Techwear at its finest: 10 stylish travel outfits that look as good as they feel

“I can’t pack light the way you do. I want to look good!”

I’ve never understood these people. What does quantity have to do with beauty?

I’ve always been an advocate of carry-on only travel, mainly due to the daintiness of my physique, and my disinterest in waiting in long lines for hours just to find out that my bag didn’t show up. At this point, I really don’t know how to do it any other way.

Yet no matter how many times I point out how easy this is (just bring a week’s worth of clothing, do laundry once a week, and travel forever), they all still look at me like I’m a crazy person. Surely they’ll need some nice outfits for fancy social occasions, yes?

So I ask them…why not bring only nice outfits?

Better yet, why not own only nice outfits?! What are these people doing owning ugly clothes in the first place!??!

Building an immaculate travel wardrobe

So, to shame them publicly better inform everyone of the great options available for stylish travel clothing that’s both functional and fashionable, I’ve put together a series of head-to-toe outfits that’ll handle whatever you throw at them, and look great the whole time.

You’ll notice that I tend to seek out high-tech items, as I suffer from a biologically stupid condition that combines a scrawny lack of bodily insulation with a tendency to become ridiculously overheated with even the most leisurely of physical activities. Fancy techwear isn’t entirely necessary, especially in mild climates (and it can be painfully expensive, so don’t worry about it if you’re heading somewhere pleasantly temperate), but it can be especially useful in extreme weather conditions, and also allows you to pack smaller, by enabling hand washing and hang drying.

I’ve also highlighted some of the dressier options available, not because I care one way or another about snooty fashion concerns, but rather because I want to silence the nonsensical “I just want to look good” weirdos once and for all. Good travel clothing should look nice, as it allows you to skip the “just for fancy occasions” outfits, and thus pack down to half the size.

Which means, and I cannot stress this highly enough:

When it comes to travel, beauty is actually a performance advantage.

So let’s see how great we can look. I’ve organized these outfits by manufacturer, so you can get the whole outfit all in one place, and have pointed out which ones have supplied me with free samples, for transparency reasons. Here we go.

1) Outlier

Outlier has been making quite a name for itself as everyone’s go-to brand for stylish performance clothing, despite what appears at first to be a limited selection; the strategy consists mainly of designing just one product per category (one pair of jeans, one pair of work/dress pants, etc) and getting it just right, instead of churning through trendy designs all the time.

“Upscale casual” is what I’d call the aesthetic, with items that work perfectly well for casual situations, but can often blend right in for a night out:

Outlier Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Freeshell: A seasonally-available, water-resistant jacket for light weather protection (often available in different fabric variations).
  • New Way Shorts: Quick-drying, and with a drawstring waist, so they can double as swimwear.
  • Slim Dungarees: Perhaps their most well-known product, this is a soft shell jean (reviewed here), offering stretchy comfort, tough fabric, quick-drying performance, and weather resistance.
  • Merino/Co Pivot: One of the few merino wool dress shirts out there, blended with cotton for a bit more structure.
  • Ultrafine Merino T-shirt: A merino wool t-shirt, though with a finer grade fiber than most others.

(Outlier has provided me with some free samples)

2) Outerboro

Outerboro is a lesser-known Taiwanese company whose products range from casual streetwear to fancy dress clothing, all of which incorporate high-tech materials or finishes to make them more versatile than ordinary clothes. The outfit shown below happens to include the more casual items, but they’ve got dress shirts and blazers for fancier events as well:

Outerboro Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Pursuit Bomber Jacket: A semi-performance jacket with light weather resistance, Thinsulate insulation, and stretchy fabric.
  • Edge Pants: Cordura nylon incorporated into a pair of stretchy, weather-resistant casual pants for super tough performance.
  • Merino Core Henley: Cozy merino with a bit of adjustability with the henley buttons.

