Backpacker Fashion: There Are No Rules

Perú is a country packed full of foreigners with huge packs, long hair, and scruffy beards.  When you throw your life into a backpack and run away to far-off parts of the world, what do you bring along to wear?  There is no real consensus on this subject, but rather a lot of different ideas about what a “backpacker” should look like.  Here we will highlight a few groups of backpackers and how they dress:

1- The People Who Brought Too Much Stuff

These people have different, fashionable outfits for every day of the week, make-up, hats, accessories, and multiple pairs of shoes.  They usually look very well put together, but when they get into town they are usually physically unable to carry their backpack farther than from the taxi to their hostel.

2- The People Who  Always Wear The Awesome Local Stuff

These people show up with a proper-sized backpack, but once something gets a little dirty they ditch it and buy something handcrafted and awesome from the local markets.  Sure you can find cheap goods, but the extra cost adds up.  When the vendors see these people coming, they all run into the street and hound them for cash.  We pretend to dislike these people, but really they just make us jealous because we wish we could afford that much stuff.

3- The People With One Pair of Clothes

These people are generally a little bit grungy, with patches in their jeans and scratches on their sunglasses.  They grow a beard or long hair to add to the feel of it.   Usually these people aren’t hassled as much by the pushy merchants.

4- The Ones Who Aren’t Really Backpackers 

These people sneak into your hostel with several large suitcases, hide them in their private room and call themselves a “backpacker.”  Watch out for these fakers.  Signs include brand-name, impeccably clean clothing and an unwillingness to eat local food!

We definitely fit into category 3.  We only brought a few outfits each and we’re trying to make them last.  As much as we want to buy EVERYTHING we see in the clothing and jewelry markets, we’d rather save our money to travel farther!  However, we did recently purchase one item which is just the bee’s knees.  I present to you, the AMAZING TECHNICOLORED DREAM PANTS!!!!!!!!!!!

These pants, which come in every color pattern known to man, would clearly be considered pajamas in the U.S., but in South America they are perfectly acceptable and highly-fashionable for backpackers.  Locals don’t wear them in public once they are over they age of five, but who cares?  We’re traveling; we’re allowed to be outrageous and comfortable!  Why NOT wear pajamas down the street, out to dinner, to the club, etc.?  Carrie and I have wanted some since Colombia, but we held out until recently, when the price was right.  We bought this one pair to share, and they are amazing and ridiculous.  You know you love them.

Of course, some people are very good at what they do and have small packs and look like real people.  Also, people backpacking in their own country or continent generally fit in a lot better than the rest of us.  After awhile you can start to tell where people are from before they even open their mouths.  Almost every backpacker from the States has a pair of trusty Chacos (nearly indestructible sandals).  They make us stick out like a sore thumb to other Americans and are always a good conversation starter.  Aussies and Kiwis, without trying, show up looking like the cast of Wayne’s World (apparently this is a trend down under?) and always carry a tube of Vegamite (gross yeast extract that they put on everything).  The Irish and British spend maybe a little too much time in the local pub, and the French and Germans smoke far too many cigarettes.  The Chinese have the biggest cameras, and, in general, hang out in crowds.  Of course we know these are stereotypes and don’t apply to everyone, but let’s have a laugh at the expense of others once in awhile!  All in all, when you don’t have to show up to work every day, you can dress however you want.  One thing I have never seen a backpacker wear is a suit and tie.  I think we all set them on fire before we left home.

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6 thoughts on “Backpacker Fashion: There Are No Rules

  • I also want a pair of pants like that, though I’m not yet a full-fledged traveler like you guys 🙂 And I also don’t like those that fall under Category #4. I know one who went for a Euro tour but stayed in hotels (even at the cost of borrowing money for that) just because she can’t stand not to have her own personal bathroom. When I invited her to go to India with me, she said she doesn’t want the smell of the country. Talking about judging a place before actually setting foot there. Hmmm…

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