The Things We Carry
Trekmor — Clothing to Go
By Tamia Nelson
October 13, 2009
Streams of water poured down from the eaves. I could cope with that. I don't let rain keep me indoors. But my ankle was another matter. It stubbornly refused to support my weight, and this put an end to my plans for the day. There was no way I could carry my canoe down to The River. What to do? That was indeed the question. Then my eyes fell on the box where I stash clothing in need of sewing. It was filled to overflowing with cotton and cotton‑nylon "Battle Dress Uniform" (BDU) pants, many of them already boasting patches on thighs or knees. I like BDUs. They're roomy where I want my pants to be roomy, available in a wide range of dirt‑concealing colors, and generously provided with pockets. They've served me well over the years, and they wear well, too. Some of my older pairs are in their second decade, still going strong despite bearing the scars of hundreds of miles of field surveys. But BDUs have one weakness. I'm not just a paddler. I'm also a cyclist, and I crank out several thousand miles each year, both on and off the highway. Anyone who rides as much as I do develops pretty good‑sized adductors — they're the lumps of muscle on the insides of the thighs — and these brush together when I walk. The result? My BDU pants need frequent patching. It's a fussy and tedious job, and since there aren't too many chores I like less than running a sewing machine, I sometimes find myself without a single serviceable pair of BDUs to my name.
Which happened to be the case on this rainy morning, in fact. My last intact pair of BDUs had worn through only a couple of days before I twisted my ankle. So it looked like I couldn't avoid serving a short custodial sentence at the sewing table, even if the only labor involved was easy. In putting paid to my paddling plans for the day, my ankle had pretty much guaranteed that. Or had it? I was looking for any excuse to avoid a stint of make‑and‑mend, and I found one. It couldn't have been simpler. I just didn't need to patch my BDUs right away. As luck would have it, they'd already been relegated to second place in my affections. And what had supplanted them, you ask? Campmor's aptly named Trekmor 2/1 Convertible Pants, that's what. These have now become my…
Number‑One Choice for Knocking About the Backcountry
It hasn't always been like this, of course. Trekmor pants are all‑nylon, and for most of my adult life I shunned synthetic fibers. My mantra? Wool for wet weather. Cotton for summer heat. Goose down for cold. Nylon was only for ropes, packs, and sleeping bag shells, and for reinforcing the toes of socks. But then I changed my tune. No, I haven't done a one‑eighty. My closet contains plenty of wool and cotton garments. And I certainly don't intend to throw out my BDUs. Still, the odds are that when I head out the door today, or any day in the future, I'll be dressed in clothing made largely, if not entirely, from fabrics that had their origin in a chemical plant instead of a farmer's field.
And more often than not, the label on the shirts and pants I'll be wearing will say Trekmor rather than something else. This isn't a result of a successful marketing campaign, by the way. As a minor‑league wordsmith, I'm pretty much immune to the efforts of advertising copywriters. It's not enough to tell me how good a product is. I have to find out for myself. I'm a show‑me sort of girl, in other words. If something works, I'll buy it again. If it doesn't, I won't. And that's that. Nor is my current brand loyalty the result of some sort of kickback. My good opinion can't be bought, at least not for the price of a pair of pants. I'd like to think it can't be bought, period, but I'm also a realist — and I dimly recollect what George Bernard Shaw is supposed to have said to a women seated next to him at a dinner party. Suffice it to say that whatever my price might turn out to be, nobody's come close to offering it yet.
In any case, I chanced on Trekmor about two years ago, more or less by accident. Farwell had just bought a pair of Convertible Pants, and he liked them. They looked good enough to pass muster at the office, yet packed down to fit in the messenger bag that carried his files and papers during his daily ride to and from town. There was even enough room left over for his lunch and a thermos of real tea. And as it happened, I too needed lightweight pants and shirts that didn't take up too much space — and which I could wash easily in a motel sink (or a bucket, come to that). They also had to be cheap. I figured Trekmor might fit the bill. So I placed an order and hoped for the best. The result?
Trekmor Came Through
Let me count the reasons. Compact? Check. Lightweight? Check. As the photo at right shows, you can pack a Trekmor shirt and pants in less space than a single pair of cotton BDU pants. (The BDUs are on the left.) Moreover, the combined weight of the Trekmor ensemble is 24 ounces, as compared to 29 ounces for the BDU pants alone. And that's not all. Even when I compress the Trekmor shirt and pants into a small stuff sack, most of the resulting wrinkles are easily shaken out. Appearance may not be at the top of my list of important things in backcountry wear, but it never hurts to look presentable, does it? Washing and drying the Trekmor clothes proved straightforward, too. A few drops of dish detergent in a sink or bucket did the trick, and if I was careful to squeeze out as much water as I could — I said "squeeze," not wring! — both shirt and pants dripped dry overnight, even in humid weather.
