The term “travel jeans” might feel like an oxymoron. Traditional denim is stiff, adds considerable weight to your bag, and doesn’t pack well. However, our list of the best travel jeans for 2023 turns these old-school notions upside-down.
With eight stretchy, lightweight, and well-fitting jeans at your fingertips, you can now wave goodbye to old-fashioned denim that restricts your movement, doesn’t breathe well, and bulks up your travel backpack.
The denim on this list was made for airports, train stations, sightseeing around the city, and everywhere in between. These jeans are versatile and durable and — when you combine those virtues with next-level materials — you may find yourself traveling with a single pair of pants and never looking back.
With trusted brands like Mott & Bow, prAna, and Lee on the list, that minimalist travel fantasy is now within reach. And to assist you during your buying journey, I’ve tested several pairs of the best travel jeans on the market to share my feedback with the world.
Best for Men
Mott & Bow Slim Mercer
Materials: 98% cotton, 2% elastane
Pros: Extremely comfortable, very nice fit, ample stretch, come in a variety of colors
Cons: A little pricey for some
I’m proudly wearing the Mott & Bow Slim Mercer jeans as I write this article, and it’s no coincidence. They’re the best jeans I’ve ever owned, thanks to their top-notch comfort, versatility, and style. I can wear them comfortably on an airplane, at a coffee shop, on a day hike, or to a fancy dinner.
With the perfect amount of stretch to provide complete freedom of movement, but not so much that it looks like I’m wearing a pair of sweatpants, I look stylish and feel good no matter the situation. These fit me perfectly – not too tight, not too baggy.
Whether worn on a quick jaunt to 7-11 on a cold February day in Tokyo or during a long walk around the botanical gardens in sunny Kraków, these are my ride-or-die travel jeans. If you’ve got the money to spend, pull the trigger. They’re worth every penny.
READER DISCOUNT: For 10% off your first purchase, click the button below and use the coupon code ‘thepackablelife‘ at checkout!
Best for Women
Mott & Bow Slim/Mom Boyfriend Ridge
Materials: 94% cotton, 5% polyester, 1% elastane
Pros: Available in mom-style or low-cut, stretchy and durable, can be dressed up or down
Cons: Could be pricey for some, only come in three colors
Like the Slim Mercer, Mott & Bow offers a similar pair for women called the Boyfriend Ridge; they deliver enough stretch to stay comfortable all day while traveling. I’ve never worn these before, but my friend, Ana, has, and she has nothing but good things to say about them.
Unlike other boyfriend-style jeans on the market, Mott & Bow’s pair forgo the characteristic bagginess of many other jeans in the category. Ana says they’ll fit well and stretch perfectly with your movements as you scramble from Point A to Point B.
So if Point A is an art exhibit and Point B is a street food stall, you’ll look and feel great at those destinations and everywhere in between. Ana loves the adaptability the Boyfriend Ridge provides, which allows her to leave extra pants behind and focus on the journey ahead.
READER DISCOUNT: For 10% off your first purchase, click the button below and use the coupon code ‘thepackablelife‘ at checkout!
Aviator Best Travel Jeans
Materials: 100% cotton
Pros: Selvedge often means better quality and durability, super stylish and well-fitting
Cons: Expensive, no built-in stretch, inseam is standard at 34” so you’ll need a local tailor if that’s too long
If you’re a denim snob, you know about selvage produced on old-school shuttle looms in artisanal Japanese mills. But, if you’re new to the material, just know this process produces a clean internal edge that looks great when cuffed.
As for this pair, they’re just about as stylish, well-made, and durable as you’ll find on the market. And because Aviator built them for travel, you’ll find secure zippered pockets that provide peace of mind on crowded metros and bustling city streets.
In short, Aviator’s Best Travel Jeans could be the only pair of pants you rock on your next trip. And with limited quantities, you may never see this brand on another traveler. Check out Nudie’s Hightop Tilde Everyday Blue for a similar women’s option.
