Pack only fabrics that wick, dry fast, and refuse to wrinkle

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

Gear to Go
Travel Clothes

Pack only fabrics that wick, dry fast, and refuse to wrinkle
By Robert Earle Howells

Air Cricket shirt; Puckerwear Shirt Three great and distinct achievements in polyester coolness: The perforated Ex Officio Air Cricket shirt ($44) is like a stylish screen door for your torso. If there's no breeze blowing, just move a little and you become your own air conditioner. Patagonia's Puckerware short-sleeved shirt ($50) blends 35 percent cotton with its polyester, which is puckered to prevent clinginess even when the air's as sultry as iguana breath. The ribs in The North Face Women's Knit Ribbed Shirt ($58) create thousands of airflow channels, and a wicking finish moves moisture quickly away from the body.

When you need a layer between your legs and the bugs or brambles, a soft nylon strikes the right balance between a tight weave and textured breathability. I'd choose Woolrich's Outrigger Pant ($60) for slogging through a swamp; it's 35 percent nylon for quick-drying purposes-plus the plethora of cargo pockets have drain ports — and 65 percent cotton for exceptional softness. The 100 percent nylon Inca Trail Pant from The North Face ($64) is heavier and more rugged (the material is called "Yak Canvas"); it wicks way better than cotton canvas, yet remains soft to the touch. Ex Officio's lightweight Air Strip Pant ($57) is the one to wear when you don't really want to wear pants; they're light and loose, and feature bands of cooling mesh (air strips, get it?) down the inside of each leg.

Why hassle with a change of drawers when a tropical waterfall or backcountry lake beckons you in? Columbia's Challenger Cargo Water Trunk ($28) is equal parts hiking short and swim trunk-the soft nylon fabric is lined with mesh like the latter, belt-looped and pocketed like the former. Thousand Mile's unlined Amphibians ($60) lean more toward the trail; they're Supplex-nylon rugged, have a built-in belt, and pockets so large they'll hold a daypack's worth of supplies.

Sometimes you need to pass dress codes, official or otherwise. Patagonia's Techno Gi shorts ($49) are an uptown alternative to the birdwatcher look of most travel clothing; the wispy-light nylon/polyester fabric is quick-drying and relatively wrinkle-free. Royal Robbins' Zip 'n' Go Pant ($74) gives you the option of zipping on leggings when modesty dictates, or you when need to get past a snooty maitre d'.

The advantages of travel-specific synthetics apply to the nether layers of your garments as well. Duofold's CoolMax Wind Brief ($20) Go Everywhere Vestand T-shirts ($19) sink-wash and air-dry so quickly you need only carry one spare of each, plus they never get clammy against the skin. Same goes for Wigwam's C-T Elite Crew socks ($7.25), a CoolMax/cotton blend with a little stretch added in.

Royal Robbins' Go Everywhere Vest ($80) makes you something of a human briefcase, with one interior and seven exterior pockets (including one that's airline-ticket-sized and zippered). A mesh liner keeps the Supplex nylon vest cool, and helps ease the pressure of camera or duffel straps.

Photographs by Gary Hush

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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