Packing light enhances our travels more than just about anything. Currently, we each travel with one 30-liter backpack. We pack this way for practical reasons as much as philosophical ones—less "stuff" to worry about means we have more mental and physical to energy to devote to enjoying our experiences. A solid capsule wardrobe is an important part of traveling with less.
The basic definition of a capsule wardrobe is: a compact wardrobe comprised of easily-coordinated, staple pieces—usually 30 items or less, including shoes, accessories and outerwear.
For the fashion-obsessed traveler, capsule wardrobes can be tricky. But, if you're more interested in what you'll be doing rather than wearing on your trip, creating one can be a piece of cake.
CAPSULE WARDROBE TIPS
As you're choosing clothes for a capsule wardrobe it's helpful to use what you've learned from past experience. Consider your most recent trips and ask:
What did I wear the most?
What never made it out of my backpack?
What items did I wish I would have packed?
Also, take into account your destination's weather, climate and terrain as well as the types of activities you'll be doing. And lastly, consider duration. We usually pack the same whether we're going for one week or one month—enough outfits for one week (wear, wash, repeat)—and so far, we've never wished that we had more clothes with us. If anything, we've felt that we could have brought less!
When choosing clothes for a minimal wardrobe, comfort and practicality should always rank highest. In contrast, your main enemies are: vanity and overthinking things—such as creating too many "what if" scenarios. What if I decide to go hang-gliding and don't have a proper jacket? What if I suddenly get a hankering to wear a pair of culottes? What if the Queen of England invites me for tea and I don't have anything dressy enough? Let those thoughts go. Once you're traveling, the last place your mind will be is on your clothes.
It's taken years of practice but I finally have a 26-piece travel wardrobe that I love. Some pieces change depending on destination and climate but overall, it keeps me comfortable in a range of temps, covers all scenarios (casual, outdoor, even a little dressy) and most importantly: it's quick and easy to pack. This means I won't be wrestling an over-stuffed bag and I'll have room to bring home souvenirs.
WASH WHILE YOU WANDER
A last note: this pared-down wardrobe works best for travelers who launder as they go. Schlepping dirty clothes from place to place is, well—dirty, and setting aside a few minutes each night for a little scrubbing and hanging (or hunting down a local laundry service) is easy to do and well worth the effort.
Sample of a capsule wardrobe (for a 17-day trip to Eastern Europe in June):