Packing: Let’s Start from the Top 1


Its time to get down to the most serious business. My clothes. That’s what packing is mostly comprised of, after all.

To recap earlier posts, my idea is this- it doesn’t matter how much you bring, but it does matter how much it weighs. If you can bring lighter things, you can bring more if you want. But how do you get started?

For an average trip to Europe I’ll consider being gone about 3 weeks and packing for almost any climate. I’d like to have enough clothes to last me a week or so. An easy formula to start with is: 2 long sleeved shirts, 2 short sleeved, 2 sleeveless. That’s 6 days right there without repeats, add a 3/4 sleeved shirt and you’ve got a week. Now that you have a base, here are some questions to ask yourself to refine your choices…

What about the climate you’re visiting? Is it generally above 75? Add another sleeveless. Cold nights? Add a sweater. Both? Add a cardigan in a lightweight material like cashmere.

What does it weigh? Typically I like to keep my tops averaging 5 oz, a normal weight for a tshirt. Depending on the fabric, you can cut that down to less. Silk and lightweight cotton are great choices.

Can it be layered? A tank can be layered under a light sweater or a button-up shirt. Button-up shirts can also go over dresses to make an additional outfit.

What about color? My bottoms tend to be neutrals like black and beige, so my tops can be a mixture of colors and patterns. After weeks of wearing the same clothes, putting on something with a little punch of color can lift the spirits. I’ll try and have a couple of things in black, a couple of things in light colors, and a few in bright colors and patterns for variety.

Are your tops washable? I mean really washable? You never know how your laundry will come out at laundromat abroad. Delicate things can be destroyed easily. My next test is to wash my tops without consideration for wash temperature, cycle or drying. I just toss them in the wash and dry without attention. If doing my laundry on the Careless cycle is successful, then it qualifies.

Can the tops that have made it this far take a beating? What if you splatter wine or gelato on them? If that would destroy a shirt and/or make you sad, then leave it behind. We have no time for delicate sissy clothes.

What have I chosen?


Six sleeveless, two short sleeved, two long sleeved, one light sweater, one black short sleeved cardigan. A mixture of neutrals and colors/patterns for days when I’m feeling bland and days when I’m sassy. Considering that Sicily has been about 90 every day, the sleeveless shirts are a win.

The only trouble I see so far is with the white top. I’m going to spill wine on it. Just wait for it.


About sarahinitalia@yahoo.com

Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.


One thought on “Packing: Let’s Start from the Top

  • Cary Miller

    I like 3/4 sleeve t-shirts for spring, early summer and fall because they seem dressier than a short-sleeve T and they can layer under a vest or sweater or fleece more easily than a long-sleeved shirt. Unless you have very hot weather, they’re OK. A black vest and a black cotton blend cardigan are also two of my staples as is a lightweight charcoal merino wool sweater. Scarves, scarves, scarves—they add so much to any outfit and take up almost no room or weight. I don’t feel dressed without earrings so I take quite a few pairs. Both scarves and earrings are also great souvenirs of a trip.

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