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cotton pants & shirts for men?

I've been told to bring pants that are made of synthetic material since they are easier to wash and dry than cotton. Makes sense for underwear which I'll wash in the sink as RS shows. But I hate to go and buy synthetic pants and shirts just for a trip. I will wear a t-shirt which hopefully will keep the shirts from needing to be washed after every wearing.

So do people recommend bringing all synthetic clothes, or do you bring your ordinary shirts and pants?

I'm going to Greece in September if it matters

Posted by
5920 posts

We tend to bring the same clothes on vacation over and over because they are what works for us. We don't bring ALL synthetic but we do bring a lot. Greece in September, I would think, would still be quite warm. Synthetic clothes are often cooler and definitely dry faster. I was just in Chicago with my husband. We were out sight seeing/walking, it was about 80 and humid, his cotton shirt was quite wet. A synthetic shirt wouldn't show the sweat, would dry quicker and also could be washed and dried overnight. Cotton does take a long time to dry. There are typically nice golf pants at Sam's Club (I would guess also Cosco) They look like dress pants, are cooler to wear and dry super fast. Same with golf polos. Dress type shirts for travel, we tend to get at Eddie Bauer outlet. We are big fans of the synthetic materials because we are very active. I think once you try them you will like them and use them for other occasions. For example, when my oldest son graduated, in May in Minnesota, it was mid day and at least 95 degrees. He wore his golf pants under his gown. My husband, the grandpas, etc., were quite impressed that his nice pants were golf pants. Two years later, next graduation, again Minnesota, again outdoors and about 90 degrees. All the men were wearing golf pants! And most of them don't golf!

Posted by
6996 posts

I don't own any synthetic shorts, pants, shorts, or underwear as I personally find that synthetic garments keep the sweat on my body and therefore get quite smelly in no time. You won't have problems drying sink-washed cotton if you wash them on the first night of a 2-night stay.
The one type of clothing that I avoid when I travel are jeans: heavy, too warm in the summer/cold in the winter, take forever to dry. I also don't like to wear button-up shirts because these tend to be tight and not comfortable for outdoor activities. It's polos and t-shirts for me.

Posted by
5355 posts

Wear what you want, don't go fretting about what to wear because some 'expert' told you what you should.

In hot countries I usually wear cotton shorts and cotton/linen blend short sleeve shirts or cotton polo shirts. They dry easily overnight (or an hour or so in the sun).

Synthetic clothing I reserve for the gym or hiking, I don't want to walk around town looking like I've just left the gym.

Posted by
4574 posts

A lot will depend on the weight of the thread and the weave as to how long they take to dry. I say take what you have in your closet. I suggest testing at home whether they are overnight dry or not....if you have a lot of 1 night stays.
If this is a comfort/style question, just shop your closet.
There will always be split camps between cotton and synthetics and even synthetics can be split between street/work clothes and athleisure.

Posted by
991 posts

I don’t like synthetics so I don’t bring them. I feel like many of them are less breathable and they hold smells more. I bring clothes I wear at home. Look to bring lightweight cottons and wash when possible when you will be in the same place for more than one night. Some cottons will dry in one night. Test how long it takes for the clothes you have to dry, though be aware the climate can change how long drying takes. You can also look for blends, which I also like better than straight synthetics.

Posted by
8586 posts

John, there's never a need to buy any special clothes to travel. Your regular clothes will do. However, for some people, synthetics are their regular clothes. And yes some people prefer to have special travel clothes in synthetics or blends for their easier maintenance and less wrinkly appearance while traveling, or special features. But they're not necessary.

PS if you have your cotton shirts laundered and starched before the trip, they'll stay fresher looking longer.

Posted by
884 posts

I disagree with Stan - I have a "travel wardrobe" made up mostly of 32 Degrees clothing. I don't tend to wear them when I'm home, but for travel, I find them to be nearly ideal. They pack easily, weigh almost nothing, dry quickly and look sorta nice. They are made of blended synthetic material.

Posted by
8586 posts

@Blue439, I too have a pile of clothes I use just for travel - mostly with extra pockets or other comfort features. I am just saying that you dont have to buy special clothes to travel in, especially if your comfortable in what you already wear daily. For some people this is an obstacle.

Posted by
3961 posts

We use both travel style clothing or cotton linen blend. Our favorite for warm weather is Columbia brand. My husband likes the Silver ridge cargo shorts for casual day or evening. He likes their long pants as well. I like the Just Right long pants, capris or skort. We do mostly sink washing and over night drying. I like a dressier material for evening. My husband likes to bring jeans as well. We are currently traveling and feel perfectly comfortable in 90 degree weather. We were in Greece in September 2 years ago and wore shorts most of the time. Another travel brand my husband likes is a short sleeve shirt by Arc'teryx purchased on sale at REI. The material is conducive for everyday wear or outdoor activity. Dressy enough for evening as well. As far as underwear my husband likes the Exofficio brand that dries quickly.
Enjoy Greece!

