About the Author: Laurie Freeman is a naturalist, environmentalist and soon-to-be retiree. She earned a BE in mechanical engineering and a MA in biology (ecology, evolution and behavior). Laurie spent the majority of her career as a professor of biology and environmental science at a small upstate NY community college. She and her husband Jim built their home (and homestead) using local material and human powered tools, and she continues to practice self-reliance by gardening and beekeeping. Laurie teaches yoga and runs a small herbal medicinal practice in her community. How she finds time to hike is a mystery. You can follow her AT thru hike on trailjournals, Instagram @lauriefreeman and Twitter @LaurieJFreeman.
What the heck am I going to wear? I feel like a teen trying to choose a prom outfit. I have easily spent three times the amount of time thinking about clothing compared to thinking about any other gear category. All the rest was easy. Clothing is impossible. I don’t want to be cold. Then again, I don’t want to be too hot. I want to have a dry set of clothing to change into on those days when there is no option but to get wet. Most of all, I want to be comfortable. I need clothing that feels good against the skin and good under a pack. Considering that my whole wardrobe will either be worn or in my pack, I need the whole kit to be lightweight. Finally, I did not want to break the bank on clothing that I was uncertain would fit the bill. So, from the feet up here’s what I’m sporting and why:
Me with the clothes I’ll likely be wearing most of the time.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 women’s trail runners (21 oz). I love these shoes. I wore them all last summer hiking. They are light. They dry fast. They grip rocks well. They keep my feet blister free. And, of course, they are now no longer available. I don’t understand why companies do this to us. We fall in love with a product and then they stop making it. The good news is that I managed to buy a new pair as a close-out a few weeks ago so the first 500 miles of the trip is covered. I have no idea what I’ll do after that.
Camp sandals (7 oz). I decided on sandals from Walmart. They are much like Tevas but only $8.88 for the pair. They are about twice the weight of flip flops but I hate flip flops. I wanted something I could wear with socks and that would stay on my feet if I had to use them for a stream crossing. I could also hike a day in these if something happened to my feet or my trail runners. In other words, these give me options.
Socks. Darned Tough hiker ¼ cushion. I love Darned Tough. I have LOTS of Darned Tough socks now. They fit great. They last forever (and have a lifetime warranty). I’m taking 3 pair (6 oz total): two to alternate wearing and one for sleeping. I could even use a pair as mittens if my hands get cold.
Dirty Girl gaiters (1.25 oz). I started wearing these a couple of years ago. I love 2 things about them:
1) They keep dirt, pine needles and other trail debris out of my shoes.
2) They keep my shoelaces tied. For whatever reason, my laces bounce around and untie themselves even if they are ‘double tied’. When I wear my dirty girls, this never happens.
Underwear. I finally found a light, quick drying bra with True and Co. Their V Neck Racerback fits great and is comfortable all day with my pack. For bottoms I’m going with ExOfficio give-n-go mesh. Again, fast drying. I’m bringing 2 sets of underwear so I can wash one and have it drying while I wear the second. Both the bra and panties come in some nice colors that will look like a bathing suit if I wanted to swim without skinny dipping. Two bras and two panties total 6.5 oz.
Purple Rain hiking skirt (4.75 oz). I have not hiked a lot in a skirt, but I have done some, and I love it. I had been waiting for a good excuse to purchase a purple rain skirt. (I figure hiking the AT is as good an excuse as there is.) Purple rain skirts get terrific reviews. I have to say my new skirt feels wonderful on. I love that the material is quick drying. I love that there is a wide, soft waistband. I adore the pockets. The biggest issue I have with all previous bottoms (shorts, pants, skirt) is the belted waist band. Whether or not I wear a belt, my pack sits on this band in such a way that eventually I get uncomfortable along my low back where the pack rests. This will not happen with the purple rain skirt. The few times I have hiked in a skirt I found that it is terrific for airing out the groin area. It also makes using my p-style easy peasy.
Shorts (4.25 oz). I found a pair of Prospirit athletic shorts at Salvation Army. They are made of polyester, quick-drying fabric. I think they’ll make fine sleepwear.
IceBreaker women’s bodyfit zone 150 bottoms (4.75 oz). They are merino wool, nylon and lycra; super comfy. They fit great and are super lightweight. I got lucky and bought these on sale.
