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Minimal travel capsule wardrobe

The Best Clothes for a Men’s Travel Capsule Wardrobe

by , April 8, 2019

Choosing clothing for your travel can be tricky. But choosing an entire wardrobe can be even harder. Finding those right combinations to prepare for different scenarios – be it changes in weather or social settings – can cause some of us to overpack, cramming too many ‘what if’ items into our carry-on backpacks or luggage.

So that’s where a capsule wardrobe comes in. A go-to wardrobe of hardy staples that can mix and match, layer up or down, and adapt to any destination. And so below I’ll cover the best clothes for a men’s travel capsule wardrobe, recommending different wardrobes for warm and cold climates, and varying budgets, based on my personal research and testing.

It’s worth noting that the wardrobes below are tailored to my own personal ‘urban style’. If I had to frame it in two words it’d be ‘monochrome and minimal’. Granted, the below recommendations might not be your jam, but this may act as a good starting point to take on what might work for you, and then plug in your own splashes of personality.

Here are some basics to guide you in your selections: 

Focus on quality and timeless style. Choose clean and timeless pieces that won’t drop out of fashion and will work for most situations. They’ll also need to be hardy enough to take on the rigors of travel.

Choose subdued colors. Blues, black, greens and greys interchange really well. Orange… not so much. But, hey, if your ‘look’ calls for more color, by all means add one or two statement pieces to add personality.

Build two wardrobes: one for cold-weather travel, and one for warm-weather. They don’t have to be completely different (you might, for example, still use the same t-shirts) but you will swap out a few items.

Limit your accessories, PJs, and workout clothes. Capsule wardrobes allow you to have as many accessories, PJs, and workout clothes as you’d like, but not the travel version. So sleep in your underwear and select pieces that you can get active in.  

Choose 10 items or less: Limit your travel wardrobe, including shoes, to 10 items or less.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe

What to include (and how many items) in a travel capsule wardrobe

Here’s a good basic list to stick by:

3 tops

1 formal shirt

2 bottoms (pants/shorts)

1 mid layer

1 shell

2 pairs shoes

Note, as long as you stick within the 10-item rule, you can adjust to the specifics of your trip. For example, I might pack another mid layer instead of a top for a colder climate. Or switch in a blazer if I’m getting formal for a meeting or dinner etc. And the best thing, you don’t have to stick to the below budget vs premium wardrobes, you can totally switch and change between the two. If you stick to the basics of subdued colorways and clean, classic cuts, everything should still match and look fresh.

And if you’re keen on women’s brands make sure check out Jesse’s ‘How & What to Put in Your Capsule Wardrobe’ article here.

Mens-Capsule-Wardrobe (different examples)

Warm-weather men’s travel capsule wardrobe recommendations 

For warm weather travel capsule wardrobes, focus on pieces that are breathable and sweat-wicking. In terms of style, opt for pieces simple enough to work just as well for a night out as they would on the beach or trail. You’ll also want to include a layer or two for chilly plane rides, unexpectedly cold evenings, and rain. For shoes, go for a pair of comfortable sneakers and sandals.

Men's Summer Budget Travel Capsule Wardrobe

Budget Recommendations

‘Budget’ doesn’t have to mean unfashionable. There are plenty of brands making great gear for around $100 or less. Here’s a selection of products I recommend:

Shoes: Allbirds Wool Runners ($110)

Shoes: Teva Voya Flip Flops ($35) or $2 market flip flops

Top: Proof 72-Hour Merino ($78)

Top: Western Rise X Cotton Tee ($54) or Wool&Prince V-Neck ($74)

Top: Duckworth Vapor Tee ($69)

Bottoms: Olivers Apparel All Over Short ($68)

Bottoms: Uniqlo Chino Shorts ($29.90)

Bottoms: Proof Rover Pant ($118)

Mid layer: Uniqlo Extra Fine Merino Crew Neck ($49.90)

Shell: Uniqlo Men’s Blocktech Parka ($89.90)

For more formal scenarios, switch in a dress shirt and blazer, the Uniqlo Easy Care Shirt $40 and Uniqlo Ultra Light Jacket $69.90 are excellent value.

