Olympia – Jan/Feb 2018

The Brave New World of Travel Underwear (and More)

Man Fly Fishing on a boat

The package label says “Seventeen countries, six weeks, one pair of underwear.”


Well, not really.

Welcome to the new age of travel wear. Those of us over a certain age can remember trekking the globe with one seriously ratty pair of jeans, a couple of T-shirts, a jacket and little else. We can also remember standing in a laundromat in, say, Amsterdam, wrapped in a borrowed towel while our travel wardrobe went around and around and around in the dryer. Or worse yet, we simply wore it wet. And very smelly.

Yes, ick.

But no more. The business of travel wear has gone high tech. We’re talking shirts that block sun like 50 SPF sunscreen, outfits that repel mosquitoes, underwear that practically wrings out dry and, almost unbelievably, clothing that simply doesn’t smell even after wearing it a week.

ExOfficio isn’t the only company producing high tech travel wear but it’s the one we know best since that’s what we we’ve been wearing on our treks.

The sunblocking works several ways: by using material with a super tight weave and, in some cases, by adding a sun protection finish … a chemical with a UV inhibitor that has a rating scale (UPF) similar to sunscreen’s SPF. It comes in four “flavors” …. 20 UPF through 50 UPF. The bug repellent clothing contains permethrin, a man made version of a bug repelling substance found in chrysanthemums.  It doesn’t smell, it’s EPA registered and effective up to 70 washings.  It doesn’t beat DEET, according to Consumer Reports Magazine, but for those who object to smearing themselves with DEET, it’s a definite help.

Space Age Technology to the Rescue

And now we get to the space age stuff.

There’s something else called Nio Nycott fabric that is treated with Repeloff, which does what it sounds like … repels water and stains but is also abrasion resistant while still being breathable.

Undwear hanging out to dry

High-tech clothing like ExOfficio underwear can be easily washed and quickly dried, so you don’t have to take so much clothing in your suitcase.

And one of our favs … Sol Cool clothing with Ice-Fil technology. It’s treated with xylitol, which comes from white birch trees and somehow lowers skin surface temperature during activity.

Or as the company describes it: “Ice-Fil converts sweat to refrigerant, creating a cool and fresh fabric that absorbs and disperses perspiration.  In one experiment, conventional fabrics contained excessive sweat after 30 minutes of running while Ice-Fil had none. Flat yarns are used to wick moisture and discharge body heat.”

Oh yeah, and it also repels bacteria.

Okay and now the one you’ve been waiting for: everlasting undies.

ExOfficio’s “Give-N-Go” underwear works, the company says, by “blocking odor causing body oils from attaching to the fabric.” The weave also helps wick moisture to the surface, meaning you won’t be wearing sweat soaked clothing.

It’s got an antibacterial finish that blocks the buildup of odor causing bacteria made by Aegis and the technology sounds a bit like something out of a sci fi thriller. To kill odor, according to the Aegis website “the membrane of the microbe is physically ruptured by a stabbing and electrocution action.”

Man riding a motorcycle with travel-friendly underwear

In hot, humid climates, clothing that can block the sun, repel bacteria, and absorb perspiration is all about staying cool and comfortable.

You’re then invited to watch a video presentation by a sweet voiced woman who manages to pronounce all the 10 syllable chemicals correctly and tells you seriously more than you ever wanted to know about how positively charged polymers can kill negatively charged microbes.

And how does all this work in the real world?

Some time back we were on a liveaboard dive boat in the tropics and tossed a truly filthy shirt into a corner of our stateroom closet. Three days later, we dug the shirt out with great trepidation. It was, astonishingly, odor free.

And the undies. Well, no, I really didn’t want to wear them more than one day at a time. But I could have … and no, I won’t tell you how we know.

As for the anti mosquito wear … yes, it definitely helps.

But don’t take our word. If you want to know more, try:

— Yvette Cardozo, RFT Contributor
Photos courtesy ExOfficio

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Yvette Cardozo, RFT Ski & Dive Editor

Yvette Cardozo from the Seattle, Washington area, likes to visit interesting places and learn about interesting cultures and, if a tasty local dish is involved, so much the better. She’s eaten everything from gourmet food at the world’s finest restaurants to native food in Asia, the arctic, and all kinds of places in between.

Yvette recalls being in Antarctica and going out on the land with Inuit elders in arctic Canada , then bagging a caribou. They dragged it back to camp and ate it on the spot raw. She quips, “Hey, if you like steak tartare….”

Yvette, who is a veteran skier and diver, is RFT’s Ski & Dive Editor.