A denim epiphany

April 27, 2011

Okay. So I realise I may have said that this blog wasn’t going to include advice on what you should pack for a trip around the world – or any trip, really.

I changed my mind.

Kind of. What is about to follow isn’t really advice.

More like an epiphany. A denim epiphany.

So. You’ve finally found the perfect pair of travel pants.

They kick denim’s arse. They’re light-weight, super quick to dry. Dark coloured, water-resistant and moisture wicking so no need to worry about any potentially mortifying backside sweat patches that might plague other, lesser pants.

They even zip into shorts that you will probably never wear (but at least it makes them easier to wash in a tiny guesthouse sink!). They’re roomy enough to wear thermals under, keeping you plenty warm on a windy pass at 5,700m above sea level.

But they’re also not too constrictive. This means you can wear them in Upper Egypt in 50 degree celsius heat, ensuring you retain your modesty, thus one-upping the older European women on package tours wearing shorts, a crop top and heels to visit the Valley of the Kings.

Once upon a time, there was no room for denim in my backpack.

I loved my North Face pants. I bought them on the first day of my RTW trip when I power-shopped my way around San Francisco’s outdoor clothing stores, purchasing things that were two or three times cheaper than what I would have paid for them in Australia.

Not jeans or travel pants but yoga pants. Add some Mongolian mud guards and they make perfect horse-riding pants.Not jeans or travel pants but yoga pants. Add some Mongolian mud guards and they make perfect horse-riding pants.

I wore my travel pants every day of my trip. Mostly.

I know what you’re thinking. That’s pretty gross. But they were quick dry!! So I could wash them and be wearing them again within an hour or so. Except for in colder climates, when I was wearing the aforementioned thermals underneath anyway.

But there was a problem.

With the weight I’d lost, they became hipsters that would make Britney Spears proud. It wasn’t really a look that went with my hiking boots.

And I’d met some travel companions who wore jeans everywhere.

There’s no way you can wear those on the Kailash kora, I insisted.

(The Kailash kora is a 53 kilometre circuit around Mt Kailash, in the far western reaches of Tibet. The entire trek lies above 4,500m and crosses the Drolma-la, a 5,700m pass. It takes foreigners three days to complete, and we were there at the beginning of winter)

They proved me wrong.

So, in New Delhi, I went to a fancy western chain store. And I bought a pair of jeans with more than three day’s worth of my budget.

And it was heaven.

Travel pants at the Golden Temple in Amritsar and jeans in Bagan, Burma

I wore them in the cold, with thermals underneath.

I wore them with hiking boots.

I wore them with city boots.

I wore them with flip-flops.

And I wore them in Southern India – to the beach! – and I didn’t overheat.

Sure, they weren’t quick-dry. And the second time I put them on I accidentally put my foot through the small, fashionably pre-ripped hole in the knee, turning it into a gigantic tear through which my entire knee poked whenever I sat down. Locals in India and Burma found it incredibly amusing.

But I felt good. And not crusty. Even if I didn’t really wash them all that often.

In the end, it was the jeans that made it home. My North Face travel pants were left behind at a hostel in London as I frantically tried to fit all the crap I had acquired in Europe into my pack for my flight to Thailand.

For my trip to South America, I’m going to buy another pair of travel pants. Because they really are great for travel, especially trekking.

And no matter what may have been proved in Tibet, I don’t think I want to trek the Inca Trail in denim.

But I am going to pack some jeans.

I wear them nearly every day at home, no matter the season.

So why wouldn’t I want to wear them on the road?

What do you think? Jeans or no jeans? And if you’re on Team Jeans, how many pairs do you take and how often do they get washed?


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  • Reply Naomi April 28, 2011 at 12:50 am

    I actually love jeans for a purely vain reason – they’re so easy to match with anything. They might not be as comfortable as hiking pants, but because you can pair them with whatever you want, you can save a lot of space in your bag when figuring out your trip outfits. And that’s one of the most important things, of course πŸ˜‰

    • Reply Megan April 28, 2011 at 8:39 am

      See, I never let myself think about the matching possibilities (and also the ‘looking like a normal person’ possibilities). They’re so heavy and take so long to dry….turns out the versatility cancels out the two!

  • Reply troy April 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I never wear anything cotton when it counts. It doesn’t keep you warm, it will freeze you to death if wet in the cold, dries slowly, heavy, no good for serious physical activity.

    BUT, that’s not to say I didn’t pack jeans. I did travel with a pair of Osloh cycling jeans – although predominantly cotton, they also have some poly or spandex or something blended in, dry a little quicker, are tougher built (they are designed to cycle in – re-enforced crotch etc with quick dry panelling) so they came in handy, and I cool look cool enough when i didn’t want to look like a hiker nerd.

    • Reply Megan April 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      Those jeans look awesome…I’ve seen jeans around that are made for travel (lightweight, faster drying) but they’re usually really badly cut and horribly ugly washes. Those ones look pretty cool but – are they only for men?! What’s that all about?? πŸ™‚

  • Reply Bluegreen Kirk April 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    When I think of jean for traveling I think of how hot you can get from the heat. But they go with anything and protect you from the elements and with thermals underneath you can really go wrong in the cold.

