travel wardrobe: second round draft picks

Image via Pinterest
Hong Kong tram. Image via Pinterest

Thanks so much for all of your feedback on my proposed travel wardrobe for Hong Kong and Vietnam! I’d truly hoped to compile this travel wardrobe without any new purchases, but I think the demands of the climate (heat and extreme humidity) may require some special “equipment” not found in my current wardrobe. From the standpoint of selection it’s absolutely the wrong time to be searching for summer-weight clothing, but from a discount standpoint, if you can find something that works, chances are it’s on mega-sale.

Based on (overwhelming) majority opinion, I’m going to ditch the boyfriend jeans and replace with something lighter. The one pair of linen pants that graced my closet was six years and twenty pounds ago, and has been long since donated. Luckily, a quick search turned up a lot of options, most of which are on sale including some in darker colors. I’ve ordered a pair in a straight leg style in navy, which should go nicely from day to evening.

Eileen Fisher straight leg linen pants

The two skirts currently in my wardrobe are both just-above-the-knee pencil skirts, which are great for evenings but not the best for daytime walking/sightseeing. Both of these from Eileen Fisher have possibilities..

Asymmetrical skirt, Silk skirt
Asymmetrical skirt, Silk skirt (imagine if you can with different shoes…)

I’ll report back after I’ve tried them. I’ve looked at “skorts” online but haven’t seen any that are long enough for my comfort zone. And here’s another question for you…are bare legs with skirts considered acceptable in Hong Kong? I can’t imagine wearing tights during the day in heat and humidity.

The good news is that I’ve been acquiring knit linen tees for a couple of years now, and they currently are available at every price point. This one from Madewell seems to have been designed with tropical conditions in mind: it’s very light and drapes nicely.

Madewell linen tee
Linen swingline tee, available in multiple colors

Last year I purchased this simple white linen tee from Eileen Fisher, and a few weeks ago picked up the striped linen tee from J.Crew (mine’s grey/black). Between these and my silk jersey tanks and tees, I think I’m in good shape for tops.

The shoes are a conundrum. Most of my walking shoes are either boots or sandals. Boots will be too warm, and many of you have advised against sandals. My Taos sneakers are a great in-between option, but I feel as though including a second pair of walking shoes in case those get wet is prudent. I’ve been eyeing these slip-on sneakers from Vince for some months now, and am going to try them out.

Vince "Blair 5"
Vince “Blair 5”

I’m hoping the perforated leather will translate to a cooler shoe in the heat. Again, will report back. I will still need some dressier shoes for some evenings (which should not require lots of walking) and am not sure what to include if not the low heels. Some of the planned activities on our Halong Bay cruise (like kayaking) will require sandals that can stand a dunking, so will probably just take my Havianas.

Again, I very much appreciate all of the great feedback and suggestions!

And a general housekeeping note: we’ve had some big projects at work lately that are sucking up a great deal of time and my mental energy, so I haven’t been able to visit your blogs as much as I’d like. We’re nearing the end of the project, and I’m hoping to do some catching up over the weekend or soon thereafter.

You can see what I ultimately packed for the trip here, and read my Travel Wardrobe Recap here.

Do you have any other tips for putting together an “out of season” travel wardrobe?
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  1. Susan, Just a tip here. I am also a dedicated Eileen Fisher. I notice you have selected the navy linen/viscose mix pants. I have both pants & skirt in this fabric. I was advised to take the smallest size i could fit into and how correct this advise was! The fabric just “grows & grows. I have already had the pants taken in twice and possibly cannot do so anymore thus am unable to wear them anymore. please bear this in mind and also order a least one size down form your usual size.

    Hope you will enjoy Hong Kong & Vietnam as much as I did!


  2. I lucked into an EF knit linen top which I like, but man does it wrinkle. That’s why I always scratch my head when people choose linen for travel. I don’t/won’t/can’t always spend time ironing. I do like silk for travel (although not knitted since it wrinkles), and note that you have picked some silk items. I find them nearly weightless so you can pack more, they can be washed in the sink and dry quickly, and they are comfortable.

    My key travel tip is to wear shoes with trouser socks for the airport–I do NOT like going through security barefoot and wondering what I might pick up! I’d also suggest a scarf/shawl type thing. Good for a pillow or blanket on the plane, good as a wrap if you go into cold buildings or need a little extra on a windy boat.

