At first blush, staying fresh while traveling doesn’t seem like a huge concern. After all, part of the experience of traveling for some is partaking in the grungy, uninhibited, Bohemian lifestyle.
But if you’ve ever spent an overnight stint at a crowded bus station, suffered through a series of connecting long-haul flights or gone days without recourse to a proper shower, you’ll understand that the “grungy” lifestyle isn’t all it’s made out to be. It can leave you feeling sticky, sweaty, smelly and just all-around unpleasant.
At the time of writing, most people aren’t planning intercountry excursions, on account of the ongoing pandemic restrictions. But many people are filling the void left by international travel by planning road trips. Whatever trip you’re planning, it’s wise to be keep freshness, comfort and personal hygiene in mind. When you’re on the road – whether it’s on a train in Asia, a bus in South America or your very own car driving across the country – opportunities for getting fresh can be scant.
In this article, we’re offering tips for staying fresh and feeling your best while traveling. We’ll offer packing tips to ensure you arrive prepared, and offer on-the-road tips to follow. Of course, we’ll also discuss how Unbound Merino travel clothing can help you look and feel fantastic on your next trip.
The art of packing is something we at Unbound Merino take seriously. Done right, it’s a step that can vastly improve your travel experience. Done wrong, you can end up lugging around a bulky suitcase filled with unnecessary items, and missing necessary ones.
Do what we do: take time making a thoughtful, thorough checklist. Ask yourself what you absolutely need, and what you can live without. Then stick to the checklist as closely as possible. If all goes according to plan, you’ll have a lightweight, easily manoeuvrable bag containing everything you need to look great, stay safe and keep fresh.
If you want to avoid that sticky, sweaty, smelly feeling of being on the road, start with the right choice in clothing.
Certain common fabrics, like cotton and polyester, have a bad habit of soaking up sweat, holding it in and promoting the growth of odour-causing bacteria. This How Stuff Works article does a great job summarizing the reasons behind this, explaining what’s known as the “moisture vapor transmission rate” (or MVTR.) In layman’s terms, we call that breathability.
Cotton, especially when it’s soaked in sweat, is not breathable. On the other hand, merino wool certainly is. And not only is merino wool breathable, allowing body heat to escape, but it’s also sweat-wicking and anti-microbial, meaning that the fabric resists odour-causing perspiration.
It’s the perfect fabric for traveling. Just slip on a merino wool short sleeve t shirt or merino wool button down shirt and let the clothing keep you fresh. Some Unbound Merino customers even report wearing our clothes for weeks on end without any noticeable odour or unclean feeling.
You might wonder, though: merino wool seems great in the summer heat, but does it keep you feeling your best in the winter? The answer there is also a resounding yes. In addition to being breathable, merino wool clothing is insulating, trapping your body heat in to keep your warm.
Merino wool also dries quickly – just in case you get caught in a fall downpour or winter blizzard – so it can prevent you from catching a cold (literally the last thing you want right now.) Being cold and wet doesn’t cause you to catch a cold (that bit of causal fallacy is an old wives’ tale) but it can make you more prone to catch something. To use a military analogy: having a weak line of defense doesn’t cause an enemy invader to attack, but if the enemy invader is there already, it sure makes their job easier.
To summarize, there are several ways merino keeps you fresh, hygienic and happy while you travel. It’s odour-resistant, breathable, insulating and quick-drying.
With your merino clothes picked out, you can turn your attention to the next most important item on your packing list, from a freshness perspective. The hygiene kit is often the last thing that comes together before you dart out the door (you can’t just pack your toothbrush days in advance) but you can still plan its contents ahead of time.
Here are the must-haves for your hygiene kit:
Shampoo: If you don’t anticipate staying at hotels, it’s a good idea to bring a travel-sized bottle of shampoo or camp suds.
Body Wash: Normal body normally suffices, but if you plan on travelling in areas without access to clean water, pack no-rinse body wash instead.
Toothpaste, toothbrush and floss: While these can easily be purchased in even the remotest locales, the quality of toothpaste varies globally. Pack your own to be safe.
Facial cleanser: The accumulated dust, debris and sweat from a day on the road can be rough on your pores. Pack a facial cleanser and make it part of your before-bed routine.
Deodorant: As powerful as merino wool is at keeping your clothes fresh, it can’t always keep you smelling fresh. It’s still best practice to pack a stick of deodorant.
Nail clippers: When you’re on the road, your fingernails become magnets for dirt and grime. For their size-to-usefulness ratio, we consider nail clippers a must-have in your hygiene kit.
(Optional) Comb or hairbrush
(Optional) Feminine hygiene products
(Optional) Eye care products
(Optional) Razors and shaving cream
If you’re traveling by plane, consider buying a clear pouch for your hygiene products, which will make security checks a whole lot easier. We’re partial to the pouch recommended by Taylor Welden of Carryology, in the list of 5 travel essentials he wrote for our blog.
Especially in the time of COVID, hand sanitizer is a travel necessity. It’s a lifeline in the absence of soap and water, and an effective deterrent for cold and flu germs.
