We’re at almost half a year of continuous travel, with one backpack and one computer bag each. Someone asked me what was inside those bags. What kind of clothing could possibly stand up to twenty-four weeks of wearing, washing, rolling, packing, unpacking, and folding?
Underwear: 7 pairs each
B has 3 types of underwear, 2 of which I suspect would survive a natural disaster.
- ExOfficio GiveNGo Boxer Briefs: I discovered these after entirely too much reading of men’s underwear reviews on Amazon. They do pill over time, but they are comfortable, dry quickly, and seem to resist odor and sweat. However, despite what the reviews say, they are not quite “clippings of God’s beard spun into dick armor.” Disappointing, I know.
- Uniqlo Airism Boxer Briefs: This discovery was the result of even more intense researching of men’s underwear. After reading a lengthy ode to this type of underwear, B and I were both sold. In fact, they do everything the above ones do, just a bit better and faster – and they’re cheaper! I would write a review, but then, they’ll sell out even faster. Selfishness FTW.
- Gap Stretch Trunks: Sadly, the only event this type of underwear could survive would be a light breeze. They’re pretty (B’s design are entirely more entertaining than this one), but they ride up, don’t sweat well, and come apart at the seams. To be fair, regular use by someone other than a full-time traveler or a crash-test dummy should be fine.
My underwear would be similarly ineffective in the case of natural disaster:
- Gap Cotton Low-Rise Bikini and Hipster:
My selections required significantly less research. During my adult life, no other company has consistently made all-cotton underwear that doesn’t look like it’s designed for my grandma. As a result, I am single-handedly funding Gap’s profit margins.
Socks: 7 pairs each (or thereabouts, given the socks lost during laundry)
The quest for socks was almost as epic as the underwear one. I knew what I wanted, but finding it at a price I could stomach was a different matter.
- SmartWool Socks: B and I each have two pairs of these awesome socks. (His lack flowers, alas.) I bought them on a site that sells stuff with imperfections, since I wouldn’t pay their retail price unless these socks were magical self-cleaning, warm versions that would match all possible clothing and wash the dishes. No such luck, but they are comfortable, non-slippy, warm, and fairly resistant to dirt and such. If only the rest of my socks didn’t slide around like they were auditioning for the Ice Capades. (And now I have officially proven myself too old for life.) Just be sure to check the specs for 60%+ of merino wool, or it’s not worth it.
Shoes: 3 pairs each
- Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking Boots: B didn’t have a pair of good hiking shoes, so we bought these before the trip. They’re no more comfortable or rugged than any other hiking boots, but they are breathable, durable, and lightweight.
- Black sneakers: B gets a pair of these from Ross whenever the last ones fall apart. There are Ross stores in South Korea, right?
- Keen Alamosa Hiking Boots: I bought these a few years ago for general hiking, and they’re good on the trip too. The back goes up a little too high on my ankle, so it rubs a tiny bit, but the support is great. I’m not a fan of wearing them in European cities, of course, but good everywhere else.
- Hogl Red Flats: On the screen, these look kind of hideous, but they’re marginally more attractive in person. Also, anything that fits my feet, looks somewhat city-appropriate, and doesn’t weigh a million pounds is a great shoe. These were a TK Maxx find after my former black flats died in Poland. We tried another pair before this one, and I’m pretty sure I still have scars from that endeavor. B says I didn’t give them enough of a chance, and that may be true, but having such ridiculous feet is not fun.
- Shower shoes for each of us
Pants: 2 for B, 3 for N
- North Face Horizon II Convertible Pants: They are pants AND shorts in one! When we asked a store employee if they had convertible pants, they visibly snickered. We get it: they’re a fashion faux pas. But being dual-purpose is a big deal when you’re carrying your clothes on your back. This particular pair is comfortable, fits well, and has stood up to over 120 days of use in all conditions, with no signs of wear yet. <– As you can see, B is pretty happy with these pants. Just don’t call him a lumbersexual.
- His favorite jeans made it three months into travel before giving up the ghost. So, we bought him a pair of Euro-sexy jeans from the Shoreditch Sunday market for £5. Since the market was in a giant parking lot, the ‘fitting room’ was a curtained area in the back of a semi trailer. We do fancy right.
No matter how many travel packing lists I read, I couldn’t make myself buy ‘outdoorswoman’ pants. And now I will contradict every travel blogger ever: unless your travel style entails almost-daily hiking, jeans are perfectly appropriate.
