My backpack: Stocking up for roughing it

Belize Cargo Pants | This I Wear

In a few short weeks, I’m headed to India for three months. It will be my first time in the country, so I’ve been asking my friends who are local or who’ve traveled to India what I should bring, especially in regards to clothing. Their advice: pants, long(er) skirts, and tops with sleeves, all of which should be comfortable when sweaty and dirty yet still culturally appropriate.

And herein lies the dilemma. The clothes I bring are going to get roughed up – dirt, hardcore bug spray, sweat, aggressive laundering, etc. – and with such little packing capacity, I’ve considered that I may want to leave them there and fill up my backpack with souvenirs for my return journey instead. I did this in 2007 when I worked on a field research project in the wetlands of Belize. I spent less than $100 at a few chain stores and had to dispose of most of the clothes upon my return as the high percentage DEET literally began to degrade the fabric. One of the few things to survive was a pair of green Old Navy cargos. They are one of the most disgusting things I own yet continue to wear. I’d be embarrassed about this, except that when I wear these pants, I remember that summer that I wielded a machete, climbed Mayan temples, and got a fantastically ill, delaying my departure home. But I survived, and I learned so much about myself in those three weeks. Wearing those pants brings back the incredible confidence that comes with proving yourself wrong. I love those pants.

Because of all of these worries about if what I bring will survive, I’m leaving my favorite pieces safe at home in the States and getting back in the shopping game after a few lovely months of little to no consumption.

But is it ok to buy clothing, and in this case cheap clothing, with the intention of getting rid of it soon after purchase? What is the alternative in this situation?

Here’s what I’ve bought so far:
– Cotton capris from Old Navy (less than $10)
– Two knee-length cotton skirts (less than $10 each)
– Two knit skirts (less than $30 each)

I’m also bringing:
– Ankle-length Forever 21 dress
– Leggings which I’ll pair with locally-bought tunics
– Various t-shirts and long-sleeve tops
– Rain poncho
– Large pashmina for covering up and using as a travel blanket

Over the next few months, I will share what does end up in my backpack, what happens to it along the way, and what comes home with me. I don’t know what to expect quite yet, but this should be an interesting experiment.

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share what you think: Have you ever bought something knowing it would be ruined and you would dispose of it shortly thereafter?

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