Photo: Suzie Dundas

This Generic, 'Normcore' Brand Makes the Best Travel Clothing

Technology + Gear Airports + Flying
by Suzie Dundas Jun 5, 2024

I’ll just cut to the chase: I travel at least once a month, usually to outdoorsy destinations, and I’ve found that a huge chunk of my wardrobe comes from one brand. All its clothing is super-soft, hardly wrinkles, has modern and clean lines, and is well-suited to everything from sleeping on airplanes to walking around cities to multi-day backpacking trips. And it has built-in UPF protection, so I don’t have to worry about getting sunburned when outdoors all day.

If you’ve been on Instagram recently, you’ve probably seen advertisements for what has become my favorite brand: Free Fly Apparel. I hate impractical clothing, and can be picky with comfort and cut, but the brand absolutely makes the best travel clothing on the planet. It’s become my favorite clothing brand not just for travel, but for almost everything, including running errands, hiking and camping, and hanging with friends. If an activity doesn’t require formal dress, I’m probably wearing Free Fly Apparel.

freefly apparel best travel clothes - head to toe in airport.

Airport shot to prove this is the best travel clothing: Free Fly Breeze Jogger, Bamboo Shade Long Sleeve, and Gridback Fleece Jacket. Photo: Suzie Dundas

I know what you’re thinking: but Free Fly probably paid Matador Network to say that. But nope! In fact, I’ve been wearing Free Fly Apparel clothing for the better part of three years, and I’ve worn the brand’s pants, tees, hoodies, shorts, and even outerwear. I’ve also recommended them to at least half a dozen people, including fellow scuba divers who love the built-in sun protection, a doctor friend traveling to sub-Saharan Africa to teach at rural hospitals, and even my 70-year-old mother-in-law, who wanted comfortable clothing that didn’t have itchy tags. In the past, the brand has sent me a few items of clothing for testing for various articles. But most of it I’ve purchased myself.

Free Fly Apparel has allowed me to get more wear out of fewer items of clothing, stress less about packing for vacations, and not worry about whether my outfit matches, since everything pretty much matches everything else. Here’s the full list of what I have. At this point, it’s almost a complete wardrobe.

  • GridBack Fleece Jacket
  • Breeze Pull-on Jogger Pant (two)
  • Lightweight Fleece Jogger Pant
  • Bamboo Lightweight Hoodie (two)
  • Bamboo Shade Hoodie (two)
  • Bamboo Lightweight Long Sleeve (two)
  • Latitude Short
  • Pull-on Breeze Short
  • Bamboo-lined Breeze Short (4″ inseam)
  • Bamboo Lightweight Fleece Crewneck Pullover

(I may be about half the reason this brand is still in business).

FreeFly Apparel on boat and fest

At a festival, and over a wetsuit on a scuba diving boat. Photo: Suzie Dundas

And if you’re wondering: if you buy anything below, Matador may get a small commission — that’s one of the ways we keep all of our content free and open to everyone, rather than using a paywall. But I wouldn’t spend three years wearing clothing (or have nearly a dozen pieces from a brand) if I didn’t really like it. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

You can skip the sunscreen, as most items have UPF protection

best travel clothing - freefly aparel shirts

The fact that I don’t need to lather sunscreen on my skin while sightseeing is one of many reasons I think the brand makes the best travel clothing for outdoorsy types. Photo: Suzie Dundas

I have a dresser drawer full of various outdoor shirts, pants, and shorts, but more and more, I find myself gravitating to Free Fly clothing for outdoor adventures. That’s because nearly all the brand’s clothing has UV protection in the fabric, giving you the sun protection of a cream sunblock without smearing chemicals on your skin. (When you do you use sunblock, here are some great picks that are way better for your skin and the environment).

I wear Free Fly sun hoodies all the time on scuba diving boats and after river floats and kayak trips, as well as any other time I’m wet and need immediate sun protection. The sun hoodies are for warm weather, and options like the Bamboo Lightweight Hoodie II are extremely lightweight, so I get sun protection without overheating. The hoodies are especially nice for this purpose as they keep sun off your neck and face.

The brand has a super-useful hoodie comparison tool to help you figure out which of the many options may be best for you.

