How a minimalist fashionista packs for long trips

The first trip that Jason and I took together was to southern Italy and Greece. Jason was on a several month-long trip across the Balkans and southern Europe, and I met him in Rome. For three weeks we had an amazing time visiting beaches and archaeological sites. I wanted to look my best in Europe but only wanted to bring my small day pack since I would have to carry my luggage long distances. Jason was expecting me to over pack and bring a huge backpack or suitcase, but he was pleasantly surprised that we share a passion for packing light. This article will show you that it is possible to be fashion-forward and a minimalist traveler at the same time. The trick is in the planning.

For our current year-long adventure, Jason and I are driving our teardrop trailer from Alaska to the Yucatan, but spending most of the summer camping in the Western U.S. The challenge of packing for this trip is the not only the length, but the variety of climates we will experience. We left Alaska in spring when night temperatures were still below freezing, are spending time high-elevation camping in the Rockies, traveling through the heat and sun of the desert Southwest, and ending up on the beach in Mexico. Luckily, we have a car and do not need to carry our packs on our backs, but being minimalists, we decided to each bring only one carry-on sized suitcase.

In one small bag, I have my bases covered. I have a few bathing suits and beach cover ups, four dresses ranging from casual to work to evening, and a capsule-style wardrobe with coordinating colors for easy mix and match. My clothes are organized in smaller bags within my suitcase to maintain organization and keep clothes from wrinkling. One small bag holds camping clothes and outdoor attire. This is mainly what I’ve been wearing this summer as we explore hiking trails, float rivers, ride horses, etc. I have a separate wardrobe for business and nights out on the town.

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My wardrobe for a year-long adventure

Tips for packing light, while not sacrificing style:

  1. Bring coordinated clothing. You may have heard of a capsule wardrobe. Pick a simple color palette, consisting of two or three colors that go well together. This way, you can get an enormous amount of outfit combinations out of a small bag.
  2. Lay out the clothes you will pack a week or two ahead of time. This gives you ample time to visualize outfits and combinations. It also gives you space to look for redundancies. For example, do you really need two black blouses?
  3. Pack your clothes in smaller bags inside your suitcase. Eagle Creek makes some good ones. The clear bags make it easy to see the piece of clothing you’re looking for.
  4. Roll your clothes after folding to maximize space.
  5. Choose articles that are versatile. For example, you want a dress that can be worn out on the town, at the beach, hiking, or to a wedding. My favorite and most versatile dress is made by Nuu-Muu. If an article can only be worn for a certain activity, only bring it if that activity is something you love and will do often. I brought along a dress and shoes for salsa dancing, but only because Jason and I plan on dancing every time we get the chance.
  6. If on the fence, don’t bring it. You can’t pack for every possible situation, so be okay with buying a needed item or two while traveling (although I doubt you’ll need to!).
  7. Use traveling as an opportunity to downsize your toiletries. I have found that I don’t need 90% of the bottles and jars I kept in my bathroom. You don’t need 8 different moisturizers, one will probably do. This is also a good time to switch to non-toxic, non-polluting beauty products. From an environmental standpoint, don’t buy anything with palm oil.

These tips can be used for creating a minimalist lifestyle, whether traveling or at home. A survey of women in the U.K. found that the average woman wears an article of clothing seven times before throwing it away. By mindfully shopping and choosing products that use organic and sustainably harvested textiles (and not made using slave labor), we can create beautiful and versatile wardrobes while reducing our impact on the planet. By buying fewer items, you will select pieces that look and fit great, rather than binging on the sale rack only to acquire clothing that is ill-fitting and soon out of style. Have fun packing!

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