One-Bag Travel: Jeans?

I love jeans. I’ve been wearing jeans since junior high in Oshkosh, And of course, they were de rigeur for all us non-conformist hippies. 😉 But nobody in their right mind travels in ordinary denim jeans. They’re heavy, don’t breathe well, generally aren’t comfortable to sleep in, or get stuck wearing in a narrow seat while delayed on the tarmac for hours. They get crusty, okay even smelly, after a few days of wear, and are impossible to wash in your room without waiting seventeen weeks for them to dry.

When I came across a site run by a backpacking couple claiming to pack jeans as part of their approach to lightweight travel, I shook my head. But I still clicked their link to Aviator Jeans. And I am glad I did. Seeing their marquee banner quote from Condé Nast, followed by one from Forbes, I was even more dubious. The last thing anyone at Condé Nast understands is lightweight, compact travel, or so my bias told me. But I was wrong. Aviator jeans are made for comfortable, extended, and lightweight travel. And they look as good as any pair of Levi’s or other jeans you could choose. Moreover, they’re made in Los Angeles, right here in the US.

Are they cheap? No. You can buy three pairs of Levi’s 501® from Amazon or your store of choice with an Andrew Jackson left over. But you can only wear one pair at a time, and once you’ve tried Aviators (returns are easy, so it’s no risk trying them), that’s the pair you’ll be wearing. If you sign up for the Aviator mail list, you can get a 20% discount on your first order. And like everybody else on the net, they offer regular sale discounts. Like Levi’s, they’re made to last, so you won’t be wasting your money.

So, are they comfortable? Absolutely. I’ve now worn them through several airports, walking across multiple terminals, and in several planes. The cut and profile look good as well, and they offer both classic and slim cuts. They ship in one hem length only (34.5”), but they’ve begun offering a custom hem service. If you make that choice, you won’t be able to get a refund if you don’t like them. For me, they fit right out of the box.

So how do they fit in with my goal of one-bag travel? Well, you don’t pack them! They’re still jeans. Compared to other lightweight clothing one can pack, they’re heavy and bulky. And if you are trying to make sure you’ve shaved every gram, these won’t help you. But as Doug Dyment points out repeatedly at, part of what you carry is what you wear. These jeans are ideal for the transit part of your trip. And if your trip affords you the ability to wear them to and from (or along each leg of a multi-location trip), then they never get into your bag. Now, if you routinely red-eye straight to biz meetings, and attend meetings where you or colleagues will care what you wear, these might not work in that context. But other than that, these rock for the travel part of your trip. And if something—say, like red wine—does happen to them en route, the fabric blend can be spot-cleaned or even washed and dried in room with an overnight to air out; a hair dryer helps.

I’ve already worn them on two separate cross-country, red-eye trips, though have yet to be on a plane for more than 5+ hours. But they feel unlike any other pair of jeans in my closet; so much so that I only want to wear them. And since I reserve my travel clothes just for travel, I’ve ordered more, both for home and away

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