One outfit to rule them all
August 23, 2013 10:37 AM   Subscribe

I will be trekking/travelling/volunteering in South America for 6-8 months early next year. I am looking for what to wear and bring. Ideally, comfortable, water resistant, fashionable, lightweight things.

Skinny, medium height, young male here.

I am good on rain jacket and pants, camera, light down jacket, backpack and underwear. (Exofficio boxers are exactly the kind of thing i'm looking for. Lightweight, drys quick, two pairs and I'm set. Plus, the boxer briefs double as a swimsuit!)

I don't plan on encountering very cold weather but I would like to be prepared for those chilly Patagonian nights.

I am most interested in:

-slim fitting, don't look like hiking pants. Ideally, I could walk into a bar with them and no one would bat an eye.

- same as above. NOTE: no convertable pants please (for fashion and function reasons)

- I've never seen a pair of hiking shoes that look particularly fashionable, but that would be great. More important is that they are comfortble, dry quick and are durable.

Non-clothing gear
- compass, soap, towel, whatever saved your ass when you were traveling for months!

Socks, gloves, shirts, baselayer, beanie style hat recommendations would be great too as well as any other things you think of.

Lists like this and this and these two previous AskMefi questions are awesome. Any resources like those are excellent.

Let's say money isn't an issue (obviously cheaper is better but I'm willing to pay for quality.)

Basically, if you were to live in more or less one outfit and with just a few things on your back for the better part of a year, what would you bring?
posted by saul wright to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I also already have a tent and trekking poles. I will have an iphone so app recommendations are marvelous as well!

posted by saul wright at 10:42 AM on August 23, 2013

Gizmodo recommends the Platypus, but I say Camelbak, particularly the 100oz variety. There are a hundred different styles of backpack; you could also (in a pinch) just stick the water reservoir itself into your existing backpack, but make sure it's sealed off completely or you'll have some troubles.

Smartwool is a frequent recommendation in your linked articles. I'm a huge fan of Ex Officio's stuff, myself. Particularly their shirts and underwear. I haven't had any of the usual bacteria/stench-retaining problems that you often get from "wicking" athletic clothes, and they wash well in rivers, etc., and dry extremely quickly.

Related to which, I like Campsuds for washing your clothes in any environment.
posted by mykescipark at 10:52 AM on August 23, 2013

If cost is not an issue, check out Outlier trousers, specifically the New OGs, the Climbers, and the Three Way Shorts/ Longs

The Lululemon Ascent or Mission might work as well.

Keen is my go to brand for comfy and durable hiking footwear. How rugged do you expect your hiking/ trekking to be? The Keen Wichita is a hiking shoe and the Depart WP is lighter hiking boot/a trailhead shoe (so the sole is less luggy).
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:21 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pants - I'd take some low-key softshell pants like Patagonia Guide (I'd look for something cheaper, this is just an idea of the direction).

Short - Fjallraven makes nice gear, they sell super tough clothing. They are a bit heavy and not the quickest drying, but I have some of their shorts and they're great for travel in my opinion. I like lighter stuff for hiking. has a sale right now, and you can register to (I can send you an invite if you need one to register) they sell gear at 40-60% off, sometimes you can find nice stuff. Their shipping is slow though, be warned.

What kind of hiking are you planning to do? For day or overnight hikes with light gear, you can get by with almost fashionable lightweight trail shoes or even trail runner, from a brand like Merrell (they count as fashionable, for some reason), La Sportiva or Salomon. If you're looking into long distance, heavy backpack affairs, you're kinda screwed fashion-wise. I'd take a second lighter pair, some crocs or lightweight sandals or flip-flops, being stuck in hiking boots for six months is not fun.

Towel - whatever is on sale at Travel towels are an acquired taste.

Socks - some kind of hiking socks, don't overthink it too much. Again, what's on sale at right now.

Gloves - you kinda tend to lose these, I'd buy cheap fleece ones.
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 11:27 AM on August 23, 2013

Oh, and lightweight merino base layers really do not stink (the thicker stuff smells a bit), unlike synthetics, which over time, gain unholy smell that even a washing machine cannot cure.

