The 5 Most Versatile Garments for Traveling Light

I'm good at packing light, but at the end of a trip, I often find an article of clothing that I haven't worn, that just sat in my bag taking up space the whole time. Usually, it's a piece of clothing that wasn't very versatile. It's the top that I can only wear with a certain pair of high waisted jeans, and only if the temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees. It's the bra that I packed because it's the only one I can wear with that one dress that turned out to be too fancy for this trip anyway. Or the heels that I can only wear if we're taking a cab. This is a forgivable sin, of course, but those forgotten items are a detriment to my "packing light" game! 

The solution? Packing clothes that are versatile. Versatile clothing keeps my bag light and helps me to put together outfits more easily when I'm traveling. So, I'm sharing a few of my favorite versatile clothing items for travel!


1. A Merino Wool Sweater

A Merino wool sweater pairs well with most bottoms and can be worn in a variety of climates and occasions. Visiting London in the winter? Use it as an extra layer. Beach vacation? Bring your sweater to stay warm on the flight and to throw on when the temperature drops in the evening. Bonus: wool is antibacterial so you can get several wears out of your sweater before it needs to be washed -- just hang it over a chair before you go to bed to air it out! Size up so it isn't right up against your skin (which will help keep it fresh) and so you can wear it with leggings. Merino's especially nice because it's thin enough to layer and fold compactly, and isn't as scratchy as many other types of wool. A decent Merino sweater will also last for years, as long as you care for it properly (i.e. hand wash in cold water and rack dry).

Personally, I like the men's Merino v-neck sweaters at Bonobos (I'll just get this out of the way, no one's sponsoring this post and I'm just telling you where to get these items out of the goodness of my heart).

Clothes on a chair

Pro-tip: Pack tops that are in a similar color palette so you can mix and match them to your jeans and leggings. Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

2. Speaking of Leggings...

I always have at least one pair of leggings when I go on a trip. This should surprise no one. I am a 31 year old woman and leggings are an integral part of my life. I can wear leggings to work out, on the plane (only sociopaths wear jeans on a long flight...), under pants or a dress for extra warmth, etc. The key is to pack a pair of leggings that you can wear across a variety of situations and that will dry quickly if you need to wash them in the sink. Most athletic leggings are made to dry quickly, so the real art is in finding a pair of those that are inconspicuous enough to wear with a long top or sweater. Check out Gymshark and Girlfriend Collective for some good options.

3. A Kaftan, duh

Obviously, pack a kaftan. You can sleep in your kaftan or wear it as you lounge around. "But Virginia, I sleep naked!" Okay well, that's fine. Can you go to the free breakfast buffet at the Marriott naked? No, you cannot. You can throw on a kaftan to grab a bite and a cup of coffee. I've literally gotten compliments on my kaftan at hotel breakfast buffets, even when the rest of my "look" (raccoon eyes, bed head) made me look like a hungover witch. Kaftans can also double as maxi dresses and bathing suit cover-ups, so you can wear one out to dinner or over your bathing suit when you transition from the beach to the tiki bar.


Janiece in our 'Sundaze' Long Kaftan

4. A Scarf

Two girls (I'm on the left) who know the importance of a good travel scarf! This was a trip to Scotland where I learned that the TSA definition of a "liquid" is pretty flexible. Still had a great time!
The few times I've traveled without a scarf, I've regretted it. I have a range of about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit where I'm actually comfortable. A scarf is necessary when it's cold, helpful when it's just a bit chilly, and if I get hot it's easy to stash in my purse! Plus, wearing a scarf makes it look like you had "a look" in mind when you got ready, even if you're just wearing your oversized sweater and pretending that your leggings are pants.

5. Dark Jeans

You can wear a pair of dark jeans to death! I don't think I need to explain the concept of denim to anyone reading this; jeans are tough. Dark jeans are tough and can be dressed up. Wear them around sightseeing, dress them up with a nice top for dinner, do an easy hike in them, and wear them to the club if that's where the night takes you! 


These black jeans have been everywhere, from off-roading through the desert in Wadi Rum and to acting dramatic in Napa. Leave a comment if you want to know where to get them. 

What are some of your must-have clothes for travel? Tell us in the comments!


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Photo by Xavier Coiffic on Unsplash

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