An ultralight purist will not include the items worn on one’s body in their “base weight”, but that doesn’t mean these ounces don’t matter! It’s easy to get carried away and say things like your knife, gaiters, fleece, etc. count as “worn on body”, but let’s keep it simple for consistency – For this category, we are only talking about the items you wear on your feet, legs, torso, and head every single day regardless of weather. Ok, with that settled, let’s discuss one heated political question …
Hiking Boots or Trail Running Shoes?
Like Tent vs. Hammock, this is another popular argument among hiking enthusiasts. So much so, that multiple research studies have been done to validate the claim that “one pound on your feet equals 5 on your back”. I can confirm, it’s true, the lighter your footwear, the lighter your pack feels overall. I know I will be replacing my footwear every 500 miles or so, but for the initial weeks, I will start with a light-weight hiking boot I know my body already likes. This way I can evaluate any early hiking issues knowing my shoes are not a variable. Later on, when replacements are needed, I’ll move to a breathable running shoe like the Saloman X-mission 3. Hello Neiman!
Hiking Boots. Oboz is a great company out of Montana, and the Oboz Sawtooth Low is a light-weight boot that already traversed the mountain ranges of Denali and Glacier National Parks. Oboz even calls out my needs on the website description, saying it is “proven on rocks and roots of the AT.” As I strengthen my hiking legs early on, I’ll be happy to have this boot’s sole support and ruggedness to lean on. Only 15.6 ounces, and not high on the ankle, they are still pretty lightweight for thru-hiking.
Hiking Socks. Not going to get into the conversation about liner socks vs. wool socks vs. injinji toe socks. I’ve tried them all and they all work … but no-one should obsess over socks too much. As long as you how to protect your feet from hot-spots and blisters, you can make any sock work. I prefer the Smartwool PdH Outdoor which I already know pairs well with my boots. They fit nicely, dry fast, and only weigh 1.8 ounces. They don’t come in orange, but nothing is perfect…
Hiking Pants. Lightweight? Check. Convertible to shorts? Check. Light and chafe-free? Check. I have only tested these out a couple times, but the Paramount Trail Pants are very comfortable and have yet to cause discomfort from chafing that I can tell. The one downside is lack of zipper to the back pocket, but I can live without that for a couple thousand miles of hiiking. I also love the color, as their ability to camouflage dirt and grime stains may keep me from looking like a hobo among people.
Hiking Shirt. One can use any shirt, don’t be fooled by anything fancy here. The only reason I’m picking this one is that I need to identify something, and saying “an old Ultimate Frisbee jersey” doesn’t look as fancy. I want a shirt to be lightweight, moisture-wicking, and odor-fighting – and The North Face Ambition Short Sleeve is a good combo of all 3. Its polyester, which is not the typical merino wool others suggest, but this is a very comfortable and breathable tee.
Underwear. It’s not often a grown man gets excited about underwear. But how can I not gush over these amazing briefs?? (swoon). Having gone through many variations over the years, including an attempt to eliminate all together with 2-in-1 shorts (skivvies), nothing beats ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Boxers. The ultralight mesh/ spandex material is breathable, quick-drying, antimicrobial, and a lot of other scientific stuff that equates to a very very very very very very very very comfortable fit.
Bandana. Every trip I go on features at least one picture in an orange bandana, because I wear them exclusively every time I go backpacking. But the masses have spoken and I have listened, making the switch to an Orange Buff. Not so much for the versatility of wearing it 11 different ways, but for the ease of use and ability to double as a sleep mask (with a bandana, I have to deal with the uncomfortable knot). The orange bandana will still be backup, but this is the go-to head covering from now on.
Watch. Breaking the initial rule above about non-worn things making this list is the Timex Ironman. I’m counting it in the Clothing Worn category because its never coming off. Simple, classic, digital, waterproof, lightweight and easy to use. It tells the time, has an indiglo night light, and an alarm. No need to fixate on this, it’s just a watch. But this one has been with me a long time and is special to me, so I like that it’s coming along on my journey.