I’ve found Outerboro’s sizing tends to be more appropriate for shorter, slimmer people; it’s a Taiwanese company, after all. You’ll notice this from their size charts (especially the one listed for their Motile Pants, which includes very specific dimensions of all sorts), where the inseam length sounds ideal for someone maybe 5’8″ or below. It’s a good idea to spend some time reviewing these details, as returning items via international shipping tends to get pricey.

(Outerboro has provided me with some free samples)

3) Ministry of Supply

Of all the companies listed here, Ministry of Supply focuses most clearly on office-appropriate clothing, and with a greater variety of colors and patterns than you’re likely to find elsewhere. They even have the option of slim and standard fits on just about everything they make, so it almost feels like you’re getting customized items when you pick out an outfit.

Ministry of Supply Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Core V-Neck: Moisture-wicking, odor-resisting synthetic undershirt (which could also double as a regular t-shirt or a workout shirt).
  • Archive Dress Shirt: A stretchy, wicking, quick-drying dress shirt. I’d recommend this over their Apollo, as the fabric on this one is far dressier.
  • Mercury V-Neck Sweater: Merino wool, combined with phase change materials, for even more temperature regulation.
  • Aviator Chinos: Stretchy, quick-drying, coffee-resistant dress pants available in all sorts of colors.

(Ministry of Supply has provided me with some free samples)

4) Mission Workshop

Though mostly known for their waterproof messenger bags, Mission Workshop has been delving into the world of high-tech performance clothing as well, with what I consider especially good examples of outerwear. The selection is quite limited at the moment, but the dark colors, subtle designs, and performance materials give them a stylistic and weather-protective versatility that’s worth checking out. The aesthetic is more casual than dressy, but it’s refined enough that it looks great in all situations but the suit-and-tie sort.

Mission Workshop Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Remi Waterproof Hooded Blazer: Looks like a blazer with the hood down, works like a rain jacket with the hood up, with temperature-regulating materials so you don’t overheat.
  • Division Chino: A good example of soft shell pants, which are probably the best kind of pants.
  • Faroe Merino Wool Pullover Hoody: Stay cozy.
  • District Merino Henley: A little different than just a typical t-shirt.

5) Rohan

Rohan makes a variety of gear, from travel-friendly clothing with hidden security pockets (and I do mean hidden), as well as outdoorsy gear for mountaineering adventures.

But here I’m highlighting the classiest item they make, because practically no one else is doing this: A high-tech, moisture-wicking, fast-drying, wrinkle-resisting, stretchy, machine washable business suit that looks 100% indistinguishable from a regular suit. And it’s not overly techy; it’s blended with wool, so it still looks and feels like wool. Why does anyone make anything else?! ARGH!

Rohan Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Envoy Jacket: A high-tech business suit that’ll resist wrinkles, stains, and odor, but still looks just like a business suit. The stretch fabric is likely to keep you more comfy than a regular jacket ever could. Lots of interior pockets, too.
  • Envoy Trousers: The corresponding pants, which also have a zippered security pocket.
  • Envoy Shirt: Quick-drying, crease-resistant fabric, with an odor-resistant treatment. There’s a logo tag on the pocket, but it’s the type that can be cut off.
  • Ultra Silver T: A synthetic undershirt with odor resistance.
  • Switch Around Belt: Black on one side, brown on the other.

(Rohan has provided me with some free samples)

6) Proof NY

Proof NY is another small company, recently founded, with the intention of improving on wardrobe staples, by incorporating high-performance materials for increased durability, breathability, and weather resistance. They’re also one of the extraordinarily few companies doing this with a pair of jeans (pictured below), while still maintaining the look and feel of ordinary denim, which most others don’t bother doing. They often change the color to flat khaki or something…which is fine, but shouldn’t we have options that can pass for regular jeans too? Yes, we should.

Proof NY Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Blueprint Denim Jeans: Cotton combined with Cordura nylon for durability, polyester for additional quick drying time, and stretch fibers for extra comfort and mobility.
  • Iron Ox Shirt: Cotton blended with nylon for easy care and greater strength.
  • Nomad Pants: Soft shell pants (stretchy, weather resistant, breathable, quick-drying) that look like dress pants.