Posted by
11439 posts

We have the same experience as Janis with Columbia. Great for wicking away sweat in warm weather or when exerting yourself, easy to wash, and quick to dry. Also SmartWool socks when you wear socks, keep the blisters at bay and allow feet to breathe.

Posted by
3521 posts

I bring and wear the same things on trips that I wear at home: 100% cotton blue jeans and 100% cotton khakis. I have golf/polo shirts that are around 60% cotton 40% polyester. The pants I have washed by the hotel or go to a laundromat. Shirts mostly go to the laundry, but with the poly content can be rinsed in the bathroom sink and will dry overnight.

I can't wear anything that is more synthetic than that. Hate the way they look, hate the way they feel on me. But then that's just me.

Posted by
2712 posts

We long ago switched to synthetics or cotton blend with no more than 50% cotton. They dry much faster (we sink wash a lot) don’t wrinkle. Many who shun synthetics have not worn newer ones. They are cool, styled well, durable. The exception IMHO is Tercel-too heavy. The good brands are not cheap so we look for sales. If you go to REI or look at websites you’ll find the brands I favor-for shirts Kuhl, Marmot, Pr’ana. For pants Pr’ana, Columbia. Underwear is Ex Officio.( They have other travel clothes but over the last few years I’ve not liked the fit or style. ) We live where the summers are hot and we visit our children in AZ a lot. These clothes have become our everyday wardrobe.

Posted by
5920 posts

You can find a fair amount of synthetic/performance pants/shirts/tops/skirts that don't look like travel clothes or work out wear. There are also natural fabrics that can be great for travel, silk and cashmere to name a couple. I have a cashmere cardigan that I got at Marshalls that is great for travel. It packs small yet provides a lot of warmth when needed. In general, I won't wear rayon or other synthetic tops, especially in warm temps, at home or travel. They are too hot and do not breath. Somehow, though, the performance synthetics perform differently.

However, the OP said, he was "told" to bring. If I were OP, I'd consider that a suggestion and perhaps give some things a try (at home) but in the end, people should wear what they like. You especially should not buy new items that you don't feel comfortable in for a trip. With your options limited to a suitcase, everything in it should be things you love.

Posted by
873 posts

I do not like synthetics. My preference is to wear "wrinkle resistant", 100% cotton shirts, usually long sleeved since they can be worn rolled up, and light cotton or wool trousers - which is basically exactly what I used to wear to work. So shop your closet.

Posted by
12172 posts

I recommend all synthetics to the maximum extent possible. Cotton has a ton of weaknesses, it wrinkles, it stains, it dries slowly, it stretches and loses it's shape, it's heavy and bulky to pack. It does have one notable benefit, it breaths well (which can be nice in hot weather). In the backpacking world, people say "cotton kills" because it loses all insulation when it gets wet.

I really like underarmour boxer jocks now. I also have similar made by Adidas. I prefer a fly and longer inseam to keep them from riding up. They wash in the sink well and dry overnight, quicker if you ring them well.

Cotton socks lose their insulation if they get sweaty, which opens the door to blisters. I look at fabrics and buy something with no cotton in it - right now I have Puma and Underarmour crew socks (black) that work and Calvin Klein dress socks (also black) plus some Puma no show socks that aren't cotton. I have wool hiking socks too, but I wouldn't pack them for Greece; I'm more likely to pack the no-show socks.

My favorite pants for travel are golf pants. They're light weight for packing, comfortable in the heat and look nice enough to wear as slacks. I've paid up to $80 for Adidas but I've seen many brands on sale this time of year.

You can get hybrid shorts at Costco for $12. They're built to be walking shorts or swim shorts and aren't cotton.

For t-shirts I usually pack Adidas ultimate tees or similar by Underarmour. I find some perform better in the heat than others, so I pack those in warm months. Most of my closet is stocked with clothes that include travel as an option, so I'm just grabbing a few of my favorites.

For button up shirts, I've recently started buying Ex-Officio. I thought they were too expensive but they opened a Sierra Outfitters in my area and their price is reasonable. My selection of button up travel shirts in my closet includes a couple from North Face, a couple from Columbia and a couple of Ex-Officio. I'll just pick a couple from those that mix and match with what I'm packing. I rarely wear a polo or golf-shirt when I travel. If I did, I have a selection of non-cotton choices in my closet.

I really think it's worthwhile to try them out at home. Some of the newer synthetics perform surprisingly well in heat and cold, but I can't say it's true of every item - even the new ones. They all have the advantage of packing light and wrinkle free, washing and drying easily and staining much less than their cotton counterparts.