And for gym / travel attire, check out RYU

Gear highlights

Here’s more insight into some gear I’ve personally tested and have in rotation:

Allbirds Wool Runners

There’s a lot of hype around Allbirds right now, and for good reason: they’re churning out lovely and versatile silhouettes that work well in social and more formal settings, with their whole schtick focused on natural materials. In the case of these sneakers, it’s Merino wool. So, as you might have guessed, these are soft, itch-free, wicking, and very comfortable. The laces are 100% recycled polyester, and the inner soles are cushioned with more wool and castor bean oil (a more environmentally friendly option to standard foam). So if you’re environmentally conscious, and like comfort, these are for you.

But note, because these are so super soft, they lack structure for the ankle, and the grip on the sole is somewhat cosmetic, so I wouldn’t recommend these for jogging or casual hiking. These are urban shoes only; perfect for pavements and black-top and cafe floors.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Allbirds Wool Runners

Proof 72-Hour Merino

I’ve tried a bunch of Merino tees on the market and this is one of the best. It’s a blend of 87% 16.5 micron Merino wool and 13% nylon, so it has all of the benefits of Merino but with a greater strength, so it’ll serve you longer. The cut is stylish. It’s soft and lightweight. And it’s just $78. This is a home run for me.

Proof-72-Hour-Merino---best-travel-shirt navy

Duckworth Vapor Tee

If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you’ll know I’ve been a fan of Duckworth for years now. One of the very first small US-made brands to dish out quality Merino, and they’re still going strong, serving simple staples at a good price.  I have a few shirts from them and they’re still going strong today, after years of use. I’d get behind this little brand.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Duckworth Vapor Tee

Olivers Apparel All Over Short

I’m always on the lookout for a ‘do it all’ pair of shorts – and these tick all of my boxes. They’re not too long or tight, and have a trim tailored fit, perfect for dressing up. Enough stretch for workouts (or tennis games). And they’re finished with ‘nice to have’ features like water repellency, moisture wicking, and even a fun little inner pocket for secure carry (you’ll never lose your hotel key again!). All in all, these are truly great shorts for any holiday or adventure. At $68, you can buy two, one black, one navy or olive, and you’ll be sorted for a few years to come.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Olivers All Over Short

Proof Rover Pant

The Rover Pant is a quality, hard-wearing work pant. Durable, technical, and very comfortable, it can handle a range of terrains and activities with ease. Inbuilt stretch, a gusseted crotch, and dart seams behind the knees keep you moving smoothly, whether you’re hopping on a bike, striding up a hill, or simply taking in the city sights. Plus with its breathable, moisture-wicking Sorbtek-infused canvas, this pant will help you stay comfy while you’re on the go.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Proof Rover Pant

Premium Recommendations 

If you have a little more wiggle room in your budget, expand your search to brands specializing in technical clothing. While not necessarily built just for travel, they have the functional-fashionable qualities you’ll want in travel clothes. Here’s a premium summer capsule I recommend:

Men's Summer Premium Travel Capsule Wardrobe

Shoes: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG ($160)

Shoes: FitMyFoot Custom Sandals ($129)

Top: Outlier Ultrafine ($120)

Top: Arc’teryx Frame SS Shirt ($150)

Top: Alchemy Equipment AEM202 180GSM Merino SS Polo ($160)

Bottoms: Western Rise Evolution Short ($98)

Bottoms: Outlier New Way Shorts ($128)

Bottoms: Outlier Futureslimworks ($175) or Ministry of Supply Men’s Pace Tapered Chino ($148) or Mission Workshop Signal : LT ($235)

Mid layer: Ministry of Supply Men’s Hybrid Crew Neck Sweatshirt ($114)

Shell: Patagonia Men’s Calcite Jacket ($299)  

For more formal scenarios, switch in a dress shirt and blazer. I strongly suggest checking out the Ministry of Supply Apollo Shirt ($128), Ministry of Supply Kinetic Blazer ($328) and the Bluffworks Gramercy ($340), they’re the top tier in these categories for me. 

