- Over the last year, we have travelled the world for Business Insider, visiting nearly 20 countries and climates ranging from Beijing’s frosty spring to summer in the Middle East.
- Since we each brought only a carry-on suitcase and a backpack, we had packed it strategically with only the most essential items.
- We found that packing for a long trip was easy so long as you pack the right items that serve multiple purposes, like hiking boots that look good on a dance floor or a short-sleeve turtleneck that looks as good in the board room as out on the town.
Packing was daunting.
We had plans to travel through Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Greece, Israel, and Russia, among other places. Our trip had a wide variety of climates to plan for, from Beijing’s frosty early spring to Israel’s oppressively hot summer, and scenarios from board room meetings with executives at Chinese tech startups to hiking China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.
We didn’t get it all right at first. Throughout the trip, we purchased items, threw other ones away, and then when we stopped in New York in September for a wedding, we reassessed our entire packing list. Now, however, it’s down to a science.
The key, we found, was picking items that serve dual purposes, like hiking boots that look good on a dance floor or a short-sleeve turtleneck that looks as good in the boardroom as out on the town.
If we had to whittle our packing list down to only five items each, here’s what we would pack.
Harrison’s Top Five: 1. ExOfficio ($US26) or Uniqlo Airism ($US10) boxers
The first question I got about packing came from my stepdad, who asked, “But how many pairs of underwear do you pack? A dozen?”
When I told him only three, he looked at me incredulously. But it’s all about what type of underwear you pack. For years,the Give-N-Go boxers by ExOfficio have been my travel staple. They are lightweight, durable, antimicrobial, and can be washed and dried in a matter of hours, making them the perfect travel companion. But at close to $US30 a pair, they are expensive.
Before I left in March, I decided to try out the AIRism boxers by Uniqlo. After using them for close to a year, I can confirm that they provide similar performance and features (quick drying, anti-microbial, etc) at a fraction of the price.
2. Uniqlo Sprz NY Pocketable Parka ($US20)
It’s difficult to fit bulky items like a winter coat or a rain jacket in a tightly packed suitcase, so usually I have to improvise my layers.
The Uniqlo Sprz NY Pocketable Parka works as a rain jacket, a windbreaker, and an outer shell that I can wear a lot of layers under when I’m out camping in the desert or up in the mountains.
It comes with a stuff sack so you can compact it down to the size of a soda can. At this point, it’s always in my backpack, just in case.
3. Fracap M120 Ripple Sole Scarponcino Boots ($US275)
I find that shoes are the most difficult thing to pack on a trip. Do you pack running shoes or hip street sneakers? Hiking books or dress shoes? Even on a short trip, I often find myself walking around a city one day, hiking in the mountains the next, at a club one night, and at a business dinner another.
The best way to get around this conundrum is to pack shoes that serve multiple purposes. Before leaving in March, I decided to find shoes that could serve a pretty ridiculous dual purpose – heavy duty enough that I could hike in them, while snazzy enough that they could pass at a business meeting or in a club.
The only one I could find that fit the bill were the M120 Ripple Sole Scarponcino Boots, made by boutique Italian shoemaker Fracap. At $US275, they were the most expensive shoes I’ve ever bought, but I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth.
4. Outlier Futureworks Pants ($US138)
Pants were another issue. I needed pants for warm and cold climates, as well as hiking and work. I figured that some company had to be making clothes that could handle all those situations. Facebook must have been listening to my at-home monologues, because I started getting ads for Brooklyn-based clothing manufacturer Outlier.
Outlier has been making a name for itself for making small batches of highly functional, but stylish clothes. After reading its rabid following on Reddit and finding that the company offers free returns on all orders, I decided to try its Futureworks Pants.
At $US138, they aren’t cheap, but they are comfortable, look like slacks, can be worn in multiple climates, are extremely comfortable, and can serve as hiking pants. Bingo.
5. Darn Tough Wool Socks ($US24)
I’ve always been a huge fan of SmartWool socks. During cold months, I don’t take them off for weeks at a time. They make more of a difference than any other layer I put on
When I was going to buy a new pair for this trip, I saw that recent reviews complained that the quality had gone down considerably.
I decided to try out Darn Tough, which have a lifetime warranty. I am very satisfied with them.
Annie’s Top Five: 1. Reformation Girlfriend Collective Hi Rise Full Length Pants ($US68)
The Reformation Girlfriend Collective Hi Rise Full Length Pants were my go-to pants in New York, so they were an easy choice to bring on the trip.
The leggings are super comfy and versatile so I can wear them to work out, on an aeroplane, or paired with a tee and blazer for a casual look.
The fabric is thick, flattering, and never loses its shape, which is important because the frequency of wear during long trips can really show on low-quality fabrics.
2. ‘Naneik’ Rib Knit Short Sleeve Turtleneck ($US140 — currently out of stock)
My travel wardrobe staples are always items that are easy to mix and match. One of my favourites is the Theory ‘Naneik’ Rib Knit Short Sleeve Turtleneck.
I can wear it with just about any bottoms or layer it under dresses in cold climates or in cultures where I have to dress modestly. I’ve worn it to business meetings with a blazer and out at night with a mini skirt.
Theory is one of my favourite brands to buy for travel because I can wear its pieces for years before they start to show signs of wear.
3. Reformation Sorrenti Pant ($US178)
I used to always pack blue skinny jeans when I travelled, but over the years, I found myself reaching for them less and less. Skinny jeans are often too casual for a business meeting and too uncomfortable for casual wear.
Recently, I’ve fallen in love with carrying a pair of wide leg pants as my go-to. I buy them in a neutral colour so they work with multiple outfits and they look polished with heels, but can be layered over leggings to keep warm during freezing Sahara desert mornings.
I’m a fan of Reformation Sorrenti Pant, but there are plenty of similar options at places like Uniqlo.
4. A floppy hat, the bigger the better
From aeroplanes to deserts to cloudy days, I always have a giant foldable straw hat to protect my face from the sun. I bought the Dreshow Big Bowknot Straw Hat ($US12) on Amazon, but really any tightly woven oversized hat will do.
I try to be as diligent as I can with sunscreen, but sometimes, it’s not convenient after a long flight or a day sightseeing. On sunny days, my black hair gets hot enough to fry an egg. The hat keeps the sun off.
5. An oversized linen or cotton button down shirt
An oversized button down shirt works like your classic white Oxford, but it’s more versatile. I buy 100% cotton or 100% linen and bring whichever better suits the climate or climates I’m travelling to.
Oversized button downs can be tucked into pants or skirts for a more put-together look. I hang them in the bathroom to steam away wrinkles when I want to look professional.
Sometimes, I tie it at the bottom over leggings and cute sneakers for casual sightseeing. Other times, I use it as a cover up at the beach, a light jacket when its windy, or sun protection on bright days.
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