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13 November 2011 / leggypeggy

On fabric—some things aren’t meant to travel

Good travelling fabrics will dry fast anywhere, even hanging off a ladder.

Seems silly to write about something as basic as fabric, but having learned by experience, it’s probably worth sharing the lesson!

So here’s one main bit of advice—don’t take jeans. They weigh a ton and take forever to dry. I took two pairs to Africa and regretted both. In fact, I ditched one pair on the last leg of the trip so I didn’t have to keep cramming them in to the case. The only reason I kept the second pair was because we were going to the UK in January. I needed warmth.

But if you really want to stay warm take thermals—made of washable wool. Long ones to wear under trousers (or as pyjama bottoms) and plenty of tops. I’ve got six merino tops—four lightweight and two big guns. The sleeveless, lightweight ones are as cool and comfortable as cotton, and they dry in no time. I took similar tops to Africa, too, and they were perfect.

Icebreaker (from New Zealand) is my favourite brand of thermal clothes, although Kathmandu and Mountain Design sell okay options. Haven’t tried other brands, but no reason to think they wouldn’t do the job.

All my tops are black, so most of the food I spill on myself doesn’t show. And I spill a lot—on a buxom gal, nothing ever hits the ground. The only thing that does appear on black is the salt residue that accumulates on particularly sweaty days.

Shorts and trousers are Macpac, Columbia and/or Kathmandu brands, and they’re all covered in pockets that close with zips or velcro.

Most of my underwear is lightweight cotton, and Poor John’s is a quick-dry synthetic.

And quick-dry is the key for all the clothes you take. Doesn’t matter how much you love a piece of clothing or how wonderful you think it looks on you, if it won’t dry quickly on a humid or cold day, then leave it at home.

Oh, and if you get someone else to do your laundry, be sure they aren’t going to toss your merino tops in a hot washing machine and then a hot clothes dryer. Most merino tops are washable, but send them through the dryer and they’ll only fit Barbie.


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  1. Derick / Nov 13 2011 3:10 am

    Hah, I’m in the process of ditching all my jeans now for cargo trousers, so many pockets,

    I even have a couple of pairs that convert to shorts, handy,

    I have a couple of pairs that are very warm, and dont take long to dry (say what you like, but some of the Bear Grylls clothes are pretty good, if you dont mind his name on them)

    I met him, he aint a bad bloke, but a bit full of himself (he was only in 21 SAS, a part timer, I was in the big boys version, full time)

    Ray Mears is the laddie for tips and advice what to wear to survive though, he dont recommend jeans either 🙂

    I met Les Hiddens (The Bush Tucker bloke) when he came to the UK, what a great bloke, he dont mind who’s toes HE treads on

    I wonder what they would this of travelling in a big yellow truck, I wonder what they would take ?

    I dont have any of these merino clothes though, but it all dries when draped over a bush or fence, or a length of para cord

    There is no way I would commit my clothes to someone else to wash, I lost the buttons on my trousers in Africa ( and they came back worse than I gave em, they stank) I now make sure I have spare buttons in my sewing kit 🙂

    As for underwear, if it isnt dry the day I need them, I either go without, or if just damp and the weather is warmish, I’ll put em on, or put em in a bag to rinse and dry later


    • leggypeggy / Nov 14 2011 1:58 am

      Les Hiddens is wonderful and I love his hat.

      I’ve had pretty good luck with others doing me laundry. On this trip, I’ve done it myself about half the time—in creeks and streams, buckets, and hotel sinks and tubs. Everything is washed in cold and line dried. I did almost all the laundry by hand in Africa and, to be honest, it’s a job I hate. I won’t send laundry ‘out’ if I think it might go in hot water or a dryer. And you’re right, a bush is a great place to dry clothes.

      Spare buttons are useful, although it’s even better to reduce/eliminate the use of buttons.

      And remind me to tell the story of when Poor John was saved by his underpants in Angola.


      • Derrick / Nov 14 2011 2:11 am

        Some buttons cant be done without, but zips can be a pain as well (most blokes will know what I mean there)

        Are you sure John is going to be happy with that on an open forum ???

        Sending tee shirts out for a wash is okay, but that is just being lazy, any way, why wash clothes, they are only goinfg to get dirty again, the socks will run away after a few days (maybe Tarzan werent daft when it came to a loin cloth)


  2. Louise M Oliver / Nov 13 2011 7:46 am

    Hi Peggy,
    As always, more excellent advice for intrepid and more-experienced travellers. Have you ever tried Damart thermals though? I find them very warm but I haven’t tried them in the heat. I’m pretty certain that they’re only for cold weather.



    • leggypeggy / Nov 14 2011 1:39 am

      You’re right. Damart’s thermals are great for winter. But merino wool is the only thermal fabric I know that’s good in the heat too. We normally don’t think of wearing wool year-round, but it is an amazing fabric.


  3. leggypeggy / Nov 14 2011 3:17 am

    We’ve all had a good laugh about Poor John and the underpants—even made it into the African GPS record. And I hear Icebreaker has produced clothes that are smell-proof for 28 days, but I can’t find a link online. Will post somewhere if/when I do.


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