    1. I never iron it, it but dry it ‘hand smoothed’ on a hanger or on one of those extendable clotheslines. Come to think, I treat it just like silk, but it is cooler in very high humidity.

        1. I don’t understand people wanting to smooth their linen at all – in my opinion it looks best when it is wrinkled. Try a different mindset when you are wearing linen.

    2. In response to a recent post, one read indicated that woven linen wrinkles far less than knit linen. If linen wrinkles bother you, try looking for woven rather than knit linen garments.

  3. Very nice selections! I adore my linen trousers (wearing them today) and I saw some great choices in your round-up. I have the same issue with walking shoes for our Spring NYC trip, and still haven’t found a great solution. Let us know about your leather walkers, pls. xox

  4. I don’t think there will ever be a perfect shoe for hot climates. I have lived in the tropics and subtropics for decades and I wouldn’t be too quick to write off sandals. Sure sandals might get dirty, but they can be rinsed clean. (Both the feet and the footwear!) Ecco do some surprisingly glamorous ones and i see that Nordstroms are still selling some.

    1. I recently traveled to NYC for a week of pretty warm, but rarely humid weather and LOTS of walking — and was thrilled with the comfort of my Birkenstocks – the Gizeh style — super comfortable and no tired feet. Looked fine with pants, shorts and even the right casual skirt.

      1. I have the “Kairo” Birkenstocks – they are the same as @Lisa’s Gizeh with the addition of a heel strap. I have walked all over everywhere in them, in fact I have them in 3 colors. They come in smooth leather or patent and the patent in either black or white are surprisingly smart – with a linen trouser and loose silk blouse they could go nearly anywhere.

  5. I have a pair of J-41 shoes that are basically a sole with a toe cap, a mesh upper and straps criss-crossed to hold them on. Check out outdoor “gear” shops for these sorts of shoes–Teva makes them, too.
    Travelsmith is an excellent source for lightweight, cool travel clothes, too.

  6. I know you don’t have a sporty lifestyle, but some of those travel pants with sun protection in synthetic miracle fabrics might be good for Vietnam. Also, Angie at YLF featured a ruched black knit Vince skirt that was well reviewed.

  7. Converse, keds or slip on canvas shoes will all be fine in HK (Birks too). They are both practical and modern. Carry a pair of flats (your burgundy pointy?) or sandals to swap into should you be popping into a place you feel requires dressier footwear (The Peninsular for tea?). For dining out you really only need one of those skirts shown, plus a fitted t and accessories and you’ll be fine. A pair of dressy sandals should take you to lunch and dinner both.
    Pack less than you think you need, there is plenty of shopping in HK!
    Don’t over think this, you’ll be fine. 🙂

  8. I don’t know if you like wearing skirts but I think they are so versitile. I took a trip this summer to London and what I brought to wear for daytime running around were two skirts. I wish I had a photo to show you but I’ll describe them. One was a pencil, cotton (with a little stretch) Akris punto skirt, black with white pinstripe. Both fell right to the knee. The other was a white “balloon” skirt by Pauw Amsterdam. Balloon doesn’t mean it stuck out in any way just the cut was different, on the edgy side. I bought both skirts at Saks. I had lots of tops that would go with both skirts so I could mix them up. The skirts looked great with all types of shoes even my Converse leather tennis shoes. I felt so much more pulled together than if I would have worn jeans or pants. Well just my recommendation.

  9. Two years ago, I had to buy clothing for a trip to the Galapagos in January, definitely not the best time to buy summer clothing in Minnesota. I found two online options that suited the bill: Sahalie, and Sierra Trading Company. The latter sells much if not all of their stuff at discounted prices. For that trip, which involved getting in and out of Zodiacs, sometimes wading ashore and then hiking, we were strongly advised to take Tevas, which I bought online. They are the ugliest footwear I have ever owned (slim choices in January), but they are definitely the most comfortable, with amazing arch support, and they are made to get wet. I wear them way more often than I ever expected. Excellent arch support. The Jambus referenced by someone else are in my wardrobe too, and while they are much cuter, the footbed is flat, and there is no room for an orthotic. Someone earlier mentioned Geoxx which has the little vent holes…those would be worth considering.
    Sahalie sells lots of skirts, but they generally tend to be short. I have recently discovered, at Macy’s in the ingerie dept., that you can buy something like the shorts part of the skirt, separately. They come in a lot of colors, and are made for those who wear shorter skirts, and for athletes who are trying to avoid chafing. Athleta is also a good place to shop for clothing that crosses over to travel wear.
    And BTW:, I like the asymetrical EF skirt MUCH better.

