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How to Pack a Summer Cardigan for a Road Trip in the Mountains

Minimalist Living and Layering in the Oliver Charles Summer Cardigan
August 31, 2023
By Lia Klinchik

Living On The Road: The Cardigan I Always Pack

Introducing the 1st blog in my 3-part blog series about the best ways to enjoy the Sierra Nevada, packing for summer road trips, and sustainability throughout your travels.

This blog is about how I incorporated my new Summer Cardigan into my recent road trip adventure.


The summer is just about ending, but not without last-minute road trips. An August glow penetrates the pines on the trail, the season is tugging at our heartstrings as the days wane slowly. We are reminded that we have to get outside before the weather cools and we’re summoned back to work!

I recently moved into a van, delicately balancing my desire for adventure and having to get things done. For (almost) the whole summer, I’ve been weaving through the mountains, canyons, and plains of the West. With this lifestyle comes strict minimalist living, truly only taking along what I need.

I had to get rid of 90% of my belongings. You can’t carry around every article of clothing you wear, and honestly, I’ve realized that I don’t need most of what I own anyway. Let me show you how to live, pack, and plan according to a minimalist mentality and travel through the mountains.

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Wandering the Sierras: Essentials I Can’t Live Without

How many times have you filled a suitcase full of clothing and not worn half of it? I know, for me at least, I end up wearing 1-3 outfits over the course of a week trip.

I replace and switch shirts/pants as the days go on. When you’re adventuring, hiking, climbing, or swimming, you’re not thinking about what you’re wearing. The focus is being outside.

But it’s important to feel good about what you’re wearing. That’s why I’ve come up with a formula for summer road trips, living by my essentials so I don’t have to worry about extras, and everything I have is functional. The best part is these can all fit in a single backpack!

A tip for only taking what you need: Go on a trip and take what you think you need. Then, make a note of what you actually use. Do you really need 10 different t-shirts? The art of minimalist living is about being able to create different outfits with a smaller wardrobe.

This allows you to have less waste, get creative with what you have, and become more efficient with your space. Here’s what I take along:

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An All Adventure Sweater: The Summer Cardigan for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Meet the newest addition to the Oliver Charles collection: the Summer Cardigan. Made of SeaCell and organic cotton, this sweater is light and airy as a top layer to daily leisure and a key piece to a weekend adventure. When I’m lounging around on rest days or sightseeing, I lean on this sweater to meet my needs.

Organic cotton is a breathable material, indispensable to travel in the West as the weather has been incredibly hot this year. SeaCell also lends UV protection, making it a versatile addition to your outdoor wardrobe.

Outdoor Wear

Outdoor wear these days is getting more and more adaptable. You can purchase a pair of climbing or hiking pants that are designed to look more fashionable, but fit adventure needs. Prana, Patagonia, and Vuori are great examples of this.

The shirts you’re going to be hiking in should be wool or synthetic, as these stay the driest, which is important when you’re spending a long time outside. Wool shirts retain the least scent, so they’re a good option to wear multiple times on a trip.

Outdoor stores, like REI or even in the athletic section of your favorite thrift store, will sell varying shirts for activities such as hiking, climbing, or yoga that all have different designs.

The base idea here is that you want to like your shirt enough to wear it on an adventure while you’re exploring those cute mountain towns.

Packing Formula

  • Leggings, hiking pants or climbing pants - 1-2 pairs
  • Athletic and daily wear shorts - 1-2 pairs
  • Long sleeves, short sleeves or tank tops - 5 long, 2-4 short 

Base Layers

Base layers are especially important to carry with you when you’re hiking or for the evening.

Temperatures at night can drop into the 40s in the Sierras, even if it is 90 during the day! Base layers serve to be worn as pajamas or under hiking clothing in cold weather.

They are light and effective, most often being composed of wool (hello, Oliver Charles yak wool sweater!).

You’ll want a bottom and top article of clothing. The yak wool sweater is one of my personal favorites for evening temps. In fact, it’s the only thing I own that keeps me warm enough. This sweater doubles as a base layer for hiking.

Shell or Rain Coat

Watch out for thunderstorms! A shell, which is great to protect against wind, rain, and snow, is wonderful to carry with you.

Shells are often slightly heavier and thicker than raincoats. If you’re looking for something more casual, a raincoat will work just fine.


