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  1. #1
    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    Touring clothing - Wool

    Since I'm getting into touring I will soon want to start looking at touring specific clothing that may make longer tours more enjoyable.

    I am wondering how much, and what types of clothing you carry on tour. My first thought is to get a few pair of nice wool biking socks and (since I'm in a hammock) a nice thin wool jacket/hoodie. Any idea on the best options for these two would be awesome.

    Opinions on wool vs synthetic?

    I want to be ready for most conditions. Obviously if I tour in Florida it's going to be different gear than I carry in New York, but I've been in Florida when it's 50 degrees outside and not been prepared with what I carried. It made for a miserable trip.

    Would your opinions of what to bring change if you were sleeping in a hammock with only a sleeping pad for insulation?

    A little off topic, but how does everybody handle washing clothing on tour, I can find a water spicket, but how often and how to bring along soap, etc would be nice to know. I'm sure this also depends on weather.

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I got gear before the back to wool trend heated up. So i got Patagonia's wicking
    treated polyester stuff, and its still fine ..
    even after the wool loving moths have made bare spots in my wool rug, at home..

    soap. Dr Bronners concentrate goes a long way and if using a river, it is a bio friendly compound.

    i bring betadyne surgical scrub, to keep my crotch skin clean
    and use it on the bike shorts "chamois". another that a little bit goes a long ways..

    under rain gear, sweaty wet polar fleece I can take off the fleece ,
    whip it against something, fling off the excess water ,
    then put it back on.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 09-14-12 at 12:53 PM.

  3. #3
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    If you can't find adequate water and facilities to shower/bathe, baby wipes or similar are an excellent alternative to clean up the areas vulnerable to fungal outbreaks and bad smell -- arm pits, crotch and toes.

    The need to bathe is often overstated, in my opinion, even though I will take the opportunities when presented. I lived in a backwoods shack for a year with Machka, and we would have a bath once or twice a week (although she would do her hair more often because of its length, and I am light-on there so it didn't matter much); we would use the baby wipes for a going-over in the morning. I was working physical labour in an orchard, which wasn't dissimilar to a long day's ride in term of physical exertion.

    We also are fans of polypro garments for warmth, but we also use wool. We would probably put polypro ahead in practicality.

    However, the one proviso here is if you are doing tours in really lousy weather and can stand the extra bulk, jumpers/pullovers in pure wool and aran or fair isle style are great. I used to wear them all the time in my early days of cycling and sailing, especially ex-Royal Australian Air Force issue, and miss them a bit now...
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    What I have done to wash my clothes is shower in them and use my Lava soap on them, stripping them off and rinsing them as I clean them. Ring them out, hang them up, and let them dry on the bike the next day. So far it's worked fairly well, but my trips are short enough that I don't know if it's a practice that can hold up over time. And, of course, it requires access to a shower.

    Clothing choices for hammock vs. tent camping: I can't see that it would make a difference with this one caveat: make sure you have some sort of under-insulation outside of the hammock or else a pad inside that you can stay on top of. I find a sleeping pad in a hammock to be uncomfortable, and, given that I haven't slept in weather cooler than the 50s, I always tossed it out and just dealt with the cold when it was present. Other people have no problem with a sleeping pad, but many find that they need an extra wide pad or some extra insulation at the head end to widen the pad. Whatever you do, get your insulation figured out. It will be more important than what you sleep in. I have found that no matter how many layers I wear, whatever I'm laying on, clothes and sleeping bag, get compressed enough that there's no way around losing heat through the bottom. Once insulation is sorted out, dress like you were tent camping.

  5. #5
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    I prefer synthetic - dries faster, not itchy. I think this is one of those personal preference things, though, so you may as well get something you are interested in and try it out at home before committing to it on tour.
    ...

  6. #6
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Wool here. Merino wool is not itchy, and wool in general works even when wet. I haven't tried all possible synthetic materials, but those that I have tried start to smell rather quickly. Not so with wool.

    When I sleep in a hammock I always have at least light down bag in addition to sleeping pad. Our nights are just not warm enough for anything less.