7) Ninox

Another tiny company, this time from Colorado, is Ninox. They’ve recently expanded from…like, one product, to several, and although they’re still quite new, they’ve got some good examples of dressy clothing and casual outerwear that’ll be right at home in a wide range of circumstances, rather than just a hike:

Ninox Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Dillon Merino Soft Shell Jacket: Merino on the inside, weather-resistant polyester on the outside.
  • Stratton Synthetic Insulation Jacket: Like a puffy jacket, but without the puffiness.
  • Carson Chinos: Soft shell pants: Stretchy, comfy, breathable, and weather resistant.
  • Aspen Dress Shirt: Merino wool for moisture management and wrinkle resistance, and cotton for extra structure and familiarity.

8) QOR

I don’t know how the hell this one slipped beneath my radar, because they’ve got such a wide selection that it seems insane that I had never heard of them until recently. QOR’s selection is easily the largest of anything listed on this page, with items of all sorts; they’ve got a lot of workout and fitness clothing, but with an understated appearance that can pass for casual clothing, along with upscale items for fancier occasions:

QOR Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Performance Suiting Pant: Viscose for absorbency, polyester for quick-drying performance, with an additional fabric treatment for weather resistance, and some zipped pockets.
  • QOR Shirt: Yes, that’s actually the name; it’s the merino button-up, which also has a semi-concealed zipped pocket.
  • QOR 17.5 Merino V Short Sleeve: Comfy merino t-shirt.
  • Neoshell Trench: Neoshell promises hard shell performance with soft shell comfort (AKA it’s waterproof but comfier than most rain jackets), in a nice trench style.

9) Alchemy Equipment

These guys are down in New Zealand, and from the emphasis on darkly-colored outerwear, this would be a great place to look for cold-weather travel gear that doesn’t scream “I dress like a mountaineer, even when walking on flat surfaces.” And here I was thinking that all New Zealand ever does is make Lord of the Rings movies. I’m still pretty sure it’s mostly true.

Alchemy Equipment Outfit
Visit them here.

Pictured:

  • Wool/Waxed Cotton Down Jacket: Understated colors and fabrics typically not found in down jackets, with rainproof shoulder panels and a Teflon treatment for the rest of the fabric for extra rain resistance. Probably a little bulkier than a typical packable down jacket, but of course it’ll work fine if you’re not stowing it that often.
  • Stretch Wool Blend Chino: A nice-looking wool pant with a zippered, waterproof cell phone pocket.
  • Ceramic Coated Stretch Jacket: Treatments and extra-durable shoulder panels will lengthen the life of something that looks really great and thus will be worn a million times.
  • Single Jersey Merino Short Sleeve Polo: Name says it all. Comfy merino, polo style.

10) Mix and Match

Here I’ve compiled a couple outfits from tiny companies that pretty much make just a single product, but which do them especially well:

Mix and Match Outfit

Pictured:

  • Thunderbolt Jeans (on the left): A perfect example of soft shell jeans, and one of the few that also has a hidden zippered security pocket, in back.
  • Wool & Prince Better Button Down (the blue one): A 100% merino wool dress shirt, and thus super comfy and wrinkle-free, because ironing clothes is just objectively stupid. How many hours of our lives must be spent drawing a slab of heated metal over wrinkly fabric so it won’t look like garbage when we could just use non-wrinkly materials instead!?!? ARGH!!!
  • Fairwear Belmont Gingham Shirt (the grey one): A blend of bamboo and polyester for comfort and performance.
  • Bluffworks Khakis (on the right): Great travel pants, reviewed here.

(Wool & Prince and Bluffworks have provided me with some free samples)

By the way, you can find quite a few of these brands (often on sale) at Huckberry, which offers a good range of style and substance all in the same place.

I don’t know why travel clothing has been so ugly for so long, but now that it looks this good, we might as well just look great all day, every day, wherever we go.

