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When Wicking Clothing is a Good Idea

wicking top

You may have heard the term “wicking” referred once or twice while researching your packing gear lists. You may also associate the term with people who run or go to the gym.

Well, the thing is that many backpackers and those that participate in light hiking travel activities also enjoy a good piece of wicking clothing. It might help for days when you’re forced to walk around for hours with a heavy backpack on, or it could be of use when you decide to climb an active volcano.

What Wicking Clothing Does

Wicking clothing “wicks” the moisture (aka sweat) away from your skin, which makes you feel more comfortable when you’re active. Wicking clothing is also usually made of a synthetic material that doesn’t absorb wetness. What this does is make the moisture more readily available for evaporation. So, in other words, wicking material also tends to be quick-drying, which is a godsend when you’re constantly on the move or when you just need to hand-wash a pair of undies and have them be ready by morning.

Yep, the Exofficio travel undies we know and love are wicking and quick-drying.

Why Not Cotton?

Cotton clothing is very breathable and super comfortable in the summer months, but the problem here is that cotton absorbs sweat. Since it absorbs sweat and moisture, it doesn’t present the moisture to be readily evaporated and dispersed causing you to stay damp longer. You might notice that a cotton t-shirt left out on a clothing line with no sun might take ages to dry, right? Imagine that you’re waiting for your laundry to dry out but are then forced to pack it up in your luggage… damp… before your flight. We all know what happens to wet clothes in a backpack or suitcase… it smells!

In the winter time, cotton is also not optimal for being active as your clothes will stay damp longer, making you chilled.

When to Use Wicking Clothing

Since wicking clothing does not actually stop you from sweating, you must be aware that there is a point where wicking clothing may feel just as saturated as cotton, perhaps when traveling in the deep humidity of places like Malaysia, Guatemala or even Florida. It will, however, tend to dry quicker than the cotton equivalent. What this means is that after your walk out in the heat and humidity, when you return to your place of shady serenity on your Florida getaway or jungle trekking adventures, you’ll be at a drier and more comfortable level sooner.

In less humid climates, wicking shirts and gear are great for days when you plan to be a bit more active, such as when you have to do a lot of walking with your luggage on your back, when you decided to hike in the woods for an afternoon, or even when you decide to climb to the top of a bell tower. The wicking gear might be an option for those who like to save a buck or two on laundry by doing their washing in the sink.

What sort of wicking travel gear do you use?

Photo credit.

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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Gear We Use


Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.

Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.

Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking! – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

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