The 5 How-To’s of Backpacker Fashion

Let’s be honest—everyone loves backpacker fashion.

Okay, maybe the word ‘fashion’ is a little too strong.  Backpackers themselves would be the first to admit how UNFASHIONABLE they are, but a closer look reveals a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ in the clothing dawned by avid adventurers.  I’m talking fake Ray-Ban sunnies, toques with sag, and second-hand guitars with hand-made twine straps.  If you’re new to the game, keen to fit in, or struggling to stand out, I’ve compiled an easy list of international backpacker trends that are cheap, attractive, and, of course, beyond comfortable.


  1. Decorate your arms.
    Wear your ratty, water-downed, double-knotted, discoloured hemp bracelets with pride!  Backpackers collect different braids of string from various destinations and display them along their wrists.  Bracelets can be bought or made from new friends, sidewalk stalls, or local beach bums.  This easy jewellery is the best way to keep your memories ‘close at hand’ (excuse the pun.)
  2. Be a bedhead.
    Leave your hair dryer, flat iron, and curling iron at home!  Voltage varies throughout the world, so why bother with chunky convertors and exploding circuits?  Instead, rock the ‘I don’t do my hair’ look by, believe it or not, not doing your hair.  Dreadlocks make knotted manes cool.  Bandanas, toques, and hats are great for covering up greasy roots.  Let the sea salt bring out waves, allow the harsh sun to bleach-dye your tips, and when all else fails, wrap up your locks into a bubbly bun on the top of your noggan.  The best way to get a naturally undone look is to simply not care.
  3. Rolls aren’t sexy, bags are.
    Leave your suitcase at home and stuff yourself a backpack!  Cinch a 50-60 litre bag on your back and sling a smaller (but equally heavy) backpack to cover your belly on front.  You do look rather ridiculous and creepily pregnant, but it will keep you balanced out.  Not only are backpacks more practical to carry when train-hopping and bus-chasing, but dawning double straps shows that you are true to your name.
  4. When in doubt, chill out.
    As I mentioned before, backpacking is not a fashion show.  Don’t feel embarrassed when you realise you’ve worn the same shirt three days in a row or that it’s approaching a week since you’ve showered.  As long as you don’t smell too bad, no one will care.  You can only carry so much, so take your favourite clothes.  Washing machines are your friend.  Anything alternative—a denim jumper, a onesie, elephant pants—will make you stand out in the best way possible.  Screw cotton and bring polyester fabrics that are comfortable and will outlast the various strains of backpacking.  Some countries will require you to cover up a little more, so pack a wardrobe as diverse as the places you are visiting.
  5.  Put your best footwear forwards.
    If you haven’t realised yet, comfort is key.  White running shoes might not exactly be ‘stylish’, but they will save your feet from aching after long days of walking.  Flats pack easy and are perfect to slip on for a night out.  Cheap, plastic flip-flops can be worn in filthy bathrooms and showers to avoid accumulating warts.  Shuffling around in slippers is an easy way to feel at home in the hostel’s public places.

Clothing expresses your individuality.  Be bold, be bright, be different—and you will fit in.


Leave some room in your bag for clothing items you might pick up.  You may choose to purchase tacky souvenir tee’s, find vintage in thrift shops, or even ‘borrow’ items from the hostel’s lost and found.  Travelling the world will probably change your sense of style, your attitude towards clothing, and even your entire perspective.

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