Shirts. I have to admit that what shirts to wear has been the hardest decision. As with all clothing, I wanted fast drying, odor resistant materials. Other than that, I wasn’t sure what styles I wanted. So I’ve opted for 5. (Just typing that number makes this seems so excessive but I have no idea which one I’d leave behind.)
a) A Smartwool short sleeved merino wool t-shirt (3.75 oz). I bought this a few months ago as a discontinued model and I absolutely love it. It feels good against the skin and is comfortable to hike in as both a base layer and alone. I could either hike in it or use it as a sleep shirt.
b) Exofficio tank top (2.75 oz). Another discontinued item that I purchased at a deep discount. I’m thinking I might hike in this under the button-down shirt (below). Then I could use the t-shirt for my camp/sleep shirt. Or I could sleep in this one. This gives me some options for very little weight.
c) An Eastern Mountain Sports long sleeved button down shirt (mine actually snaps) (7 oz). I like a long sleeve shirt for a few reasons:
i) They tend to be a bit windproof so offer some warmth/protection from the wind.
ii) I can roll the sleeves down and foil the biting insects/sun without using repellent/sunscreen. There is a button band to hold the sleeves in the rolled up position.
iii) They are often cooler to wear than a t-shirt. I can open the whole front (especially with a sports bra on) but still have some fabric between me and my pack. This one is also moisture wicking and quick drying.
d) L.L.Bean fleece ¼ zip (6.5 oz). I picked this discontinued style up at Salvation Army.
e) Lightweight merino wool long sleeve (5 oz). I have no brand name to give you as it was left at my house by a world-travelling Australian lass who spent about a month with us as a workaway guest. Having 2 long sleeved moderately warm tops will guarantee that I will have a dry one to put on in camp.
The complete clothing kit with my dog Lupi (who is not going with me).
Mountain Hardwear ghost whisperer hooded down puffy (7.75 oz). These are expensive! The good news is that I got mine at a steep discount. I love this jacket because it is terrifically comfortable and warm. It has a hood in case of cold and it fits great under my rain jacket for a super warm layering option. And it packs down to nothing.
Hat (1 oz). Fleece beanie from Turtlefur. Another find that someone left at our house.
Buff (1.5 oz). Buffs are great. I like that it keeps my hair out of my face. I like that I can wear it as a hat or under a hat. I like that I can wear it as a neck gaiter. They are so versatile and next to nothing in weight. I imagine I’ll wear the buff in the green tunnel and wear the brimmed hat (below) in the sun.
Outdoor Research Brimmed hat (1.25 oz). Having a hat with a brim is essential if I need to use my bug net. In addition the brim is handy for keeping the sun off my face when I’m above tree line. In all likelihood, I’ll be wearing this most of the time. It keeps my head cooler than the buff. I have no idea where I acquired this hat. It’s been kicking around our place for a few years.
Rain Gear. Getting wet seems inevitable. The nature of waterproof fabric is to prevent water from migrating through it. Unfortunately, that works both ways: out to in and vice versa. Even if I have the best rain gear, I’m likely to get wet from the inside due to perspiration. With this in mind, I’m bringing a rain jacket (Marmot women’s Minimalist Jacket (14.3 oz)) and rain pants (Marmot women’s Minimalist Pants (10 oz)) anyway. I think I’m more likely to use these items as anti-wind gear than anti-rain. I had these items already. The jacket works well as rain/wind gear and has pit zips (armpit zippers) for ventilation. I don’t think I’ve ever closed them. Both items are sturdy. Because I’ve worn them on multiple hikes, I know they can withstand trail vegetation and rock abrasion. Combined with my puffy, the jacket makes an incredibly warm option. Combined with my base layer bottoms, the pants will be super warm if need be.
Umbrella showing the top and bottom pieces that I cut off.
A couple of non-clothing items that seem appropriate to mention here:
1. Umbrella (12.5 oz). I like the idea of having a “dry” place around my head; a place where I can pull my phone out to snap a picture or where I can have a snack without it getting drenched. I purchased a wooden shafted model with a minimum of mechanism figuring that would be the lightest option (outside of purchasing an expensive ultralight brolly). I cut off the hook, a few inches of the bottom shaft (up to the locking mechanism) and a bit of the top shaft in order to shave off a few ounces. I’m using a couple of velcro-like straps (originally meant to hold electrical cords together) to attach the umbrella to my pack’s shoulder strap.
2. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Pack Cover (4.9 oz). I’m not wearing this but my pack is. The plan for rain is redundancy. I am lining my pack with a trash compactor bag. I’m putting all my clothes in a Dyneema Carbon Fiber bag (0.25 oz) inside that liner. AND I’m covering the pack with a pack cover.
Altogether my clothing and rain gear total 8.36 pounds. I’m wearing 3.98 pounds of that and carrying the remaining 4.38 pounds.
If you read part 1 of this series, you’ll know that my decision-making has been guided by my fear of being cold, wet and uncomfortable. Reflecting on my clothing choices, it is clear that this theme has continued. It’ll be interesting to see how my choices work for me and how they change over the course of my hike.
You can see my ever changing gear list at Lighter Pack. I’ll be reviewing my decision-making regarding the final bit of gear in a future blog post.
I’d love to know how you made your clothing selections or your critique of mine. You can do that by leaving a comment below.