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How to Build a Men's Capsule Wardrobe for Traveling

Table of Contents

Updated: 2/23/24. This page is a living document, which I update with new items from time-to-time.

Dressing well should be easy for men, but most guys fail at it.

I’ve found a “capsule wardrobe” to be the best way to dress well, pack light, and minimize the time and money that I spend on clothes. When building a capsule wardrobe, think staples, not trends or, God forbid, travel clothes.

This page outlines how to build a capsule wardrobe as well as the brands and specific products that I recommend.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of basic clothing that will never go out of style. Each item in a capsule wardrobe should be functional and interchangeable.

Build a capsule wardrobe out of high-quality investment pieces. The items I recommend below are often more expensive than the “mall brand” or Amazon Basics equivalents. Many of the products below are made of technical materials and/or made in the US, hence the higher price tag.

A good capsule wardrobe is not cheap and disposable. Fast fashion has no place in your capsule wardrobe. Save up for any items that you can’t afford right now. In the meantime, use what you already own or buy affordable basics from Uniqlo (recommendations below).

You don’t have to replace your entire wardrobe all at once. Experiment. Figure out which brands fit you well and look good on you. Buy more from those brands. The capsule wardrobe below is what works well for me.

For more on capsule wardrobes, read How to Build a Travel Capsule Wardrobe.

Outlier Slim Dungarees

Pants and Shorts

My pant game is strong. For me, pants are an investment. I wear the same one or two pairs every day until they fall apart.

Then, I repair them if possible. For $20–40, you can patch up a pair of jeans and get another year or two of wear from them. Many higher end denim brands can arrange repairs for you. You can also check with local specialty denim stores.


  • Outlier Slim Dungarees ($198): Outlier is my go-to brand for pants and shorts. I wear the Slim Dungarees most days. They repel liquids and stains, dry quickly, and have just enough stretch. At 10 ounces, the Slim Dungarees’ fabric is thinner and lighter than most jeans, making them easy to pack.
  • Outlier Futureslimworks ($98): I prefer the five-pocket jean styling of the Slim Dungarees, but Outlier makes chinos and other pants with similar properties. I also own a pair of chino-like Futureslimworks (fka Futureworks) chinos for warmer weather and as dress pants when needed. At $98, they're a great value.

If you only wore the Slim Dungarees every other day for one year (they’ll last much longer), the cost/wear is just $1.08. The Futureslimworks would be under $0.54. Not bad for go-to, wear-every-day pants.

I've had my current pairs of Slim Dungarees and Futureworks for nearly three years. They both look brand new.


  • CRZ YOGA All Day Comfy Golf Joggers ($45): I found these Lululemon ABC Jogger dupes recommended online for $83 less than the original. Ignore the keyword-stuffed Amazon product name and enjoy the savings. These synthetic joggers are perfect for flight days, cold-weather hiking, or running errands when you're at home. They even have some nice touches, like a triangle of stretchy material on the corners of the pockets, that you don't usually see on cheaper knockoffs.


  • Outlier New Way Shorts or New Way Ten-Fives ($69): For nicer shorts, I prefer the New Way Ten-Fives. The Shorts and Ten-Fives are the same product in different inseam lengths (8" and 10.5" respectively). I'm tall so I go for the longer Ten-Fives. Both shorts use the same technical chino material—Outlier calls it F. Cloth—as the Futureslimworks linked above.
  • Ten Thousand Interval Short ($68): My go-to gym shorts have been the Interval Shorts for years. But now that I found CRZ Yoga's joggers, I'll test their gym shorts next since they're only $28-35.


For men, pants are straightforward. You have two choices: jeans and chinos.

Shirts come in a greater variety of styles and fabrics. Your preferences may vary, but I'll suggest a few of my favorite products and brands below.


Weather permitting, Slim Dungarees and a t-shirt are my go-to travel outfit.

I mostly wear natural fabrics, so my go-to tees are all cotton, even when traveling.

  • Uniqlo Supima Cotton T-Shirts in crew neck or v-neck ($25): Uniqlo makes solid basics that look good and last a reasonable amount of time given the price. If you find those shirts to be too thin, the U Crew Neck T-Shirt ($20) is a heavier option.
  • Next Level Tri-Blend Tees ($10-12): If you want something that dries faster, try this synthetic blend tee. The Next Level shirts aren't premium or expensive. They're a workhorse shirt made of a durable enough blend of cotton, polyester, and rayon that wears well and dries quickly. These are similar to the original American Apparel tri-blends if you're old enough to remember those fondly.