OK. My new pants and shirt were light, easy to pack, and simple to care for. But would they work? That was the question. And the answer? Yes, they would. The pants were comfortably roomy, and the gussets at the ankles made it easy to get them on (or take them off) without first having to remove my shoes. This wasn't too important when paddling, but it made a world of difference during amphibious operations. Furthermore, when biting flies or ticks were a problem, I could keep the little buggers at bay by cinching the ankles closed with button‑and‑loop fasteners. At the other end of the discomfort spectrum, on sultry days when I longed for a pair of shorts, I had only to open two zips and slip off the legs of my Convertible Pants. Shorts and pants in one small package. Maybe Campmor didn't invent the idea, but they certainly made it affordable.
What else? Pockets. I like pockets. And Trekmor pants have plenty: five in all, including a handy bellows pocket on the right thigh. (The woman's version has a patch pocket on the thigh, instead. That's why I bought the man's.) Are you a belt‑and‑suspenders type? Me, too — and Trekmor 2/1s have both an elasticized waist and sturdy belt loops. Belt‑and‑elastic may not quite equal belt‑and‑suspenders in the security stakes, but it comes pretty close. Close enough for me, at any rate. Then there are the thoughtful little touches, like the two spare buttons sewn along the side seam, just in case. I like this. It, too, appeals to my belt‑and‑suspenders nature.
There is a downside to Trekmor Convertible Pants, however. For obvious reasons, I prefer my backcountry pants in dark, soil‑defying colors. When I bought my first 2/1s, the darkest color was a sooty brown that Campmor christened "buffalo." It worked fine, but like its namesake, it wasn't destined to last. "Alpine tundra" (a dusky gray‑green) is now the best that I can do. It goes without saying that I'd like to see the buffalo return.
Let's move up to the Trekmor Travel Shirt now. It too is built from UPF 20+ nylon, and it's just as comfortable as the Convertible Pants. The cut is roomy, there are buttons at the cuffs, and the stitching is excellent. Best of all, the Travel Shirt is made for hard work. You'll find vertical mesh‑lined vents over each shoulder to help you keep your cool, for one thing, plus tabs that make it easy to roll up your sleeves (and stop them from rolling down). The two patch pockets — the male counterpart to my Travel Shirt has proper bellows pockets, along with a single cape vent; I'm envious — are large enough to contain a cell phone, compass, key‑ring, lens cap, eyeglass case, or notebook. And if that weren't enough, they're complemented by a concealed third pocket, this one deep enough to hold a bus ticket, a folded map, or a large wallet.
Sadly, like the Convertible Pants the Travel Shirt is now available only in pastel shades and lighter hues, but sage green — seen in the photos above — and "fossil" (i.e., khaki) meet my needs when I'm stalking wildlife with a camera, while coral and violet are welcome additions to my wardrobe once I'm back in "sivilization."
Light weight is good, of course, but only if it doesn't come at the expense of durability. I worried about this at first, particularly as the tiny zippers that join legs to shorts on the Convertible Pants didn't inspire confidence. But I needn't have fretted. My Trekmor clothes have stood the test of time,…
Punching Above Their Weight…
Again and again. Week‑long bike tours? No problem. Crammed into a corner of a pannier by day, both shirt and pants were still shipshape in the evening, when they offered a welcome respite from reeking Lycra shorts and salt‑encrusted jerseys. They even held up under the pleasurable ordeal of a cross‑country bus trip, shrugging off spilled soda, smeared ketchup, and the sticky handprints of disoriented toddlers, not to mention the nights I spent trying to get some shut‑eye stretched out on the grimy floors of bus‑station waiting rooms. Best of all, when at last I got a chance to hand‑wash them, they dried in no time.
Having survived the acid tests of travel by bike and bus, I figured Trekmor clothing was equal to the lesser challenges of paddling and hiking, where smoothing it is second nature. And I was right. Canoeists and kayakers are never far from a source of wash water, after all, and backcountry dirt is a lot cleaner than most bus‑station floors. That said, I haven't babied these additions to my wardrobe. I've waded through clinging bogs wearing 2/1 pants and bushwhacked through bramble thickets in my Travel Shirts — and except for a couple of spots where pine pitch has left its mark, they look almost as good as they did when I first took them out of the box. In two years' hard use, I haven't even managed to chafe through the inner thighs. In fact, the only thing I've had to mend was an outer seam on one pair of pants. All the buttons remain fixed firmly in place, and every zipper still functions flawlessly. I'd say that represents pretty fair value for money, wouldn't you?
Trekmor. It's not just another brand name. It's an inspiration.
Sic transit gloria BDUs. You're still the sentimental favorite in my closet, but you're no longer my first choice for backcountry wear. Trekmor 2/1 Convertible Pants and Travel Shirts now cover my assets when I'm in the field. There are other brands of outdoor clothes built from manmade fibers, of course, and I'm told that some of these are very good. But nothing I've tried to date can match my Trekmors' happy combination of utility and economy. They're simple, good, and cheap. That's three out of three. And it's more than enough for me.
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