Gear highlights

Here’s more insight into some gear I’ve personally tested and have in rotation:

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG

If you’re new to the whole barefoot thing, there’s a real science to it. You see, the human foot is naturally wide and fan-shaped, has its own natural arches, and thousands of nerve endings that send information to the brain, allowing it to move correctly based on the terrain it’s ambling along. But our feet weren’t designed to be smothered in shoes. And so sometimes that information and natural design gets lost or muddled up, and that can result in a bunch of things, from parts of your feet not strengthening properly to hindering your natural gait. Sounds like hippy stuff, right? Well, I can tell you it’s not. If you’re willing to try (and do things like practice walking and running differently) you’ll find the comfort of going barefoot really rewarding.

So if that sounds like you, check out the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG. The Firm Ground Sole lets these shoes tackle multiple terrain types with ease, from wet to dry and rocky trails to urban pavements. Built wide, thin and flexible, they enable natural stability and movement, while also rolling up for compact packing. Built using vegan-friendly, recycled materials, their eco-conscious construction gets a big tick too. However, bear in mind that these aren’t a great option for steep and technical hiking trails (you’ll be better off finding a dedicated hiking boot). And let me reiterate, you’ll need to re-teach yourself how to run if you’re wearing these. It takes practice. So don’t just leg it out for a jog without putting in the work. Otherwise your calves will hate you, seriously. But if you’re after a versatile, comfortable, and packable option for a range of environments, these are well worth considering.

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG

If you’re shopping for these in the UK or Australia, try these links. 

Outlier Ultrafine

I’m not sure how many times we’ve collectively talked about the Outlier Ultrafine tees. They’ve been a staple for our team for an eternity. These are super premium low-micron Merino tees that have a lovely drape and superior fashion chops, don’t pill, and feel so nice on. If you like and can afford nice things, these are the best tees on the planet in my opinion; score one or two of these for your wardrobe.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Outlier Ultrafine T-shirt

Outlier New Way Shorts

For me, these are the original ‘do all’ shorts. I have three pairs and wear them every week through summer. So rich in details and executed perfectly. From their two-way stretch to DWR treatment for quick drying to the Paracord Type III MIL-C-5040 internal drawstring, these are an essential item for any premium wardrobe. Love these shorts!

New Way Shorts in Black

Western Rise Evolution Short

Western Rise continually impress with their innovative and functional apparel. And now they’ve turned their expertise to a multifunctional short designed to go from work to play and weekends away. The Evolution Short boasts a range of thoughtful features such as four-way stretch, stain and water resistance, a zippered pocket for small valuables, and a lightweight yet durable build that will handle active and relaxed use alike. All delivered in a stylish silhouette that moves smoothly from casual work settings to a quick hike or a day at the beach.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe Western Rise Evolution Short

Ministry of Supply Men’s Hybrid Crew Neck Sweatshirt

Looking for cozy comfort and sleek style in one? Ministry of Supply have you covered with their Men’s Hybrid Crew Neck Sweatshirt. Designed to be soft but durable, the sweatshirt is made with pill-resistant Hybrid Fabric that continues to look good wash after wash, while the soft velour interior brings a luxuriously comfy touch to this travel staple. A useful kangaroo pocket provides quick-access storage for small essentials or a cozy home for your hands when the weather is feeling fresh. And the clean silhouette works well across a range of settings for added versatility.

