How to pack less clothes so you’ll look great and travel easy

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Smiling One Bag Traveler outside in the sun

Do You Struggle With Packing for Trips?

You Are Not Alone

If this is you, don’t worry, because you are not alone. It’s wrong for overpacking to stress you out and weigh you down on your trips. Forcing you to take bigger, heavier, and even multiple suitcases. The point of traveling is to be “light and free” to experience new experiences, not to bring half your closet with you.

There is a Better Way

Hi, my name is Luigi and asking yourself the ‘WHAT should I wear’ and ‘HOW much should I pack’ questions for each and every trip always seems like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The goal isn’t to just travel with less clothes, but rather, with more efficient clothes. Clothes that are smart and work with us instead of against us while traveling.

This is why traveling with less, but more efficient clothes is the only way I travel. Now, all my clothes fit into one backpack and packing for trips is a breeze. I have simple, go-to travel outfits that allow me to look great, pack less, and smell fresh even after multiple uses.

The Secret?

The secret to traveling light with a minimalist wardrobe is, without further ado…

Wool — and it’s amazing natural properties.

But, how? How can simply changing fabrics allow you to pack less and still smell fresh? Well, contrary to what most people think, it is not sweat that causes your clothes to stink. Sweat in itself is actually odorless. Rather, what causes your clothing odor is the bacteria on your skin (Corynebacterium and Staphylococcus to be exact) that break down your sweat and produce VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) as a result. So, in short it’s these VOC’s that cause your clothes to smell over time and not the sweat.

  • So what makes wool different?
  • What makes it the holy grail of travel clothes?
  • How is it immune to these evil body odor causing VOC’s?
  • What are these amazing natural properties you keep mentioning?


Glad you asked. Wool is the king of travel fabric and now I will tell you why.

The Superpowers of Merino Wool Clothes

Odor-Resistant

Yes! Wool is naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial, meaning no VOC’s, which in turn, won’t make your wool shirt stink. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that synthetic material or cotton travel gear is your friend. Cotton, after a short period of time, starts to stink and when it’s wet it takes forever to dry out. Synthetics, on the other hand, wick sweat away and dry super quickly, but nobody will want to step foot around you. It stinks. Period.

So what is this one thing that wool has that makes all the difference? Lanolin. It is found in each strain of wool and acts as a natural wax-like coating. Created by Merino sheep, this substance resists bacterial, mold, and mildew. As a result, wearing wool allows you to literally go weeks on a single wool shirt without washing it. And if you do need to wash it, it is usually due to dirt or food stains rather than odor. I have been traveling this way ever since I discovered the miracle of wool and I have never traveled the same. After a day of use, I just let my wool travel clothes air out overnight and the next day they are fresh and as good as new.

This one property alone creates a paradigm shift for travel. Notoriously, the items that take up the most space when packing a suitcase are clothes. For a one week long trip, women, on average, pack 36 clothing items and men, on average, pack half that at 18 clothing items (Travelmail Reporter, 2014). Switching to wool allows you to simply pack less clothes — up to 86% less actually — making it possible to carry a smaller, lighter bag.

Wrinkle-Resistant

Isn’t it frustrating when you take your traditional travel clothes out of your suitcase and find them all wrinkled? I agree. In addition to its odor resistance, wool also makes for great minimal travel clothing because it is naturally wrinkle-resistant and made up of elastic fibers. These fibers are coiled like little springs and quite literally allow wool clothes to easily spring back to their original smooth shape after removing them from your bag. Plus, the tighter the weave in woolen clothes, the more wrinkle-resistant they will be.

Now your clothes will always look great right out of your bag, not to mention this being a major perk for business travelers because you no longer have to worry about ironing!

Feels Softer Than Cotton

When people think of wool they tend to have horrible flashbacks to their childhood involving itchy sweaters their grandmas used to knit them. I feel you because I used to think the same thing; however, not all wool is created equal. From a technical perspective, wool softness is measured in micron. The lower the number, the finer and softer the wool. Coarse wool (A.K.A grandma’s wool) can be 30 micron or more. Studies from Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that the magical “itchy” threshold for wool is 28 micron and up (Schoenian, 2015). So this is the wool we will be avoiding.

The exact wool that we want and will be referring to from this point on, is merino wool. Merino wool is much finer, starting out at 24 micron and going down to 15 micron. To put this thickness more into perspective for you, a human hair is between 40 – 50 micron thick. Let’s break merino wool down further.

