Travel Capsule Wardrobe
Free Downloadable Packing list
By Danielle Steffens
This Minimalist Travel Capsule Wardrobe packing list will get you out the door with all the clothes you need for your next adventure!
I’m a nerd. I LOVE making packing lists. Anytime there’s a trip (or even a potential trip) in my future, I’m figuring out what to pack and how I can keep the list as short as possible.
I love the minimalist approach to travel! It’s so nice not having to lug around a bunch of stuff.
But don’t get me wrong, I still get into a lot of activities when I travel. Most recently, I went to Tanzania where I transitioned from the arctic summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (and yes, there was snow!) all the way down to the hot beaches of Zanzibar.
Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro
I love to experience it all! So when I’m packing light, I need to be smart about what I bring and select pieces that follow the guidelines laid out in my other post—Travel Capsule Wardrobe: what to look for in each piece. If you haven’t read that post yet, I recommend you do that first because it will give you aspects to focus on that may help you narrow down what you choose for the pieces below.
To have as many outfit options as possible, I recommend sticking to a neutral color palette with a couple complementary colors to keep it interesting. This way you won’t have to worry about pieces clashing and limiting your mix & match potential. It can also be helpful to steer clear of white because, well, life happens.
I tend to bring the same amount of clothing regardless of how long I’m traveling for (unless I need specialty items for something like a long backpacking trip or a snowboarding trip), with the expectation that if I’m traveling for a few weeks, I’ll be doing laundry at some point. I recently purchased a Scrubba which is going to make laundry day real slick. I’ve already test washed my travel pieces at home and it worked great!
I like the pieces I choose for these three categories to overlap (i.e. work in multiple categories) as much as possible so I have more options.
From the ground up!
Footwear (2-3 + socks)
- Tennis shoes (1)
- If I plan on doing any hiking, I’ll make these trail running shoes. I can use those for hiking, running, walking, and workouts. Otherwise just normal tennis shoes will suffice.
- Sandals (1)
- I like these to be as versatile and functional as possible. My go-to are the Crocs Sexi Flips. They’re comfortable, cute, waterproof (hello shower shoes), can be dressed up or down, and are secured to my foot (bring on the swings and ziplines!). I bring a pair of sandals regardless of the climate because I typically stay in hostels. If you’re traveling to cold weather and won’t need shower shoes, you can swap these out for something that better suits your needs.
- Dealer’s choice! (1 – optional)
- If needed, bring one more pair of shoes to fill in the gap of whatever you’re missing. Maybe it’s a dressy heel, a more solid backpacking boot, or a winter boot. Whatever it is you need, pack it!
- Socks (3-8)
- Bring the appropriate style socks to fit your shoes. 3 pairs for warm weather when you’re not wearing socks every day and up to 8 pairs for cold weather so you can get through a week without having to do laundry.
Sawatch Mountain Range, CO
- Leggings (1)
- Bring one pair of leggings. These are great for wearing on the plane and a variety of activities! In warm weather, I err more on the side of workout/activewear leggings. In cold weather, I choose a pair that can be layered under a dress for extra warmth but also still used for workouts.
- Pants (1)
- My go-to is a pair of jeans. I tend to grab for my dark blue or black wash because they go with everything and feel a bit easier to dress up if I need to look nicer. But you could also bring something like these prAna pants or these beach-approved pants if you’ll be more active or in a hot and humid climate.
- Shorts (1)
- My main focus for these shorts is activewear. One pair of leggings would not be enough to support my activities for a week so I like a pair of shorts to alternate between. But that doesn’t mean these shorts can only be activewear! If I’m traveling to a warm climate, I’ll bring something like this that I can wear around town in a pinch.
Indian Peaks Wilderness, CO [PC: Guy Goblirsch]
Accessories (1 - optional)
- Belt (1 – optional)
- Someone once told me, “If your pants have belt loops, you have to wear a belt.” So now I have a belt. And they were right. My outfits look much more put together with a belt. If the pants you picked above have belt loops, bring a belt. No loops, no belt.
- Underware (8)
- Remember I’ve got that scrubba now? That means I can wash underwear in a flash so for my next trip, I’ll be cutting way back on what I bring and only packing a week’s worth +1 for laundry day.
