Regardless of whether it’s a jacket, shirt, or pants, an article of travel clothing must combine four important attributes to make it worthy of a spot in your suitcase: Versatility, packability, performance/function, and appearance.
It has to look good and perform, of course, but the ability to pack down reasonably small and be wearable in more than one occasion is also a huge perk for us. There may be cases where a bulky, one-dimensional item is worth bringing along, but probably not too many.
With those criteria in place, here are some recommendations for travel clothing as you search for gifts this holiday season (in no specific order):
Best for: Cold-Weather Trips
A common dilemma for travelers headed to colder climates is trying to figure out how to pack efficiently and light while still feeling prepared for lower temperatures. Fall and winter clothes tend to take up more space, forcing tough decisions, such as whether to bring along that true winter jacket or bypass it in favor of more-packable layers.
Jack Wolfskin’s new jacket makes things easy. Weighing just 3/4 of a pound, it’s an ultralight option that packs down to the size of a Nalgene (or smaller if you really cinch it down). It features a polyester abrasion-resistant fabric that offers the durability you need when traveling. It’s also windproof, and its synthetic insulation will keep you warm even if the jacket gets wet. Priced at $170, it’s a value-driven travel buy that can double as your everyday winter jacket at home.
Best for: Mountain Road Trips
Mountain Hardwear’s HiCamp Collection offers a variety of cool-weather solutions for layering in shoulder season or increases in altitude, including a fleece hoody, pullover, and vest that can be worn as either a mid-or-top layer.
Stylish and surprisingly warm, they can be worn in a variety of situations, from the hiking trail to the casual dinner out, and can even serve as a substitute for a proper jacket when bopping around town. Soft and cozy, you may even find yourself wanting to wind down in them inside by the fire.
All can be packed down into your suitcase when serving as your primary top layers. But since fleece tends to be a little heavy, they are best suited for weekend getaways or road trips, where weight is not as much a concern.
Best for: General travel in fall, winter, and spring
If you’re still packing denim jeans in your suitcase, you need a reality check: Not only are they extremely heavy, they don’t perform well when they get wet (i.e. rain/snow) and they lack versatility (casual situations only).
Travelers with a mixed agenda should consider something like the Oros Veer Pant ($129). We love them because they can be worn in a variety of situations. Both wind and water resistant and made mostly of stretchy/flexible nylon, you can trust them as an all-day pant wandering around the city, or, in a pinch, on the hiking trail. What’s more is that you wouldn’t stick out as being underdressed if you wore them out to dinner. They are also insulated, keeping you warm on evening walks back to your hotel.
Best for: Beach destinations
A common issue for men is that many board shorts and bathing suits come without an inner liner, requiring that they wear underwear underneath their suits. While this adds extra support, it also can also be uncomfortable. Cotton underwear does not dry quickly, resulting in chafing and dampness that can last for hours.
The always-innovating SAXX launched the perfect remedy this year in the form of their Hydro Aquatic Underwear ($36). Made of ultralight micro-mesh that is both quick-dry and quick-drain, they are designed to be worn under bathing suits and to dry out fast, providing support in the water and allowing you to continue on with your day – head to lunch, walk the town – without feeling icky down below. A thoughtful gift for anyone who spends considerable time around the water.
Best for: General travel
Trips call for a couple t-shirts to be worn anytime, anywhere. Since most guys already own many, many t-shirts, we often just through a few in the bag and don’t think twice about it. But check the tag – if you’re packing cotton t-shirts, you’re lugging around extra weight and also using a material that is known to soak up dampness and odors.
Instead of cotton, try on a shirt made of Merino wool. You’ll feel that they are lighter than cotton and, after a use or two, that they don’t absorb as many odors and can be worn a few days in a row. They pack down small, saving room in your suitcase, and most are solid colors, allowing you to blend in anywhere.
Best for: General travel
While we are talking about Merino wool and its benefits, let’s move to another part of the body, arguably the most important when traveling: Your feet.
When your feet get wet, cold, or tired, everything else follows. We’ve all been there, walking the city streets for a day and returning to our hotel room in the afternoon feeling completely worn out. When traveling, it’s uber-important to take care of your feet.
Footwear choice is important, but so is sock selection. Farm to Feet Socks are 100% American made and offer elite comfort through compression and cushioning. Made of a blend of Merino wool, spandex, and nylon, they will keep your feet warm and dry through all conditions, and they come in a variety of colors and designs.
Specialty socks are one of those things you need to try on to understand, but once you do, there’s no going back. Grab a pair ($21) for the traveler in your life to keep them comfortable on the go.
Best for: Outdoor adventures
If you’ve got a traveler on your list who needs some help staying warm and stylish, you may have some items from Smartwool on your radar. After all, they have a variety of gear and a reputation as one of the best outdoor clothing brands. Well, good news: They have something brand-new this holiday season, a special partnership with one of the most iconic bands of all time.
The Grateful Dead and Smartwool have teamed up to release a limited-time line of branded clothing that combines the dependability of Smartwool gear with the classic artistic flair of the Grateful Dead. The release comes as the Grateful Dead (now known and Dead & Co.) prepare for their final year of touring in 2023.
The new designs will be featured across many Smartwool products, including socks, hats, sweatshirts, and base layers. All carry the dependability we’ve come to know and love about Smartwool, with the colorful flair that has made the Dead an everlasting legacy.