Buy Now: Men’s SPF Hoodies ($68+)
Buy Now: Women’s SPF Hoodies ($68+)

The brand’s travel pants barely wrinkle

best travel clothing freefly pants

After hiking 12 miles and 6,000 feet of gain, my pants are windblown — but not wrinkled. Photo: Suzie Dundas

The Free Fly Apparel Breeze Pant is one of the best travel clothing purchases I’ve ever made, especially at the price point (around $90). It may be a bit steep for a pant, but considering how much I wear them (like, 50 percent of the time), I figure it probably evens out. Comparable pants like those from Lululemon or PrAna are pricier, and while they’re also quite nice and comfortable, don’t have all the other benefits.

The Breeze Pants are why I think Free Fly Apparel makes the best travel clothes. Elastic waists, straight lines that look professional, soft fabric, and enough wrinkle-resistance that I can ball them up in my luggage for a week before I wear them again with zero wrinkle issues. In my experience, this is also the case with the brand’s t-shirts and hoodies, of which I also have half a dozen.

Bonus: being wrinkle-free also makes you look more stylish and put-together without having to make any actual effort. Score.

Buy Now: Women’s Breeze Pull-on Jogger  ($94)
Buy Now: Men’s Breeze Pant ($94)

Clothing is made with sustainable and soft bamboo

 best travel clothing - three shirts pic

Hiking in Free Fly Breeze shorts, avoiding the sun in a Free Fly long-sleeve, and socializing in a lightweight hoodie. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Free Fly’s clothing is made with organic bamboo fibers, rather than cotton (a not-very-sustainable fabric) or synthetic materials. Bamboo is generally a more eco-friendly fabric, as it grows fast and has a shorter life cycle, so it requires less land and resources to grow. Compared to conventional cotton, it uses much less water, and has a natural pest resistance, requiring less human intervention on the crop. And when it comes to the final product, bamboo fabrics are super soft. And it goes without saying that the best travel clothing needs to be soft enough to sleep in.

It’s also important that it’s organic bamboo, as the processing required for non-organic bamboo can use harsh chemicals. Free Fly has a code of conduct it enforces at its factories, ensuring it supports manufacturers that pay fair wages, ensure overtime, track environment impacts, and more.

Obviously, the most eco-friendly approach is buying high-quality, long-lasting clothing, regardless of the material. While the thinner hoodies aren’t going to last as long as, say, a Pendleton blanket or Burberry jacket, I’ve been wearing mine for a few years, and the most I’ve had to do is restitch a thumb loop I got caught on a door handle.

It won’t go out of style anytime soon

freefly apparel best travel clothing

Straight cuts and solid colors mean Free Fly’s style is subject to fads or fashion whims. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Fashion: it’s a thing I hear some people care about. Fortunately, all the Free Fly items I own are straight cuts and clean lines. It all has a classic, straightforward look, so it never looks dated or overly trendy.

Nothing is designed to be tight, fitted, or sexy, and I have friends who are curvier than me, shorter than me, and larger than me, who all also love the brand. Because everything is meant to have a loose, casual look, it doesn’t look weird if you size up to accommodate a larger chest or hips, or if you buy a style marketed to the opposite gender. Most of the men’s and women’s designs looks pretty similar, anyway.

In my experience, the sizing is very straightforward. I’m 5’7″ and a size US women’s 4/6, with a long torso and short legs. In Free Fly Apparel, I usually wear a small in bottoms (my normal size) and a small or medium in the tops (also my normal sizes). Some tops run a little small, but the website lists how each item fits. And my go-to airplane jacket (the Gridback Fleece Jacket) runs a little big.

Free Fly also has a solid return policy, as returns and exchanges anywhere in the US are free within 30 days. So it’s not dire if you need to make a size swap.

Buy Now: UPF 50 Long-Sleeve T-shirts ($58+)

Dress it all up or down

freefly apparel best travel clothing - formal-ish

House party-ready. Photo: Suzie Dundas

The best travel clothes need to be not just comfortable, but also versatile. Guys can wear the same thing to a wider range of occasions than women and still be dress-code appropriate, but that’s not always the case with women’s apparel. That sometimes means ladies end up needing to pack more during travel, but that’s not a problem when I rely on Free Fly Apparel clothing.

