Packing Light: The Bottom Line

 Now that we've gone through my tops, let's get down to the bottoms. Your pants. Travel pants and skirts.Typically, on a 3 week trip to Europe in the spring or fall (which accounts for a variety of temperatures) I'd suggest a basic set of bottoms for a woman: 2 long pants, 2 Capri or cropped pants, one skirt, shorts if that's important to you. This is more or less what I bring. For men, 3 pairs of pants and one pair shorts, if needed.For the long pants, I suggest neutral colors in lightweight materials. On this trip, I have found a great pair of linen pants in a gray/taupe color that goes with everything. The color is sort of dust, and being the color of dirt, dirt doesn't show. Score! Linen, yes I said linen. Many people hate linen because they worry that it will wrinkle. It will, but since we sort of expect linen to wrinkle, it sort of looks arty and appropriate when it does. The drape of linen looks nice and dressy, and typically linen keeps you cool without weighing much. If you are really a stickler for wrinkles, fold your pants in half lengthwise, then fold in thirds. Lay them flat in a clothing folder, which I'll explain below.My second pair of long pants is... A pair of jeans. How many years have people been advising Americans to avoid bringing jeans to Europe? Pretty much forever. Times have changed. Europeans wear jeans as much as we do, and often dressy, expensive ones. Most people love jeans and feel comfy and confident in them, so I say bring 'em. Here's the caveat, though- choose lightweight ones. Not all jeans are made equally. I look for thin material with a little bit of stretch to it for all of those extended Italian dinners. To find thin material, look for inexpensive jeans at fashion stores. The cheaper the material, generally, the lighter the pair of jeans. Old Navy is a good place to look. I really like a pair I bought there with zippers at the ankles. Once I unzip them I can roll the cuff up until they are just below my knees, almost like an additional pair of Capri pants.My two pair of cropped pants are nice for unpredictable weather, when it could be hot or cool. I have one pair in gray linen, another pair in a black silky material. The gray ones are recycled in a way. Id bought them as full length pants but they shrank in the wash. I'm very tall and a little self-conscious about pants being a too short, so I grabbed my scissors and cut off the legs just below my knees. After a press to turn the raw edge under, I hemmed them. Voila! New Capri pants.I like bringing skirts for warmer weather. This time I brought one with a black-white pattern which seems to go with all of my solid colored tops. I look for lightweight knit skirts with a soft waistband that folds over. If it's hot, you can make a big fold with the waistband to wear the skirt short, or unfold the waistband to wear it longer for churches. I'm all about double duty clothing.I didn't bring shorts this time, I will usually do that only if I will be in Northern Europe and hiking a lot. Instead I brought black leggings. Leggings are very soft, comfy and versatile. You can wear them on the plane with a big, loose top, wear them under skirts and dresses when the weather gets cooler, you can even wear them as pajamas. I will often put on my leggings at the end of the day when I'm bumming around my hotel room. To pack all of my pants up, I use a packing folder. This is a nifty device for holding everything in place without wrinkles (ideally at least). It works sort of like an envelope, you fold everything, stack, Velcro and slide it into your bag. This works well for me as in the past my clothes have slid out of the back of my bag when I've unbuckled the straps. Big messy pile. I like packing cubes and folders also because it compartmentalizes my things, I can just grab the right sack and find what I need. The folder I like best is from Eagle Creek, made of and ultralight, slippery nylon that easily slides in and out of my bag (link below). In general, my philosophy for bottoms is to pick lightweight, neutral pieces. Darker colors are better to hide dirt. I wear most pants a few times before washing if I can. Jeans can be hard to dry, but most laundry facilities have good dryers. Above all, pick things that are comfortable and make you feel good.The Eagle Creek packing folder can be found here: //