    • Reply Megan April 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

      To be honest, I wore them in southern India and in Southeast Asia and the heat never bothered me. They had quite a bit of stretch in them, which helped I think.

  • Reply Jess April 29, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Definitely one pair of jeans for me. The kind that have a bit of stretch so they don’t have to be washed too often. I’m all about hiking/physical activity and cannot wear jeans for these BUT I know that I spend my time doing a variety of things and jeans are perfect!!

    • Reply Megan April 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

      I am not going to admit on here how long it was between washes for those jeans I bought in India…!

  • Reply Leanne April 29, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Ok, I’ve been thinking the same thing with my upcoming trip to the US and Europe (so, I’m glad that I stumbled upon your blog!).

    Last time I travelled to Europe and did some backpacking, I brought a few pairs of jeans. This time, because I am going in the summer, I think I am only going to bring one pair and the rest will be leggings (so comfy, easy to dry, easy to pack), shorts, and maybe one dress. Actually, TOTALLY bringing a dress! I remember last time, when I went to Europe, I didn’t really bring any “nice” formal clothing. I totally regretted that decision when I went to the Opera in Vienna looking like a TOTAL tourist -_- epic fail.

    PS: “And the second time I put them on I accidentally put my foot through the small, fashionably pre-ripped hole in the knee” — HAHA, this happens to me ALL of the time. LOL.

    • Reply Megan April 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm

      If you’re travelling in Europe, you should definitely pack some jeans and some nicer clothes. After India I spent Christmas in the UK, and I had to go out and buy clothes that didn’t make me look homeless! I was very glad I had the jeans.

      And you’re right about leggings and dresses – they’re lightweight, easy to pack and look very pretty. And soo comfortable.

  • Reply Scott May 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Glad you came around! I couldn’t imagine not having jeans to throw on for night time activities. heck, I may even bring two or three with me next year! You have to love how they can go weeks without washing and be just fine.

    • Reply Megan May 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm

      Three might be pushing it πŸ˜€

  • Reply Amy May 1, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    I saw the blog title over on your comment at the Road Forks so I had to take a peak to see what your post was about since I love jeans. I brought jeans on my RTW and I’m Team Jeans all the way. I’m so Team Jeans, I even bought a new pair before we left and had them altered to the length of my trail runners and flip flops. I know, you don’t have to say it. I think one pair is enough because jeans are hardy – they can go without washings and still feel clean. I didn’t wear them much in hot climates, but mine went without many washings in Europe and Japan. I’m in heaven now because we’re camping in New Zealand and we do laundry every four days! I think you’re right – you wear jeans at home, so why not on the road? The only downside is they take longer to dry, but mine are light enough that they dry overnight.

    • Reply Megan May 2, 2011 at 6:00 pm

      You are indeed very team jeans πŸ™‚ Wow laundry every four days – that IS a luxury. I was lucky if I did laundry every four weeks πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Japester June 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Megan,
    How about a compromise – get some “technical” jeans. Rohan in the UK have some dark travel jeans, they wash and dry much more quickly than normal denim and have zipped security pocket, which is useful. I have some, even though I don’t travel anywhere! having settled in lovely Cornwall I’m still exploring my home area.
    Rohan have other travel stuff, too. Used to be really good, but have got a bit fashiony now. Other makes prob have travel jeans too.

    • Reply MeganRTW June 4, 2011 at 8:31 am

      Hey Japester – thanks for the suggestion! We have a similar brand here in Australia I think. The problem with so many technical jeans are that the styles are just not particularly modern. Buying regular jeans is torturous enough for me – let alone technical jeans! I think I need to try some on!

  • Reply Katie December 21, 2011 at 8:16 am

    This is simply fantastic! No other travel blog really touches on this and I’ve been struggling with the idea of living in pants that I only normally wear when camping/hiking/fishing/etc. I just couldn’t picture myself feeling comfortable in something that wasn’t chicer on days when I’m just in a city. And apparently I needed confirmation from someone else that denim + adventure travel can be done. Thanks!

    • Reply MeganRTW December 23, 2011 at 9:07 am

      Thanks Katie! I always travel with jeans now and I certainly don’t regret it.

  • Reply Linda October 21, 2012 at 7:03 am

    So thrilled to have found your blog. I’m now 74, eagerly planning my next 2 month jaunt around Europe but this time with my granddaughter (14). How cool is that?! Am showing her how to travel independently worldwide. Back in my day, girls traveling alone just wasn’t done in my Southern culture so I didn’t have a chance to get started until retirement at 62. I’ve found jeans to be indispensible. They can be worn multiple times and can be dressed up or down as activity dictates; although jeans at the opera would be stretching it. I take a light-weight no-wrinkle back dress, black jacket and colorful shawl for those dressier occasions. Love meeting you younger ones out there on the trail. And, envy your strength. Patty (age 76) from New Zealand I met six years ago at a hostel in Rome (she was on a six month back-packing around Europe) has remained my inspiration. Thanks for letting me put in my two-cent’s worth. Best wishes for your travels.

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