Creating a travelling capsule wardrobe is a really good investment. Although it takes some thinking about and co-ordinating of what you are going to wear – for a few weeks away and city trips they are invaluable.
There are two ways to get your capsule wardrobe from A to B – one is to use a carry-on suitcase and the other is to use a carry-on backpack. I have done both – but now I am in the motorhome fulltime I go for the carry-on backpack.. I always use an Osprey. Not only for my carry-on but for all my washbags, daybags and bum-bag too!. The longgevity of the bag makes it worth spending the money. Plus I like the way my backback opens up like a suitcase with its zip-around top.
I can see my WHOLE well thought out packing in a glance and not stuffed in the top of a check-in backpack!
So what is a Capsule Wardrobe?
Put simply, a capsule wardrobe is about paring down your bag to make sure that everything you have in it has a purpose. Your principles of creating your essential packing items should follow this;
- Build a core wardrobe of basics
- Everything goes with everything else
- You don’t have to think about what you are packing
- It’s easy to update it with key colours
- The days outfit choice becomes really easy
Think about the different things that you do on your holiday – for me, its a mixture of hiking and getting outdoors with some cultural sightseeing, art galleries, dinners out and maybe meet ups with people for drinks. You might be doing an Everest Base Camp trek – so your list will be different – check mine out for Everest here. But for city breaks and some casual hikes – this will suffice easily – I did manage kayaking in Vulcano, a hike up Mount Etna, a trip to Vietnam and a jaunt to Brazil following these principles.
Basic principles of a Capsule Wardrobe.
- Pack for a week or 10 days only. This is key – the more you plan to pack for – the more you will end up taking – the 40L carry-0n bag becomes a 50L and then a 60L. Then you need to change your tickets to take into account that you need to check in luggage etc etc.
- Choose layers – it is much easier to layer up to stay warm or layer down to cool down that it is to pack for all the seasons that you think you may come across.
- Keep a neutral colour base – keep the odd item for on-trend new purchases – like the shocking pink or the day-glow lime, but generally keep things muted and stylish in a classic combination.
- Pick non-iron or low iron clothing – if you have to iron it – unless you are in a hotel or good quality AirBnB, then you will need to take your travel iron with you – and thats more packing weight!
- If its bulky – wear it. Yep – that big jumper or that ultra padded jacket or those big walking boots – wear them on the flights (I always travel in my walking boots!) because they take up so much space. When I get to my destination and move between locations, I either wear the boots, or if its hot, then I tie the laces and let them dangle off the back of my bag.
- Pack items – not outfits. If you pack 4 tops and 4 bottoms, there should be 16 outfits, not 4. (4 tops x 4 bottoms = 16 outfits). When you get into that mindset – its a game changer!
- Pick the right bag – if you have a large bag, you always pack more stuff – you have ‘Space’ and humans love filling up space with ‘stuff’. Take a cabin carry on case – or take a 40L backpack – which ever suits your style of travelling! I have flown RyanAir, Easy Jet, EuroWings and several other budget airlines with my 40L Osprey rucksack – and have never been stopped (TIP – Don’t take walking poles in a carry-on – you will get stopped by most airlines)
Essential List for a Capsule Wardrobe
So, you can see from the photo at the top what kind of content my travel wardrobe consisted of – mostly blue, white and a few shades of sage green/browns in there. And that is my practical colour palette. Other than the white – it doesn’t show any dirt too much!.
This is what your packing list should consist of.
- 4 casual t-shirt style tops
- 2 nice tops
- 1 long-sleeved white shirt
- A denim jacket or similar
- 1 pair jeans
- 2 pairs of shorts (or a pair of zip off hiking trousers can do instead of a pair shorts)
- 1 denim/utility type skirt
- 1 longer skirt/trousers
- 6 pairs knickers
- 3 pairs trainer socks
- 2 pairs walking socks (if you hike!)
- 1 pair of walking boots
- 1 or 2 pairs of flip flops/sandals (a pair you are comfy to go paint the town red in!)
- Perhaps 1 pair of exercise shoes (if you can’t do without them)
- 2 or 3 really lightweight dresses that fold up into nothing but dress up or down.
- Sarong (can double as a cover on overnight trains or buses and as a beach towel)
- Swim wear
- Costume jewellery/accessories
- Over shoulder handbag and also a make up bag that will double as a clutch.
- Upgraded sunnies – go for those gucci sunglasses to up the stakes.
- Couple of scarfs (for chillier nights and to dress up an outfit)
- Lightweight neutral jumper
- Shortie PJ’s with a top that can double as an evening top!
That is literally it. Don’t forget that you are going to likely be wearing your jeans, boots and lightweight jumper on the flight, so those do not need to go into your bag. Also a pair of walking socks and possibly a scarf.
Sample Outfits from my Capsule Wardrobe:
Long Patterned Skirt
Thong Trespass Sandals
Green maxi dress
Sage green Tee
Long patterned skirt
Striped blue tee
Sage green tee
Thong trespass sandals
White linen/combo trousers
Burnt orange tee
Thong trespass sandals
White linen/combo trousers
(Black strappy) pyjama top
Black fancy flip flop sandals
So you can see how easy it is to do.....
A luxury bag is classed as an essential as well if you can. My brand of favour is a Mulberry. I have 6 mulberry bags in the motorhome still and sold several to downsize to van life – but I can highly recommend the mulberry makeup pouches as perfect clutch bags that really do a dual job – as long as you look after them.
I hope that you have found this useful – if you have then let me know – and if you think I have missed something – then let me know that too!!
Honestly – a capsule wardrobe is a complete game changer in the packing front. You probably won’t get it right first time – and the second time you will refine further.
Remember…. wash out your smalls, keep fabrics as natural as possible – use wool or merino wool – and update your wardrobe regularly to take into account season and fashion changes!
Most of all – HAPPY TRAVELLING! 🙂