Happy (stylish) travels!

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

View all posts by SnarkyNomad

50 Comments on “Techwear at its finest: 10 stylish travel outfits that look as good as they feel”

  1. I am seriously liking the Alchemy equipment line – good find.

    I’ve been slowly replacing all of my shirts and leggings with Merino wool. I don’t have travel clothing and normal clothing. Just good clothing. I tend to go Icebreaker just because it’s easy to find in the Netherlands and I know the fit works for me.

    From the ladies side there is also a startup called Pivotte Studio that looks really interesting judging by the model rock climbing in a business suit. I love that more and more functional clothing lines are popping up – fast fashion was always a bad idea.

    1. I agree. I’ve also been looking into clothing that just lasts longer. It costs more, but if it costs 5 times as much but lasts 5 times as long, then it’s the same price. Hiking gear tends to use strong materials, so it makes sense to use them in everyday clothing, since that’s the clothing that gets used most often anyway.

    2. Hi Erin – I’m commenting on behalf of Pivotte. Thank you for the shout-out here! Love what you said about choosing clothes “I don’t have travel clothing and normal clothing. Just good clothing.” We really took the time and effort to create just that. It’s clothing that holds up to life’s demands, which should encompass a lot of different activities.

      Eytan – thank you for providing the the platform on which these discussions can take place. We love to travel and look to you for travel inspo and tips :)

      1. Hey Evelyn, please do connect with Travel Fashion Girl and/or Her Packing List! I am excited about Pivotte and dying to read some reviews. It is looooong overdue for someone to step into the stylish, technical wear realm for women. It doesn’t seem like Outlier or ProofNY are going to bother restocking their limited women’s lines, so bring on Pivotte.

    3. I have purchased two merino wool t-shirts from Smartwool. They both had holes in them after the second washing. I don’t know if other brands of merino hold up better, but so far merino tees have been a bust for me.

      1. I like the ones that have some nylon mixed in. Some of my merino t-shirts have held up really well (and try to hang dry them, and wash them on a gentler cycle), but nylon is always going to help. Icebreaker, QOR, and Wool & Prince all have nylon in their t-shirts that’ll help out quite a bit.

  2. Good list, though a few of the companies above are definitely just copying others. I’m on a 6-week trip right now with Outlier Slim Dungarees and New Way shorts as my only casual pants.

    Two other recommendations for the mix-and-match section.

    Edgevale North Coast Shirt Jacket: My friend Tony’s company makes a variety of stylish outdoor stuff. This Shirt Jacket was their first foray into more technical/performance stuff for cooler weather.

    Myles Apparel Everyday Short: The other pair of shorts I brought on my trip. Work well as gym shorts, a swimsuit, or as casual shorts because they’re low profile (no branding, neon, etc.).

    1. I think the most obvious case of copying is the use of the same exact Dryskin fabric that appears in just about every pair of soft shell pants. Oh well though. Each of these companies has only a small selection of products, so even if someone’s copying someone else, it just means you get more color choices and so on.

  3. I think that, even if companies are using similar fabrics, there are some stylistic differences that make each one stand out on their own.

    I am a customer of both NINOX and Mission Workshop, and have been very pleased with my purchases and the outstanding customer service I have received from both.

    1. Yeah, they’re all doing it right, so I don’t mind that there are lots of people doing it. Everyone nowadays makes jeans, but it didn’t drive Levi’s out of business, so I think it’s all good.

  4. I bought a pair of the Surface pants from Proof NY (Schoeller fabric, cotton/nylon/elastane blend) and they have more of a chino feel to them. I wore them on a trip to NYC and upper NY state over Christmas. Went from catching Aida at the Lincoln centre to hiking up in the Cobbleskills in them no problem. They’re really a three season pair of pants but I’ve still worn them on blistering days here in Oz and they do OK. The nano sphere treatment seems to work OK. Must be brave and break away from khaki though :)

  5. Great job on this list! I especially the Envoy jacket & trousers from Rohan!

    This is an incredible resource for travelers who may love the outdoors, but want to be able to go indoors, too. Dressing well can make a big difference in how you are treated in many places.