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  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Synthetic for me as well. I very much prefer to avoid wool. I find it soaks up more water and dries much slower. I also find that for me at least, contrary to reports by some, it tends to stink more than most of my synthetic garments.

    Washing... I take one type of soap for body, hair, dishes, and laundry. For me I find that baby shampoo suffices for all four. I rinse out my clothes in a sink or in a ziploc bag when I get the chance, but I do not worry if I have to wear them a few days without washing them. Some find they have problems if they put on damp shorts, but I have not found that to be the case so I can manage with one pair.

  8. #8
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Merino wool is the way to go for jersey, leg & arm warmers and even night socks.
    Land of the Free, Because of the Brave.

  9. #9
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Synthetic for me as well. I very much prefer to avoid wool. I find it soaks up more water and dries much slower. I also find that for me at least, contrary to reports by some, it tends to stink more than most of my synthetic garments.
    I once used a lot of Smartwool, but I'm going away from it. I find wool to be heavier and slower drying than the synthetic alternatives, and wool also develops holes and wears faster. I use wool socks, balaclava, and wool blend padded underwear, but I like soft polyester L/S T-shirts with zips like Patagonia's Capilene baselayers, I carry a lightweight (#2) and a midweight T-shirt by EMS. Combine those with an insulation layer and a rain jacket and you can cover a wide range of weather.

  10. #10
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    Smartwool PhDs for socks. Wear like iron, the thin ones are no warmer than cotton in heat.

    I like merino wool jerseys for cool weather. They feel warmer to me after sweating (and I can get sweaty riding to work in 20 degree weather) than synthetic pile. And wet sheep smell is still vastly preferable to wet 2-month-old synthetic stink. The downside to wool is I've got a pretty hard cut-off at 80 degrees -- anything warmer than that and it's just too hot.

  11. #11
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
    They feel warmer to me after sweating (and I can get sweaty riding to work in 20 degree weather) than synthetic pile. And wet sheep smell is still vastly preferable to wet 2-month-old synthetic stink.
    I've tried a couple of different brands of polyester and found a big variation in stink factor and warmth. I have an EMS "essentials" shirt that has no pile and feels a bit clingy and definitely smells a bit after a couple of uses. The Patagonia Capilene equivalent performs and feels much like wool and is lighter and dries quicker than wool. The Capilene is also a lot harder wearing than merino wool. It might be moths or just my abuse of my gear, but my merino gets holes and at $80 for shirt I'm not prepared to spend that for something that develops holes after 6 months.

  12. #12
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    Tops:

    Hot and dry -> Cotton
    Hot and humid -> Techie stuff

    Cool and dry -> Wool
    Cool and wet -> Techie Stuff

    Feet:

    Hot -> Cotton
    Cool -> Wool

    Legs:

    Hot/Cool/Dry/wet -> Nylon baggie knickers +- synthetic base layer
    Cold -> X-country ski gear

    Powder blue moth eaten 2-ply Cashmere sweater as a pillow. Priceless.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by nun View Post
    I've tried a couple of different brands of polyester and found a big variation in stink factor and warmth. I have an EMS "essentials" shirt that has no pile and feels a bit clingy and definitely smells a bit after a couple of uses. The Patagonia Capilene equivalent performs and feels much like wool and is lighter and dries quicker than wool. The Capilene is also a lot harder wearing than merino wool. It might be moths or just my abuse of my gear, but my merino gets holes and at $80 for shirt I'm not prepared to spend that for something that develops holes after 6 months.
    I also have to say that I am impressed with Patagonia's capilene. I picked up a long-sleeve top at MEC last year, and it has been my go-to top on this trip when temperatures have fallen below 15 deg C. It washes well, doesn't pill, doesn't smell, is lightweight, and as you say, behaves a lot like lightweight wool.

    I had lightweight merino jerseys about 10 years ago, and I slowly but surely put holes in them with my fingers as I pulled them on while my skin was still damp from showering or sweating. They were fine to wear, but I noticed they collected large amounts of sweat around the front that took quite a while to dry off when the ambient temperatures came down.