Softish (24 — 22.6 micron)
Strong Merino
Soft (22.5 — 20.6 micron)
Medium Merino
Softer (20.5 — 19.6 micron)
Fine Medium Merino
Extra Soft (19.5 — 18.6 micron)
Extra Fine Merino
Softest (18.5 — 17.6 micron)
Superfine Merino
The Most Soft (≤17.5 micron)
Ultrafine Merino

When selecting merino wool clothes, feel confident that each of these grades will do the job; however, know that the thinner/finer the merino, the softer and more expensive it will be.

Regulates Body Temperature

Wait isn’t merino wool really hot? That sounds great for traveling in the Winter months, but why would I want to wear that when I travel to warm places? This is another common misconception about merino wool. It is a natural material that is both breathable and insulating, making it incredibly smart and efficient not only for travel clothing, but as clothing in general.

Similar to our own bodies, it heats and cools naturally. During the winter months, because of its natural waviness, it makes for an incredible insulator as it traps pockets of air between it and your skin to keep you warm. During the summer months, merino wool clothing breathes extremely well as air can travel between and through the fibers themselves, like cotton, but much unlike synthetics. This creates a cooling effect between your skin and the wool as it absorbs and evaporates moisture.

Merino wool — Keeps you warm in the Winter and cool in the Summer, giving you the best of both worlds. Boom. How do you like those apples, cotton?

Dries Super Fast

Merino wool is known to have the ability to absorb up to a third of its own weight in moisture, while still being comfortable and dry. And when it does get wet, it dries rapidly, especially when exposed to heat. if you remain in the sun — you’ll be dry again in no time at all. This is extremely beneficial if you are like me and sweat a lot on the daily.

As mentioned previously, wool wicks moisture away from the skin and to the outer surface very effectively. This, in conjunction with its natural ability to dry extremely fast (much unlike cotton might I add), makes for traveling clothing just shy of superpowers.

The Traveling with Less Clothes Plan​

1

Look for 100% merino wool clothing in styles/colors that are simple & timeless

2

Replace old, boring clothes with super-efficient, fast-drying, anti-stink, anti-wrinkle, incredibly fantastic merino wool clothes!

3

Because now you won’t stink, cycle back-n-forth between two merino wool outfits each day—or heck, just wear one!

Am I going to be wearing the same outfit every day?

Yes! And do you know the best part? No one will even notice. People tend to be so focused about their own appearances that they don’t really care to take notice your clothes or compare them to what you wore the previous day, for that matter. And if they do, they’ll appreciate you and your lifestyle even more after you explain to them the reasoning behind your minimalist travel wardrobe.

Believe me, not once has a person come up to me to ask about my wardrobe, or lack thereof. Though it may go against everything you are used to about conventional travel — having an outfit for each day of the trip per se— however, the gear I write about is the gear I use. Me, along with countless others, have been traveling this way for years. Wearing wool allows you to simply pack and carry less travel clothes, leaving more room for you to focus on the trip. Sound good? Thought so.

Congratulations! You now know how to pack a minimal and efficient travel wardrobe using merino wool. Wahoooo. 👏

The Best Merino Wool Clothes

So what’s next? Well you are probably wondering, where are the best places to get a hold of this mystical minimalist clothing that is merino wool. In this next section, I am going to tell you some of the best merino wool clothing items and where to buy them.

My personal recommendations are based on the percentage of merino wool and the overall style/design. When it comes to style/design, I always select merino wool clothes that are simple in basic colors. That way they can be easily mixed’n’matched, therefore maximizing your minimalist outfit options.

Buy 100% Pure Merino

One more note before we get started, just remember to buy 100% merino wool clothing. You will see a lot of hybrids out there composed of a percentage of merino wool along with other materials such as nylon. Wool blended with anything else reduces it’s odor-resistance superpowers.

This results in bacteria that grows and creates VOC’s on the blended material percentage that is nylon, poly, or whatever. So, while these merino hybrids (depending on their percentage of merino wool) can claim odor-resistance, they are still incomparable to 100% merino wool clothes.

Now let’s get down to business.

Expensive But Worth it

Merino wool clothes are never cheap, but they are well worth it. They save you time on packing and money on washing (electricity, water, detergent, etc.). In the long run, they are worth every penny.

How Thick?

Different seasons can call for different thickness of merino wool clothes. The wool thickness is measured in gsm. The higher the number = the thicker wool = the warmer it will be. A good standard wear everyday shirt is anything in between 160 – 200 gsm and for colder weather and climates I recommend 210 – 400+ gsm.