Ministry of Supply Men’s Hybrid Crew Neck Sweatshirt

DUER No Sweat Pant in Slim

If you’re a denim lover but want a little more from your jeans, DUER are a brand you need to check out. Their pants give you that rugged ‘denim look’ but with greater comfort, odor control and freedom of movement. I have two pairs and wear them almost weekly. They wear well, with the only gripe I have so far being the leather label: it’s on the back of the waistband and isn’t aging too gracefully. But that’s no big deal, it’s usually hidden by a t-shirt. All in all, a solid alternative to jeans.


Patagonia Men’s Calcite Jacket

It’s highly likely you’re going to encounter rain at some point in your travels. But Patagonia’s Calcite Jacket will keep you well protected from inclement weather. Made with 100% recycled polyester GORE-TEX Paclite® Plus fabric, the jacket is waterproof but breathable and also features venting pit zips if you need to shed some heat. Three zippered pockets provide handy storage for small travel or EDC items and as an added bonus the jacket is also packable, making it super convenient to stash in your day bag so you’re prepared for whatever the weather has in store.

Men's Travel Capsule Wardrobe - Patagonia Men's Calcite Jacket

Cold-weather men’s travel capsule wardrobe recommendations 

When building a travel capsule wardrobe for cold weather trips, you can reuse a few of the items from your warm weather capsule. But, of course, you’ll need to swap in some warmer layers, a heavier jacket, and shoes that can stand up to long walks in the snow (not the beach).

Budget recommendations 

While you can build a winter wardrobe for travel on a budget, prepare to make your shoes and coat your “big ticket” items. You may end up spending a little more on those than you did for your summer shoes and jacket.

Men's winter budget travel capsule wardrobe

Shoes: Kamik Lars Lo Rain Boot ($99.99) and Hunter Men’s Commando Chelsea Boots ($170)

ShoesTeva Wyldland Hiking Sneaker ($80)

Top: Duckworth Vapor Long Sleeve Crew ($85)

Top: Woolly Everyday Henley ($79.99)

Top: Uniqlo Oxford Slim-Fit Long-Sleeve Shirt ($39.90) or Everlane Linen Standard Fit Shirt ($48)

Bottoms: Flint and Tinder All-American Stretch Denim ($158) or 365 Pant ($98)

Bottoms: Uniqlo Slim-Fit Chino Pants ($49.90)

Mid layer: Woolly Pro-Knit Zip Up Crew ($99.99)

Mid layer: Alchemy Equipment AEM228C 12GG Cotton/Merino Crew ($99)      

Shell: Uniqlo Utility Parka ($79.90) or Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Parka (3D Cut) ($89.90)

Gear highlights

Here’s more insight into some gear I’ve personally tested and have in rotation:

Woolly Everyday Henley

I’ve become a fan of Woolly of late. They make great and simple Merino staples that come in at the right price. And this Henley has served me well. It has a great fit. Feels soft and comfortable. And blends with any outfit. Simple. Affordable. Clean. As advertised.

Woolly-Everyday-Weight-Long-Sleeve-Henley (model in grey)

Flint and Tinder 365 Pant

It’s hard to argue with a US-made pant of this quality for under $100. Very soft and comfortable to wear, made with 2% Spandex for stretch and 98% cotton for softness, these are great for traveling or bouncing around town. Designed to be worn year-round, the pant offers the look and feel of chinos with the flexibility of a performance pant. And with three fits to choose from (slim, straight, and tapered), plus a range of colorways, you can easily match these up with your personal style preferences.

Flint and Tinder 365 Pant

Premium Recommendations 

Especially for winter wear, spending a little more will get you pieces that (usually) hold up better to the environment and last longer. It also means you can tap into way more stylish and technical outerwear brands like Ministry of Supply and Arc’teryx who craft gear at the very highest level. 

