I labored with a capsule-wardrobe stylist to pack sustainably with only a backpack for a 5-day journey to the Nice Smoky Mountains. Right here's what I introduced.

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A photo of trees and mountains with four overlapping images of the author in various outfits cropped in overlapping circles.
Insider's reporter packed for a visit to the Nice Smoky Mountains as sustainably as potential with assist from a capsule-wardrobe stylist.

  • Sustainability consultants informed me that touring lighter is an effective approach to assist the surroundings.
  • So I attempted a capsule wardrobe, and requested the Aday stylist Millie Bentley to assist me pack for a visit.
  • Bentley really helpful impartial, quick-drying garments that may be layered in several methods.
  • This text is a part of "Inexperienced Getaway," a sequence exploring how individuals could make extra eco-conscious decisions whereas touring. For extra climate-action information, go to Insider's One Planet hub.
After I deliberate a 5-day journey to the Nice Smoky Mountains, I knew I needed to pack my backpack as flippantly as potential.

The author wearing sunglasses and a teal jacket with trees, mountains, and a clear blue sky behind her
The writer visits the Nice Smoky Mountains in April 2023.

These days, I've been taking only a backpack with me after I journey.

It began in August 2022 after I spent every week touring by practice from my house in New York Metropolis to Niagara Falls and the Canadian cities of Toronto, Montréal, and Québec Metropolis. I solely had sufficient time to spend one or two nights at every vacation spot, so touring with a backpack appeared simpler than packing a full suitcase.

The lighter load made me really feel extra cell, and I had a neater time holding observe of all my stuff.

Two months later, after I took a two-week practice journey by 4 European nations, I crammed every part into my backpack once more. I packed even lighter than I did for my first journey, though it was twice as lengthy.

Most not too long ago, I used to be set to take a five-day journey to Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park in Tennessee, and I needed to strive packing lighter than I ever have earlier than.

Packing gentle makes getting round simpler, however it's additionally extra sustainable for the surroundings, based on eco-tourism consultants.

Left image: The author stands on the left side of a white-walled bedroom in a blue shirt and black jacket while packing clothes laid out on the bed in front of her. Right image: The author's black backpack fits underneath a blue, economy plane seat with books in the seat back pocket.
The writer packs for her journey, and slips her backpack beneath the seat for her flight to Tennessee.

Effectivity sparked my curiosity in backpacking, however studying that packing flippantly can be a extra sustainable technique to journey saved me hooked.

Sustainable journey consultants who beforehand spoke with Insider mentioned that packing as flippantly as potential will help the surroundings, particularly relating to air journey.

"The extra weight an plane carries, the extra gasoline it burns; the lighter the load, the much less polluting," Justin Francis, the cofounder and CEO of Accountable Journey, informed Insider. "So pack as gentle as you fairly can. If you happen to keep away from the trouble of checking a bag, that's a bonus."

To place that into perspective, based on FiveThirtyEight, Southwest's gasoline prices improve by greater than $1 million per 12 months if each passenger carries a cellphone, and $21 million if everybody carries a laptop computer.

Studying concerning the impression of weight on a flight's air pollution made me need to pack as flippantly as potential for my Tennesse journey.

Since I needed to pack gentle with out turning into tired of my outfits, I seemed into capsule wardrobes.

A closet with white shelves holds a capsule wardrobe with white, black, gray, and chambray clothing items and accessories.
An instance of a capsule wardrobe.

On my earlier backpacking journeys, I discovered myself rising tired of the garments I introduced after a couple of days.

I used to be cautious of feeling this fashion once more, till I realized about capsule wardrobes.

Capsule-wardrobe styling is about deciding on a small variety of clothes objects which can be versatile sufficient to be worn collectively in several methods and impartial sufficient to be paired with the rest within the wardrobe, based on Reader's Digest.

The concept of bringing fewer garments whereas having extra outfits appeared like an oxymoron to me. However I nonetheless needed to strive it, so I referred to as in an skilled to indicate me how capsule wardrobes work.

I spoke to Millie Bentley, a capsule-wardrobe stylist, who helped me pack for my journey.

Clothing on a white bed spread including (from left to right): a navy blue jacket and cardigan, a light blue tank top, a pink rag, grey leggings, a short stack of grey and navy blue shirts, a black package of wipes, a black hoodie, and dark teal pants
The garments the writer packed for her five-day journey.

Millie Bentley has been working as a designer and product developer for the final eight years at Aday, a capsule-wardrobe firm that she says creates "minimalist wardrobes for maximal advantages."

"The concept is that you’ve got fewer clothes objects that you are able to do extra with and journey additional," Bentley mentioned of capsule-wardrobe styling. "So we would like garments that individuals can put on in a number of conditions and climates that basically don't maintain them again from doing what they love."

