Sustainable India Packing List
January 15, 2020 • 6 min read
India – the colourful country that is still largely untouched by travelers, but one that I think of as my second home.
Upon doing my research for India packing lists, I noticed a trend in most of the other blog posts/sites I visited – all of the packing lists were targeted at budget backpackers. While I know this is a common and amazing way to see the country (definitely do it once if you never have!), my packing list is a little more elevated – on the side of palaces, sustainable eateries and rooftop bars.
There’s a bit of a misconception that India is rugged, dusty and hard, and while it most definitely is those things, it is also incredibly luxurious, modern and dreamy. Most of my family still live there, I’ve visited more than ten times, and also lived there for six months for an internship! I have backpacked as well as traveled comfortably, so you’ll get the best of both worlds in this Sustainable India Packing List.
With most people wondering what to wear in India and how to pack for India, this guide is one that will take you from daytime temple roaming to evening lounge overlooking the Arabian Sea.
You might also like: The Sustainable Guide to Bali
Depending on what time of year you visit, the weather will impact your packing choices. If you go between November to February, the north of the country dips down to a surprisingly cool temperature, ranging between 5-20°C. The rest of the year is similar, where you’ll find temperatures anywhere from 25-40°C.
Packing loose, comfortable and airy clothing is wise, along with a sweater, scarf and jacket to keep warm in the evenings. If you are going to be visiting restaurants and lounges, clothing that carries well into the night is a great idea.
Lots of travelers love shopping in India itself, as the textile and garment industry is exquisite and distinctive. You will likely score some stellar finds, either in the shops or bazaars, but coming prepared is wise.
Here are some of my picks for clothes to pack for India.
Dresses / Skirts
Made from deadstock materials, this 100% cotton dress is lightweight, breathable, airy and the perfect length and silhouette for languid days under the Indian sun. Whether you’re in a beachy destination, roaming around cities or in a small town, this dress will carry you through.
The Dawn Dress Crimson Garden
For a more relaxed look, this 100% hemp fibre skirt is the perfect beach accompaniment. Pair with a tight top tucked in for a more sophisticated look, or with a loose tee for chill vibes. Big pockets to stash things in make it convenient, and the fabric is breathable and great for warmer weather.
Luis Stripe Midi Skirt
Pants / Bottoms
A breezy mid-weight linen pant will quickly become your staple in India. Made for hot, humid afternoons and dewy mornings, pants like this easily transition into the evening, so you’re covered anytime of the day. Pair them with a tee, a longer top, or even a lightweight sweater.
Andy Palazzo Pant
I wore this in India on my last trip and didn’t want to take it off! Super comfortable, airy and breathable, this romper is perfect for hot days and warm nights. Pair it with a tee underneath for a more modest look (bare shoulders might get you looks in certain cities).
Cedar and Vine
Another trip favourite, these pants were worn quite a bit. They’re lightweight, travel well and super comfortable! A great look for daytime temple tours, shopping or site-seeing. They’re handmade in India too, using a traditional handloom, from 100% cotton and azo-free dyes.
The Lounge Lunghi
These have quickly become my favourite pair of leggings! I wore them on the plane there and back, and couldn’t have been more comfortable. Even aside from travel, you can pair them with a long top or dress, perfect for evenings out or cooler days. Made in Canada from bamboo fibres.
Logan and Finley
Made from bamboo fibres, these soft, comfortable high-waisted pants will be your daytime, evening and travel friend. Easily elevated for a more sophisticated bar look (pair with a crop or flowy top and heels), these pants also look great with a longer tunic on top for during the day.
Many other blogs tell you to leave your denim at home, however I always bring a pair with me. Comfortable, boyfriend-esque jeans are so versatile, travel well, and are what most young people in the cities wear. As long as the jeans aren’t too tight, you’ll be happy you brought a pair!
Tunics / Tops
A basic tee will no doubt come in handy while traveling around India. I normally bring a few, in different colours, so that I always have one on hand for when it’s hot, to pair with jumpsuits, skirts and jeans. These are ethically made in Egypt using 100% organic cotton.
