Posts Tagged ‘clothes’

Mysteries of the trip explained: why I’m wearing the same shirt in every photo

November 26th, 2011 5 comments

You might have noticed that I seem to be wearing the same clothes in every photo from the trip.

The hallmark of an experienced traveler is a lack of clothing.  No, not zero clothing; just a very limited selection.

Clothes are bulky, and schlepping bulky items on the road is no fun.  It’s worse when backpacking, either on the trail or in urban environments, but it’s a pain even when a car is available for the duration.

Happiness on a trip is inversely proportional to the quantity of clothes. Note that happiness is undefined when there are no clothes.

The keys to keeping down the quantity of clothing are maximizing the utility of each item and minimizing the maintenance associated with each item.  In other words, we want to be able to mix and match for all weather and social conditions and not do laundry very often.

Want to know the secret?


I’m not talking about your grandmother’s wool. (Hi Grandma!) The only wool worth using against the skin is merino wool, a soft variety that isn’t the least bit scratchy.

Merino wool is great stuff.  It’s light in weight, packs small, looks good, insulates well, dries quickly when wet, and doesn’t get smelly.

It’s that simple.  Cotton and synthetics start to smell bad fairly quickly, but wool is remarkable in its ability to repel unpleasant odors.

I had been using merino wool hiking socks for years, but I didn’t consider wool for general clothing until I ran across a post extolling its virtues by the digital nomad Tynan.  I had no wool clothing at the time other than dress slacks, suits, and the aforementioned socks.  Now, for the trip, my shirts and underwear are wool, too.

On any given day, I’m likely wearing a selection from the following options:

Light shirt:

Heavy shirt:



In essence, I have two outfits, one on my back and one in my pack.  Bliss.

I can generally go a couple weeks between loads of laundry without things smelling too bad (at least as far as I can tell).  The main exception to this rule is when I play hockey at a rink without showers and am forced to put my street clothes back on my smelly body.  Not even wool can defend against eau de goalie.

When I do run a load of laundry, I simply toss everything in the washer on “cold delicate.” Drying is simply a matter of setting the items out — don’t use a dryer unless you like replacing expensive shirts.  My synthetic clothes can tolerate a heated dryer, so I’ll usually wash and dry them with my hockey underthings.

There you have it.  I’m always wearing the same shirts because those are the only ones I have with me, and the key to getting away with that is merino wool.