How to build a travel capsule wardrobe

It’s the conundrum of the travel-loving outdoorsy woman’s life – how can I explore the world with limited luggage when I plan to hike/swim/cycle/go out for a nice dinner or two once I get to each new destination? As someone who is on the road up to a third of the year, I’ve learned the hard way that the answer is to pack surprisingly light, relying on a few hero pieces that fit in your backpack and make for multiple outfits for both sport and casual wear. Here’s the small but savvy wardrobe I always pack.

Top tips for building a travel capsule wardrobe:
Go for a colour theme – my travel capsule wardrobe is pretty much all green, navy and red.
Darker colours show less dirt and need less washing, so they’re ideal for backpacking.
Go for thicker natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and merino that are long-lasting and don’t need ironing.
Invest in good footwear and buy new. Look for everything else second-hand on Ebay and Vinted, but do try to buy the best quality you can.


BASEBALL CAP: Ideal for added shade and sun protection when you’re hiking in Europe or sightseeing somewhere tropical. My favourites are from Idioma and Patagonia.

PACKABLE STRAW HAT: I love old-fashioned straw hats, but they usually get ruined when stored in luggage or when squished into backpacks. Look for straw-style hats labelled ‘foldable’ or ‘packable’, such as Accessorize’s packable fedora hat, and they should put up with all your travels.

SHORTS: But not just any shorts – try MARCS high-waisted, hiking-friendly shorts in dark, neutral shades. Finisterre do lovely elasticated shorts made from hemp in warm earth tones that go with everything, but my top pick for this summer are actually Asda’s high-waisted cotton shorts, which are just £10 and come in different lengths and multiple colours.

WHITE SHIRT: You can’t go wrong with a classic white or bone-coloured shirt – wear them as an extra layer when walking, or pair with jeans or shorts or over a dress in the evenings. I opt for thicker cotton or linen that doesn’t need ironing. Mine are mostly from charity shops or Ebay, but this oversized shirt from M&S looks perfect for hot climates.

HIGH-NECK TANK TOPS: Two simple tanks are all you need to pack to wear tucked into shorts, skirts, trekking tights and jeans – my new obsession is Fjallraven’s super-comfortable Abisko wool tank top, and I also pack Eddie Bauer’s more affordable high-neck tanks.

TREKKING LEGGINGS: I always choose slim-fitting trekking tights over flappy walking trousers – they’re really comfortable when walking and also look good when worn casually with a shirt. Find 11 of my favourite trekking tights and leggings for outdoor adventure here.

CLASSIC SWIMSUIT: Pick a simple scoop-back swimsuit in black or navy (Solid & Striped’s Anne-Marie is worth the splurge) and it’ll double up as a body when worn with skirts and shorts on beach days.

WOOL SWEATER: For chilly evenings. Guernsey Woollens make the very best ones, although my most-worn jumpers are second-hand LL Bean beauties I found on Ebay.

BACKPACK: Roll up everything on my list and stick it in a trusty backpack – I usually pack a 30 litre pack that fits as carry-on for most airlines but which is still big enough to take all the clothing I need. For longer trips, pop a Fjallraven Kanken into your bigger backpack for use as a daysack.

HIKING SANDALS: A neutral pair of sporty sandals with thick rubber soles that you can walk in are the the quiver-of-one shoe for travelling. I love Teva’s F1 Lites or Teva Hurricanes, which I’ve walked hundreds of miles in and which don’t look too much like granny sandals.

BLOCK HEELS: A capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be 100% sensible. Pack some fun heels, or platform sandals, if you like to dress up occasionally. I always pack Vionic’s Jamie sandal, or you could go a bit extra and pack a pair of EGO’s eye-catching platform heels, which look super fancy when worn with a skirt.