Posted by
23425 posts

I am in the same camp as Brad, Jules, Alan and others who prefer synthetic blends especially with a little cotton. Just find the clothing is more comfortable, easier to care for, much lighter to pack, and looks better than all cotton fabrics. There was a time when synthetic meant nylon only and we did use the nylon only especially for pants. But they were noisy when walking and shape less and hot at times. The newer synthetic blends are so much better looking. We do have a wardrobe mostly for traveling. We do wear some of the items locally but we do try to reserve most items just for travel. It is not a lot given that we get by mostly with 3 pants and 5 to 7 tops. And since we travel three or four times a year, the set wardrobe is very useful for us.

Posted by
2788 posts

I have gone to Europe for 16 of the last 18 years for about a month and have always worn ExOfficio clothes. They are a blend and are long lasting, sink washable, and quick drying. They may be a bit more expensive than other brands but have been well worth it for us.

Posted by
101 posts

We wear mostly synthetics. The only exception I can think of offhand is that sometimes I bring lightweight Smartwool merino wool long underwear, and I use Darn Tough merino wool socks exclusively. My preference for synthetic pants are made by Kuhl, Prana and Eddie Bauer. Shirts are mostly from Patagonia. I wear a lot of the same when not traveling. I tend to choose clothes that aren't designed for travel with all the extra pockets, zippers, etc. They are MUCH lighter than cotton, take up much less space in my luggage and are much easier to launder. But by all means, bring what you're comfortable with. No need to stress over clothing choices.

Posted by
2 posts

I wear cotton shirts in the cooler latitudes but in hot country it is always a synthetic long sleever shirt with sleeves that roll up and have bands that button to keep them up. Cotton is terrible for situations where one wants to stay cool or have perspiration wick away or where you would like to wash it in the sink and have it dry by morning. I wear t-shirts when out working in the yard but prefer not to look like an 8-year old when traveling (same goes for baggy shorts and baseball caps).

I have synthetic shirts that I bought 18 years ago for my first trip to Cambodia and have worn them on many trips over the years and will have a few of them on my trip next week to the Pantanal area in Brazil.

Posted by
1259 posts

Cotton? Silk, yes; wool, yes; cashmere, ,yes; but I’d never travel with much cotton except bandanas. That’s based on my decades of experience backpacking and bicycle touring.

The best travel clothing is easy to care for, resists stains, is made of hydrophobic fabrics that dry in a flash, doesn’t need pressing to look good, and is inexpensive enough to toss in the trash without regret if rendered unusable. Cotton doesn’t check many of those boxes. If you are a fashionista, require snappy office clothing, or are attending special events with strict dress codes you can buy those items in-country, rent them, or ship them ahead. If you’re on a Rick Steves tour, you don’t need dressup clothes.

You do not need to buy special clothes just for travel. But it helps. You need only a few specialized items to round out an easy-care travel ensemble and you can pick them up in the deep discount corner of most department stores, Walmart, and Costco. Good looking and good fitting synthetic pants and shirts should cost no more than $10-20 each. I think you will find this a small price to pay for the convenience.

Posted by
5837 posts

Quick drying synthetics for sink washing. Natural fiber clothing for airtravel.

Make sure your travel outfit is composed of natural fibers such as
cotton, linen and wool. They are the some of the safest fabrics to
have on in case of a fire. High heat melts synthetic fabrics such as
nylon and polyester against your body, burning and blistering skin,
while natural fibers turn to ash. Natural fabrics also keep you
comfortable in normal flight situations, as these fabrics allow your
skin to breathe, keeping you cool and comfortable in hot or humid

And shoes for running.

Posted by
5697 posts

@John, a lot depends on when and how you travel -- we do independent travel in spring, fall or winter so DH packs a selection of knit polo shirts (white) in cotton or poly-cotton with light or heavy sweaters. Corduroy pants in winter, cotton-poly at other times. Everything is also worn at home.
We try to have 3-7 days in each location, preferably with washers available in apartments about once a week.

Posted by
158 posts

My husband travelled mostly with what he wears at home - jeans and khakis. But he did get some synthetic travel pants at COSTCO that were very reasonably priced and were great when it rained as they dried out quickly.

Posted by
1221 posts

Not all synthetics are created equally. As someone who lives in a place where the dew points will be over 70F or months on end, I love many of the 'performance' synthetic fabrics that brands like PrAna and REI use because they do the best at wicking sweat away in impossibly sticky conditions. (And wear such things all the time for 6-7 months a year at home) I'd put cotton in the middle in terms of breathability snd comfort snd then non-performance synthetics that don't wick at the bottom of the list.

Posted by
735 posts

Just from a different angle, all man made fabric are 100% plastic. Every time you put an acrylic top through the washing machine its sheds 70,000 micro fibres of pladtic into the water supply. Have made apact with my self this this year to not buy man made (bras and tights i cant get round). My short term convinence is not worth the effect in the long term......