Materials: 85% cotton, 13% polyester, 2% elastane
Pros: Widely worn, users report a good fit, well-reviewed, solid all-around denim
Cons: Long-term durability is a concern, not going to turn heads
Though I don’t wear them much anymore, I’m pretty fond of my Lee Extreme Motion jeans. After owning a black pair for the past three-ish years, I bask in their comfort, which only seems to improve after each wear.
Part of the reason I love them is because they almost feel like sweatpants. They feature all the stretch and freedom of movement you get from sweats without any of the shame of seeing an ex at the grocery store in your pajamas.
And depending on where you buy groceries, you may find this pair hanging on a rack. After all, this is tried-and-true Lee denim found just about everywhere. But beware: If you want to stand out with style, look elsewhere. For travelers on a budget, however, they’re perfect.
Materials: 79% organic cotton, 19% polyester, 2% elastane
Pros: Stretchy, lightweight, packable, fairly priced, great for active travelers
Cons: Some complaints about durability, dress down better than they dress up
Years spent in the hiking, travel, and outdoors industries left me keenly aware of prAna. But one thing I didn’t know was that they made denim pants. I thought prAna mainly stuck to yoga and hiking pants made from technical fabrics, but I was wrong.
Upon further inspection, prAna’s denim seems solid and aligns with their athletic clothing line. With a blend of synthetic and organic materials, the Bridgers breathe well, are durable, and stretch considerably.
Plus, they feature approximately the same range of motion as some of their more popular pants (like the Brion and the Stretch Zion), but with the slim fit and classic style of denim. You’ll find the Bridgers equally at home on the trail as they are on a crowded city sidewalk.
Materials: 68% cotton, 30% polyester, 2% spandex
Pros: Durable midweight denim, good stretch, stay warm in chillier climates, made in the USA
Cons: Expensive, bulky; will take up a lot of space in your bag
There’s no article of clothing more associated with the USA than the iconic blue jeans. But something happened along that way that has denim fanatics looking to Japan for their next pair of blue-hued trousers.
Forget that. American Giant makes durable, no-nonsense jeans in the United States — El Paso, Texas — with fabric woven in Trion, Georgia. If you need more reasons to pick up a pair, know that I’ve happily worn American Giant’s cozy sweatpants and sweatshirts for nearly half of my years on this planet.
They’re of the highest quality, so I can’t wait to get a pair of Dakota jeans to compare against their sweats. I imagine they’re rugged enough to fit my lifestyle and will probably fit yours too, whether you’re a high-intensity traveler, camper, van lifer, or aspiring full-time adventurer.
Materials: 70% organic cotton, 28% COOLMAX, 2% lycra spandex
Pros: Incredibly stretchy and breathable, COOLMAX polyester wicks moisture away from the body, anti-microbial, can wear for days and days between washes
Cons: As with most jeans on this list, the price might be hard to swallow for some
While I already own an excellent pair of Mott & Bow travel jeans, I can’t resist a good pair of tech pants. These DUERs appear to be the closest thing I can get to tech pants that still incorporates a high percentage of cotton, and they’ve piqued my interest.
Cotton is important because it helps pants breathe. And when combined with COOLMAX polyester and spandex, you end up with a highly stretchy pair of well-fitting pants that wick moisture to help you remain comfortable even in hot and humid climates.
But staying cool when it’s hot isn’t their only benefit. These pants perform well for hiking, cycling, city slicking, and more. It’s clear that DUER provides one of the more popular performance jeans on the market today: They look like jeans but perform like tech pants, a win-win for travelers.
Best Non-Denim “Jeans”
Outlier Bomb Dungarees
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% elastane
Pros: Incredibly durable and well-made, cutting-edge fabrics, DWR treatment for longer wear times, hand-made in NYC
Cons: The most expensive pants on this list!