- Sports Bras (2)
- One high intensity.
- One low intensity.
- Bonus if either of these can be worn alone or under some sort of jacket as a top. Or perhaps as a swimsuit!
- Bras (2)
- One black bra.
- One nude bra.
- Really, that’s all you need. Wash in the Scrubba!
This is my largest quantity of an item. I prefer tank tops because I’m able to wear them a day or two more before they need to be washed, but you could also make these long sleeves or sweaters if you’re traveling to colder climates. Just make sure you’ve still got some tops you can workout in!
- Dressy top (1)
- One dressy top that can be used for fancier events or going out in the evening. My favorite is actually long enough it could even be worn as a dress but it’s also easy to tuck into high waist jeans or shorts.
- Activewear top (1)
- One activewear top that can be used for workouts, hiking, and other activities.
- Versatile tops (2)
- Two versatile tops that can be worn layered and dressed up or down. If you’ll be fairly active, I recommend one of these also be able to function as activewear—then you’ve got two tops and bottoms to mix and match. The prAna Becksa tank in great for this.
- Bring one really great dress. Something lighter if you’re traveling in warm weather (bonus if you can use it as a swimsuit cover up!). Or something heavier if you’re traveling in cold weather. If you’re more of a skirt or romper person, bring that instead!
- For my warm weather dress, I have a t-shirt dress that I absolutely love and I cheat and bring an extra belt like this so I can style the dress in a couple ways.
Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania (excuse the wrinkles) [PC: Mike Cashen]
Sweatshirts & Sweaters (7. Just kidding, 1-2.)
Sweatshirts and sweaters are by far my favorite piece of clothing. It’s really hard for me to limit this category to just two. But unfortunately, they also tend to take up a lot of space. If you’re not as into sweatshirts and sweaters as I am, just bring one! Or none!
- Lounging sweatshirt (1)
- I pack one lounging sweatshirt or sweater that can also be worn out with jeans or leggings.
- Nicer sweatshirt (1)
- And I pack one nicer sweatshirt/sweater/cardigan/etc. that makes it look like I tried.
It’s hard to bring just one jacket too. I typically need one that is good for hiking in colder temperatures and one that makes me look a bit more put together.
- Active jacket (1)
- Pack something that will suffice for your active adventures (running, hiking, etc.).
- Dressier jacket (1)
- Pack something that will look nice for dressier events and is the proper weight for the climate (jean jacket, military jacket, peacoat, etc.).
I bring a swimsuit regardless of what climate I’m travelling to. You never know when you’ll find a hot spring or a pool.
- Swimsuit (1)
Warm Weather Add-Ins
- Add in one pair of shorts if you’ll be in mostly warm weather. These can be denim, linen, khaki—whatever is most versatile with the rest of your items!
- If you’re going to be around a lot of water, pack a second swimsuit so you can alternate. For my trips to water destinations, I like to bring one bikini for pool lounging and one with more coverage for water sports or beach volleyball.
- A sarong is a great swimsuit cover up/beach blanket/towel/plane blanket.
Big Island, HI
Cold Weather Add-Ins
- Bring a cute little hat to keep that head toasty!
- Gloves are also a must if you’re going to be spending most of your day outside exploring in the cold.
- A blanket scarf is great for on the plane and for extra warmth on those cold days.
- I’m a classic t-shirt sleeper. And I have found the perfect one. The prAna Cozy-Up T. It’s sooo soft, sustainable, easy to wash, UPF 30+ in case I want to wear it out one day, and has natural odor fighting properties. Highly recommend! I have it in the charcoal heather color because neutrals.
- I like to be cool when I sleep so regardless of the outside temperature, I sleep in shorts but feel free to bring whatever you like! Like the t-shirt, I also want a pair of shorts that aren’t strictly PJs and could be worn out during the day or potentially used for workouts. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect pair, mostly because I can’t decide if I want something like this or like this.
Odds are you’ll need to pack something that isn’t on this list. Snowboarding trip? You’ll need snow pants! Attending a wedding? You may want another dress! Going somewhere real wet? Pack a rain jacket! Use this list as a base and tweak it to meet your needs.