This tunic is a blend of linen and tencel, and is part of Vetta’s capsule collection. It can transition into a dress, be worn front-ways or backwards, and has buttons on the side that can be left undone or done up. Tunics are great for India, and you’ll see many locals wearing them.
The Relaxed Tunic
A bodysuit is a fun item to pack for India, as it is so versatile. You can style this with boyfriend jeans for a fun night out, a skirt for something more sophisticated, or with a jumpsuit for a seamless look. This can also layer well, in case you’re somewhere cold.
Nicole Body Suit
Flirty and romantic but still modest, this top is made from 100% cotton for a breathable and breezy look. Made in India, this top is feminine, and can be paired with jeans for a more casual look or with a skirt or dark pants for something more elevated.
Though marketed as a t-shirt dress, this soft cotton tee is perfect to be worn as a tunic, with leggings, jeans or relaxed pants underneath. The fabric will keep you cool as you traverse tight alleyways and marketplaces, and it is still modest for smaller towns and cities.
Baja T-Shirt Dress
Jackets / Sweaters
Made from 100% recycled linen, this gorgeous turmeric coloured jacket is just the thing to cover bare shoulders and keep warm on cool nights. Pair with palazzos, leggings or relaxed trousers for a truly India-vibe look. This jacket saves the equivalent of 26 days of drinking water.
Whimsy + Row
Made in Vancouver from 100% hemp, this cute pom-pom lined jacket is playful yet simple. It’ll pair well with everything you’ve packed and give you a more elegant look, for fine dining or shows. The buttons are coconut and the inner lining is 100% cotton, hand-block printed in India.
For plane/train rides, cold nights, and rooms with too much AC (definitely a thing in India), this 100% Cashmere sweater will keep you warm, looking sleek and relaxed. Its lightweight fabric makes it easy to travel with, and the timeless look is perfect for pairing with anything.
The Cashmere Crew
You will want a comfortable pair of sneakers or Birkenstocks to roam around in, especially if you enjoy walking and visiting monuments. A pair of sandals, a comfortable heel and flip flops (a must for the showers) are all good to have on hand, depending on how your trip is planned. Shoes are something I wouldn’t recommend buying in India, as the quality isn’t always up to par. Definitely come prepared.
Here are my picks for shoes to pack for India.
I brought these with me to India and couldn’t have been happier that I did! Super comfortable, breathable and great for sandy areas (like Jaipur), these beautiful handmade Peruvian sandals go with everything, can be worn during the day or evening, and look great in any colour.
As I mentioned, a pair of comfortable running shoes are a must when walking all day. Veja’s are great because they are vegan, so wandering onto sacred temple grounds won’t be a problem (you do have to take your shoes off before entering inside a temple, so vegan or not, you’ll be okay).
You will find you use the scarf you packed far more than you anticipated, probably wishing you had thought to bring another. From the pollution to the cool night air to the occasional wandering eye, a scarf is essential in protecting you. A hat and sunglasses for the relentless heat, and some other accessories that will help you look put together and chic, as well as being practical.
Here are my picks for accessories to pack for India.
A scarf is a staple when visiting India, and you will find that you use it often. This scarf is ethically handcrafted in Ethiopia using 100% Ethiopian cotton. It’ll be the perfect fabric to keep you warm, cover you up, and protect you from pollution. I’d suggest taking two with you.
Fine Cotton Scarf
Once Was Lost
I absolutely loved this belt bag when I was in India. It lets you wander, hands-free, as well as worry-free. In busy marketplaces and crowded sites, you don’t have to worry about pickpockets or not being able to reach your phone when you want to snap a pic.
Extended Half Moon Waist Bag
The heat can be quite relentless, depending on the time of year you visit. A hat is a welcome accessory that will save your skin from the unfamiliar strength of the sun. These hats are made from natural, handwoven seagrass and offer ventilation and natural moisture absorption.
Will and Bear
Sweaty days out in the sun can result in some not so Insta-worthy hair. Whenever I travel, I love stashing a few of these headbands made from deadstock materials with me, just to keep my locks in tact. They look super cute, help absorb sweat, and also double as cute neck scarves.
