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Should You Travel With Jeans? Here’s Why I Changed My Mind

I've never recommended traveling with jeans—they're too bulky and too heavy. But that changes today.
Should You Travel With Jeans? Here’s Why I Changed My Mind

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Lee Extreme Motion

I have always been extremely wary of recommending packing jeans when you travel (even though, let’s face it, that’s what half the world’s travelers do these days).

Yes, jeans are incredibly versatile, they look good after you’ve sat in them all day, they’re durable, and…hey, why am I telling you this? I bet you’re wearing a pair right now.

Nevertheless, I’ve always made a point of always recommending other options—almost any other option—for entirely practical reasons.

But that changes today.

The Dilemma of Practicality

When I travel, I prefer to travel carry-on only, usually no more than two bags at a time.

This makes the act of travel itself far more enjoyable, and it also makes packing, well, not quite so much fun.

Packing bags for carry-on travel forces you to be brutal about all your choices. Do I really need this, or can I just buy one for a few bucks when I arrive at my destination? Am I really going to use this thing while I’m there (c’mon, really)?

You take two or three passes through your possessions, each time more ruthless than the last. The biggest question hanging in your mind as you do it: can the usefulness of this item justify the hassle of carrying it for the next few weeks? Months? Years, potentially?

Jeans look good, but they’re heavy. Denim typically weighs twice as much as other types of travel pants, whereas modern hi-tech, non-denim fabrics weigh a lot less and perform better in most environmental conditions.

Traveling with non-jean, jeans.

That fact alone has been enough to keep jeans out of my carry-on luggage for years.

They’re also pretty bulky and don’t compress down easily, even with the help of compression sacs or packing cubes. That’s another big no-no against them.

But perhaps the biggest issue is that normal jeans just don’t bend the same way your body does.

If you’re flexing your legs in some way, you’ll quickly reach the limits of what the material can let you do. Denim is like canvas—there’s no give in it, so it never stretches. That’s a real problem if you want to open your legs really wide for some reason.

(Don’t look at me like that – I mean climbing, and so on).

So, normal jeans always seem like a poor fit for carry-on packing. Heck, even if you are checking a bag, normal jeans are likely to take a good chunk of available space.

The fact is, jeans don’t even make the first pass when I’m packing for a long trip. Too bulky, too restrictive, and way too much hassle when weight and space are so important in your luggage. That was my advice until today.

And then Lee decided to reinvent classic denim.

Lee Extreme Motion jeans
Hiking in Lee Extreme Motion jeans.

“Extreme Motion” Jeans You Can Travel With

Something magical seems to have happened in the research & development wing of Lee Apparel. These pants look like jeans, but they don’t act like them.

The clue is on the label. Extreme Motion Jeans aren’t using what we all know as denim (although you’d never know from looking at it). Instead, it’s a mixture of cotton, polyester, and Spandex. This means they’re stretchy—in ways you’ve never seen in denim—while looking absolutely identical to it.

NOTE: I am, in fact, wearing the Extreme Motion jeans in the photos you see. I own the “Cougar” color, which either says something about my fashion choices, my travel style, my taste in women, or all of the above. They also come in colors Black, Radical, Maverick, and more.

A little stretch also means more ability to compress, and you’ll notice the difference when you’re packing. Most styles weigh in at about 10 oz or less.

The inspiration for this whole line is elite sports. They’re designed for you to be able to move your body as much as you want because these pants follow its motions without getting in the way. There’s no pinching or squeezing when you overextend. They’re always a snug—but not too snug—fit.

These are jeans you can experiment with, to find out all the things you could do while wearing them.

Challenge accepted, Lee.

READ NEXT: The Quintessential Guide to the Best Travel Gear

Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster
Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.

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One Response

  1. I’ve always worn jeans. Mainly because I like to get out on a trail and they can handle the brush and stuff fine. But not the usual ones. I’ve used jeans with elasticated sides that give when I have to climb over a style or up over stone, tree trunks etc. The ones I chose were a bit roomy, so they didn’t restrict my knees etc. A lot of stuff in the UK is either counterfeit or so thin and tight they’re a waste of time. Which is why I’ve used the Lands End ones, with suspenders, and glad of them.

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