Rolf Potts travels around
the world with no luggage

No Baggage Challenge: The Travel Clothing

August 18, 2010 by Rolf Potts

By definition a no-luggage journey has to operate on a minimum of gear — but it also has to function with a minimum of clothing. Whatever clothes one brings have to be functional and durable enough to wear constantly, yet small and light enough to pack into pockets if need be.

This in mind, here are the clothes I’m wearing/bringing on the No Baggage Challenge:

1) ScotteVest Tropical Jacket

In the months leading up to this journey I was pretty sure my main utility garment would be the SeV Travel Vest (which, at 22 pockets, has more capacity), but the 18-pocket Tropical Jacket eventually won me over. With lightweight, water-resistant fabric and a vent in the back, it’s cooler than the Travel Vest, and the sleeves zip off (or, in my case, zip on — since I’ll primarily wear it as a vest). All but two of the pockets are on the inside of the jacket, which (a) is a nice deterrent against pickpockets, and (b) keeps me from traveling the world looking like a confused trout fisherman. It’s remarkable how much I can put in these pockets and not look like I’m carrying very much.

2) ScotteVest Ultimate Cargo Pants

These pants actually break my (somewhat vain) travel-rule against wearing pants that zip into shorts. Alex Beam of the New York Times once remarked that these type of pants make you look “like Swedish beekeepers, or plumbers’ assistants (on a bad day)” — and usually I concur with this assessment. Given the choice between the Ultimate Cargo Pants or the SeV Travel Pants (which don’t zip into shorts), however, I went with the cargo pants, since I found their fabric more comfortable, and their pockets better suited for my storage needs. And despite the zip-legs, I think they look sharp and wear well (Swedish beekeepers, eat your heart out).

3) Q-Zip pullover shirt

Of all the products ScotteVest has sent me since they first started mailing me samples earlier this year, my favorite is the Q-Zip. They look good, and they’re cool in warmer weather while still making a good insulation layer when it gets cold. I have five of them in different colors, and I wear them all the time. I’m bringing my blue one, even though it’s my oldest — it’s broken in and comfortable (or, to paraphrase Thoreau, “assimilated to myself”).

4) Performance t-shirt

I’m bringing two of these t-shirts as my day-to-day under-layer. In keeping with all ScotteVest products these shirts feature a couple of pockets — but I’m not interested in the pockets so much as the comfortable fit and the quick drying fabric. I’ll put quite a beating on these — and it’ll be interesting to see how they hold up. On my previous multi-month vagabonding journeys t-shirts are what I most commonly toss out and replace (let’s face it: armpit fabric-odor issues are not to be trifled with), and if anything from my original packing list gets retired early, it could well be these.

5) Travel underwear

My underwear needs are pretty simple, I just need something that dries fast and won’t take up too much space in my pockets. ScotteVest is actually giving me prototype samples of their travel underwear, which isn’t on the market yet; we’ll have to see how they work out for me.

6) Smartwool socks

Actually, Smartwool makes only one of the three pairs of socks I’m bringing; the other two are thin anklet running socks that I’ve owned forever (I’ve long since forgotten the brand name). My selection criterion was simply that they be quick-drying and fit compactly into my pockets. I’m not too picky about socks; I just want something to ensure I don’t go barefoot in my boots.

7) Blundstone boots

I’m traveling with a pair of Blundstone boots I bought in Australia in 2006. I’ve worn these boots all over the world the past four years, from Paris to Ethiopia to the Falkland Islands, and they’ve served me great. They work for hiking in remote environments, yet they’re easy to slip off and on at airport security. Some travelers might prefer Chaco or Teva sandals (if nothing else to save packing socks) — and I won’t fault them for that — but my Blundstones look nice enough that they will get me into places where sandals might seem too informal.

8) TEC ballcap

I seriously thought about not taking a hat, the idea being that I could wear my handkerchief as a do-rag most days, and if I ever got into a sun-intensive environment I could just buy a hat locally. My mother, of all people, wasn’t too wild about this — she insisted a hat is something you need most every day, especially when you’re fair-skinned. She had a point — and after I got my pre-trip buzz-cut at the barber I figured it’d be good to have something to protect my scalp. I’m still packing the handkerchief (which has multiple uses), but I’ll bring along a SeV TEC cap as well. If for some reason I don’t use it that much, I can always give it away someplace.

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