Merino Wool T-Shirts

Merino wool t-shirts offer better temperature regulation and anti-stink properties. However, they don't wick sweat as well as synthetic shirts. Wool will dry faster than cotton but not as fast as polyester.

Most importantly for travel, you can re-wear them without having to wash them. Wool & Prince founder Mac Bishop wore his shirt for 100 days straight and will give you a free one if you do the same.

I don't currently have a go-to Merino t-shirt though I've spent a lot of money trying a lot of shirts that I won't call out here.

For t-shirts, I've given up on 100% Merino wool. The material is just too delicate in a lightweight t-shirt. They all turn into Swiss cheese unless you baby them. But I don't want to spend a lot of money on a t-shirt only to have to treat it delicately. I want to be able to wear my clothes.

Now I prefer a Merino blended with nylon for durability. This is typically how Merino wool socks are made (more on those below).

Long-Sleeved Shirts

For long-sleeved shirts, I favor shirt jackets for casual wear and oxford cloth button-downs if I need to dress up.

  • Wool & Prince Button-Down Blue Oxford ($138). W&P's shirts are 100% Merino wool but still feel light because they're relatively thin. I haven't had any issues with durability, though I don't wear button-downs as often as I've worn my Merino t-shirts.


After getting a free pair at the Outdoor Retailer trade show, Terramar became my underwear brand of choice. Their value option is the Terramar Men's TXO Silkskins 6" Boxer Briefs (~$15 for 3). At $5/pair, they are half of the best price for Uniqlo AIRisms, another common value choice.

I wore Terramar for years until I couldn't reliably find my size in black on Amazon anymore.

  • Nike's Dri-FIT Essential Cotton Stretch Boxer Briefs ($27/3-pack). After some trial and error, I landed on these Nike cotton boxer briefs. They fit comfortably over my thighs and stay in place thanks to a wide elastic band at the bottom of the legs. These boxer briefs are $42.50 for a 3-pack, but you can get that same pack at Nordstrom Rack for $27. (You won't see a price until you add them to your cart because Nordstrom Rack is prevented from "advertising" that price since it's below the manufacturer's suggested retail price.)


After years of wearing Smartwool, I switched to Darn Tough. My Smartwool socks wore out near the bottom of my Achilles tendon, which may be because of my heel shape and wear patterns. Your mileage may vary.

Darn Tough socks are made of a Merino wool blend and are comparably priced. Try both brands and go with what feels best to you.


Shoes are the biggest challenge to most people's packing.

Packing light is much easier if you can avoid bringing a second pair of shoes on your trip.

But finding one pair of shoes that you can wear for hiking, walking through a city all day, and to a nice dinner at night is tough.

  • Vivobarefoot Gobi III ($145): My "one shoe" since buying my first pair in 2019. All of Vivo's shoes are barefoot, zero drop, with minimalist soles and wide toe boxes. Your mileage may vary. I love these low boots because they work as boots but are short enough to also be worn with shorts. They're leather so they look good in dressier situations. But they're also lightweight and flexible enough for walking or even hiking.

Note: You'll need to adjust to barefoot shoes before extended walking or hiking in them. Don't buy a pair and expect to immediately walk miles every day in them.


Pack in layers, not in bulk.

Don't pack a coat unless you're going to a truly frigid climate. Only bring a jacket that you are willing to wear most of the time on your trip. I mostly avoid cold weather when I travel, so I rarely need more than a light jacket. Luckily, I live in the Bay Area and have several, from cardigans to hoodies to a lightweight puffy jacket.

For everyday wear, I prefer a shirt jacket that can be worn either as a shirt or as a jacket (over a t-shirt or henley). Outerwear differs wildly by style and purpose. Versatility is key for a capsule wardrobe.

  • Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket ($80): My go-to for many years. The ultralight down jacket can be packed into a small bag that comes with it which is perfect for traveling through variable climates. The Uniqlo is great when space is at a premium.
  • Arc'teryx Atom Hoody ($300): I upgraded to the Atom for the additional waterproofness and hood (and because I got it for less than $200). For me, the Atom replaced both the Uniqlo for cold weather and the Patagonia Torrentshell for rainy weather.

Closing Thoughts

A capsule wardrobe requires a shift away from cheap, disposable clothing to high-quality, investment pieces. Keep it simple, and you’ll look better and pack lighter.

This post reflects my personal preferences, but I hope that it gave you some ideas on what to buy and some new brands to explore.

If you have any other recommendations to share, send them to me. I have way too much fun trying to refine my capsule wardrobe.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you sign up or buy something through an affiliate link, I make a small commission at no additional cost to you. I use these products and highly recommend them. If you think my recommendations can help you, use them. If not, don’t.