  10. I live in Dallas where it is hot and humid much of the year. NO ONE here wears stockings with skirts or dresses. I mean no one but the women my mother’s age (91) and some of them don’t wear them either. Not even my husband’s female law parters wear stockings to work with their skirt suits.

    As for closed toe walking shoes, take a look at Naot. I have two pairs and love them. They go with me everywhere. My other walking shoes are the Mephisto fisherman sandal–a sandal yes, but with coverage.

  11. It’s still summer here in Spain so today I am wearing a pair of wide-legged linen trousers. Yes they crease, but not too badly, and they are the best option for dealing with the heat. For walking during the summer months I often wear a pair of Mary Jane style walking shoes that I bought at Decathlon. It may be worth looking at local sports shops to see if they do something similar.

    Looking forward to reading more about your trip! Hope that you have a wonderful time.

  12. As above, I was going to suggest Tevas for kayaking. Many of their sandals are comfy for walking also. The Haviainas are going to slide right off your feet in a kayak–and may end up floating away.

    (Plus the baby wipes I mentioned in a previous comment for wiping off your sweaty/dusty feet),

    I took one of the long foldover waistband E Fisher skirts to Europe last summer and wore it almost every day. What a surprise. I seldom wear skits irl. The long skirt was great for general walking about and could be rolled shorter for hiking. Wore leggings under it when it got cool. Etc.

    My husband took some quickdry nylon ex offico pants and similar polo. These were great. You and your dh might want to consider clothing of this type of fabric for the more rustic /sporty part of your trip.

  13. I agree with others about some sport sandals like Teva for walking, kayaking etc. Havianas won’t really work. Love the asymmetrical skirt.

    1. Hearty agreement here. Try the Zirra Teva: all the practicality with a streamlined minimalist profile that will work with pants or a skirt.

  14. I bought a pair of Tory Burch slip-on sneakers this year and wore them on vacation in May. I loved, loved, loved these shoes. I walked every day, all day for 8 days in these shoes with no discomfort. You are right that the perforated leather is cooler. They also did well in the rain.

    1. Nancy, I hadn’t purchased anything from Babette in some time because they closed their Santa Monica store. I just checked your link and was delighted to find they’re now selling online (they didn’t a few years back). So may have to explore those options! I had a pair of Babette palazzo pants that were indispensable in hot Italy, and would still have them if it hadn’t been for an unfortunate incident in a nail salon that involved a flying, open bottle of something red. 🙁 Note: nail polish cannot be removed from polyester.

  15. HK resident here, and I always go out with bare legs when I wear skirts and dresses. On a practical note though, I sometimes slip on some knee-length leggings if I’m wearing a short or full skirt so I don’t flash people when climbing steps on public transport. Buses and trams and the ferry have stairs to get to the top deck. Leggings under skirts and shorts is a very popular look with the young women of HK. As for shoes, bring shoes you are comfortable standing in for long periods of time, as you will probably be doing a lot of queuing up in HK. The last time I took the Peak Tram, for instance (the top photo) I queued up for 2 hours. Also, a lot of popular restaurants have stopped taking bookings, so you’ll queue up again, sometimes for over an hour. I really don’t like this no-booking policy, but it seems to be the trend now, especially for popular places at lunch time.

  16. Just a quick, perhaps contrarian note of encouragement to the women of all ages who still like the finished, polished look and feel of hose in warm climates– it’s fine if that’s what you like!

    In fashion, it’s very hard to go against the grain, especially when the industry decides something is “dated” or “not comfortable”. In my twenties I wore very sheer hose year-round while working in New Orleans, capital of heat and humidity. I could have cared less that some people thought it was stuffy or outmoded. Rarely found it uncomfortable, especially given that everything is militantly air-conditioned there! I also was outside a lot, as I walked everywhere. My colleagues, male and female, who wore full length pants and lightweight trousers, also looked professional and felt great.