I'm Picky With My Merino

I’ve combed through the internet to bring you what I believe are some of the best merino wool clothing pieces I can find. I am extremely picky when it comes to selecting pieces that are as minimal as possible — Meaning little to no exterior branding, elegant timeless pieces / colors that won’t go out of style, high quality items made to last, and a fit that drapes well and looks good. I’ve done all the hard work so you don’t have to, because I am simply here to help you succeed.

Below you will find links to my top recommendations. Please note that some links are affiliate marketing links and some are not. If the merino wool clothing brand had an affiliate marketing program I used it to pay for my time, but if they didn’t then I didn’t worry about it. I just want to bring you great content that helps you succeed in traveling with one bag or less.

Everyday Merino Wool Clothes

(160 - 200 gsm)

Merino Tank Tops

Men

Unbound Merino

Men's Merino Pocket Tank Top
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 190 gsm

Women

Wool & Prince

Women's Reversible Tank Top
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 150 gsm

WoolX

Women's Ella Merino Racerback
  • 100% merino (Body)
  • 95% viscose and 5% spandex (bra lining)
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 160 gsm

Merino T-Shirts

Men

Unbound Merino

Men's Merino Crew Neck
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 190 gsm

Outlier

Men's Ultrafine Merino T-Shirt
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 195 gsm

Women

WoolX

Women's Addie Merino Crew Neck
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 160 gsm

Unbound Merino

Women's Merino V-Neck
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 190 gsm

Merino Long Sleeve Tees

Men

Unbound Merino

Men's Merino Long Sleeve Crew
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 190 gsm

Outlier

Men's Ultrafine Merino Longsleeve
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 195 gsm

Women

WoolX

Women's Merino Long Sleeve Tee
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 160 gsm

Meriwool

Women's Merino Long Sleeve Tee
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 180 gsm

Merino Wool Dresses

Women

Wool&

Women's Clara Shirt Dress
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 16.5 micron
  • 205 gsm

Pants

Simple. Just wear jeans. Why? Standard denim jeans are not supposed to be washed after every use. Many Denim Heads recommend wearing the same pair of jeans 4-6 times before washing them or ultimately when they start to smell. In this way, jeans are perfect for traveling light because they are durable, look great with multiple outfits, and can be worn many times before they start to smell. Plus, chances are you already own a pair, saving you money on your minimalist travel gear.

However, if you are gung ho on wool, I do have a few options for you.

Men

Wool & Prince

Men's Slim Chinos
  • 60% merino and 40% nylon
  • Superfine 18.5 micron

I know these are only 60% merino wool, but they are the highest percentage in good looking pants that I was able to find. The 60% will slow the development of odor, especially in the case of pants since we, as humans, sweat less from the lower parts of our bodies. Again, if you happen to find attractive pants that are closer to 100% merino wool, please let me know.

Women

Meriwool

Women's Base Layer Leggings
  • 100% merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 250 gsm

Merino Underwear

Men

Meriowool

Men's Merino Boxer Brief Underwear
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 160 gsm

Women

Utenos

Women's Base Layer Underpants
  • 100% merino

Janus

Women's Boxer Shorts
  • 100% merino

Merino 365

Women's Bikini Brief
  • 100% merino
  • Superfine 17.9 micron
  • 190 gsm

Merino Bra

Women

Ortovox

Women's 185 Rock'N'Wool Sports Bra
  • 100% merino (body)
  • 28% merino and 72% polyester (mesh)
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 160 gsm

Pro Tip: For an even more minimalist clothing packing tip, instead of a bra, just wear reusable pasties (nipple covers). Made from 100% silicone, they take up minimal space, are easy to wash, securely stay on, and can be reworn without the need for any additional adhesive. They are fantastic and eliminate the need for packing a bra all together.

Goldfarm

Women's Nippless Covers Pasties
  • 100% silicone

Merino Ankle / Quarter Socks

Men

Bombas

Men's Merino Ankle Socks
  • 80% merino, 18% polyester, and 2% spandex
  • Medium 21.5 micron

Women

Bombas

Women's Merino Quarter Socks
  • 79% merino, 19% polyester, and 2% spandex
  • Medium 21.5 micron

I know these are only 80% merino wool, but they are the highest percentage short socks I could find. If you happen to find short socks that are 100% merino wool please let me know.

Merino Long Socks

Men

Turkish Pure Natural

Men's Merino Socks
  • 100% merino

Women

Turkish Pure Natural

Women's Merino Socks
  • 100% merino

Shorts + Swimwear

Notice! These are not wool; however, they don’t need to be. Swimming shorts are great because you will be immersing them in water frequently, which is essentially washing them every time you go swimming. This is fantastic because they won’t smell and will dry fast.