I’ve found that I can pack fewer items and wear them more often, while still feeling vaguely appropriate for most occasions. Sure, I don’t go to the opera while traveling, but I could wear it to a nicer restaurant and not stand out. The Breeze Pant with the long sleeve Fleece Crewneck Pullover, plus a few pieces of jewelry (easy to pack!) and a pair of heeled boots looks nice enough for most evenings out, even if it’s the exact same thing I slept in on the airplane.

No branding or marketing BS

best travel clothing = pants

This is the extent of the branding – a dime-sized, no-name logo. Photo: Suzie Dundas

There’s a long list of things many clothing brands do that I simply hate — putting huge logos on everything, marketing something as unisex but designing it mostly for men, or using super unrealistically thin models that make it impossible to gauge how clothing looks on the average consumer.

Free Fly doesn’t really do any of that, which makes me happier to support the brand. The branding is minimal or non-existent and the “models” look like real people wearing the clothing in appropriate settings. It focuses on clothing for men and women, without one gender being an afterthought. And since it’s not flashy or overly stylized, everything matches everything else, so I don’t really need to plan “outfits.” I just throw a few tops and a few bottoms in my luggage, and I’m good to go.

It’s all quick-dry

hoodies on palau beach

Wearing Free Fly sun hoodies (and shorts, for me) in Palau. You can see the moisture evaporating off my shirt. Photo: Suzie Dundas

Free Fly Apparel was first launches as a clothing brand for people who spend time on the water — fishers, kayakers, and such. When I go on scuba diving or beach trips, Free Fly Apparel clothing is usually about 70 percent of what I bring with me. The brand’s shirts dry quickly even when thrown on over wet swimsuits, which keeps me warmer if it starts getting breezy on the water. Quick-drying shirts are also important to me as I have long hair, and I hate when the back of my shirt is soaked all day from my wet hair dripping over my shoulders.

In the photo above, I’m also wearing the Women’s Bamboo-Lined Breeze Short, made from a poly/spandex blend. I think most people can agree that having a soggy butt all day after getting out of the water kind of sucks, but because these dry so quickly, I can throw them on over my swimsuit with no problems. And they’re light and loose, so they’re easy to pull on (and comfortable to wear) even if I’m soaking wet — unlike a tight pair of jean shorts that will be wet for hours. That makes these perfect for travel, since they don’t take up much room in my bag and let me go from beach to sightseeing when I’m out all day, even if there’s no where to change or dry off.

Buy Now: Women’s Lined Breeze Short ($68)
Buy Now: Men’s Breeze Short ($44+)

I think it’s the best travel clothing, but there are a few things that could be better

best travel clothing freefly apparel review - brand models

Though the brand fits up to a women’s size 20, the models and photos are not particularly size-inclusive. Photo: Free Fly Apparel

I really do like all my items from Free Fly Apparel, and wish a lot more brands would go in the direction of non-branded, useful, mix-and-match clothing. It’s the best travel clothing I own, and I always feel adventure-ready, even if I pack light.

But I’ll admit it has some downsides. Free Fly Apparel isn’t super size-inclusive, with only a few women’s items available in plus sizes. For women, only 32 of 98 items come in XXL, which fits in the US women’s size 18 to 20. For men, it’s a bit better, with 35 of 110 men’s products available in a 3X, likely to fit up to a 44- to 46-inch waist.

That is better than a lot of brands, but it’d be great to see more inclusive sizing (and more diverse models). I also wish it had a stronger stance on environmental responsibility, as it’s not a 1% for the Planet, and the sustainability page on the website still touts a program to launch a more sustainable shipping package…in 2022. By nature of using bamboo, the clothing is a lot more sustainable. But considering how detrimental clothing production is on the planet, the more a brand can do, the better.

(On that note: if you are into thrifting or avoiding buying products with new materials, I’ve found a few Free Fly Apparel items on used clothing retailer Poshmark. But you can’t make exchanges or returns, so make sure the size is correct before you buy anything.)

One other thing worth nothing: While I don’t consider it a downside, most of Free Fly Apparel’s best travel clothing is lightweight and thin, which means treating it with a little extra care will extend its lifespan. You can throw everything in the laundry if you want, but washing it on a gentle cycling and hanging it to dry, rather than using a dryer, will make the fabric and its SPF protection last a lot longer.

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