Thursday, March 11, 2010

New clothes

I'm a big fan of minimalism. I'm not particularly good at it, but when you have to carry all your possessions, you soon see having few things as a good thing. This was a lesson that was drilled into me during my time in Thailand. I went to Thailand to complete a CELTA course, then get a job teaching English. So I packed reasonably light, but had stuff for setting up house, rather than backpacking around.
As it happened, I ended up applying for work in Korea and backpacking around Thailand for a couple of months. When you're carrying 35 kilograms of stuff, you soon realize that lugging half my body weight isn't much fun.
I left the tropical climate of Bangkok (average temperature 26'C) and arrived in the harsh Korean winter (average temperature -3'C). With a summer wardrobe. I quickly got myself some warm clothing (2 pairs of polar fleece trousers, 2 polar fleece hoodies, a wool cardigan and several vests). After bumming around Thailand I was pretty skint, so the stuff I got wasn't exactly top quality. Looking at it all I realized that a) I probably couldn't fit it all in the baggage I've got and b) I probably won't want to by the time I leave. (but I will, because I don't tend to ditch clothing until I have to. So I remember the strategy a friend of mine was intending to adopt: buy expensive stuff that lasts so you won't need to replace it. Saves money in the long run and you have nice clothing. With this in mind I ordered myself some new stuff.
I've recently started to take action on my interest in bushcraft and have been up in the woods, whittling, making fires, generally doing what I can to frighten Korean hikers. With that in mind I got myself a Swanndri ranger bushshirt. It's a scratchy wool affair that's a bit of a bugger to take off, but its super warm and won't melt in front of a camp fire like all my other clothing purchases would.
I also had to get myself some trousers. When packing from my mothballed wardrobe in my parents loft, I had sunny Southeast Asia in mind. So the trousers I packed were pretty much all smart work trousers. I did have one pair of brown cords that weren't too formal but they're several years old and look it. They're wearing very thin in places you don't want a wardrobe malfunction to occur. So I looked around and found the Cactus Clothing Company. They offer several variations of 'indestructible' canvas trousers. So I got myself two pairs. One in 12oz canvas, one in 6oz. They're pretty much a perfect match for me. They are smart enough to wear at work but casual enough for out and about (the fleece trousers are a little pajama-ish). The only downside to them is that they need some serious wearing in. Straight out from the packaging and they're cardboard stiff, almost standing up on their own. I'm assured that after a couple of wash/wear cycles, they soften up, but till then they're a little chaffing.
Everything I packed before leaving for Thailand (except my boxers and socks) was at least a couple of years old. The eldest, a pair of dark brown work trousers, are (I think) 6 years old. Nothing special about them. So I'm hoping that by acquiring stuff that has a reputation for being tough, I can limit what I carry around, while being able to rely on it doing its job without falling apart.

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