2017 Backpacker Fashion Trends: Feel Functional & Look Good

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Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to look like a total slob. Afterall, you’re going to be meeting new people on a constant basis, and first impressions count! There’s no doubt you’re going to have some well-lived-in clothes after living out of a backpack for a while. Throw that ratty tshirt with holes away and swap it out for something a bit more fashion forward. Let’s check out what type of fashion items are most popular amongst backpackers in 2017. These items are all fairly unisex so rather than splitting up fashion trends by men and women, I wanted to showcase the items that are being worn the most by both genders.

Ditch The Aviators, Find Some RayBans

The whole creepy retired cop look isn’t impressing anyone. Those $20 aviators just don’t have the same wow factor that a nice pair of Rayban Wayfarers do. Wayfarer style glasses look good on everyone, men, women, skinny faces, wide faces. They’re a good neutral accessory and great for sunny days on the trail, or patio drinks for apres ski. If you’re going for the name brand Wayfarers, watch for sales on last years sunglasses models. Smartbuyglasses has a great sale section on their website, or watch for sunglasses sales at accessories stores. The good thing with Raybans is they don’t change all that much year to year, so even last years model is still going to be hip. They’re a timeless pair of sunnies and if you take good care of them you’ll have them for years to come.

knit sweater

Knit Sweater

Keep an eye out at second hand stores, vintage stores, and even antique stores. A nice knit sweater is perfect for 3 and a half seasons in Canada. Cold nights around a campfire, knit sweater. A warm winter hike, knit sweater! A chilly fall day biking some trails, knit sweater! Avoid the ones that look too wacky and picture what will this sweater go well with denim, cargos, or shorts? You want it thick enough to keep you warm but thin enough to pack well.

helly hansen

Helly Hansen Jacket

When you’re out camping or hiking with a risk of rain, going the high tech jacket route is a smart choice for your comfort. On top of that it gives you immediate street cred amongst other hikers. Helly Hansen jackets tend to fit a bit small so be sure order a size up. Better to go a bit bigger that way you can layer underneath as well for colder days. Shoutouts to Columbia jackets, I have one of each and alternate between them depending on the trip.


Cargo Shorts

It’s hard not to acquire stuff when you’re traveling. You pick up something from a souvenir shop, get a receipt from your meal out, or simply bring along the extra battery for your camera and SD cards. Just in case you come across a bear or moose! You’ll find during the summer months, two front pockets and two back pockets in your typical pair of shorts just won’t do. You’ll need those larger side pockets at some point. Find a nice pair of cargo shorts in tan, green, or navy. Remember to consider other items of your clothes. You’re packing light so choose the colour and fit that’s going to go with the most tops you own.

Button Up / Dad Shirt

While plaid is always a Canadian-friendly bet, I encourage more backpackers to go for the simple dad shirt. A denim or cotton button up can be purchased for $19.99 – $29.99 online or at any Gap, American Eagle, or nearly any fashion store. Watch the fit in the shoulders, seams should hit the middle of your shoulders. Most importantly, watch the length. Certain button up / collar shirts are designed to be tucked in. Meaning the completely cover your arse. A good button up should be able to worn tucked in or out. What for blues, greys, and subtle patterns. These pack away nice and make for a great stand in for a business-casual event, travel meetup, or even a semi-fancy restaurant. Roll up the sleeves when its time for business and you’re set.


Blank Tees > Graphic Tees

This is a personal thing, but at some point you stop wanting to walk around with dorky sayings, jokes, puns, or promoting some business. A clean blank t-shirt provides a great layer under your dad shirt or on its own when its warm. When you go with neutral colours you’re also much more likely to be able to mix and match clothes to create different looks out of the dozen items in your backpack. I recommend at least one white tee, just be sure pack along a tide stain pain. It’s only a matter of time before you get splashed with wine, beer, or have a hot-dog mustard spewing disaster. I recommend packing at least a couple of t-shirts just to mix things up. You can find them super cheap at nearly any fashion store. Personally my go-to’s are the $7 dollar tshirts from H&M and the $15 tshirts from American Apparel. Although I just ordered a 2 pack of Hanes cotton tshirts and they’re actually holding up despite being super cheap.



By the time summer hits, you’re not going to want to be that guy hauling his big, heavy, stinky, muddy hiking boots for patio beers with the people you just met at a hostel. If you’ve got the room in your bag, pack a pair of flats. They’re a great casual shoe, they don’t take up much room, and they look a lot more casual  when you’re walking the streets. Unless you’re putting on serious miles, leave the hiking boots for the trails and bust these out when you’re hitting the town. You can find mens and womens flats at H&M, Forever 21, or even order them online. They usually only last a summer, but they typically only cost about $20. Unless you’re buying the premium flats like Toms, in which case price is usually $60+.


Dark Denim Jeans

If you can afford the extra weight, and plan on doing more than just camping and hiking, it’s essential to pack a good pair of denim. I tend to lean towards Levi’s for their durability. But go with whatever fits you best. The good thing with denim is they’re designed not to be washed often. Give it the sniff test and you’re probably fine, obvious stains can be spot cleaned. But the big perk with a dark denim is that it goes with just about everything. They’re great for a night out, a chilly day, and even a hike. The zip off shin, fast drying ultra sweat-wicking pants are great for serious hiking, but if you’re only doing a smaller trail your jeans should be able to handle it.



Bracelets are an easy keepsake from a destination, and tend to be very cheap to purchase. I still wear two of my bracelets and I’m not even on the road full time. At some point they become a bit of nostalgia and the thought of ditching them just seems callous. They’re a great reminder of your journeys and with countless styles and colours, you can find a bracelet that suits who you are. They also make great gifts for significant others. While you can easily order bracelets online and look cool before you even start traveling, I’d suggest holding off on purchasing any bracelets until you find them along your journey. You might pay a bit more but buying a bracelet from the hippie in Kensington Market will have a story. Ordering from Amazon with Prime Shipping on the other hand, nobody creates memories there.


Buff Headwear / Scarf / Face protector

The great outdoors can take a toll on your face. From the wind, the rain, the snow, and the cold, having that extra layer of protection that you can easily use on a long hike or camp trip can be extremely helpful. My personal favourite for multi-purpose head and face coverings is the world-famous “Buff”. You can wear it as a headband, a scarf, a balaclava, an ear warmer, or just around your wrist when you’re not feeling like having it sling from your neck. These light weight lycra / spandex poly-blends make for a great accessory for the Canadian climate. They’re great for skiing and snowboarding, long hikes, or cold camp trips. They come in a ton of different colours and styles, but again, plan ahead and choose a colour that’s going to look good with your other items of clothing.


What kind of fashion trends have you seen in the backpacker world? Share below!