    I also like lightweight polar fleece as an intermediate or outer layer. It does a really good job, in my experience, of removing moisture away from a polypro base. The French brand, Quechua, marketed by Decathlon, does these quite well and Machka is delighted to have picked up another one today for around $20 on special. Hmmm... there's another Decathlon close to where we're staying tonight so we might have to visit tomorrow.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by escii_35 View Post
    Tops:

    Hot and dry -> Cotton
    Hot and humid -> Techie stuff

    Cool and dry -> Wool
    Cool and wet -> Techie Stuff

    Feet:

    Hot -> Cotton
    Cool -> Wool

    Legs:

    Hot/Cool/Dry/wet -> Nylon baggie knickers +- synthetic base layer
    Cold -> X-country ski gear

    Powder blue moth eaten 2-ply Cashmere sweater as a pillow. Priceless.
    I think Machka might have a bit to say about the soft, warm wonders of cashmere or angora for things like socks...
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  15. #15
    nun
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post

    I also like lightweight polar fleece as an intermediate or outer layer. It does a really good job, in my experience, of removing moisture away from a polypro base. The French brand, Quechua, marketed by Decathlon, does these quite well and Machka is delighted to have picked up another one today for around $20 on special. Hmmm... there's another Decathlon close to where we're staying tonight so we might have to visit tomorrow.
    I find fleece to be bulky, so I go with a Marmot DriClime Catalyst jacket as my insulation layer. The nylon shell blocks the wind and the soft lining feels good against the skin. It's amazing how warm it is for the weight and packed size.

  16. #16
    Garlic
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    I use Smartwool socks but only because I have them for hiking. They performed very well on my last tour when I hit snow on the passes in the North Cascades. The rest of the trip they mainly took up space, but also did well against mosquitoes later in the year. The rest of my clothing is multiple layers of nylon or polyester. I can wear all my clothes at the same time, so nothing is duplicate. I rinse them out every chance I get, using whatever soap is handy at whatever sink I use, or no soap at all in streams. I carry a bar of motel soap but hardly ever need it. In hot weather I make sure to do that daily, and usually put them back on wet. Every five to seven days a real washing machine and detergent is nice. Sunshine is a good UV source to sterilize the chamois shorts.

    I only have one night in a hammock and it was the coldest above-freezing night I've ever spent. There's a learning curve to hammocking. Ditto the note about under-insulation.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    I think Machka might have a bit to say about the soft, warm wonders of cashmere or angora for things like socks...
    Guilty as charged my fav are 34% Angroa, 33% Wool, 33% nylon dress socks from Cape Mohair SA. http://www.capemohair.co.za

  18. #18
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    I used Icebreaker's Merino Wool Shorts on a 30-day tour. They were amazing. They never smelled near as bad as my buddy's stuff, and in the rain they were just the right amount of warmth. I bought a merino wool t-shirt, but that I couldn't wear. 100 degree heat was fine on the thighs, the bike shorts did not feel too hot one single time. The T-shirt, however, did. I wore an Under-Armour t-shirt, the fitted heat gear kind instead.

    When it rained, I rolled on Smartwool Arm Warmers. They were so warm and comfortable, even when soaking wet the fabric still felt "dry" and I stayed warm and comfortable. Also, Merino wool socks, hands down.


    At night, I slept in midweight merino wool crew and tights from Smartwool. Warm, comfortable, and odor-free all summer (It got cold in the White Mountains).


    So yeah, +1 for Wool but I do not suggest a wool t-shirt in the summer.


    P.S. My icebreaker pants got a tear from some bushwhacking in the woods, totally my fault. I called Icebreaker and they replaced them for free, and sent me stickers and coupons!!
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  19. #19
    Bike touring webrarian
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    I've completely converted to wool clothing for both on and off the bike wear on tour. The only non-wool piece I use is Lycra riding shorts. I have written an article explaining my choices and how I came to be a wool-only bike tourist.

    Essentially, wool can be worn several days without washing, allowing me to carry less gear. It is completely comfortable, works in a wider range of temperatures, and dries overnight.
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  20. #20
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nun View Post
    I find fleece to be bulky ...
    I am now carrying two fleece tops on this tour ... one is a jacket, which I've had since 2007, and one is a pullover style which I just picked up yesterday. I got both from Decathlon, and the reason I got them is because they are so light (weight) and pack down quite small. The Decathlon shop we visited yesterday had the heavier fleece tops as well which don't interest me.