Even when COVID-19 ends, it will still be good practice to carry a keychain hand sanitizer. Not only are scientists and theorists predicting a greater number of potential future pandemic viruses, but it’s likely that people will be more vigilant with hygiene in general – and that they’ll expect the same from fellow travelers.
This easy hack has been around the backpacking community for ages. If you want to keep your clothes smelling and feeling fantastic throughout your road trip or global excursion, just pack a few dryer sheets alongside your clothes.
Even without heat applied, dryer sheets have deodorizing properties that can help trap musty or unwanted smells in your bag. If you are sensitive to synthetic odours, just make sure to steer clear of scented dryer sheets.
Often, we recommend packing cubes as a means for traveling lighter. Because they condense clothing and other soft packed materials, they allow you to fit more in a smaller space.
A hidden benefit of packing cubes, however, is their ability to manage odour in your bag. Because packing cubes keep your clothing compartmentalized in an anaerobic environment, the odour doesn’t have the opportunity to infiltrate the rest of your bag. If you have a particularly smelly item of clothing, just pop it in its own packing cube (a Ziploc bag will even do in a pinch) to keep it separate from the rest of your belongings.
Stepping off a long-haul flight or waking up from a passenger’s seat nap on a road trip, your mouth never feels its freshest. In both these cases, the culprit is dehydration. When your mouth dries out, either from sleep or the dry atmosphere of a plane, odour-producing bacteria proliferates.
Below, we’ll discuss how keeping hydrated can help you stay fresh and feel your best, but here in the packing section, we’ll leave you with this small piece of advice: pack a mouth freshener of some kind. Breath strips, mouthwash and spray each work wonders.
If you plan on using communal showers when you travel, pack a pair of flip-flops. Many fungi and wart-causing viruses thrive in moist, warm environments like shower floors. Limiting your contact with these floors can save you the hassle and embarrassment of an on-the-road foot infection.
A couple years ago, a user on the Onebag subreddit posed this question: what do you do with flip-flops while traveling? Do you wait for them to dry or just stick them in your bag? The consensus was that you should wash them after showering, and – if you don’t have time to let them dry – keep them segregated in a separate bag within your bag.
With your packing complete, it’s time to hit the road. Your merino wool clothing, hygiene kit, dryer sheets, packing cubes, mouth freshener and flip-flops will help you along the way, but there are additional steps you can follow to stay fresh and feel great. Let’s take a look at a few simple tips.
By now, it’s a mantra we’ve all internalized: frequently wash your hands with warm soapy water. You touch your face more often than you realize; keeping those hands free of bacteria and viruses goes a long way toward keeping you healthy and clean.
Can’t find a sink on your travels? Luckily, as per above, you’ve packed your trusty hand sanitizer.
Most international travelers are more than happy to regale you with tales of their worst foodborne illness. The ill-advised street meat they ate or the less-than-potable ice cubes they used to chill their cocktail, and the sickness that followed.
We aren’t saying you shouldn’t eat adventurously – some of the world’s best food is cooked in street stalls – but be vigilant about sanitation practices, and pack some Imodium just in case.
A few glasses of water spread out throughout the day can make a giant impact on your travel experience.
As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, dehydration is mainly responsible for that queasy, hazy feeling we associate with jet lag. Because airplanes are notoriously dry environments, you need to compensate by drinking plenty of water – more water than you think you need.
Even if you aren’t flying or you have kicked your jet lag, it’s important to stay hydrated while you travel. As this Harvard Health article points out, drinking water is crucial to maintaining the function of just about every system in your body – your heart, brain, muscles, skin, etc. Pack a collapsible water bottle and ensure you get your recommended 30-50 ounces of H2O a day.
Normally, when you travel, you pick one outfit for the day. The rest of your clothing stays put in your luggage, which is either locked away in the hotel room or in the trunk of your car on a road trip. And because you’re on the move, you don’t always have ready access to a change of clothing.
That said, it’s important to dress for potential changes in weather. Check the hourly forecast and plan accordingly. Is the temperature going to drop in the evening? Pack your Unbound Merino travel hoodie in a day bag. Is it supposed to rain later? Pack a rain jacket and choose a suitable pair of boots for the day.
To prepare for whatever the weather throws at you, stock up on Unbound Merino clothing. Check out the latest sales on our website to get started!
We’re not saying you have to be a saint, nor that you have to sacrifice those spontaneous, go-for-broke nights when, in a blaze of drinks, dancing and conversation, you watch the sun come up; just be cognizant of your sleep schedule.
An ongoing lack of quality sleep can make you feel irritable, fatigued and foggy. If you’re road-tripping, it can also make driving a lot more dangerous. If you missed out on sleep the last couple nights, respect your “sleep debt” and get a couple more hours of rest in tonight.
With these quick packing tips and easy travel hacks, you’ll look good, feel great and stay comfortable while you travel. To start your journey, visit Unbound Merino and find your perfect travel clothing.