- At the risk of sounding like a shill for the Gap, I’ll admit that 80% of the jeans I’ve owned as an adult are from there. The fit is pretty good, but the most important part is that they have short sizes! You average-sized people cannot appreciate the fun of stepping on your own pants until the middle back frays into oblivion. I would tell you which style I buy, but I basically go to the clearance rack of one of their stores, and buy whatever pair fits me and doesn’t have some bizarre trendy thing like holes in the knees or patches. (When did it become the early 90s again?)
- Vogo Athletica Yoga Pants: Apparently, there’s a semi-black market for these coveted stretch pants. Though I don’t have the leopard print version I linked to, they are still pretty perfect. Flattering, sizing that’s flattering (XS, yeah right), dry quickly, and hardy. If I had known, I would have stockpiled.
Outerwear: 3 sweaters and 1 jacket each (+ extra jacket for N)
- Old Navy Lightweight Men’s Hoodie: B has the teal version, and it has quite the shelf-life – especially for something from Old Navy! It’s thin and comfortable..
- Old Navy Regular Men’s Hoodie: B also has a navy hoodie that’s heavier. I can personally attest that it’s quite comfortable – though I don’t think B appreciates the rolled-up sleeves.
- Marc Antony men’s cashmere sweater: B wears this when the weather is ridiculously cold – or he runs out of clean clothes.
- Gap Women’s Hoodie: I know: I have a Gap problem. But I found a comfortable, light-weight grey hoodie with no logo and no zipper right before we left. It screams ‘American,‘ but some days, you need a hoodie.
- Susan Bristol women’s wool sweater: I believe in being warm.
- DKNY Black Cardigan: Despite the coked-up Kardashian appearance of this model, this is a good sweater. Mine is a bit different (shorter, more weave-like, 1/10th the price), but folds around me conveniently like a cocoon for when I’m cold. Which is always.
- Regatta Men’s Softshell Jacket: We picked this up for B at a TK Maxx in London when it got cold. Decent warmth, though not so good for walking around cities at night.
- Hi-Tec Loon Women’s Shell Jacket: I bought this years ago for a trip to Portland and Vancouver, and it’s just as effective on this trip. It doesn’t keep me super warm, but it’s great in the rain, folds up pretty small, and has a million pockets.
- H&M Burgundy Pea Coat: Because it was really cold in London.
Long-Sleeved Shirts: 3 each
- Chambray (read: jean) women’s shirt: B hates this shirt. I mostly don’t care because it’s comfortable and seems to still be relatively trendy everywhere.
- Loft Petite Space Dye Scoop Neck Long-Sleeved Shirt: Despite the name, this shirt is neither scoop-necked (it’s a v-neck), nor space-like in any way (mine is dark teal), but it is comfortable.
- Navy 3/4-sleeve women’s shirt
- Teal long-sleeved men’s shirt
- Blue long-sleeved men’s shirt
- Grey wicking men’s shirt: This is more like a base layer. Shiny!
Short-Sleeved Shirts: 4 each
- Airism Men’s T-Shirt: I figured, if we were getting the Airism underwear, why not go all out? And by all out, I mean that there was a sale. Also, it wicks.
- Teal men’s t-shirt
- Blue men’s t-shirt: This one has a funny saying, and is courtesy of one of Warsaw’s chain stores.
- Grey men’s t-shirt
- Ann Taylor fancy tank: For the sophisticated traveler trying to pretend she’s not wearing jeans and Hogl flats.
- Black Adidas wicking t-shirt: This is my only concession to workout-like clothes.
- Red women’s t-shirt
- Black tank top
- Jessica Simpson Ruth Polka Dot Tank Top: Apparently, I am into funding Tony Romo’s retirement. My mom and I stumbled upon this travesty a few days before my US departure, and it was hot out, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
- Pajamas for each of us (though B’s could double as workout clothes)
- White men’s dress shirt and white women’s patterned dress
And that’s everything clothing-related, other than a few odds and ends (scarf and 3 bras for me; bathing suit and belt for B). It seems impossible that all of this fits in our bags. It’s even less believable when you factor in carrying towels, headlamps, a lot of medicine, locks, toiletries, minimal makeup, and whatever food I plan to cook next (generally, rice and spices). But clothes are compact, especially when compressed into Ziplock bags – and we regularly find ourselves needing massages. Speaking of…