But don't buy a bunch of super expensive stuff, worrying about your gear all of the time sucks (I should probably take some of own advice).
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 11:35 AM on August 23, 2013

OH and get yourself a Buff. The come in a variety of fabrics and patterns and are more useful than you'd think. Worth Googling around for the best price - lots of retailers sell them.

Also, the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Line is surprisingly excellent quality. Dig around and you might find some things that meet your criteria for stealth hike-wear (like this shirt and these pants). Sometimes you will find First Ascent items in the clearance section too.
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:40 AM on August 23, 2013

Response by poster: Wow, those Outlier pants are exactly the type of thing I'm looking for but 200+ dollars?! Good lord. But maybe...they are going to be my only pants after all.

I don't have specific hiking plans yet (other than probably the inca trail) but it'll most likely be similar to my last trip - hike and camp for 3 to 7 days then hostel or maybe couchsurf for a couple days before the next trek. I had a pair of Keens for my last trip that I was happy with. I logged about 400 km and never felt the need for ankle support or anything more. Honest I'm leaning more towards the trail runner types unless someone tells me that's a bad idea. The style of trekking will vary but no serious mountaineering or anything.
posted by saul wright at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2013

Last but not least, if you're going for this length of time, you'd probably want to wear some jeans eventually, and have some normal street shoes. And toiletries. Especially if you're volunteering somewhere. And you'll probably acquire some t shirts. Are you planning to hike with everything you own on your back? If not, just take some normal street clothes with you. Take the cheaper stuff you like, but can throw out without worrying about it too much.
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2013

Best answer: Did you see travelindependent yet? There is a ton of info on what to pack! They have country summaries for South America as well.
posted by travelwithcats at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2013

I know you didn't mention underwear, but I'd highly recommend ExOficio. Extremely quick dry, comfortable, good fit, and odor resistant.
posted by Temeraria at 11:54 AM on August 23, 2013

If you have even slightly hairy legs (thighs specifically), I'd avoid Ex Oficio boxers. I bought two pair for a two-week trip and they constantly snagged and yanked on my thigh hairs, leading to a lot of ingrown thigh hairs. Ick.

I have found most synthetic underwear gets pretty gnarly pretty quickly. When I'm backpacking I bring some cotton underwear to put on in my sleeping bag, while I air out the synthetics.

What will the weather be like in the areas you're going?

nthing what sockpuppetdirect said, that you should be sure to bring some jeans and other normal clothes.

Smartwool socks are awesome.

Bring a very long extra shoelace to line-dry things in hostels.

The Merrell Stapleton stretchy pants in the right color look like normal pants but are quick-drying and stretch with you.

I carry at least 3 cheap cotton handkerchiefs with me. One to blow my nose, one to dry my face and hands after washing them in any available water source, and another to put over my eyes when sleeping anywhere.

On shoes, if you could bear the look of your Keens, you could certainly go with those again.

For shorts, I've been pretty happy with some $10 Polo Ralph Lauren shorts from Ross or Marshall's. Yeah, they're cotton, but they're a slim fit khaki that looks great. If they get dirty, you have other pants.
posted by MonsieurBon at 2:51 PM on August 23, 2013

Just came back from a similar trip. I'll note some non-clothing things that were helpful:

- Fairly solid combination or other lock - you may need this at hostels and other random times, in my experience.
- I took a small "tool kit" - just a small ziplock bag with extra duct tape, small removable hooks (the 3M adhesive kind you can get at Home Depot), small swiss army multitool, and paracord. The paracord and hooks were lifesavers for wet laundry hanging.
- Photos of people back home. This trip was hard for me, and having a few physical photos helped me smile during tough times.
- SteriPen. Probably saved my life.

Remember that, except when you're hiking out in the wilderness, you'll be able to buy disposables and things in any civilized area. I packed some things like soap that ended up feeling like dead weight. If you live as the locals do, you'll have everything you need already over there. Save your back and buy it instead, is my suggestion.

Good luck, and have fun!:)
posted by TessaGal at 7:30 PM on August 23, 2013

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