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A few weeks ago, I shared my entire digital nomad packing list. That’s absolutely everything you’ll find in the suitcase I live out of while travelling full-time and, as you’d expect, it’s pretty hefty. Today, I want to dig a little deeper on one part of that list: my clothes, AKA my travel capsule wardrobe.
If you can’t tell already, I’m pretty proud of this one. When I lived in London, I suffered from chronic clothes hoarding and had more clothes than I could physically wear in a year. I’m ashamed to admit it now and I was ashamed back then, too. The saddest part is that I only wore a handful of those clothes, so I didn’t even save on laundry detergent.
When I began travelling full-time last, that obviously had to change. It was long overdue and it was one of the most freeing parts of becoming a digital nomad for me. With only one suitcase to stuff and a 23kg weight allowance, I was forced to really think about what clothes I would wear while travelling.
I’d love to say I nailed it right off the bat, but the truth is my travel capsule wardrobe has been a work in progress. I only really perfected it when I moved to Tbilisi in July, and it’s still not quite perfect.
But this is what it looks like and it works well for me right now. If you’re planning a long-term trip or starting your own digital nomad journey, I hope you find this useful!
Do you need a colour scheme?
Just like any capsule wardrobe, a colour scheme isn’t essential but it will definitely help!
Rather than sticking to a strict scheme that sucks all of the fun out of it, I choose mostly neutral colours and make sure my brighter clothing goes with everything. At the moment, I have a couple of pink and red pieces when I want to add some colour to my day.
Choosing neutral clothes was super easy for me because my London wardrobe was mostly grey, black, navy and white. Well, the pieces I actually wore… Neutrals also tend to be easier to care for while travelling, which makes getting laundry done a lot simpler.
An important point to note: neutrals don’t always have to be plain. To me, it just means they go with pretty much anything. I have a black and white stripe t-shirt and black trousers that fade to silver at the bottom, and I count both of those as neutrals. Similarly, my white t-shirt with a subtle yellow slogan also falls under neutrals because I can wear it with anything.
Choosing versatile clothes for travel
The real trick to perfecting a travel capsule wardrobe is finding versatile clothes. Clothes are great for travel are generally lightweight, fold or roll up small, don’t crease easily and don’t come with any fancy washing instructions. If you can pack a suitcase with clothing that ticks all four of those boxes, you’re basically winning at long term travel. If they’re also clothes you can layer easily, you’re spot on.
Before heading out to buy a whole new travel wardrobe, take a look at what you already have. I found several items of clothing I never would have thought to pack when I started using this travel clothing checklist. Admittedly, I was starting with a rather large pool of clothing, but I started seeing my clothe in a whole new way. I’m sure this little trick would work for you, too.
What’s in my travel capsule wardrobe
I tend to mix up my clothes from country to country, so things do vary a little. I have about 10 days of clothing and it gets a little boring wearing the same thing all the time. But these are the clothes you will ALWAYS find in my luggage, wherever I happen to be.
It’s not always easy to justify packing denim. As useful and essential as it might be back home, it’s heavy AND bulky.
But, just like at home, denim is a travel essential for me. Not only does it work in most situations, it needs washing less often than other fabrics and can be a lifesaver when the laundry starts piling up.
I started with two pairs of denim shorts and two pairs of jeans. I’m guessing you already know that’s too much, so I’ll save you the lecture. Fun fact: I ended up ditching both pairs of denim shorts and replacing them with a brand new pair that I absolutely love. Lesson: It’s way easier to narrow down a capsule wardrobe when you love the things you own.
Now, you’ll find a single pair of denim shorts and a pair of lightweight jeggings in my suitcase. Both go with pretty much every top I own and neither weights much. I also recently added a denim jacket because it’s the perfect cover up – I just always carry it onto the plane!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can never have too many t-shirts. Well, unless they take you over your weight allowance! Otherwise, they get a free pass in my suitcase.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I used to hesitate to pack t-shirts. I thought they were boring, unnecessary and – as much as I hate to admit it – I thought they would look terrible on the ‘gram. Queue a suitcase of much more Instagrammable but largely unworn tops. Eek.
Now I know the importance of the basics. T-shirts go with everything and they’re useful in all scenarios and weather forecasts. In my suitcase now, you’ll find 3-4 good quality t-shirts with small slogans or stripes, all in neutral colours. Along with gym clothes, they’re the items I wash the most… so go figure.
I’ve been travelling full-time for over a year now. During that time, I’ve managed to half the number of most items I carry, but there’s one category that’s increased. That category is workout clothing.
When I first started packing for my digital nomad life, I almost didn’t pack any gym clothes. Now, it’s the one thing type of clothing I couldn’t live (or travel!) without and you’ll find me in gym gear at least 50% of the time.
Gym leggings and sports bras are pretty much the most versatile items of clothing you can pack in your suitcase. They’re useful for staying fit while travelling, but they’re also super comfy for travel and work at home days.
The biggest bonus of all, however, is that they’re designed to keep you cool when it’s hot and keep you hot when it’s cold. That means they’re perfect for long-haul flights where the time zone and climate will change. I used to pack a change of clothes for the plane when switching between climates, but now I just wear full-length gym leggings and I’m good to go.
Long, loose clothing
In the UK, you’d rarely find me in anything loose or baggy, but that’s exactly the kind of clothing you’re going to find useful while travelling.
Long, loose trousers will cover you (literally!) in a number of situations. When it’s hot, you can stay cool without getting burnt. When it’s cold, you can layer a pair of gym leggings underneath to stay extra warm (told you they were useful!). And when you’re travelling somewhere more conservative, they’ll keep you covered whatever the weather.
I like to pack a pair of cropped trousers as well as a pair of longer trousers if I’m going somewhere cold. If I’m only going to be in hot countries, I’ll pack a couple of pairs of cropped culottes instead.
And that’s about it! Aside from a swimsuit, underwear, and some jumpers for layering, that’s pretty much the bulk of my travel capsule wardrobe. So far it’s gotten me through everywhere from the snowy mountains of Georgia to the scorching desert of Namibia, so I’d say it’s holding up pretty well! Is there anything you would add?