Where fashion meets function, you’ll find a pashmina. Or something akin to a pashmina. When it’s not adding a splash of colour to a limited wardrobe, it’s performing one of its many other uses. It’s a lightweight champion, ounce for ounce one of the best travel accessories on the planet. For your next trip, pack a pashmina.
Now if you’re a guy and thinking a pashmina is something that appeals exclusively to women travellers, maybe a shemagh or keffiyeh is more your style. Picture a piece of fabric in a colour and design that’s right for you. If you’d like to avoid colours associated with the military or the traditional red and black patterns prevalent in the Middle East, there’s a vast array of colours available.
Why is it such a mainstay of the packing light traveller’s toolkit?
This versatile piece of cloth has been described as the Swiss Army knife of travel gear. It crosses the boundaries of tropical and temperate climates, being just as functional in hot weather as it is in cold. It can be used as a scarf, towel, blanket, tablecloth, privacy curtain, changing room screen, signal flag, makeshift bag, cushion, pillow, pillow case, eye mask, skirt, bathrobe, swimsuit cover-up or for protection from the sun or dust storms. A pashmina provides warmth. It’s perfect for the fluctuating temperatures during a flight, or as a shawl in air-conditioned buildings or buses. Reach for it during cool evenings outdoors. It can serve as a head cover when visiting religious sites, or covering bare shoulders in countries where it’s culturally appropriate to do so. After injuring my shoulder in Jordan, it became a perfect sling. I’ve also used it to wrap delicate souvenirs.
It’s such a universal item, pashminas and their ubiquitous cousins are available around the globe. If you’d rather not pack a pashmina, pick one up during your travels. It’s a great excuse to explore street markets and interact with local merchants and shoppers. In fact, they’re so packable, and so cheap in many countries, they make a perfect memento or gift.
Looking for inspiration on how to wear a pashmina?
Or, perhaps you’re looking for tips on how to tie a keffiyeh.
Of all the multi-purpose gear on my packing list, the pashmina is hands down the most versatile and most used.
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