Fall/Winter 2016: College Budget Technical Clothing Haul

Here are some quick reviews of shirts and pants I’ve gotten over the past few months. I’ll write these posts every so often to keep you up to date with travel clothes that are actually worth it.

This haul features a lot of H&M tencel and some Mountain Khakis pants. Read on for full opinions!

H&M long sleeve tencel shirt ($10)

This shirt is strange. I wanted a light, long-sleeved shirt that would cut the sun a bit and provide comfortable coverage for hot, conservative countries. I don’t hate this shirt, but it’s not what I was expecting. It’s got very tight sleeves, for one thing, so it’s uncomfortable to push them up. (I hate having my lower arms covered, so this is an issue for me.) It also hangs strangely around the shoulders and it’s l o n g. It’s practically a tunic. The stitches on the hems also look cheaply made.

Verdict? If you like the fit and want something cheap for a short-term trip, by all means get it! I won’t be getting it again.

H&M tencel tank top ($13) and tencel t-shirt ($15)

Both the tank and the shirt are built similarly. They fit nicely, although the neck drapes a little strangely on the t-shirt. Both shirts are incredibly soft and silky, and I frequently sleep in them after wearing them for the day. In certain lights or with certain bras, they’re a tad see-through. In general, I like them. I could do with another tencel tank, in particular.

H&M Tencel/Cotton/Modal jeans ($30)

Yep, this is the best picture I have of the pants.

Oh, boy. Yes, I know these jeans are more like jeggings, and yes, I know they’re cheaply made. But man. They are so comfortable I’m just choosing to ignore all that. They’re skinny without being suffocating and comfortable to wear while sitting for long periods. They also stretch nicely, meaning my movement’s not restricted, and they’re light wash, so they’re not super hot even in blazing sun. I’ve worn them on multiple flights, on field work, and for three days straight at Disneyland. No, they’re not perfect, but man, do I ever love them.

Mountain Khakis pants ($20, typically $90)

Mountain Khakis Traverse Pants Review
Mountain Khakis Traverse Pants

I got these deeply discounted during Mountain Khaki’s fall sale. I’ve already posted a full review of these, which you can see here.

The Search for the Elusive Women’s Technical Clothing

The search for the perfect travel garment is an experience fraught with sticker shock and weeding through pages of shapeless, overly pocketed clothes. For every check on the “perfect” list, there’s at least one on the “skip it” list. Found some pants are light and don’t wrinkle? They’re hot in the summer and have a pocket count to make a geologist blush. Find a shirt that’s comfortable and cool in the heat? Mark my words, it’ll wrinkle like no one’s business.

I keep searching for the perfect travel clothing. I’ve been on this mission for a while now, tweaking packing lists and combing thrift store racks for Eddie Bauer cast-offs. After lots of searching and lots of not-quite-right clothes, my checklist for these magical articles looks something like this:

-Wrinkle resistant
-Not bulky; packs light
-Cool in the summer; can layer in the winter
-Attractive enough to not embarrass myself in the Met or at an upscale restaurant
-Tough enough to withstand hiking, biking, camels, boats, etc.
-Stain resistant and/or a stain hiding color
-Comfortable enough to sleep in
-Not ridiculously expensive

Shopping with lofty ideas like these and wanting women’s cuts and sizes is despairingly difficult. A handful of companies offer clothing that hit some of these marks, mostly designed for bike commuters. Some brands, like Levi’s, have started commuter lines, to mixed reviews. Some brands make only men’s clothing (my brother recommends Ministry of Supply). This is fine, of course – not every company can do everything. What I don’t understand is the rationale of brands like Outlier, which appear to have discontinued their whole women’s line, or ProofNY, which was offline for much of 2015. There is one company that specializes in women’s technical clothing, Anatomie, but their clothing strikes me as overly stylized and exorbitantly priced for the features. If you’re looking for stylish, fashionable women’s technical clothing, you’re pretty much limited to BetaBrand, Rohan, and Nau. Many large companies still cater to the backpacking/field science crew and haven’t quite caught on to the idea that one piece of clothing can be both good looking and technical.

Yours truly living it up in the ugliest pants EMS sold.
Yours truly living it up in the ugliest pants EMS sold, circa 2012. EMS appears to have improved since then.

There really aren’t any other options, and believe me, I’ve looked. (If you know of more, please tell me in the comments!) But I have some hope, because there’s a new player on the field: Odo Jeans.

While most technical clothing companies are relatively young, Odo is practically still in the womb. As of January 4, 2016, their Kickstarter has been up for less than a month. The pants are only available to backers right now, but at a heavy discount over their planned retail price, so I shelled out some Christmas money and pre-ordered a pair.

Part of the reason I’m excited is that ODO Jeans’ women’s sizes mirror men’s sizes. You know, where pant sizes are assigned based on inseam and waist measurements instead of dark magic and bad astrology?

Yeah, so there’s that.

ODO Jeans
ODO Jeans

The pants promise a lot. Their big pitch is that you don’t have to wash them, because they don’t stain and they don’t smell. That seems like a stretch to me, but even if I have to wash them less, it’ll still be worth it. I can’t tell you if they’re the perfect pants, because they don’t ship until sometime this summer. Maybe they wrinkle easily and are as hot as wearing flannel under chain mail, but I hope not. For good or ill, expect updates this summer, when the real testing begins.

Update 1/8/16: I just received a backer email telling me that ODO has reached a stretch goal and plans on offering a light-weight version of their jeans! Another box checked, if we’re lucky!

Update 2/22/2016: Proof NY has either shut down for good or for the long run. I’m on their email list, so I’ll update if I hear anything. For now, maybe browse two other companies I’ve recently discovered: Pivotte Studio and The Willary. The former is pricey, the latter’s offerings are a little sparse, but they’re much better than nothing and I’m hopeful for their future.