    I love that fact that Kate Middleton in her own quiet way, holds up the standard for women who make this style choice. We’re vastly outnumbered, but unbowed…

  17. I have to chime in on wearing hose. I like to wear hose because I think it looks nicer. I have searched high and low for the right hose, that will enhance my legs, as opposed to looking “dated”. I buy hose that are 5 or 7 denier in weight. I buy buy my hose when I am in Europe because 5 or 7 denier hose are readily available and not very expensive. Women are amazed when I tell them I am wearing hose because the hose look so natural. Of course I do not wear hose all the time, only when I want to look my best. I have to say I see plenty of women that would look a lot better if they had hose on as opposed to going bare legged.

    1. You might want to check out Tilley travel basics online.

      Good idea to pack a small bottle of cornstarch baby powder.
      You can sprinkle some in your shoes (if worn barefoot) to prevent friction.
      It also prevents chafing in the heat – use between thighs and underarms. Bon voyage.

      1. I second Anna’s coments about baby cornstarch. I’m presently in Paris (arrived for a month on September 1st, lucky me) where it has been unbelievably gorgeous weather (virtually no rain except a couple of lttle sprinkles), BUT very hot & incredibly humid. I’ve never ‘glowed’ so much in my life. Regarding shoes; I have two pairs of leather flats that have made walking long distances a breeze. The first is a pair of Earthies (sold at Nordstrom’s among others – I bought mine at a shoe store in Carmel while there on vacation last year), the ‘Bindi’ in the Fern (a soft teal nubuck) colour. Another pair are from Eddie Bauer (purchased online from Canada where I live in BC) the Earth Bellwether slip-on in Pewter (a lovely charcoal nubuck with a subtle pewter gleam). They are both supremely comfortable & elegant in a simple way (I prefer their more rounded toe style, finding it more comfortable) & good with both dresses & pants/jeans. Enjoy Hong Kong.

  18. After reading all the suggested changes I checked out nordstrom eileen fisher sales & found linen pants that resembled jeans and several linen blouses…but are they your size. Many other designers (Lafayette 148 also @ nordstrom and online) offering great prices in linens & summer stock this time of year. Maybe you can find time this weekend to check out stocks. Many have free shipping. Best of luck and can’t wait ti see your travel pics. Just love your blog. xxxooo

    1. Agree; also if you’re going rafting or any activity other than lounging poolside, do not wear flip flops. They are uncomfortable for moving around and can fall off your feet too easily. I travel to locales like yours with a pair of Teva water sandals like these.

      They stay on your feet and can also do duty for mucky rainy streets. It’s not my experience that you need a closed shoe all the time.

  19. I traveled to hot n’ *humid Asia a lot in my former life and found Travel Smith’s offerings to be a life saver. Many of them wick moisture and will dry fairly quickly if you need to wash them. And I was able to wear them at home as well. You may find sale prices right now, too.

  20. PS: Silk underwear & a breathable fabric bra are essential in the heat. French cut silk underwear are on sale in “clearance” at

    1. Linen comes in many weights; the lighter linens (“handkerchief”) are cool. I spent several months in India wearing only lightweight linen, definitely the coolest fabric- and occasionally a cotton sarong. Silk that is thin enough to be cool can be more revealing than you might like.

    2. Briar, are you thinking of heavy linen? Because lightweight linen is the coolest fabric, it breathes better than cotton. That is because the fibers are longer, I read somewhere. I never wear slik in hot weather, it feels too warm.

  21. Go to the Campmor site and look for ExOfficio quick drying womens undergarments – perfect for hot weather – and also look at the water sandals. I like the Chacos – great support and they will stay on your foot in the water.

  22. Fun reading all the comments. I live in a warm, humid climate, currently 84 degrees with 74% humidity. I’m wearing a pair of light weight wool trousers from JCrew, a scoop-necked linen t from Loft, and a pair of sandals. Seems like regardless of what I wear on the bottom, if my top is light and breezy and my feet aren’t totally covered (sandals and ballerinas vs. closed lace up shoes), I’m comfortable. Susan from Texas said “no” to panty hose and I agree (but to each her own). We wear black tights and booties in the winter with dresses and skirts. Also I don’t iron my linen t shirts, just wash and hang up to dry. For linen shirts, I just iron the collar, placket, cuffs, and pocket flaps if there are any, otherwise, I let the body of the shirt go un-ironed. Looks more relaxed to me. I know you will have lots of helpful advice when you get back. As one of the other women noted, you can always go shopping while you’re there if you have to!

