect you from getting sick (too hot, too cold and wet) and just from feeling gross at the end of a day. Wicking material helps draw the moisture away from our skin and out into the outer layer where it can dry, helping us to maintain our proper body temperature and feel more comfortable.

Blocks Sun: While you can get a certain level of sun protection from normal clothing, there are fabrics nowadays that have been given certain UPF ratings. By purchasing this type of clothing, you can be even more protected, especially in destinations where the sun is rather harsh. Think Australia’s Outback.

Repels Bugs: Some travel companies have started using fabrics treated with permethrin to make travel clothing, which is especially great to have when traveling to destinations where bug-borne illnesses (malaria, dengue fever, etc.) are an issue. Every little bit helps!

Wrinkles Less: Some of the fabrics of technical clothing are designed to wrinkle less, which means you can more easily just pull something out of your bag without looking to much like a slob. It’s a great perk for investing in quality gear. Take a look at the Exofficio Savvy Dress-up Dress for an example of this type of fabric.

Better Design: Technical clothing could also just have a nice design with more features that are useful to travelers. Hidden pockets, more pockets, and pockets with zippers help to give us more places to store belongings on our self, as well as to keep it better protected from pickpockets. Items that convert into other articles of clothing are a major plus. Yes, those zip-off pants aren’t always the most stylish, but they serve a purpose for many travelers.

Plus, a lot of technical clothing packs up lighter and smaller than everyday clothing.

get the same warmth with less bulk
Left: Bulky winter sweater with a single purpose. Right: Layered technical clothing that can be mixed and matched to serve multiple purposes. Plus, they pack down smaller. Silkbody Silkspun camisole, wool cardigan and a fleece lined jacket from Kathmandu (Altica200).

Technical Clothing Fabrics

Some examples of technical clothing fabrics:

Nylon and Polyesters: These fabrics are great for wicking moisture away from the body. You will see these fabrics in such gear as travel underwear and tops.

Rayon: Rayon has great wrinkle-resistant features. Although it doesn’t tend to wick away moisture as well as the above, a nice blend of the two can serve as a great travel fabric. The Savvy Dress-up Dress is made of a blend.

Blends with natural fibers: Merino Wool is a natural fiber that is thinner and softer than traditional wool. Combined with just the smallest amount of elastane (Lycra), this fabric proves to be a perfect fitting piece of travel gear that is great for wicking moisture, drying quickly and smelling less. Companies like Icebreaker claim that their clothing made of merino wool can be worn several times (or several weeks) without washing!

Another great type of blended technical clothing is that of natural silk, merino wool and cotton. Silkbody in New Zealand has created a line of travel-friendly clothing made of this blend since the fabric wears beautifully, feels great on the skin, helps to wick moisture away and regulates body temperature in all temperatures.

silkbody clothing
Silkbody produces a line of clothing that is great for travelers because it is odor-resistant, packs up smaller, dries quickly and wears beautifully given the blend of fabrics. Left: Silkbody Lounge Pants, Silkbody Silkspun camisole. Right: Silkbody Silkspun Scoop Neck Tank Dress. These are all considered base layer pieces meant to be worn next to the skin.

But Technical Clothing is Expensive

Yes, it often comes with a price. However, these companies often provide limited or lifetime warranties on their products, and the products tend to really last. When packing with a minimalist wardrobe, you will end up wearing each item in your luggage to the max. Wear and tear becomes more likely, which is when you will be happy that you invested in a few pieces that won’t need to be replaced on your adventures.

If cost is an issue, think about the cost per wear of the article you are investing in, not the total price.

It is possible to get comparable fabric combinations for cheaper, such as in the athletic department at Wal-Mart or Target, but you have to consider the construction and additional benefits you might get when purchasing from a company creating with the traveler and outdoor lover in mind. These often come with extra treatments and storage that can make your travels easier.

But Technical Travel Clothing Looks Bad

Does it? There are ranges of “technical clothing” today that actually look quite feminine. No, you don’t have to go on your adventures looking as if you’re on a safari expedition (see the options above and below). Dresses, skirts, and form fitting tops are all on offer. Go with pieces that can be dressed up or down.

technical travel clothing comes in versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down
Get versatile technical pieces like these black travel pants from North Face. They can work for day tripping or dressing up.

Along the same line, it important to remember the following. Style is important to many females, but too much style in some countries can make you stand out more. When choosing your travel clothing, it is wise to never go too tight or too skimpy.

Always Have One Quick Dry Outfit

Sure, you may not need to have the latest Gore-Tex coated jackets, or a sun-protective pair of pants, but there is one tip we like to give to any female traveling longer than a weekend away:

Pack one full outfit made of quick-drying fabric.

Why? You never know when you might need to wash some clothing at the last minute, and at least this one outfit can be more reliably dry and ready to go when you need it most. Don’t stop at just the tops and bottoms. Quick drying travel underwear and bras are also a must!

Take Action: Research Technical Clothing
Take some time to research the different types of technical clothing on the market. Think about your upcoming travel plans, and the activities you wish to pursue, and decide if a certain item of technical clothing can improve you trip. Replace and update your packing list.

* Thanks to Silkbody for providing the dress, lounge pants and camisole for our project examples. Expect thorough reviews of these items in the near future.

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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Travel Resources

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Comments

  1. OCDemon says

    I think the options are currently better for women than they are for men in terms of looks. It’s certainly possible to find non-safari technical gear, but it seems like over on the women’s side of whatever store I visit, it’s hard to find UGLY clothing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but it seems like there are more options.

    I just wish we didn’t have to choose between technical clothing and fashionable clothing ever again. Why would I want something that looks good OR feels good if I can have both?

    • Brooke says

      Yes I definitely think that is a great idea! You will notice as you travel how useful these items become… and generally how much longer they last compared to non-technical pieces. 🙂

  2. Kay says

    Just to share, here in this side of Asia, in terms of availability, affordability and quality, Uniqlo has several technical clothing series that I normally use for my travels. They have the Heatech range for winter layering; supersoft, very lightweight, very packable clothing comes in base layering shirts, leggings, bratops etc. The also have extra fine merino clothing (next on my list) and the Ultra Light down outerwear. For summer/tropical climate or beach holidays, they have the Airism series which is very cooling to wear, very breathable for humid climate, has odor control technology and made with quick drying fibers. What I like the most is their technical clothing caters not only for both men and women but also for kids, so basically for my whole family. Love!

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