Men's winter premium travel capsule wardrobe

Shoes: All-Weather Duckboot ($188) or Danner Jag ($200)

Shoes: Vessi Everyday ($135) or Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG ($210)

Top: Alchemy Equipment AEM124 180GSM Single Jersey Merino LS Crew ($160)

Top: Mission Workshop Sansom Work Shirt ($195)

Shirt: Alchemy Equipment AEM262 Wool Cotton Work Shirt ($200)

Bottoms: DUER No Sweat Pant Slim ($135) or Alchemy Equipment AEM272 Tech Stretch Jean ($200) or Outlier Bomb Dungarees ($198)

Bottoms: Western Rise Evolution Pant 2.0 ($128) or Outlier Slim Dungarees ($225) or Alchemy Equipment AEM148 Wool Blend Slim Leg Trouser ($220) or Bluffworks Chino ($125)

Mid layer: Ministry of Supply Men’s Hybrid Fleece 1/4 Zip Pullover ($198) or Alchemy Equipment AEM268 7GG Wool Blend Crew ($240)

Mid layer: Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan ($180)

Shell: Alchemy Equipment AEM293 Performance Down Parka ($650)      

Gear highlights

Here’s more insight into some gear I’ve personally tested and have in rotation:

DUER No Sweat Pant Slim

Travel can take its toll so comfort is a top priority to keep you trekking on. But there’s no reason you can’t add a little style to the mix too. DUER’s No Sweat Pant Slim offers the comfort of a sweatpant but steps it up on the style front with a versatile pant aesthetic that can be dressed up or down. Made with No Sweat fabric which offers stretch, moisture-wicking, and antibacterial properties in one, this pant is a savvy travel piece that will transition smoothly from work meetings to active pursuits or a night on the town.

DUER No Sweat Pant Slim

Olivers Passage Pant

Fast becoming a staple in a lot of our editors’ wardrobes, these pants from Olivers are lightweight, comfortable in long transits and great-looking. Made from a high quality 91% CORDURA grade nylon and 9% spandex blend, they have just the right amount of stretch, match perfectly with tees or shirts, and come in at a reasonable price. And if you’re savvy in the pant game, you’ll most like make good comparisons with the fan favorite Outlier Slim Dungarees. Both are very similar as far as comfort, cut and handfeel, with the Passage Pants wearing just a touch lighter.

Note, these do wear a little bigger than advertised. I’m a 32 waist but I’ll most likely size down in my next pair.

Olivers-Passage-Pants - no model

Alchemy Equipment AEM293 Performance Down Parka

When the temperatures start dropping and rain or snow looms on the horizon, having a suitable jacket on hand will keep you toasty and protected on your travels. And if you’re looking not just for functional performance but also fashion-forward styling, the Alchemy Equipment AEM293 Performance Down Parka is a great option.

The clean aesthetic looks slick on urban streets, while its waterproof fabric and 600-fill power duck down insulation keep you comfy when chilly and wet weather sets in. And if you’re looking for an option to keep all your small essentials close at hand, this parka has you covered. Dual exterior chest pockets featuring nifty magnetic flap closures, zippered hand pockets, and an inner zipped chest pocket provide plenty of storage for your small travel and EDC items.

Alchemy Equipment AEM293 Performance Down Parka

Western Rise Evolution Pant 2.0

While the original Evolution Pant is undeniably great, Western Rise weren’t content to leave it there. Committed to making a great product even better, they created the Evolution Pant 2.0, an excellent do-it-all option for everyday, work, travel, and active use. What’s the secret to its success? A bunch of thoughtful features such as four-way stretch, stain and water resistance, breathability, and durability. All while feeling comfy and lightweight. The smart, understated aesthetic looks good across a range of formal and informal settings alike. And the packable design makes it a breeze to stash this pant in your luggage or even a day bag if you want the flexibility to switch outfits on the fly.

Western Rise Evolution Pant 2.0

But what about underwear and socks you say?

Well, I can happily recommend the below:


Darn Tough







Liked this article? You might like these too:

How & What to Put in your Minimalist Travel Capsule Wardrobe

The Best Men’s Travel Shirts and Jackets for One-Bag Travelers

The Best Travel Shoes for Every Type of Traveler Right Now

9 Amazing Travel Pants for Long Flights and Beyond


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