Vagabond Travel Tips: Technical Clothing Decoded


Sorting through the scores of hi-tech features of modern sport wear can be extremely confusing and stressful. Here are a few tips to help you decide what’s useful and what’s not, and which –if any– live up to the hype.

Any Material with a Trademarked Name — Translation: “Our marketing team has discovered that adding a registered trademark to our nylon/polyester blend allows us to increase the price by at least $20. If the name ends in “EX” or we can get the guy in the graphics department to knock out a hi-tech tag illustration, we all get a bonus!”

UPF Sun Protection — I don’t know when they started rating clothing for sun protection, but I’ve hated every piece I’ve tried. Blocking out the sun also blocks out any and all air flow. In hot climes, you’ll risk a sweaty case of sunstroke, but at least you won’t get sunburned through your shirt. Save the money and wear a plastic bag. For a worst-case scenario, read this.

Moisture-Wicking Material — Okay, this is a tricky one. For a base-layer, such as a t-shirt or long underwear, this is a great feature. Unfortunately, someone got carried away and began making short-sleeved shirts and pants out the stuff, where it works a little too well. Walk around in the heat for a half-hour and your armpits and butt crack will both be sporting huge sweat stains. And, the ladies love that, don’t ya know.

Pants with a “gusseted crotch” — As guys, we all like to think we need extra space in that area, but unless you were born with a gonadal deformity, it’s just more marketing horse shit.

Built-In Insect Protection — Apparently, it’s now possible to bond some kind of hippy organic insecticide to fabric. Who knew? What this means is that instead of swatting your sides or back, you’ll be slapping yourself in the face instead. Unless you’re buying a burka made from this stuff, don’t bother.

Those are my tips. Let’s hear yours.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan - Voyagner May 5, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Hahaha, love it, technical clothing annoys me, practical clothing is what you want.

As a side note instead of insect repellent clothes and paying a premium for something that won’t last anyway, I used some of the wash in stuff. Bad idea, it caused a really bad burning sensation in places I don’t want you to know and I couldn’t wear those clothes again until they had been washed repeatedly. I’d rather have had the mozzie bites.
.-= Dan – Voyagner´s last blog ..Movie Review: The Art of Travel =-.


wes May 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Oh man.. that sounds like *exactly* the kind of idea I’d come up with. Thanks for thinking of it first ;)


Kirsty - No Place To Be May 5, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Great post, I was startingt o get sucked into thinking I neeeeeeedddddd all this stuff, but you make some very valid points! I never quie understood the SPF clothing either!


ayngelina May 5, 2010 at 10:01 pm

You know it’s funny because I’ve been on the road a month now and am starting to feel like I want less technical clothing so I stick out less in the crowd. I’ve started looking around in local markets for good old fashioned cotton. Because in Central America it doesn’t matter what you wear, you’re going to sweat.

That said, I’m in San Cristobal right now and it’s quite cool. I’m really happy I bought a SmartWool sweater and merino wool socks. But if I knew what the non brand name was I would have certainly bought those too.
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..When you should get a tour guide =-.


wes May 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Oh yeah, Smartwool socks are a winner. I had a couple of pairs years ago and they lasted *forever*. Eventually, I left them out to dry while hiking in Yosemite and some mice chewed holes in them :(


half century May 5, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Pah! Technical is a no no, My fave garment of all time is Thai Fisherman pants, they cost next to nothing, get more comfy the more they are washed and the fabric is nice and absorbant for the sweaty cracks. Hope the fashion police are not reading this tho’!


Joel May 6, 2010 at 7:06 am

I’ve only bought one item – nylon pants with zippered legs to become shorts.

I got them solely for carrying with me when I’m cycling so I have something to throw on before entering a “respectable” establishment in cycling shorts.

Other than that, all my clothing is stuff I already own and wear.

Isn’t a normal shirt higher than 30SPF? I sure don’t get a tan of any kind through my dress shirts.
.-= Joel´s last blog ..Twenty Questions =-.


wes May 7, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Agreed. I don’t think I’ve ever been burned through a normal shirt….


Josh | The Wander Project May 6, 2010 at 9:29 am

HA! I agree, Wes: A marketing ploy indeed, with bonus points for each derivative of “extreme” or “tech” in the product name. These things are great if you’re climbing a rock face or hiking for eight hours; for sightseeing, though, they can make you look like a tourist, a poser, or both.
.-= Josh | The Wander Project´s last blog ..Weekly Steals: The Best Deals on Travel Gear =-.


michael May 7, 2010 at 11:05 pm

love my REI travel pants, straight nylon without pretense of a fancied-up high-tech invented name, (although the nylon has been “peached”, a questionably creative way to say they are softer than your dad’s nylon windbreaker), have several pair and they double as perfect everyday pants for work. New version has also been gusseted, much to Wes’s chagrin, I’m sure.

soft and comfortable, extremely lightweight, no wrinkles, lots of zippered pockets, cool and dry, and way better on the eyes than shorts. Only other piece of men’s tourist clothing worse than camo cargo shorts are the ubiquitous thai beer/energy drink wife-beaters (aka singlets for our european cousins) worn by the lager-lout crowd. Cover up that alabaster flesh farangs! No one wants to see that…


Casa De Hamilton Pool May 14, 2010 at 5:18 am

hahahaha, good stuff. I like some of the light weight 5-11 pants, and some of the clothing from Tadgear. Expensive but worth it.


JB May 14, 2010 at 8:41 am

I second Michael’s love of the REI convertible pants and would add that I also love shirts made from dri-fit and similar technologies. They are super light, don’t wrinkle (especially if using the rolling method of packing), wick moisture, ventilate well, and dry quickly. I recommend including a long-sleeve version for layering and for mildy chilly conditions.
.-= JB´s last blog ..My First Lengthy Travel – Why, Where and What I Brought =-.


Travel Harriet June 8, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I love Moisture-Wicking Material, it will absorb all the sweat and you will be comfortable at the end of the day.Thanks for the blog.


Plus Size July 1, 2010 at 3:42 am

Awesome post Johnny.


Alex January 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I have to say that I disagree on the gusseted crotch, but with the caveat that I do a lot of bouldering. The gusset mainly comes in handy for something like say, crossing an ankle over a wrist at shoulder height.