Some sort of top-layer jacket is crucial if you’re headed deep into the mountains or in exposed environments like the alpine. I prefer a down coat, as they are lightweight and easily compressed.

This can be super helpful when you’re traveling, and you need to fit a lot in your pack. Otherwise, if you have one lying around, it’s good to keep it in your car. Wear your Summer Cardigan under this for an extra layer of warmth.

“For a Night on the Town” Outfit

For me, this is my linen pair of overalls or my jean shorts that pair with absolutely anything. But for you, perhaps this is an article of clothing you absolutely cannot live without.

It’s something that you feel comfortable and good in at a brewery, restaurant, or anywhere else you might find yourself in a cute mountain town, for example, a dress, jeans/cloth overalls, dress shirt.

The best “night on the town” outfits are things that can be swapped around with what you’re already bringing with adventuring. I hike and forage in my overalls and those jean shorts!

Sandals/Water Shoes

I have worn my Birkenstocks into the ground. Choose a pair of sandals that you can wear with your nicer outfits (nice is subjective, of course), wear around camp, and on short, flat hikes.

Some folks like Tevas or Chacos, but regardless, choosing a sandal with a good grip on rock or in water is useful. Additionally, if you’re going to be traveling through streams, you'll want waterproof.

Approach shoes, which are what I wear, are specifically made for rock climbers to have a supportive grip when they are scrambling (hiking up very rocky terrain).

I personally think these are an all-encompassing shoe with a solid grip, comfortable soles, casual style, and fit wider feet. Sneakers are good for leisure activity but aren’t as versatile, so maybe skip those.

Sun Shirt, Hat, and Sunglasses

The sierras are high up in elevation, from 4,000-14,000 feet, and see mostly sunny days year-round.

A protective hat and polarized sunglasses are essential, as these will protect your skin from the unforgiving sun. Sun shirts are made out of thin material and have UV protection. You might consider the OC summer cardigan here, too.

Hiking Boots, Approach Shoes

Hiking boots with ankle support are fantastic if you’re going to be hiking regularly over uneven terrain.

Other Essentials You Might Need

  • Medium duffel bag or backpack
  • Trail pack
  • Water Bottle
  • Bug spray
The Details Of My Summer Cardigan.jpg__PID:15820327-9bc5-4adb-8eb5-980ea42e7927

How to Layer Your Summer Cardigan

Layering is the secret of every traveler’s wardrobe. This means having and bringing along your short-sleeved, long-sleeve, pants, shorts, light sweater, and coat constructed to seamlessly pair together for a day of adventure and all weather.

  • Start with what you’ll be wearing for the day. Wear shorts but bring pants.
  • Pair this with a short-sleeve or tank top that you feel comfortable in. Pack a long-sleeved shirt, sun shirt, or top layer for extra protection as needed.
  • Put the Oliver Charles Yak Wool sweater in your pack.
  • Wear your sandals for a more casual adventure, or wear your boots and bring the sandals in your pack for any water crossings.
  • Voila! You’re ready to go.

Outfits for Adventuring in the Mountains: Wear these to hike, climb, or bike!

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My First Travel Outfit - Oliver Charles.jpg__PID:a42e7927-02e8-40a7-8fd1-f5bbf5bf03bd

Outfit for Leisure: Wear this for a day trip to town or lounging around camp!

My Third Travel Outfit - Oliver Charles.jpg__PID:f19bdb14-5d07-4c2e-8fa4-ba3434a5a027

Outfit for a Night in the Town: Wear this to the brewery, restaurant, or show!

My Fourth Travel Outfit - Oliver Charles.jpg__PID:ba3434a5-a027-40c3-aaca-cbffe27b4f6f

How to Layer Your Summer Cardigan

The draw of van life and mountain adventure is a picture of simplicity.

If you travel with only what you need, you leave more room for enjoying what’s around you and spending money on what matters (or what you actually need to pay for, like van maintenance or mishaps).

Investing in a Summer Sweater is the best way to start!

Lia Klinchik is a freelance blogger and Clinical Herbalist, focusing on our relationship to nature and sustainability. Through her writing, she hopes to help people truly enjoy life and leave a positive impact on the planet.

If you believe that every good wardrobe starts with owning less and owning better, consider buying yourself an OLIVER CHARLES sweater.
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