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5 Unique Travel Fabrics That Are Soft, Breathable, and Ethically Sourced

As a traveler, you’re always looking for adventure. Sometimes that adventure can start before you even leave home with the unique fabrics that go into your travel clothes. From yak wool to pineapple fibers and beyond, here are the most unusual and surprising fabrics that make up some of your favorite travel clothes.

Yak Wool

Kora hima-layer yak wool clothing.

Yak wool sourced from Tibet and turned into outdoor performance wear offers a surprisingly comfortable (and itch-free) wearing experience. Kora’s Hima-Layer yak wool makes for soft, breathable, warm, and odor-resistant travel fabric. And, amazingly, this wool is also machine washable. Kora makes base layers, midlayers, leggings, hats, and socks with yak wool.

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Pinatex

H&M pinatax boot and purse.

Pineapple leaf fibers, derived from byproducts of the pineapple industry, are the source for Pinatex, an intriguing alternative to leather. H&M is experimenting with this unusual non-woven fabric as part of its Conscious Collection. The Jacquard-patterned Boots offer comfort with serious attitude, while the Padded Bag incorporates a Pinatex band for added sustainable style.

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Beechwood

Bleusalt beechwood clothing.

It’s surprising that a tree could yield a fabric this supple, but beech trees—a totally sustainable and self-propagating source that requires no artificial irrigation—are the secret behind one of the softest fabrics on earth. Bleusalt has harnessed the power of beechwood in its luxuriously soft and super travel-friendly line of shirts, pants, dresses, and wraps and scarves.

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Cupro

Uniqlo airism cupro clothing.

Cupro is regenerated cellulose fiber that’s known for its silk-like feel. It’s among the best fabrics for travel because it’s breathable, quick-drying, and offers odor control. Uniqlo has gone all in on Cupro with its AIRism line, which includes shirts, undershirts, bras, and underwear for women; shirts, undershirts, and underwear for men; and undershirts, underwear, and hoodies for kids.

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Hemp

Patagonia hemp clothing.

Hemp is in the midst of a reinvention, so much so that Patagonia, on its line of hemp clothing, offers an informational page with the headline, “Natural. Misunderstood. Legal.” If you still think of Volkswagon buses or rough rope when you think about hemp, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that hemp actually produces an airy, light, soft fabric that’s also durable, breathable, and perfect for travel clothes. Patagonia’s current collection of hemp-wear includes men’s, women’s, and kids’ shirts, shorts, and pants, as well as dresses and skirts.

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Christine Sarkis dresses up for travel. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.

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