OK. Let’s talk about clothes—because this is where a lot of people add a lot of weight. We don’t take heavy clothes. In fact, we weigh our clothes on a kitchen scale, and we are sometimes really surprised by what we find.
All of our clothes are very light in weight. If you want to really add unnecessary weight to your pack, take along a pair of jeans, a cotton sweater, or a heavy coat. These can each weigh as much as all of our clothes combined.
But that doesn’t mean you have to organize a shopping expedition to those big mountaineering stores. We have found almost all of our clothes in thrift shops for less than five dollars. Not only does this reduce our costs, but we also don’t care if we get them dirty, or torn. Shopping the thrift stores isn’t quite the same as buying what you want. They won’t always have what you need, so you have to buy good things when you find them, and patiently wait for the things you need. But M now has two really nice rainshells, and P has two terrific fleece jackets, just in case something happens to one of them!
P takes an indestructible official issue US Navy khaki colored short-sleeved shirt that can be washed by hand, dries in minutes, and still holds a crease. Amazing. That's it in the photo to the left. And a pair of inexpensive hiking pants that have zip-off legs. Also amazing. Both of these items have 0% cotton in them, because cotton absorbs water and stays wet. That makes you cold, and it also weighs more. Add briefs and socks, and he is set for a normal day on the trail. The dark colored briefs also double as swimming trunks, when needed. In his pack he also carries a fleece jacket that he bought at a thrift store—it cost about $3 and is not lined, so it is very lightweight. And a Columbia rainshell with a hood he was given at The Oregon Pinot Camp—where they know something about rain. Both of those items weigh about eight ounces.
For hikes in the shoulder seasons of May or late September/October, he’ll add a body vest filled with some kind of synthetic down and his alpaca hat from Peru. To sleep in, he takes a pair of very lightweight cotton pajama pants that are soft...and keep the sleeping bag clean...and an underarmor t-shirt that’s all synthetic. When it is really cold, he puts on everything but the pj pants, and has four layers of insulation: t-shirt, Navy shirt, fleece, and rainshell. That's the whole package in action, below.
And the most important clothing of all: two day’s worth of hiking socks. This consists of a lightweight fully polyester inner pair, and a nice thick wool or polyester outer pair. He also carries an extra pair of briefs. So one set he wears, and the other set goes in the pack. Every day or so he washes up what is dirty, and has been known to go for more than a week with that outfit. Every third day he even washes the shirt, just to keep up appearances. His total weight, for all clothes, is under two and half pounds, even when the socks are dirty!
M takes more. She likes the idea of having a couple of different outfits, so she usually takes an extra shirt or two, and an extra pair of pants. And she is a little more concerned about getting cold. So her clothes may push 3 pounds. And she really would be lost without her bandana. It’s old, and soft, and is perfect for just about everything from blowing her nose and washing her face to shading her neck or even filtering muddy water. Not all at once, of course!
We each have a hat to protect us from the sun, and you can see those in most of our photos. They also protect against rain, more or less.
And there is one more item we should mention here. We each carry a pair of those very lightweight crocs. They strap to the outside of our pack, so we can get at them easily. We love the fact that if we have to wade across a stream, we have an alternative to going barefoot or getting our hiking boots wet. We love to wear them around camp, without socks, to let our feet breathe as we loaf. They keep us from getting pine needles in our toes, or rock bruises in our heels. And they weigh about 11 ounces.
Maybe we’re just getting old and soft, but that weight seems like a good trade-off to us.
More thoughts on clothes in this blog post: