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Packing light for women - Big city AND hiking

Hello All

I’m a 60+ woman packing for a month in the UK. The trip will be in May/June. I typically wear a sleeve as I tend to feel the cold so I don’t usually wear sleeveless. I don’t really wear heels or dresses or “fancy” clothes if that helps.

We will be in some big cities - London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bath and we are also hiking in Wales and the Scottish highlands - Conwy, Glencoe, Isle of Skye, Staffa etc.

How do I pack to go to the theatre or dinner in London (I want to look presentable, not a wrinkled mess) wandering around London AND going hiking in the pouring rain (rain, mud, wind) in Skye?

If you have suggestions for shoes, clothing that I should buy, I would appreciate it. What can I buy that is anti-crumple?

I was thinking of bringing one nice outfit - maybe pants/sweater? For my “nice” nights out what do I wear with my coat (I’ll have my “sensible” Gortex rainproof coat)? What do I put on my feet?

Any packing light tips for a senior lady? I’m hoping to do carry on only.

Thank you and happy travels.

Posted by
4418 posts

Have you looked at some of the travel specific clothing on line? 60+ (that is me as well) doesn't mean we can't shop younger stores, or even athletic or adventure stores. Eddie Bauer has a travel line. Magellan, REI, Prana seems to get a lot of recommendations, Travel Smith. But you could also check your closet. I have a pair of crepe pants that don't wrinkle and can dress up or down. I wore them for work and also for formal nights on a Cunard cruise. For that matter, any nice or new pair of polyester (don't gasp) pant will be pretty wrinkle free. If your feet will take it, ballet flats. A good fine wool sweater (pull over or cardigan) - like Merino or cashmere - will work hiking or for dinner with a nice silk scarf or statement necklace. Have you considered taking a pashmina shawl? It has so many uses, from a blanket on a plane, to over the shoulders in front of a peat fire of an evening, in a drafty pub after a long hike, and of course, instead of your gortex coat for a night out (weather permitting). Even with the gortex, wrap it around your shoulders just before entering the restaurant and it will hide a lot of the 'sportiness' of the gortex.

Posted by
1259 posts

Think carefully about the absolute minimum requirements for dressing up. Then find a fabric you can take care of easily. No one at tonight’s opera cares that you wore the exact same outfit to dinner last night. Shoes? I’m a guy and I don’t really give a fig about how my shoes look but you’re carrying at least two pairs for dress and mud on the trails. You’re going to get great advice here but the topic is common among traveling women. You should be able to find lots of information with a few hours of reading on the web and the yootoobs.

Posted by
616 posts

Get some smart sneakers for evening/city and look for clothes made from yoga style fabrics that don’t crease or crumple and are easy to wash.

I do think it will be a little tricky to do carry on for your activities because you will need walking boots, waterproof trousers, walking socks etc plus normal clothing. It’s all quite bulky. A good day pack for walking will probably not be large enough to be your main luggage so you’ll have to pack that as well.

Posted by
161 posts

A couple of ideas - I really like 35 Degree long-sleeve undershirts for layering. Very thin, but warm, fit under sweaters, blouses, etc. Costco carries them regularly, but you might find them on Amazon as well. I am a fan of packing a couple of fashion scarves to dress up a t-shirt, etc, and also for warmth. I have proof that you can alternate 2 scarves daily for almost 2 weeks and no one notices lol.

I rarely have a need to "dress up" and unless you are going someplace very fancy in the UK, I would not worry about it too much. No one cares. Whatever you wear for hiking will be perfectly fine in the city. But, if you really feel the need to upgrade at times, I find that a knee- or calf-length t-shirt dress can suit many occasions, paired maybe with a pair of leggings and above-mentioned scarf. Add a cardigan and some ballet flats or even sneakers, and done. If you prefer pants there are lots of travel pants that can look like dress pants - Eddie Bauer is a place to look for those, and I just bought 2 pairs of Athleta Elation pants that could also pass as "nicer" while also serving as an everyday pant.

Shoes - I always take 3 pairs, currently all Allbirds - trail runners (black), Tree Toppers (burgundy hightops) and wool runners (my "dress shoe"). Don't let the "one pair of shoes" gang dissuade you lol :)

Of course YMMV depending on what fabrics you like, what your normal fashion look is, etc etc.

Posted by
6205 posts

Hi, I’m your age and also just bring a carry-on two wheeler and a small daypack which has my purse inside it for flights & trains.

I’ve attended ballets, operas, etc. in Europe. I have a thin-fabric polyester dress that works well and also for dinners that’s easy to handwash. My second option applies for you: I always wear a pair of black pants on the plane to look nice, and because I get cold. Those paired with a flattering top (probably have something already that you wore to work) under a black cardigan and a pretty necklace & earrings, finished with black flats will be fine for any of these events and dinners. To change it up, I also bring a couple of colorful scarves, and they make me feel like I’m wearing something different. I prefer a variety of colors, so my scarves will be two completely different colors & designs. They are fine with black.

To stretch my temperature range of comfort and take up only a tiny amount of room, I bring a scoop neck black 32 degree micro-thin long sleeve top - perfect with the cardigan, your coat, under another shirt w/ your coat or by itself with a scarf for dinner. When I was in Switzerland, I also had a pair of tights to add a layer, if needed.

I bring four outfits for my European trips, plus the micro-thin layer. If your hiking is all consecutive, bring three shirts that are comfortable for hiking but could also be fine for walking around the cities. And black pants work for most anything. My shoes are a pair of Keens - the Rose style with the protective toe cap, and the lightest black flats that will be okay for evenings, etc. I’ve worn the Keens in all kinds of terrain.

