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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 under $100. Here’s a selection of products I recommend:

Shoes: Native Mercury Liteknit ($90) or Allbirds Wool Runners ($90)

Shoes:  Teva Voya Flips Flops ($25) or $2 market flip flops

Top: Proof 72-Hour Merino ($68)

Top: Vuori Tradewind Tee ($48) or Wool&Prince V-Neck

Top: Duckworth Vapor Tee ($65)

Bottoms: Olivers Apparel All Over Short Short ($68)

Bottoms: Uniqlo Chino Shorts ($40)

Bottoms: Proof Nomad Pant ($98)

Mid layer: Uniqlo Extra Fine Merino Crewneck ($39.90)Shell: Uniqlo Men’s Blocktech Parka ($99.90)

For more formal scenarios, switch in a dress shirt and blazer, the Uniqlo Easy Care Shirt $40 and Uniqlo Kando Jacket $59.90 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:

Native Mercury Liteknit

These have been my favorite pair of shoes for some time now. The price is right. They’re super light. And they work well dressed up with good pants and a shirt, or casually with shorts and tee. The upper has enough structure and support, and is paired with a shock-absorbing EVA midsole and outsole, great for light jogging. And thanks to the mesh, they’re downright breezy in hotter climates. I recommend these to everyone.

The one downside: the soles wear pretty quickly if you’re rocking these daily. I’d give them a 12-18 months lifespan before you’ll need another pair.

Native Mercury Liteknit

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.

all-birds-wool-runners-best-travel-shoe - floating

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 $72. 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.

Duckworth-Vapor-Tee---best-travel-t-shirt - grey

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.

Olivers-All-Over-Short navy

Proof Nomad Pant

These have been recently updated, so I’m a little late to the party here. But these original Nomads are a quality technical chino. Light. Very comfortable. And kitted out with snap back pockets and a special hidden pocket, tucked behind the front right pocket, that’s just pure genius. It’s so easy to access and nearly invisible (with a super subtle zipper). More pants should have this pocket, period.

I will say that the cut and appearance of the fabric does lend more to a look of ‘slacks’ than classic chinos, but I’ll get my hands on the update soon and see if the addition of Japanese twill helps.

Proof-Nomad-Travel-Pants navy

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 Lite ($130

Shoes:  Wiiv Custom Fit Sandals ($125)

Top: Outlier Ultrafine ($110

Top: Veilance Frame Shirt ($148

Top: Mission Workshop Vector Polo ($160

Bottoms: Western Rise AT Limitless Shorts ($85) or Arc’teryx Russet Shorts ($99)

Bottoms: Outlier New Way Shorts ($120

Bottoms: Outlier Futureworks ($140) or Ministry of Supply Kinetic Pant ($145) or Mission Workshop Signal ($270

Mid layer: Mission Workshop Faroe ($225Shell: Mission Workshop Sans ($560)  

For more formal scenarios, switch in a dress shirt and blazer. I strongly suggest checking out Ministry of Supply Apollo 3 ($125), Ministry of Supply Kinetic Blazer ($325) and the Bluffworks Gramercy ($295), 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 Lite

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 Vivobarefoot Primus Lite for warm weather jaunts. They’re very sleek and breathable and dress up or down well. They’re light at just 115 grams. Built using recycled PET. And a solid honeycomb grip means they’re great for active pursuits too. But, let me reiterate, you’ll need to re-teach yourself how to run when 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.

Vivobarefoot-Primus-Lite side angle

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.

Outlier-Ultrafine-T-shirt black

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!

Pro tip: scaling down price, and dishing up similar look and performance, I’d also recommend checking out the Western Rise Granite shorts.

New Way Shorts in Black

Arc’teryx Russet Shorts

If your adventures call for more rugged performance, I’ve been testing the Arc’teryx Russet shorts from Arc’teryx for a few months and have been suitably impressed. They’re super durable for their weight and are actually crafted for climbing – so they can take on more daring adventures with ease. Lovely handfeel. Solid pocketing. Trim cut. High-fives go out to the Arc team on these!

arcteryx-russet-shorts---travel-shorts in navy

Mission Workshop Faroe

The MW Faroe MC is a staple hooded pullover for me. Made with 18.9 micron 190g/sm Merino wool with added core filament nylon for strength and durability, it not only does all the wonderful things wool does but scores super high in style points – this is a piece I reach for when fashion matters. Very soft. Very light. Perfect as a base layer or pullover. And finished with one nice detail: a ‘hidden pocket’ at the base of the back that’s really inconspicuous and great for stowing away cash (especially when worn with a jacket).

Mission-Workshop-Faroe-Pullover front on

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.


Mission Workshop Sans

Weighing in at just 5.6 ounces, the MW Sans is a marvel to behold. I’ve never worn a shell quite like it – it’s so light. Honestly, it’s like you’re not wearing anything at all. And compared with other shells I’ve worn, it’s lining is soft and textured and doesn’t feel rubbery, resulting in a very comfortable fit. But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t sacrifice the details either, with useful features including a little stretch, multiple hood adjustments, underarm ventilation holes, a weatherproof YKK zipper, and a handy zipped chest pocket.