All the trousers we’ve highlighted so far generally fit the mold of what you’d expect jeans to be made of — mainly cotton. But not the Outlier Bomb Dungarees.
Billed as “the 21st-century jean,” these pants are lighter yet stronger than denim thanks to a material called Bombtwill. Bombtwill, the burly cousin to Strongtwill, gets its strength from strategically woven nylon. I own a pair of Outlier’s Bomb Dungarees, which are durable enough for my needs (and then some).
Synthetic snobs have come to expect this type of durable yet lightweight wonder material from Outlier. They’re a fabric-obsessed clothing manufacturer that makes their products in NYC. For a comparable women’s alternative, check out Lululemon’s City Sleek Slim, which also features high-end nylon construction.
Examining a few key factors ensures you score a quality pair of travel jeans worthy of packing.
After all, it’s a pain when a rip or tear forces you to buy a new pair of paints mid-trip. But you shouldn’t concern yourself with durability alone. Take into account the following aspects of travel denim before you decide to pull the trigger.
When you factor in long flights, extended periods of walking or standing, and crowded spaces, the last thing you’ll want plaguing you are binding, uncomfortable pants.
To avoid that fate, look for jeans that allow complete freedom of movement. Fabrics that utilize some stretch, such as cotton blended with spandex, help you stay comfortable from the plane to the bus to the plaza.
Depending on your fashion sense, body shape, and preferences, you’ll favor a different fit over another.
So look for terms like regular, athletic, straight leg, and more to help you grasp how a specific pair of jeans fits your body. For example, if you’ve got thick thighs, consider a regular straight cut to keep your pants from binding.
Also, account for the type of travel footwear you stroll around in; if you slide your feet into boots, you may want a bootcut over a tapered leg.
Materials make the pants. But certain materials make for better travel jeans than others. Remain mindful of the types of fabrics blended to better assess how your pants will perform in the real world.
For example, cotton allows for excellent breathability but doesn’t dry quickly. Polyester wicks moisture from the body but doesn’t breathe well. And spandex makes fabrics stretch, but it holds water.
With the right blend of materials, you’ll stay comfortable no matter where the road takes you.
If you like to stay active while on a trip but don’t want to bring multiple pairs of pants, consider the stretchiness of the travel jeans while you shop.
When you’ve got a fair amount of stretch, your travel jeans can function as hiking, cycling, and active pants meant for more than just covering your butt.
Plus, a stretchy waistband is a godsend on a long-haul flight.
Depending on the climate you find yourself in, the breathability of your pants can make or break your trip. Think of breathability like this; it measures how well air circulates through your pants, to your body, and back to the outside world.
So, when it’s hot and humid, you’ll want pants that breathe well to help minimize sweat and moisture build-up and keep you cool.
Traveling is hard on clothing. And when you’ve got limited space in your bag, pants that can stand up to multiple uses, washes, and frequent packing are a must.
If you have any doubts about the toughness of your pants, consider a more robust set, or risk a ripped behind that’ll surely cause you unbearable embarrassment.
For many, the most critical consideration of any travel purchase is cost. But know this; if you choose to save a few bucks but then have to replace your pants mid-trip, you’re not doing yourself a favor.
So, think about your travel jeans purchase as an investment. If you can get a few years or more of use out of a single pair of pants at the higher end of your budget, you’ll likely save money in the long run.
As we reflect, our search for the best travel jeans for men and women of 2023 yielded a discovery of stylish, comfortable, and packable options.
Say goodbye to the rigid, heavy denim of the past and embrace the freedom of stretchy, breathable jeans that fit just right. With top brands like Mott & Bow, Aviator, Lee, and Outlier, our list all but guarantees that you find the ideal pair for your next journey.
So, before taking off on your next adventure, equip yourself with one of the best pairs of travel jeans for men or women in 2023, and you’ll be well on your way to a comfortable, stylish, and worry-free journey.
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Last Updated on July 26, 2023