We’ve decided to take a trip. We’ve chosen the location: Europe. We’ve determined the duration: 5 months. And we’ve settled on the mode of travel:
tandem bicycle single bicycles. We’ve also discussed the tools and cooking supplies we’ll be bringing. Now it’s time to talk clothes.
Clothes can make or break a trip. If you’re wearing the right clothes, even a long ride in the rain can be fun. Since we want our trip in Europe to be fun, we researched the strategies for what to wear while living outdoors. One of the best resources we found is the website of accomplished hiker and übèr gêár nęrd Andrew Skurka.
Mr. Skurka has a great, systematic approach for how to pack for trips. He first analyzes the conditions he’ll likely see, taking into account historical extremes. Based on this research, he selects an optimized clothing system. I say system because that’s what it is. The clothes are designed to work together to provide comfort and performance while taking into account weight and bulk.
Following Mr. Skurka’s lead, I looked up weather averages for cities we’ll be near during our trip:
|Location||High (ºF)||Low (ºF)||Precipitation (inches) per month|
The plan is to head further north as the summer gets it’s start, only to reverse course as fall approaches. What worries me though is the precipitation. Hi, my name is Nick, and I’m a water woosy. Living in a city with an average annual rainfall of 11 inches, I seldom ride my bicycle in the rain, and I’m on my bike nearly every day of the year. According to the averages, we’ll see around 15 inches of rain in 5 months. That’s about 325% more rain than I’m used to.
Since we’ll be living outdoors most of the time, we’ll also have to figure in sun exposure, humidity, and biting insects. Here’s a breakdown of what we expect:
- Daytime temperatures: 50s–60s with extremes in the 70s–80s
- Nighttime temperatures: 40s–50s with extremes around freezing
- Precipitation: frequent showers, some long-lasting
- Humidity: moderate to high
- Sun exposure: high due to long days at northern latitudes
- Biting insects: infrequent (wishful thinking?)
Based on this information, here’s my
rough final draft of the clothing I plan to bring:
- Lightweight shirts – I’ve decided to bring two lightweight long sleeve shirts that will rotate as my base layer. One is made by Smart Wool and one by Patagonia, a merino and polyester one-two punch. While the Smart Wool merino shirt is less clammy than the poly Patagonia Capilene 2, it is slower to dry and more fragile. This trip will allow me to determine which material works best for touring.
Midweight shirt – A long sleeve 1/4 zip midweight merino shirt is nice as a post-ride top to stay warm and dry.I decided not to bring this because it’s heavier and less warm than the down jacket.
- Sweater – This fleece sweater is the jack of all tops. It works well in many climates during all sorts of activities. The biggest critique I have is that I’ve worn it so much over the years that even after being laundered it looks like something you’d find in a gas station bathroom.
- Down jacket – I debated whether to bring a down jacket for wet conditions, but the allure of slipping my Feathered Friends Daybreak on in camp after a wet day on the bike is too strong to deny.
- Wind jacket – My Patagonia Houdini is a great all-purpose layer when additional warmth is needed. It’s light, compact, breathable, and its woven fabric resists mosquito attacks.
- Rain jacket – There is nothing better than the Shower’s Pass Elite 2 jacket. I bought mine in 2008 for our trip to Iceland. It has wide cuffs, pit zips and a back flap for allowing air to circulate through the jacket without billowing. However, I’ve decided to take my cheap but far lighter O2 Rainshield hooded jacket, mainly because it has a hood. When off the bike in the rain, a hood is handy for staying dry and warm.
- Padded underwear – 2 pairs – The Aerotech Designs Touring Underwear has a thin pad, which is all I care for when riding on a leather saddle. The thin pad also decreases drying time.
- Underwear – Polyester boxer briefs dry quickly and take up little space.
- Shorts – I’ve had a pair of Rapha Touring Shorts for about 6 years. They are the most comfortable baggies I’ve used.
- Knee warmers – I use knee warmers during rides under 60º. They can also be useful as an added layer during really cold nights.
- Pants – I got a pair of BluffWorks travel pants because most travel pants have cargo pockets, come only in khaki, and are way too baggy. Why would anyone not on a safari want to dress like they’re on a safari?
- Rain pants – I have some REI rain pants that are about 10 years old. They work. I only wear rain pants if it’s cold and wet.
- Helmet – My foam hat is nothing special. I wear it mainly to avoid hearing unsolicited advice about my own life choices.
- Glasses – I just wear my normal prescription glasses.
- Hat – A wool cap keeps my noodle warm and shields my eyes from early morning light.
- Cycling cap – A cycling cap helps keep rain and sun out of my eyes.
- Wind gloves – I use some running gloves because they’re wind-resistant and unpadded. They take the sting out of cold morning rides.
- Rain gloves – Moutain Laurel Designs makes some simple rain mitts. These come in handy if it’s wet and cold or just really cold out. I put these over the wind gloves.
- Socks – 2 pairs – Darn Tough make nice socks with a good reputation for durability. They are fairly thin so they dry quickly.
- Sleep socks – On many trips I’ve been jealous of Carrie’s sleep socks. A thicker wool hiking sock feels so nice when it’s cold out.
- Sneakers – Five Ten Freeriders have a sticky sole for use with flat pedals, which I prefer to use when touring. They’re also comfortable for walking.
- Booties – The Shower’s Pass Club Shoe Covers are great for keeping shoes and socks dry. My first pair lasted about seven years of commuting and touring. I prefer these to waterproof socks because I can only imagine how stinky the socks would get over time.
If we were riding in dry conditions, I’d ditch the sleeping clothes, all rain gear except the jacket, and most likely the pants. That would cut out a lot of bulk. But the idea of having some dry clothes to slip into after a rainy day sounds pleasant.