Creating a Capsule Travel Wardrobe

Letter 141

Who says travelling has to involve wearing nothing but dark colours ‘because it doesn’t show dirt’ and changing your entire wardrobe to a selection of uninspiring clothes? Many, many backpackers say that. I disagree.

I am a big advocate for being a light-packing traveller, but that doesn’t mean a load of boring dark items of clothing. Travelling is my favourite thing to do in the world, so I want to do it feeling good in what I’m wearing. I’m not into fashion, but I do believe that what I wear has a huge influence in how I feel, and I want to look nice in my photos.

So, a capsule wardrobe is what I go for.

  • A wardrobe where all (or most) of the items are interchangeable, meaning lots of different outfits can be made from a small selection of clothing.
  • A wardrobe that is small enough to fit in one packing cube.
  • A wardrobe that will cover all situations – whether that be wandering around a city, hiking, going to the beach, going out in the evening or travelling between places.


Here’s my wardrobe for summer 2018 trips.

NOTE: This summer I am going to Bulgaria for just over 2 weeks, followed by a week in Greece. Both of these trips are more like holidays than backpacking trips, which has influenced my wardrobe. However, I would take a similar selection if I was on a 3 month trip around Europe. Amount of time doesn’t really make a difference – it just means more washing!





7 tops – 2 strappys, 2 vests and 3 t-shirts. These are all quite basic colours but I like to bring in some bolder bits too.


4 Bottoms – 2 shorts, 1 trousers, 1 skirt. Same colour scheme as the tops, all quite plain and all good fabrics that are light (minus denim) and don’t crease too much (cotton and cheesecloth).


1 maxi dress (blue), 1 Jumpsuit (coral) and 1 midi dress (orange). On a typical backpacking trip I might not take this many dresses, but I like dresses. They are quite good to take because they are light and can easily go a few days without needing a wash.


Extras – 1 kimono, 1 beach cover up and 2 bikinis.



How To Create a Capsule Travel Wardrobe


Colour Scheme

To ensure that all of the items will be interchangeable and able to create a lot of outfits, you need a colour scheme. This can be quite loose but it is useful. I used my kimono as my colour scheme. By picking colours out of it I could create a discrete colour scheme and everything would go with it.

My scheme: red/coral/navy/grey/khaki.


How many items?

As a standard I would ensure you have two week’s worth of clothing. However for me I like to go with whatever I can fit in one packing cube. I packed all of this in and there was still room so I may take a couple of extra pieces, or leave the space for if I want to buy anything there.

Always roll your clothes both to avoid creasing and to use the least amount of space. I had two layers in this packing cube which is 36x30x12cm.



Interchangeable outfits

The key thing about your capsule wardrobe should be that almost all of the items go with everything else, so there are unlimited options of what to wear. This makes it a bit more interesting and means you can pull out any items and they will most likely go together.

Here’s some examples of mine:

There are items I haven’t even used here and that’s already 10 outfits. Honestly, I don’t even need all of what I’m taking, but I am treating this summer as ‘holiday time’ as it’s a celebration of my 21st and graduating university, so I think it’s allowed. For me if it fits in that packing cube, I’m not over-packing.

I should also note that I will be taking some gym shorts for hiking and a fleece and rain jacket for colder weather. As you can see from the outfits, I will take some walking shoes, walking sandals, nicer sandals and flip flops. Also don’t forget undies and pjs (but I didn’t think you’d need to see my selection of underwear). Little tip though – get yourself some no vpl pants if anything you’ve got would look a bit weird with a pant line. I also like to take bralets instead of real bras because they are so much more comfy and light!


I hope this is useful and provides a different outlook on travel clothing than other blogs and articles by backpackers. You should take pleasure in what you pack and not feel like going travelling means wearing crappy clothing for months on end. It doesn’t have to!


Thanks for reading,


From Lou


PS. I wrote a similar post a couple of years ago before I went to the states to work. The clothing is different because of the nature of the trip, so it might be useful!

Travel essentials: clothing

PPS. I also wrote a ‘travel essentials’ piece which I still find useful today – it’s a one-stop checklist for travelling!

Travel essentials!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s