Some people are fanatical about Apple and some about Bitcoin. Me, I have a Uniqlo fetish. But it’s not because I particularly like their aesthetics. It’s because Uniqlo makes really affordable travel gear for Singaporeans on a budget.
Whether you plan to go jungle trekking in Endau-Rompin or freeze your ass off in Tokyo, there’s expensive technical travel gear out there for you. You can buy those… or you can buy the Uniqlo equivalent for a lot less.
What is “travel gear” and why do I need it?
I used to travel with my normal clothes. The standard routine was to pack at least a week’s worth of underwear and clothing in my luggage plus (if I’m going somewhere cold) wool long johns, sweaters, hoodies etc. That adds up to a LOT of bulk and weight. Which is fine if you don’t mind lugging your Samsonite around the whole time, but I prefer packing light.
You can do so with good travel gear made of “high-performance” material. What’s the difference? A regular cotton t-shirt absorbs your sweat and gets all musty inside your luggage. But a good travel t-shirt is made of technical fabric that lets moisture dry and feels fresh for longer. That means you can bring a lot fewer clothes.
Brands like Columbia, Patagonia and The North Face have special clothes for the outdoors and cold weather. They engineer these babies to be ultralight and ultra comfortable, yet retain maximum warmth. That’s performance for you. You’re not going to get that with some cheapo sweater you bought at the H&M sale.
Unlike its fast fashion peers, Uniqlo actually engineers high-performance clothes too – but for a fraction of the price. A Columbia shirt costs over $100 but you can find something that functions just as well at Uniqlo for under $30.
So let’s see what the best travel items from Uniqlo are, and find out how much cheaper they are compared to the competition.
|Uniqlo Heattech base layers||Ultra-thin, fast-drying, comfortable thermal underwear||$19.90 each|
|Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket||Highly compressible down jacket for cool (not cold) weather||$99.90|
|Uniqlo Dry-EX Crew Neck T Shirt||Ventilated quick-dry tee for a variety of climates||$19.90|
|Uniqlo Dry Seersucker Shirt||Stretchy ventilated men’s shirt, highly versatile||$29.90|
|Uniqlo Dry-EX Ultra Stretch Ankle Pants||Ultra quick-dry and stretchy women’s pants||$29.90|
|Uniqlo Kando Pants||Stretchy, quick-dry men’s business pants that feel like pyjamas||$59.90|
|Uniqlo Airism Trunks||Ultra-light men’s boxers that prevent chafing in hot weather||$14.90|
1. Uniqlo Heattech base layers
Let me just get the obvious out of the way. Uniqlo’s Heattech long underwear really does live up to the hype. These tops and tights seem like flimsy lightweight little things, but they really do retain a layer of body heat to help keep you warm.
Heattech isn’t just for cold weather trips. I personally pack a thermal top if I’m expecting any sort of chilly bus or train ride on my trip, even if it’s just to Malaysia. That way I don’t have to lug around a bulky hoodie that I’ll only use twice.
By the way, you can give Heattech Extra Warm a miss. My friends say there’s hardly any difference between them. If you’re still cold it might be better to layer 2 standard Heattechs together.
Price: $19.90 each
Similar products: Coldwear Proheat/Polyester Thermal Wear, $29 to $33 ($10 to $13 more)
2. Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket
Even though it makes the sveltest person look like the Michelin Man, Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down Jacket still sells like hot cakes. At $100 (full price) it’s on the pricey side – there are cheaper ones at Decathlon – so wait for them to go on sale. Pro tip: Buy this for cheap in summer sales in Taiwan, Hong Kong or Japan.
Honestly, it kinda sucks for cold weather. The feathers are not very lofty and they tend to leak out through the thin fabric if you’re not careful. I definitely would NOT count on this for a Russian winter. For seriously cold weather I usually bring a better quality North Face one.
That said, I get more use out of this as it’s a lot more versatile than a hardcore down jacket. I just throw it in my bag instead of a hoodie or jacket if the weather calls for outerwear. It’s way lighter, takes up no space at all, and doubles up as a travel pillow. For cooler weather, just add Heattech layers to increase warmth.
Similar product: Patagonia Down Sweater, $309 ($209 more)
3. Uniqlo Dry-EX Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-shirt
One of Uniqlo’s bestselling items in its sportswear collection is the Dry-EX t-shirt. It’s a simple t-shirt made of ultra-quick-dry fabric with perforations to enhance ventilation.
Like I mentioned above, fabrics like these are great for travel. If you sweat, get rained on or get dunked in the Ganges River, that muck will dry up fast. And they’re easy to launder on the go.
You could also use a regular gym tee, of course. Personally I dislike most sportswear as they tend to be neon coloured and/or festooned with logos. Many similar polyester t-shirts also turned out to be clingy, staticky, or simply feel like I’m wearing a sauna. The Uniqlo Dry-EX tee isn’t the cheapest around but it fits the best and is comfortable.
Similar product: The North Face Versitas S/S Crew, $56
4. Uniqlo Dry Seersucker Shirt
Sometimes the best items aren’t even from the “technical” sections. I came across a good travel shirt for men hiding in the office wear section.
It’s made of quick-dry seersucker, a fabric with a strange bumpy texture. This structure minimises the contact between the fabric and your skin so there’s constant ventilation and you feel dry and cool. It’s also wrinkle-resistant and super-stretchy, basically all you want in a travel shirt. It’s also versatile – you can wear it in loads of situations, from camping to a nice dinner.
Similar product: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Short Sleeve Shirt, $60.14 ($30.24 more)
5. Uniqlo Dry-EX Ultra Stretch Ankle Length Pants
They’re not kidding about this Dry-EX technology. When I threw these ultra stretch ankle length pants in the wash, they came out about 95% dry. Only the elastic waistband felt a bit damp, but even that dried in a matter of hours.
Apart from the quick-drying properties, I like that they’re so lightweight and stretchy. When you’re sitting in a confined space like an airplane seat, the last thing you want are seams or waistbands digging into your flesh. Given how hard it is to find affordable, quick-drying women’s pants, I think this is a steal.
Similar product: The North Face Adventuress Pull On Pants, $81.20 ($51.30 more)
6. Uniqlo Kando Pants
Uniqlo’s Kando pants were a revelation. So, men have been wearing leggings as pants all this time! These are so soft and stretchy, I can’t imagine it’s easy to go back to wearing “proper” trousers. Luckily, no one can tell the difference unless they’re REALLY scrutinising you below the belt…
Although not very lightweight, these quick-drying pants are a must for business travellers. No one should be made to endure a long-haul flight in actual pants.
Similar product: The North Face warm tight pants $96 ($36.10 more)
7. Uniqlo Airism Trunks
If you’re going somewhere hot and humid like Thailand, “crotch on fire” syndrome can drive you up the wall. You know what I mean, right? You sweat profusely, there’s no ventilation, things chafe, and before you know it, you have Stage 4 Crotch Rot. Think of these AIRism boxers as a preventative measure.
I’m not a huge fan of the Uniqlo AIRism collection as I’ve been underwhelmed by their promised cooling effect. But these ridiculously soft and thin quick-dry boxers are my favourite of the Airism series. They really feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.
Similar product: Icebreaker Anatomica Rib Boxer $79.40 ($64.50 more)
And… just in case it needs to be said, no this is not a sponsored post and we didn’t earn any money from this. We just really, really like Uniqlo.
Do you have a favourite item from Uniqlo? Tell us about it in the comments!