    1. I am going to guess you are acclimated to that heat and humidity, which considerably changes what you can wear in comfort. When I was in So. India the locals wore longsleeved shirts and black jeans in 110F with 100% humidity; we visitors were suffering in our lightest clothes. I don’t iron my linen, just smooth it with my hands and hang.

  23. I’m Susan from Texas and I want to go on the record as saying that I think sheer pantyhose enhance the beauty of one’s legs–but, that being said, no one in my area (which is a big and somewhat fashionable city )as worn panty house in well over a decade. It just isn’t done. For that reason, I would not hesitate to go bare legged. I am no fashionista, but remain amazed at the different trends in various parts of the United States. Perhaps the reluctance to eschew stockings is a reluctance to exhibit imperfect skins on our legs. I’m not into hiding imperfections. I would go sans stockings if I could, but I am one of those unfortunate ones with a medical condition called lymphedema who has to wear heavy duty compression stockings. I can’t tell you how many times a well meaning sales associate has said to me in a dressing room, “Of course you won’t wear those stockings with this dress (or skirt).”

  24. Susan, I so feel for you with those well meaning, but less than faultlessly tactful sales associates. I also admire that you are not into hiding imperfections, although I am of a different view on that.

    I like to “support” the hose-leaning contingents because: it has become such an oppressively (in my mind) widespread edict that all women go hose-less. Gosh, it’s almost like a conspiracy! Years ago, fashion editors (I guess) decided that hose was icky, and that was that. Women fell in line.

    I agree with mvecchiolla that wearing the right hose simply does “look nicer”. Few women, after a certain age (and even plenty of young ones) have legs that wouldn’t benefit from a bit of enhancement. Although women of color are often the lucky exceptions. Personally, I can’t bear the idea of constantly messing about dyieng and coloring my eerily transparent, almost ghostly legs– life is too short!

    For those who hate the idea of hose– fine with me, and go for it! But it would be nice if the fashion industry and its various mavens would extend a little tolerance the other way…

    Thank goodness they’ve (mostly) kept their claws off of tights– they’re my real passion. Bring on cool weather!

    1. I TOTALLY agree with you and am firmly in the camp of doing what you really want to do for yourself. I happen to have pretty good legs and would love to show them off (but have to wear the medical stockings). I applaud women wearing sheer stockings that make them look great. I really do—even though I am not hung up on leg color or anything else when it comes to clothing. I do detest fashion edicts–as anyone who knows me knows. That being said, my husband is just back from a week in NYC and observed that no women were wearing stockings. Hooray for Catherine in the UK who is wearing them. I truly applaud her for doing what she wants to do. (By the way, I had well meaning friends who told me that I could never again wear dresses or skirts because of my compression stockings. What to make a bet? I wear dresses all the time. My medical stockings can also be seen as an imperfection, but I am to buy that either. ) My point is that women should not hesitate to go stockingless–as it is ok by most standards.

  25. i’ve lived in HK and you can and will wear shorts into October, so bring a pair of shorts or capris (at least). please rethink leather shoes as they are sweaty. lightweight linen is great. no one cares if you’re a bit wrinkled and you can refresh/iron yourself or send it out for little $$. that said, you’re petite and can find clothing in HK no problem. handbags reign in HK so bring something polished. tatty travel handbags are looked down on by locals. it’s a cosmopolitan city. try dim sum at DIM SUM (it’s in Happy Valley).

  26. Quick suggestion on an amazing, stylish and comfortable shoe might be to try Avarcas(.com). I have quite a few pairs in the different heights of flat and wedge which have traveled the world with. They are one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn and yet are still good looking plus they come in so many wonderful colors

  27. There are many great deals to be had in these countries on clothing designed for their climates…but that means you have to take time away from doing other things to go shopping, which you may not want to do. I’ve found wraparound skirts/dresses very comfy in warm weather. Good luck getting through your work. It must come first.

  28. If you are thinking of visiting temples in Vietnam remember some light tops with long sleeves to cover up. In fact you may find loose long sleeved tops cooler than short sleeves as long as the fabric is light. My daughter honeymooned in Vietnam and found loose fitting clothes the most comfortable.

