Editor’s Note: I’m going to be writing some posts about how I travel light. I’ll pull them all back together at the end with one larger post and hopefully a video. I am not a super minimalist packer, I am however a light packer. This will also be very geared to men, sorry to all the women — I just have no way of writing about that.
I only ever take two jackets (if any) when I travel: a rain jacket, and/or a thin down type jacket. ((The only exception here is if I need a suit, then of course I take an appropriate jacket as needed.)) If it is cold, I take the down and the rain jacket, if it is forecast to be warm then I take the rain jacket. The only time I won’t take a rain jacket is if the weather will be over 80° the entirety of my stay, as even if it rains then, my clothes will dry fast enough and it will be warm enough, I won’t need a jacket (usually).
Down Jacket – Warming Layer
I almost never travel somewhere cooler than the Seattle area, but when I am traveling somewhere close to the same temperature I will pack a lightweight down jacket. Not one of those massive puffy jackets, but instead an Outdoor Research jacket much like this one. They don’t make the one I have any longer, but I love it and have little reason to upgrade.
If I were to upgrade, I would get the Patagonia Nano Puff full zip jacket. These jackets don’t look like you are preparing for an epic snowstorm, but instead they are warm and take up very little space. If you have ever tried to pack a fleece jacket — or a couple of sweaters — you know exactly what I mean.
A light down jacket weighs nothing, and packs down to nothing, thus making it excellent for travel. I would love to travel with my hoodie, or even my MartianCraft softshell fleece, but neither pack down enough and typically end up taking more than half of my bag space. Instead I opt for something comfortable, very warm, and light.
The added benefit here is that this is also probably my second most used jacket all year round so it is not something I only use for travel.
Rain Jacket – Dry & Wind Blocker
On the rain side: I have a very light rain jacket from Arc’Teryx which most closely resembles the Beta LT Hybrid they currently sell. However, there are better models out there now, including the Outdoor Research Helium II, and the Patagonia Rainshadow.
The use for this is simple: keep me dry, and block out wind. Umbrellas are a non-starter as they are too bulky and hard to carry around. A light jacket is all you need for most trips, but I also like to make sure it is waterproof and will block the wind. Couple this jacket on top of the insulated jacket, and you will be quite warm. The jackets listed above weigh very little and pack up small overall — but do be ware when you unpack it the jackets will be wrinkled. They smooth out fast, but don’t necessarily look great the moment you put them on.
There are even lighter options if you are willing to only use a jacket with a water-resistant rating, instead of waterproof (that also drops the price). However being in the Pacific Northwest, I tend to go with waterproof as I would much rather be dry than have a slightly lighter bag.
Outside of suit jackets, if you want to travel with any other kind of a jacket then you might as well give up on traveling light. There are also numerous “travel” marketed jackets out there, but not one of which I have been tempted, or interested, in buying.
This is one area where I will easily sacrifice style, and appearance, over comfort and portability. The jackets above are comfortable and portable — they do their jobs well — they just don’t look “professional” and I am perfectly fine with that because I will be dry/warm.
Once you have tried to pack a regular jacket, or been forced to wear it on the plane when you didn’t need a jacket — that’s the moment you stop wanting to ever pack something like that again. If you pack the right layers under you shirts, you can often avoid needing to ever where a jacket to begin with, but that’s a topic for another post.
See the rest of the posts here.