Expedition Clothing- Selection
By Scott Brady
Glacier Crossing - Iceland
While there are endless discussions on suspensions and tires, little evaluation goes into the products that we use every hour or every day- the shirt on our back. Adventure travel puts serious requirements on our garments, where they not only need to be durable, but handle extremes in weather, all the while being packable and hopefully shed a few wrinkles when we unroll it from the bag.
Having traveled by plane, Toyota, KTM950, backpack and even a Suzuki Jimny (23 countries in that little machine alone) and on six continents we have learned a few tricks about packing light. We have also experienced every range of weather, from -57 standing on the frozen Arctic Ocean to +120 in the Sahara, all teaching us a thing or two about layering, materials and what really doesn’t work.
Field Work- Utah
Cotton vs. Synthetic
It is easy to differentiate between applications for synthetic, and those for cotton. Cotton is a good travel material, which means comfortable, flexible, classic. Use cotton while flying to your destination, when going out for dinner or when endulging the typical tourist pleasures. I always bring a few cotton t-shirts and a nice button-down cotton shirt or two. Cotton also works into extended activities when the weather is dry and cool, though in technical conditions I still use a thick cotton canvas pant with reinforcements in key areas. Synthetic pants are at times necessary in really hot, humid environments (or on moto trips), but otherwise I prefer cotton canvas to hold up to thorns, scrapes and kneeling in the dirt.
For base layers in warm environments, I always use synthetic. That means synthetic and wicking underwear, socks and base shirt. In colder conditions, I find that merino wool performs best, though it can still cause sensitivity for some individuals. On the motorcycle, I only use synthetics, both for the riding gear and all other layers. Space is a premium and everything must pack well, dry quickly and shed wrinkles. Synthetics have advanced performance in extreme environments and activities, especially once the temperature begins climbing.
The most important revelation we all come to as travelers is that you do not need any more clothing for five months than you do for five days. Simplicity is key, as is quick drying and minimal wrinkles. I just do laundry at a hotel stay or make it a point to set-up camp early and do a load in a Pelican case. Sea to Summit makes a laundry soap sheet that is easy to store and will last the duration of most trips.
- Sidi Discovery Boots
- Salomon Adventure Racing Shoes (good with water and are bomber)
- Aerostich Darien Light Jacket
- Aerostich Darien Light Pants
- (3) pair Saxx Pro Elite Boxer Briefs
- (3) Smartwool socks (one thick, two thin, all long)
- (3) Exo Dry T-Shirts
- (1) Pair Triple Aught Design Amphibious Cargo Pant or Mountain Khakis Granite Creek. (Note: Granite Creek is thicker and more durable, Amphibious is lighter)
- Aerostich Last Chance Belt
- (1) Exofficio GeoTrek’r Synthetic Shirt
- (1) Triple Aught Designs Watch Cap
- Overland Journal Baseball cap
I lay out the pants first, folded at the crotch. I then lay the shirts and undergarments down and folded over. I start rolling the pant legs up and then add the shoes. Everything becomes a compact roll that gets stuffed into a compression sack (waterproof). No additional jackets.
- Born Leather Shoes (dress up or down and are still comfortable to drive in)
- Zamberlan Civetta Leather Boots (I have had only two pairs in nearly 15 years)
- Flip Flops (usually
- Triple Aught Designs Ranger Hoodie Jacket
- (1) Triple Aught Design Overland Shirt
- (3) Exofficio GeoTrek’r Synthetic Shirts, Long Sleeve
- (4) ExO Dry T-Shirts
- (1) Cotton T-Shirt
- (5) Pair Saxx Pro Elite Boxer Briefs
- (5) Smartwool socks, all thin
- (2) Pair Mountain Khakis Alpine Utility Pant
- (2) Pair Triple Aught Design Force10 Cargo Pant
- (1) Pair of swim/casual synthetic shorts
- (1) Pair Banana Republic Denim Jeans
- (1) Triple Aught Design Watch Cap
- (1) Overland Journal Baseball Cap
Extreme Cold / Weather
- 66 North Down compressible jacket and Glymur Pants
- -35 Boots (I purchased North Face, but they have proven to be a disappointment. Looking for a replacement)
- Down Booties
All of this gear will fit into a standard backpack or duffle. I roll each item independently which helps with organization, space and wrinkles. I also bring along a mesh laundry bag to begin transitioning dirty clothing. Don't be afraid to wear pants and shirts multiple days before washing. Conditions will obviously dictate, but even hanging throughout the night to air will extend use.
Depending on how much time we are spending in cities, I might bring along more cotton button-up shirts and more casual attire (I prefer Banana Republic’s simple style and quality materials). Born shoes have been a surprise to me with excellent durability and comfort while driving. I have one pair that has lasted 25+ countries!
In the end, you can ride or drive around the world with whatever clothing you have in the closet. It is also fun to leave with the clothes on your back and buy gear along the way from local sources. However, if your budget supports newer, better engineered garments then a little research and investment is worth considering.