The key to selecting swimming shorts though, is to choose a pair that doesn’t blatantly look like swimming short, meaning they look nice enough that they can easily double as casual shorts. This is the perfect one-two punch because this minimalist wardrobe travel hack allows you to combine two clothing items into one. Plus, if you want to go super minimal you can even comfortably wear them without underwear.

For women, these pair perfectly with a merino wool sports bra.

Men

Outlier

Men's New Way Shorts
  • 97% nylon and 3% elastane canvas

For a longer version, check out

Outlier

Men's New Way Longs
  • 97% nylon and 3% elastane canvas

Women

Willbond

Women's Swimsuit Shorts
  • Polyester and spandex

Chilly/Cold Weather Travel Clothes

(210 - 400 gsm)

Heavyweight Merino T-Shirts

Men

Wool & Prince

Men's Merino Crew Neck
  • 100% merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 220 gsm

Heavyweight Merino Long Sleeves

Men

Minus33

Men's Chocorua Midweight Crew
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 230 gsm

Meriwool

Men's Midweight Baselayer Crew
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 250 gsm

Minus33

Men's Yukon Expedition Crew
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 400 gsm (warmest)

Women

Minus33

Women's Ossipee Midweight Crew
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 230 gsm

Meriwool

Women's Midweight Baselayer Crew
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 250 gsm

Minus33

Women's Tanana Expedition Crew
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 400 gsm (warmest)

Merino Beanie Hats

Men

Minus 33

Men's Ridge Cuff Beanie
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 230 gsm

Women

Minus 33

Women's Ridge Cuff Beanie
  • 100% Merino
  • Superfine 18.5 micron
  • 230 gsm

Merino Scarves

Men

RIONA

Men's Merino Wool Scarf Knitted
  • 100% Merino

Minus33

Men's Alpine Merino Wool Scarf
  • 100% Merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 170 gsm

Women

i+k

Women's Merino Plaid Scarf
  • 100% Merino

Minus33

Women's Alpine Merino Wool Scarf
  • 100% Merino
  • Ultrafine 17.5 micron
  • 170 gsm

Merino Gloves / Mittens

Men

Dachstein Woolear

Men's Boiled Wool Alpine Gloves
  • 100% Merino

Women

Dachstein Woolear

Women's Boiled Wool Alpine Gloves
  • 100% Merino

Before lessification

After lessification

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Dean, J. (2019, June 13). Smelly laundry? It’s all down to chemistry [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.elsevier.com/connect/smelly-laundry-its-all-down-to-chemistry

Elya, R. (2018, December 1). Minimalist Travel Gear Packing List: Luggage & Bags Not Needed [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://regevelya.com/travel-gear/

Forbin, C. (2017, February 21). The Ultimate Guide to Merino Wool [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://unboundmerino.com/blogs/unbound-merino/the-ultimate-guide-to-merino-wool

Jaunt and Joy. (Photographer). (2018, May 7). Happy boy [digital image]. Retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/ft2uNDDP0HU

Lackman, M. (2017, November 14). Why Natural Fiber Clothes Wrinkle [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://organicclothing.blogs.com/my_weblog/2008/11/why-natural-fiber-clothes-wrinkle.html

Mark, K. (2008, June 15). The Ultimate Guide to Merino Wool [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.onebagger.com/merino-wool-guide/

Raver, G. (2016, March 12). Levi’s CEO says you should never wash your jeans — here’s the truth [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/jeans-levis-ceo-washing-science-2016-3

Scanga, M. (2018, March 6). How Often Should You Really Wash Your Jeans? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.whowhatwear.com/how-often-should-you-wash-denim

Schoenian, S. (2015, September 21). Wool qualities [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.sheep101.info/warmwool.html

Spoonrobot (2017, February 20). Wool clothing anti-stink questions [Forum]. Retrieved from https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/1098381-wool-clothing-anti-stink-questions.html

Travelmail Reporter (2014, May 8). Excess baggage! Women pack 36 items and EIGHT pairs of shoes for a week away (and 91% admit to not wearing all the clothes they take on holiday) [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2623153/Women-pack-36-items-EIGHT-pairs-shoes-week-away-91-admit-not-wearing-clothes-holiday.html

4 Responses

  1. Very useful clothing tips on how to One Bag Travel! Merino wool really is the holy grail of travel clothes. Great job Luigi! 🙂

  2. Another approach is to use an antiperspirant called Drysol (available in Canada and elsewhere). Apply 1/week and never get odor. Wear the same tops for weeks.

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