    1. It is very true. I don’t particularly care too much about fashion, but other people obviously do, and it’s nice to look at least presentable, if not spectacular. But all these companies design things that’ll work in nice settings, but can also handle the outdoors, so it can work for everything.

  6. So i have discovered icebreaker, and i have started replacing a few things in my wardrobe with their products. How do their products compare to some of these other Merino products? Trying to decide if i should just stick to icebreaker or start to look at some of the other companies out there

    1. They’re all using the same material, so I wouldn’t get too worried about it. There’ll be minor differences between fabric weight, fiber grade, and so on, but companies like Ibex have just as good of a reputation. I think the issue is more about fit. If you find a good brand that fits you well, and you happen to like the designs, you can stick with it. Quite a few of these brands are sold in places with a lifetime warranty if something goes wrong, so if you buy from those places, you don’t have to worry about it.

    2. I popped into the Patagonia store in Sydney this week to checkout the merino tops but unfortunately they’re hardly ever stocked so the sales rep strongly encouraged me to buy Icebreaker instead! In his opinion they’re the best because they use high quality NZ merino.

  7. Really!?
    $225 for jeans
    $160 for shorts
    To much for the trust fund set for me
    I thought ex officio was outragious!!!

    1. Yes, it’s painfully expensive. This is because the fabric is generally made in Switzerland instead of Chinese sweatshops, and the clothing is sewn together in the United States, instead of Southeast Asian, Indian, or South American sweatshops. There are plenty of people out there who simply can’t afford this stuff at all (and I’m not rushing out to buy anything), but even aside from the issue of supporting better wages, if they cost 5 times as much, but last 5 times as long, then are they really more expensive?

      Also, once the mass-production brands actually realize how good an idea this is, they’ll pick up on the trend and we’ll have $50 items that more people can buy. Someone just has to do it first, and they’re small companies with non-outsourced production. In the meantime, I don’t mind spending a little more for something that’s exactly what I want, and won’t fall apart, as is often the case with fast-fashion brands.

    2. Yes, some of it is expensive. However, it isn’t all that expensive. Bluffworks pants are around $90, which isn’t much more than you would pay for decent dress trousers (and they are awesome.) You should also check out the clearance pages for some of these brands. Rohan and Nau offer some great discounts for previous year stuff, but you might have difficulty if your size is popular. I am price sensitive also, but by traveling light I am saving money both in the longevity of the products, and from never having to pay baggage fees! If you can fly discount airlines, and not pay the check bag fee, over a few years you more than get your money back. Big picture.

  8. Lovely, but not made for my 3X frame. Glad it works for you, anyway, and thanks for the tip about the rePete travel pack, it is my go-to now.

  9. One thing you might be interested in adding – O’Neill boardshorts hybrid shorts. they are not as classy as most of the above, but my go to is 1 outlier pants, 1 shorts, and 1 O’Neill Boardshorts, as all pockets are zipped! Its a game changer having all zip pockets in passable board shorts!

  10. Appreciate your view on buying good stuff, even though you don’t carry a lot. I too have found it better in the long run to spend a little extra on quality clothing and carry less.

    Since I take to trails often, I gear for that. A pair of tough jeans (Lands End of all people) that can double for decent wear are a single color, medium grey. I can toss on an Orvis bush shirt that keeps me cool in the heat (good air movement), warm when it’s not so hot, protects from rough foliage yet passes okay for a restaurant. A pair of shorts to wear when the jeans are getting washed and a couple changes of underwear (wash every other day seems to work out fine).

    If I didn’t need to carry the laptop and camera kit with me, I’d have about 7 pounds less – and a smaller backpack ;)

    1. I’ve always wanted to go even lighter than I usually do, but I get incredibly hot and incredibly cold very easily, but still…frequent laundry means less stuff.

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