I’m With the Band
Unique, beautiful and stunning on, This Ilk earrings make a quiet statement without being obnoxious or too fancy. Handmade in Montreal using vintage lace and hypoallergenic, nickle-free brass, these shoulder dusters will amp up any outfit you pack for a luxe look.
Your typical string/thong bikini isn’t the best idea when it comes to public beaches in India (been there, won’t do it again). Though modernizing, the country is modest, so it’s best to go with coverage. Hackwith Design’s bikinis are still feminine while keeping wandering eyes at bay.
Wrap Top Bathing Suit
This wouldn’t be a sustainable packing list without a zero-waste kit, would it? While many states in India have officially banned certain single-use plastic items, it’s always best to come with your own things. Without bearing too much weight, things like a self-sanitizing water bottle and reusable tote go a long way in helping reduce the garbage problem that exists in the country, and as tourists, you help to not contribute to the larger issue.
Here are my picks for what to put in your zero-waste kit for India.
To cut down on your waste while in India, a self-sanitizing water bottle that eliminates almost 100% of bacteria, is chemical-free and the world’s only mercury-free portable water sanitization system is your best bet. Fill up your bottle from filtered taps in your hotel or guesthouse.
While many major cities are banning single-use plastics in India, it hasn’t taken effect everywhere. If you want the true Indian experience and are tempted to try (well-cooked) street food, bring your cutlery along to avoid plastic ones at the stalls. These are lightweight and easy to clean.
A reusable tote bag is a great item to carry with you. Some states have banned plastic bags, but not all of them, so when in India, stash a tote with you for shopping and carrying around your own essentials in when on the go. Get a thicker canvas one so it stays on your shoulder better.
Your own, or from Etsy
These are my favourite reusable makeup remover pads! I brought them with me to India and was so happy I did. They take off your makeup so gently, are easily washable (in a hotel sink with some soap), and are great for applying toner with as well. They’re made of hemp and organic cotton.
Reusable Makeup Remover Pads
Oko – FORAGE20 for 20% off
Another one of my favourite brands! They are one of the most sustainable bamboo brush brands on the market, and if you’re there long enough that you have to throw one out (or leave it behind), you can rest easy knowing as a tourist you’re not contributing to the country’s waste problem.
Brush With Bamboo
I bring these along anytime I travel, and they work so well. Fill up the bottles with your existing shampoo and conditioner at home, so that you’re not wasting more plastic by buying minis. Minis are a huge problem, don’t get recycled, and just contribute to more waste in the country you visit.
Your own, or from Well.ca
Silicone Shampoo Bottle
Health / Essentials
My family always jokes that we pack more medicine than clothes when we go to India, and on some level, we’re not wrong! While you’ll check with your travel medical advisory for the shots and pills you need to take, some of the OTC stuff I like to bring with me helps in keeping safe, clean and healthy.
You can easily get medicines in India (and they’re so much cheaper than here), however language issues might arise, as well as accessibility. With that being said, it’s usually wise to pack things like traveler’s diarrhea medicine and sprays to relieve your throat from the pollution.
Here are my picks for medical and health items to bring to India.
My all-time favourite cleanser, this one is gentle, and just the thing needed to remove your makeup, while hydrating your skin after a long day in the sun.
Essential Oil Cleanser
Sahajan – FORAGE15 for 15% off
These vitamin wipes are so great, and I loved having them with me. Good for dusty areas, heavy-pollution and a general refresh. Biodegradable and compostable.
The Vitamin Cleanse Wipes
A staple in my bag, this essential oil roll-on comes with me everywhere. It zaps headaches in minutes. Perfect for those days when the honking and noise is too much.
An absolute must in India (or anytime you travel), is hand sanitizer. I love this from Dr. Bronner’s as it’s effective, smells lovely and is as non-toxic as can be!
When traveling for a while and that too, in a hot country, a laundry bar is wise. This bar is non-toxic, biodegradable, plastic-free and perfect for sink use!
Wash and Stain Bar
Disinfecting wipes are a good item to have on hand when in India. Use them to wipe down icky planes, toilets, public areas etc. These are non-toxic and botanically-made.
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