I wash my clothes in the hotel sinks with the Earth Breeze laundry detergent. It looks like a dryer sheet, so it packs flat and won’t spill.

If you have a kitchen scale, weigh your shirts and pants and choose your favorites that are the lightest. They will dry faster. I’ve never purchased “travel clothes” for my dozen trips to Europe - just use what you normally wear & like. Of course, over the years when I’m looking at new clothing in a store, there’s a small voice in my head saying, “How much does it weigh?” - LOL!

Posted by
1158 posts

I did a 3 week Ireland and Scotland trip in September which included a business dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Dublin and 10 days of hiking in the Highlands and on Arran. I packed my usual 38 L Osprey Fairview backpack and it weighed slightly more than usual - probably 20-22 lbs (I usually keep it to 18 lbs) and had my customary canvas cross-body that I bought in Florence years ago. On the plane I wore my Filson raincoat and hiking shoes, jeans, a t-shirt and a 1/2 zip. I packed my lightweight Eddie Bauer down jacket, hat, gloves, gaiters, lightweight sneakers and a pair of dressy sandals. For clothes I packed 2 pairs of quick-dry hiking pants, 3 short sleeve shirts, 4 pairs of socks and undies, a black silk tank top to wear with a reversible "crinkle" skirt that a I got at a Cabi show several years ago. I also brought a grey cashmere cardigan that I could belt to dress up, a nice scarf and a small light-weight black cross-body purse. Since that trip I acquired a black, hip-length Columbia raincoat that I would use instead of the Filson. First it's lighter and second, it would look nicer in a city.

Edit to add: AMann reminded me that my hiking pants consist of one pair of black Columbia pants which can be dressed up or down and a pair of khaki Pranas. The shoes for that trip were Solomons, I think, but I've since worn Oboz and Arc'teryx.

Posted by
616 posts

I would absolutely take waterproof trousers of some sort. It can rain very heavily and even if you are not on a hiking day you will want to be out and about and that is impossible if you are going to get soaking wet. I always take them on my U.K. trips regardless of time of year.

Posted by
3707 posts

I often take my golf rain pants, which go over regular pants and leggings, which not only keeps me warm and dry, but free of mud and dirt.
As for dress shoes, what I see in Europe is white tennis shoes being paired with any type of clothing, from casual to dressy. ( You often see this on "red carpets" with the younger celebrities.) Be comfortable .
Safe travels!

Posted by
1427 posts

I have shoes that have Gortex in them, so they are good for rainy weather as well as regular wear. The brands I have are Clarks and Legero.

I always bring 2-3 pairs of shoes (depending on the trip) and do carryon only. I wear my bulkiest, heaviest shoes on the plane. The others can have items such as socks stuffed into them.

Posted by
616 posts

Yes, rain pants sounds like what I always take. They pack up small into a drawer string bag. But I am not a serious walker and you could get quite hot in them. If you are doing a lot of walking then invest in some proper water resistant walking trousers. Boots will be better than shoes. Where there is rain there is mud!

Posted by
14927 posts

I am a bit older than you (70+), but have been doing trips that include both hiking in the Alps, Dolomites, or in the UK, plus opera or theater in Italy or London, for 20 years. I like to dress well for dinner and theatre, and am an experienced hiker in all kinds of weather so I know what to take for that. It all fits in a carry-on plus “personal item” sized daypack. I will make a few suggestions.

Consider taking a lightweight wrinkle-free dressy jacket that you can use to dress up any outfit for evening (add a scarf if you like). I wear mine over a travel-friendly Eddie Bauer Aster dress (sleeveless, but the jacket covers my arms) or a nice trousers/top combo for evening.

We have been in Italy for almost 3 weeks and I wear this jacket almost daily. I wore it on the plane over, and have worn it almost every day since, except when we were actually hiking, or it was too warm. It has not wrinkled a bit, even after I packed it my suitcase for travel when I did not wear it. This is the jacket, available from Nordstrom:

The price shows in € because I am in Italy. But I got mine on sale in Seattle for $70.

It is age-appropriate and I feel nicely dressed for dinner or theatre when I wear it. I also wear it in the daytime in cities when the weather calls for a light outer layer. It may be the best $70 I have spent. It is not at all bulky and I can pack it in my luggage when not wearing it. It emerges wrinkle-free.

The other issue is shoes. I always take 3-4 pair. The minimum is 3: my sturdy waterproof (Gore-Tex) hiking shoes (I wear low-cut style even for rugged hiking in the Alps; a pair of “city” walking shoes (usually leather sneaker style, like this:

(I can walk 4-5 miles on pavement in these); and, in summer, a pair of nice wedge sandals that are good for walking but also double as my dress shoes.

Posted by
377 posts

I did something similar last year. One pair of hiking pants were black, and I had a Uniqlo black warm shirt (can’t remember the name now) so those with a scarf worked to go the theater. Paired with black sneakers it was good enough.

For hiking I also had waterproof hiking shoes and rain pants to put on over whatever I was wearing when it started raining. They roll up tightly. Unless you’re going somewhere really nice for dinner in Scotland, your hiking clothes will be fine. Anyone not going to work in Scotland looks like they’re dressed for hiking. Even London is pretty flexible about fashion. Unless you’re hitting the nightclubs or very nice restaurants, you’re probably fine.