In my more recent travel adventures I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to look like a traveller. When I say traveller, I mean Berghaus hiking shoes, zip of trousers and a top-fill rucksack, looking like I was going on a camping expedition. Here are my reasons:
- I don't like to stand out. I may not look like I'm from that part of the world but there's no reason people can't assume I live there.
- It looks awful. If I wouldn't wear it at home why wear it when travelling.
- I have to buy yet more clothes when I have plenty of good clothing already to choose from.
I changed my bag a long time back. I previously had a super lightweight Arcteryx Cierzo 35 which was great but not ideal. I now have a £20 tactical bag knock-off from Amazon, Miltec Assault Pack. At 35 litres it's a perfect size for most environments and carrying on to a plane. The winning feature is the clam-shell opening meaning my kit stays organised and us easily accessible compared to a top loading bag. It's not as trendy as I'd like, but all in black, fairly small and at £20 I can't find anything better (yet).
In some cases I'd consider a wheelie luggage but no bigger than 40 litres. It depends on where you're going and what time of year. The advantage of a wheelie luggage is that the weight is off your shoulders and rolling on the ground. I wouldn't take one around Thailand, but I'd definitely consider one during a Japanese winter/spring.
People often buy more shoe than they need. Unless you truly are hiking you don't need hiking boots. And if you're not carrying heavy loads (10kg+) then you certainly don't need full blown hiking boots.
In most cases a decent pair of walking shoes will cater to most situations. They should be shower-proof and breathable. Hence I like to stick with a leather upper that I can treat. A trendy example I'll happily wear around London are the Ecco Biom Lite shoes. They're not cheap at £100 but they're incredibly comfortable, look *almost* smart and should last a long time. I've worn them through winter in the UK, taken them to the Japanese Alps and also been in temperatures as high as 25c. Not once did they rub or blister. They are a great all round shoe and very light... perfect for travelling.
These will vary on the climate you're going to. The main thing is to keep them flexible, layered and natural where possible. I used to wear a lot of synthetics and they have their place, but for me, not during travelling. Here are some example items I find invaluable.
- Boardies. Plain, dark coloured. They can be used as shorts or swimming trunks. Try to get a pair with a zip pocket or two for securely carrying money etc... I use them in London during Summer.
- Merino tops. I use plenty when cycling. They keep you warm, breathe naturally and don't hold on to odour. I like a zipped merino top so that I can regulate my body temp easily.
- Jeans. Yes they are heavy and awful when wet. But in some climates they're perfect due to their comfort and hard wearing nature. I like a pair with a small amount of stretch in them. You won't look like a traveller in them and for many situations they're perfectly usable.
- Cycling trousers. Again something I use on London. A decent pair of urban/trendy trousers (ie not some garish plasticky trousers) with a DWR finish to repel any rain. I use some Howies Outsider epic cotton trousers, 100% cotton. They look no different from any other trousers, except they repel water well enough when walking around and dry fairly quickly.
By being more selective about the clothes I buy at home (quality over quantity) means they can be used while travelling too. I generally prefer natural materials (or a mix) over full synthetics as synthetics don't breathe, develop a stink eventually and never hang/look right compared with natural clothing. For the majority of "backpacking" I see people do and I do myself, there's no reason why you can't look trendy/good/well-presented and try to blend in with your surroundings a little more.