I requested Bentley to assist me select what to pack for my upcoming journey and we began by going over the main points of my journey to the Nice Smoky Mountains. I informed Bentley that I'd be mountain climbing, glamping, and exploring cities on foot, all whereas taking photographs. I additionally informed her the expected forecast, which was 50-70 levels Fahrenheit and wet climate.

Bentley and I began packing by taking a look at my work gear since this stuff had been non-negotiable.

The author's work gear on a white sheet, including a black camera and lens as well as a grey pouch on top of a laptop in a black floral sleeve. To the left, there's a black tripod with orange accents folded up. Beneath all of this is two stacked notebooks and mobile photography gear.
The writer's work gear for her journey to Tennessee.

Since I used to be happening a reporting journey, Bentley and I began by packing all my work gear.

This included my laptop computer, my digicam with two lenses, a tripod, a headlamp for evening pictures, system chargers, and a pocket book.

My work gear took up about one-third of the area in my 32-liter backpack — leaving the opposite two-thirds of my bag for toiletries and clothes, which ended up being greater than sufficient, to my shock.

Subsequent, we talked about toiletries to make sure I had sufficient room for every part I wanted whereas touring.

The author's toiletries on a white sheet including a sweatband and white package of laundry sheets on top of a pink rag. Below these items, there's a white and blue electric toothbrush with an astronaut helmet shaped cover, an orange bag of liquid items, a black package of wipes, and a thick, white scrunchy meant for drying hair.
The writer's toiletries for her 5-day journey.

Staying clear and wholesome whereas touring is as essential as my work gear. So I packed my toiletries subsequent, in addition to medicines and a mini first-aid equipment.

Bentley really helpfu
l bringing liquid toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and face wash in reusable mini bottles to keep away from buying single-use plastic bottles.

I used to be comfortable to observe this recommendation since she beforehand informed Insider that packing reusable bottles was a extra sustainable technique to journey. In response to a Greenpeace report revealed in 2022, solely about 5% of all plastic was recycled in 2021 whereas the remainder ended up in landfills, incinerators, or pure locations.

Since I already had leftover travel-sized toiletries from earlier resort stays, I made a decision to complete these and refill them.

And, as a result of I used to be going to be exterior rather a lot, Bentley additionally steered that I convey a fabric rag and biodegradable face wipes to "clean up or take off any make-up or any dust."

Lastly, I steered laundry cleaning soap to clean my garments in sinks, and Bentley agreed.

"I believe that's an important concept," she mentioned. "If there are puddles, or in the event you drop one thing that will get moist, it would begin to odor."

By the point I completed packing my toiletries, I had rather less than half of the bag left for clothes.

After I packed my toiletries and work gear, Bentley and I talked about garments. She really helpful quick-dry objects that could possibly be layered.

Left image: a close up of the author's unzipped backpack with her hand holding it open on the bottom. Inside, the lining is gray, and theres a black camera next to a gray bag of chargers in vision. Right image: The author's unzipped backpack shows the orange bag of liquids and a beige packing cube with a red arrow pointing at it with the word "clothes" in red letters beneath it. Above the bag is the author's torso in a blue button-down shirt.
The room within the writer's backpack for clothes and toiletries after packing her work gear.

When it was time to pack garments, Bentley mentioned her No. 1 tip for packing fewer objects is specializing in quick-dry items, particularly since my vacation spot can be wet.

"Fast-drying means you may wash the garment actually simply and simply hold it up," Bentley mentioned.

Then, she defined the significance of together with shirts that could possibly be layered.

"You’ll need to layer as nicely. If the layer will get moist, you may take it off and might dry it shortly," she mentioned.

She added that layering may assist you really feel extra snug in a spread of temperatures.

"Since you're combating with the weather, you desire a lighter layer that you’re sporting beneath," she mentioned. "So that you've obtained the heat, however then you may take it off in the event you get hotter."

I discovered it onerous to observe Bentley's suggestion to put on impartial garments as a result of I really like coloration. However Bentley mentioned that packing neutrals makes it simple to fashion and match in several methods as a result of each article of clothes goes collectively.

Lastly, Bentley requested if I felt assured that every one my clothes could possibly be tightly rolled up. I informed her that I'm fairly brief, so all my garments are small.

"I all the time pack extra of the smaller, lighter items than I might of the larger, heavier ones," she added.

Bentley mentioned I ought to convey two T-shirts that I may put on individually or layer on prime of one another on colder days.

A folded navy blue polo with orange accents sits on top of a folded gray t shirt on a white sheet.
The writer's quick-dry shirts

Bentley and I then moved on to T-shirts. She mentioned I ought to convey two that could possibly be worn on prime of one another. This gave me three styling choices with simply two shirts — every by itself and likewise layered on prime of one another — which I'd by no means thought of earlier than.