    If you look around at sports shops (like Decathlon, MEC, etc.) you can often find a variety of choices.


    And yes, I go with cashmere or angora socks. I have been able to pick up these at places like Walmart and Sears, often in late winter, for very inexpensive prices. I don't think I've paid more than $2 for a pair of cashmere or angora socks. For some reason they don't seem to sell particularly well so they put them on sale quite often. I've no idea why they wouldn't sell well because they are so much better than the usual 6 pack of cotton socks places like Walmart sell. I wear my cashmere or angora socks for work, for working out in the gym, for long walks, for cycling ...

  21. #21
    Banned. Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nun
    I find fleece to be bulky, so I go with a Marmot DriClime Catalyst jacket as my insulation layer. The nylon shell blocks the wind and the soft lining feels good against the skin. It's amazing how warm it is for the weight and packed size.

    Marmot Driclime has replaced fleece as a midlayer for me as well. It's far, far more versatile and works well as an outer layer in many conditions. A Marmot Driclime top is amazingly warm for the packed size.

    I've packed fleeces and wool sweaters too - Polartec powerstretch fleece is pretty compressible for the warmth but it has no windblocking at all.

    I do ride in wool cycling shorts and jerseys, and socks while on tours. I've used wool in Hawaii, i've used wool in California, I've used wool in the Midwest. I think its okay if you've got the right weight of wool. In the southeast I'd probably use a seersucker top. Texas, perhaps a snapshirt

    However, for ultralite packing i've found a spare set of wool cycling togs to be a bit bulky. I am considering packing spare synthetic clothes to wear riding in on wash day, but usually wash consists of a pair of cycling clothes hanging off the back of the bags while wearing the other set, so I've always brought spare wool clothing.

    I think wool rocks in almost every condition except when it gets totally overwhelmed by water in a rainstorm or by immersion.

    Wool is almost always comfortable and dryfeeling, with a lot less evaporative cooling when stopped. This is crucial IMO when touring in cooler climes, shoulder seasons, or winter.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 09-15-12 at 03:30 AM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I wear wool, cotton or soft fleece depending on the time of year and the conditions. I typically wear wool socks all year round.

    Fleece doesn't absorb much water and dries quickly. Most of the high tech dri-wick fabrics are uncomfortable to me, so it is wool below about 80*f and cotton above that. If it is hot and humid I typically wear a vented back cotton cloth shirt like the Columbia PFG. I have been experimenting with bamboo fabric shirts and the results are promising.

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  23. #23
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nun View Post
    I find fleece to be bulky.
    I find that if I have the correct sized stuff sack it can be compressed pretty small.

  24. #24
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Everything synthetic except for wool socks. Drys faster. Zero cotton. Laundry: wash in sink using shampoo. Wring well. Lay out flat on a towel. Roll up towel tightly. Stand on one end of towel, twist the other end until it twists into a snail shape. Repeat, standing on the other end and twisting the opposite direction. Synthetics will be dry by morning. Wool socks not, but they'll dry on your feet before you hit the road. Towel means this can only be done in a hotel or hostel.

    We carry two sets of jerseys and shorts. It's possible to wear them each two days, so that gives 4 days max between washings. We also carry undershirts and arm and leg warmers. These also have to be washed when they get unendurably stinky. We've found laundry to be the biggest problem on tour. Everything else is just normal bike riding and camping. Bike touring is unique in that it is a self-contained daily athletic program which involves daily interaction with other people (you hope).

    We put everything made of fabric that we aren't wearing in compression sacks. We don't use any fleece or pile. We live in the PNW, so we're used to the ambient. We're mammals, after all.

  25. #25
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Synthetics can be laundered and, more importantly, dried in machines. Lycra actually does better in a dryer than if air dried. The elastomer is refreshed and the clothing is doesn't bag as much.

    I've never had a problem with finding laundry facilities on tour. Lots of public campgrounds have them...more in the East than the West...and almost all hotels have them. Spending an hour or so in a coin-op laundry isn't all that bad either.
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