To Jeans or not to Jeans?

Other than the debate on the necessity to use a backpack to be a backpacker, the Denim Debate is probably the second topic on which backpackers across the world can argue forever…

For plus-size travelers, every matter related to articles of clothing can take proportions (no pun intended!), as the very clothes we pack and wear are bigger.  (In fact, this is one of the first thoughts I had when I started looking into backpack travels.)

After James Dean popularized them in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, wearing jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion during the 1950’s.
Because of this, they were sometimes banned in theaters, restaurants and schools.
(Source : Jeans – Wikipedia)

jeanscolorFor many, jeans are the quintessence of comfort. For others, jeans are mostly a matter of style and fashion.  But nowadays, everyone has at least a few of these denim trousers that have been around since the 17th century.

Jeans are truly versatile and can quickly be dressed up or dressed down, paired with the right top, shoes and/or accessories.  They also come in a range of shades of black, blue, and pretty much every color you can think of.  The fact that they don’t wrinkle easy is also one of the reason why they are so popular among the backpacking crowd.  As most people wear their jeans a few times before being washing them, that adds to their “packing efficient” characteristics.  In cold weather, jeans are also much warmer than many other pants.  Finally, jeans are also extremely resistant to wear and tear and a same pair can last you quite a while… but beware when they become too thin on the inner thighs, it’s a sign that the end is near…


On the other hand, jeans are very bulky and heavy to pack.  No matter how hard you try, they can hardly be compressed.  Also, the level of warmth provided by jeans can be a problem in warmer climates.  Humid and/or rainy weather can transform your favorite trousers into a wet, stinky, uncomfortable nightmare which will take forever to dry. Should you decide to wash your denims, you will also come to that realization that the thick cotton jeans are made of is probably the longest fabric to dry ever made!  Especially if you try to air dry it!

I hate not being able to come to an official verdict on this, but I think I may be able to offer some kind of a suggestion…

For short trips (about a week or less), jeans are ideal, as 1-2 pair, plus an extra pair on you as you travel, will allow you to go through the week without having to bother with laundry, which would be a waste of precious time on such a brief get-away.

On longer journeys (3 weeks and more), jeans are also great to pack, because we tend to pack more, often requiring to check a bag, and a more significant “rotation” of clothing to wear allows jeans to be washed and fully dry without risking of running out of clean clothes to wear.


It’s for all the trips that are not so long, yet not that short that it becomes really tricky.  If you want to travel with just a carry-on luggage, packing more than 1 pair of jeans (and wearing a pair for the journey) can soon limit the space remaining for more versatile pants.  If you don’t mind checking a luggage, then you have a bit more room to maneuver, but in the spirit of packing and traveling light (and cut the risk of lost luggage), this option has its fair share of risks…   If you plan on doing some toss-packing (check out this post for details about this luggage “method”!), you might be able to make it with a carry-on only.

In all cases, it confirms that packing is a science, and too often, not an exact one !

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