In a perfect world, I’d love two waist pockets for stuffing my hands in, but this takes up no space in my pack. So, for right now, this is my go-to, and I can’t see it getting bumped for some time.

Mission-Workshop-Sans rain 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 Hudson C Wet Weather Boot ($110)

ShoesTeva Arrowhead waterproof sneaker ($130)

Top: Duckworth Comet Crew ($80 *on sale for $60)

Top: Woolly Everyday Henley ($65)

Top: Uniqlo Oxford ($30) or Everlane Japanese Slim Oxford ($58) or Proof Shirt

Bottoms: Flint and Tinder 365 Slim or Straight ($98)

Bottoms: Uniqlo Windproof Chino ($50)

Mid layer: Woolly Midweight Pro-Knit ($99)

Mid layer: Uniqlo Supima Crewneck Sweater ($30)Jacket: Uniqlo Seamless Down Parker ($129)      

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 Slim

It’s hard to argue with a US-made pant of this quality for under $100. Very soft and comfortable to wear, made with 3% Lycra for stretch and 97% cotton for softness, these are great for traveling or bouncing around town. Although because of the comfort and softness, I’m not sure how these will wear. I can’t see these taking well to abrasion and such, so if you’re traveling and planning on getting active, I’d perhaps pass on these and divert to something a little more rugged and technical.

Flint-and-Tinder-365-Slim in navy

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: Danner Mountain 600 Weatherized ($155) or Jag ($250)

Shoes: Vessi Everyday ($135) or Bannister Leather ($235)

Top: Icebreaker Shapeshifter ($100)

Top: Alchemy Equipment Merino Crew ($120)

Shirt: Proof Performance Oxford ($98) or Alchemy Equipment 3XDRY ($85)

Bottoms: DUER No Sweat Pant Slim ($130) or Proof Heatseeker Jeans ($118) or MW Signal Pants $375 or Arc’teryx Russet Pant

Bottoms: Western Rise AT Slim Rivet Pants ($129) or Outlier Slim Dungarees or ($198) or Alchemy Equipment Wool Blend Trouser or Bluffworks Chino ($125)

Mid layer: Mission Workshop Gannet ($225) or Faroe or Alchemy Prima Loft ($240) or Western Rise Henley ($89) or MOS fleece

Mid layer: Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan ($179) or Elgin Hoodie ($199)Jacket: Alchemy Equipment Primaloft Piste or Down Jacket ($370) or Arc’teryx Sawyer ($425)      

Gear highlights

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

Mission Workshop Signal Pants

I’ve worn and tested a whole lot of travel pants and these would have to be one of the most comfortable. Built with a US-made durable 4-way stretch nylon, they’re super light and almost feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. They feature YKK zippers, a water repellent finish, and hidden side-zip utility pocket, that I wouldn’t personally carry heavy things in (i.e. phone) but love for stashing back-up cash when on the road. It’s worth mentioning, these are super technical in feel and appearance, so they’re not for everyone (or every wardrobe). They need to be paired with nice things. A fading blue tee won’t fly here.

Mission-Workshop-Signal-Pant - floating pants

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

Arc’teryx Sawyer Coat

Traveling with the right jacket can make traveling so much easier. So I always invest in a quality jacket. And, like I’m sure most of us already know, it’s hard to beat Arc’teryx in this department. Their range of Gore-Tex shells have been the top tier in construction and weather protection for years, but, until recently, they’ve always leaned too closely to an outdoor aesthetic for me. But that’s all changed. Arc’teryx’s ‘lifestyle’ range is humming now and the Sawyer ¾ jacket is a fine example of Arc’s shift to a technical urban minimalism.

Completely windproof, waterproof and breathable, its sleek styling allows it to flex with you. Working with shirts to casual tees, it has protected me in summer showers and winter snow alike. It has the essential three zippered pockets I always look for (phone, keys, wallet) with a chest pocket that’s voluminous enough to fit an iPhone Plus. Articulated sleeves and gusseted underarms provide good freedom of movement and the hood is great and rigid and adjustable, with a front brim to protect your face from angled rain and such. And as for packing, it has very little bulk and packs down nicely and works great with layering. A big win in travel scenarios!

So if you’re after a jacket that looks good in any environment, performs in any weather, packs well, and is built to be worn for 10-plus years, then I can certainly give this a glowing recommendation.

And if you’re looking to ditch the hood for more of an elegant and ‘gentlemanly’ look, check out their Keppel Trench.

arcteryx-sawyer-jacket - floating jacket

Western Rise AT Slim Rivet

I’ve had a pair of ATs for over a year now and love them. They’re rugged-feeling like a jean but lighter with a little stretch and a stain-proof coating. Incredibly versatile. Good value. And a nice tight fit. I’ve worn them at least once a fortnight and no visible signs of wear. I’d totally recommend scoring a pair, but a heads up: make sure to pay close attention to sizing as WR recommend sizing up in this particular style.


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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