Following Bentley's recommendation, I chosen two shirts made from skinny, moisture-wicking supplies. One was a plain grey shirt with a decent match that might simply match one other shirt over it. The opposite shirt was a navy blue polo with orange accents, which was the closest I needed to a impartial polo.

I selected shirts with completely different collars to offer me extra selection, too. I believed the grey shirt seemed greatest beneath the polo, however it stood nicely by itself, too.

Most significantly for me, I believed these shirts had been snug. They felt comfortable on my pores and skin and had been tight sufficient to lure within the warmth with out feeling constricting.

She additionally really helpful that I convey a cardigan and one other long-sleeve layer.

Left image: A black zipped hoodie lays on a white sheet. Right image: A navy blue buttoned cardigan lays on a white sheet.
The writer packed a zip-up hoodie and a cardigan.

Bentley really helpful I additionally convey a long-sleeve layer that I may put on on prime of or beneath my T-shirts on cooler days.

"You might put on it open along with your T-shirt beneath for a extra informal look as nicely," Bentley mentioned. "When garments may be opened, draped, or tied, you've obtained this completely different look. And though you maybe haven't modified, you are feeling such as you're in a unique outfit."

For my long-sleeve layer, I chosen a skinny, gentle zip-up hoodie. Technically, it's a rash guard meant for swimming in cooler temperatures, however I believed the impartial coloration and lighter, quick-drying material would work completely for this journey because it's designed to get moist.

I may put on the rash guard beneath my polo, on prime of every shirt individually and collectively, and tied round my waist. I used to be stunned by how completely different every look was, and it made me consider how I may put on my different garments to make them really feel completely different.

In that very same vein, Bentley additionally steered I convey a cardigan to layer for extra formal actions, like going to dinner. I don't have many, so I introduced my smallest, most impartial one. Bentley mentioned I ought to go along with a light-weight wool material, if potential.

"As a result of wool may be very breathable and thermoregulating, it retains you heat however also can maintain you cool," she mentioned.

Then Bentley mentioned I ought to convey one pair of pants for going out in the course of the day, and one other to vary into at evening.

From left to right: Folded teal pants, folded black pants, and a row of two rolled-up shirts and two fold-up long sleeve layers that are gray, black, and navy blue on a white sheet
Pants the writer packed.

Bentley mentioned that I wanted solely two pairs of pants for my five-day journey

"Go for a pant to put on day-to-day that you simply'll be sporting within the rain. After which have a pant that you could chill out in on the finish of the day and maybe go to dinner in, too." Bentley mentioned. "Since you don't need to be sporting that pant that you
simply've been sporting all day. You're going to need to dry them out."

For my daytime pants, I chosen a pair of quick-dry joggers since they'd be best to air out after a day within the rain. After I hung them up every night throughout my journey, they had been dry by morning.

For my nighttime pants, I picked a pair of skinny, black joggers that really feel like scrubs however look extra formal in dim lighting. I believed they’d make me really feel presentable after I went out, and comfy after I stayed in throughout my journey.

She really helpful pajamas that is also worn in the course of the day.

From left to right: folded gray leggings with a black pattern on top of a blue and yellow t shirt and  and a row of two rolled-up shirts and two fold-up long sleeve layers that are gray, black, navy blue Folded teal pants, and folded black pants on a white sheet
The writer's multipurpose pajamas.

After packing shirts and pants, I requested Bentley about pajamas. She gave me concepts for clothes that might additionally add a layer to my daytime wardrobe.

"Leggings are excellent. If it's chilly within the morning, you may maintain them on and layer them beneath your trousers," Bentley mentioned, including that I may take them off if it warms up

For a prime, Bentley mentioned I may convey one other T-shirt so I'd have extra choices for layering within the daytime, too. I went with one other quick-dry shirt that was barely looser than the others I introduced so it could be cozier to sleep in.

It wouldn't match beneath my different shirts however could possibly be layered over each, giving me two extra daytime appears to be like.

Then we talked about undergarments. Not like my different clothes objects, Bentley mentioned I ought to convey one pair of socks and underwear for every day.

From left to right:  Four pairs of blue and black socks on a light blue tank top, five pairs of dark-colored underwear, and and a row of two rolled-up shirts and two fold-up long sleeve layers that are gray, black, navy blue folded teal pants, folded black pants, a folded blue and yellow t shirt, and folded gray leggings with a black pattern   on a white sheet
The writer's undergarments for her journey.

Since Bentley really helpful I rewear different clothes, I puzzled about socks and underwear. In my earlier backpacking experiences, I've discovered that socks are inclined to take up extra room than most different objects, however in addition they take days to air dry.