  29. I live in a very hot climate and like others have said, linen and silk I find, are the way to go. Having been to Hong Kong and other Asian countries many times I always wear silk, linen and sandals. Wearing something that covers the shoulders so not to offend in Temples and sometimes other places if the culture is conservative. highly recommend getting clothes made to fit in Honkers. They are fast and the items are beautifully made. I Love Hong Kong. It is a exciting vibrant city. Agree with what others have said about it being quite dressy there. I have never seen so many beautifully dressed women.

  30. Susan…Head over to the blog “Collage of Life” – Jeanne Henriques has been living in Viet Nam for a few years and could offer valuable tips.

  31. I live in DC which is very hot and humid in the summers, and have had to do business in Miami in the summer as well (really awful!). When not dressing for the office, I’ve found myself gravitating to sleeveless dresses for the very hottest days. I got one from TravelSmith (great ideas for travel) and a couple from Garnet Hill (tons of them on sale now.). I always throw a very light shrug or shawl in my bag for over-AC places or modesty. Dresses are even cooler than skirts, and I can’t remember the last time I work pants of any kind on a hot summer day (other than for work.) Also, the dresses can be dressed down during the day with casual shoes (see next paragraph) or dressed up at night with nicer sandals.

    I agree – ditch the flip flops. They are the wrong footwear for kayaking. When wet, they are way too slippery and not comfortable at all. And too open/unsupportive for much city walking. Bring something like Tevas, Jambu, (or similar) – some styles are less geeky than others. EMF (Eastern Mountain Sports) has some good options. Also finally re shoes, those Vince slips-ons look really heavy to me.

    I think these are adorable, but I’ve never tried the brand myself:

  32. I holiday in Thailand every year (weather is similar to Vietnam). I wear only 100% cotton and /or light weight linens. I don’t wear long trousers as it is just too hot. Silk is not advisable in humid climates as it not very cool to wear. Generally I take a couple of cotton skirts with a variety of linen and cotton shirts, a couple of lightweight day dress and something a bit smarter for the evening. For the beach resort, a caftan/tunic with thongs (flip flops). Daytime footwear, sandals and Mint & Rose espadrilles. Dressier sandals for evening. People seem to dress a bit smarter in Hong Kong, but didn’t see any expat women wearing stockings. Upmarket hotels such as The Peninsula have a dress code and Asian women are beautifully dressed in the evenings so beware.

  33. I meant to add, try to visit the Jade Market in Hong Kong (on Kowloon) – it is fantastic for jewellery of every description. The pearls are beautiful and the women string them for you as you wait.

  34. Ditto the recommendation for Chacos water sandals. Used to wear Tevas, but find Chacos more comfortable, supportive and attractive. I use mine not just for water sports but for hot weather hiking.

  35. Susan, you are going to fry in your clothing choices! As much as I love Eileen Fisher, her pieces will be too hot for SE Asia. The dark skirts and slacks will be ok in Hong Kong but will be out of place in Vietnam. Check out Blue Ginger, a Hawaiian company, for cute, cool tropical dresses and capris that are perfect for steamy Vietnam. Ditch any expensive shoes for Ha Long Bay. I was there in February a few years ago and we were completely socked in with fog. If you do have clear weather, Keen water sandals, although ugly, will be perfect for exploring caves and clambering up hills and kayaking. If you need cheap flip-flops you can buy some there. Try clothing from Sun’s all SPF 30 and can be sudsed out in the sink. Despite it being synthetic fibers, the stuff is very cool. For steamy evenings in the tropics you can’t go wrong with white capris and tunic tops or cotton sarongs and a simple T-shirt. I hope this helps. Enjoy Vietnam! The food is fabulous, and if you go to Saigon or Hoi An, you can have clothes made very reasonably!

  36. I apologize if this matter has been covered. When walking in hot humid conditions, women with real bodies may experience some thigh rubbing. In the heat and humidity, this can be very uncomfortable and lead to chafing. My daughter recommended “Skimmies” by Jockey. They look like lightweight bike shorts. I have one long and one short pair. They have been great since I prefer skirts. Also, they wash easily and dry quickly which is essential for packing for a trip. There are also some powder gels and “Glide” which runner use to prevent chafing, but I am always afraid of staining with those products.

    Enjoy your trip!