Bentley mentioned I ought to convey a pair of socks and underwear for every day, however I may discover extra environment friendly methods to pack them. 

"Underwear may be hidden in socks. Socks may be hidden in sneakers or a random pocket," she mentioned. "It's all about tucking them into completely different locations to fill your bag."

I took Bentley's recommendation: I coated my digicam and lenses with socks so that they took up much less room whereas serving one other perform. I used to be amazed by how a lot area I saved by rethinking the best way I packed my backpack.

For jackets, Bentley additionally steered layers. I introduced my thinnest puffer and a rain jacket.

From left to right:  and a row of two rolled-up shirts and two fold-up long sleeve layers that are gray, black, navy blue folded teal pants, folded black pants, a folded blue and yellow t shirt, folded gray leggings, and a stack of four pairs of blue and black socks, a light blue tank top, and five pairs of dark-colored underwear, all on a white sheet
The writer introduced two jackets.

Bentley mentioned my jacket ought to be my heaviest choice, and that I ought to convey two and layer them on journey days.

"After I go away, I take into consideration what takes up probably the most room and put on that after I'm touring," she added.

I informed Bentley that since my jacket choices had been restricted, I wouldn't have the ability to persist with the impartial palette. However she mentioned this was OK since the remainder of my garments had been impartial. The jackets may function a "pop of coloration," she added.

I packed my largest raincoat so it could match on prime of all of my layers. Beneath, I'd put on my smallest puffer. It's certainly one of my thinnest jackets, however it additionally retains me fairly heat.

The raincoat's onerous shell and adjustable Velcro straps may shield my interior sleeves, and the hood prolonged out past my glasses, to cease water drops from obscuring my imaginative and prescient.

Beneath my raincoat, the skinny puffer would maintain me heat and the remainder of my garments dry, and I couldn't consider I by no means thought to pair them earlier than.

Bentley thought I solely wanted one pair of sneakers for this journey, and I agreed.

Left image: the author's hand at the top of the image holds a black pair of shoes facing the camera head-on in front of a bed with a white sheet and clothes on top. Right image: Left image: the author's hand at the top of the image holds a black pair of shoes turned sideways in front of a bed with a white sheet and clothes on top.
The writer introduced impartial waterproof trainers

I sometimes journey with a single pair of sneakers, so I wasn't stunned when Bentley informed me I ought to solely convey one as a result of they're sometimes heavy.

"Your sneakers ought to be snug with a glance that you simply really feel you may put on on a regular basis," she mentioned, recommending a impartial boot or coach.

Since I anticipated rain, I picked a pair of black, waterproof trainers as a result of they all the time maintain my socks dry and I believe they appear presentable sufficient to wear down.

I'd additionally save room in my bag since I'd put on them on journey days and wouldn't should sacrifice area for one more pair of sneakers.

Lastly, I popped a water bottle and an umbrella into the pockets of my backpack. And I nonetheless had further area.

Left image: The author's blue button-down shirt is seen behind the packed black backpack with an orange water bottle on the side. Her hand give a thumbs up in front of the bag. Right image: (From top to bottom and left to right): The author's work gear, toiletries, and folded clothing selection on top of a white sheet
The writer all packed up.

With my garments, toiletries, and work gear within the bag, I packed an umbrella for the rain and a reusable water bottle, per Bentley's suggestion.

When my packing was full, I used to be stunned to see I nonetheless had area left on the prime of my bag however selected to not add the rest, and left it empty for a lighter, extra sustainable load.

After my dialog with Bentley, I felt assured that I had created a small, versatile wardrobe.

After I left for my journey, I believed my
new capsule wardrobe served me nicely. I now plan to make use of Bentley's ideas for each journey so I is usually a extra sustainable traveler.

Left image: The author standing inside of a cabin with large windows behind her. She's wearing a hat with a gray t shirt and teal pants with a navy blue cardigan around her waist. Right image: The author in a tent wearing a thick, gray headband and three layers on top: a light blue tank top under a gray t shit under a navy blue buttoned up cardigan
The writer layers her clothes in several methods.

Bentley and I talked about sporting garments in several methods, however I couldn't actually visualize a few of her ideas till I used to be really within the Nice Smoky Mountains sporting the garments that we selected collectively.

In the end, I used to be stunned to search out that merely serious about clothes another way can result in concepts for extra sustainable methods to dwell. Though I introduced much less clothes for this journey than ever earlier than, I by no means felt tired of my outfits like I’ve on earlier backpacking journeys.

Sooner or later, I'll use the following pointers for all journey, massive or small. And because of Bentley, I do know I'll really feel assured that I can get pleasure from a spread of outfits with just some articles of clothes.

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