Travel Attire Road Test

I test-drive a lot of travel clothing and gear, which is often an aberration of apparel aimed at safari-goers, photographers, or other adventurers. With loops and pockets everywhere, it’s often fisherman fashion at best. Here are six manufacturers—who won’t take you fishing— that sell the travel attire and gear I swear by when on the road and in my NYC neighborhood after midnight. Although all of these companies sell broad lines, I’m only mentioning a few of my favorites from each collection.

ScottEvest Travel Clothing: A functional t-shirt? I view Western women’s need to carry purses and handbags as what truly sets them apart from men, who cart vitals in pant pockets. Always carrying something on one shoulder creates on-the-go liability and maligns spines. I understand that women don’t want items bulging from their outfits. Alas, here’s an active solution: ScottEvest’s performance t-shirts include two discreet zipped pockets—one above your armpit, another above your hip—that put an end to losing keys, glasses, and phones. The other pocket is a handy stash for cash and credit cards, which makes losing an otherwise chock-full purse or wallet less disastrous. They come in a dozen colors in either cotton or quick-drying, wicking performance mode. Their amazing product line revolutionizes traveling, and I’ve permanently retired my man purse. The classic, waterproof ScottEvest jacket has 18 fully capable, technology-enabled (yet subtle) pockets, one perfect for an iPad and others connected to hidden conduits for headphone cords. Ladies, also consider their sexy, no-bulge 18-pocket women’s trench coat. www.scottevest.com.

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PICK POCKET PROOF travel pants (P^cubed by Clothing Arts), inspired by a traveler who has obviously spent time in Phnom Penh (one of Asia’s pickpocket capitals), are durable multi-pocket cargo slacks featuring a rear pocket-within-a-pocket to hide passports and cash, four zipped and covered anti-theft pockets (two with separate left or right-handed smartphone pouches), expandable, cut-resistant cargo pockets, and an attachable bottle-holding pouch. But, they remain sleek—you don’t look like a safari movie extra. They double as smart and functional urban wear and would have been quite handy on the Williamsburg Bridge pedestrian walkway, where I was once mugged by two gunmen. Bachelor-friendly: wrinkle, rain, and stain resistant. Dieting bonus: two closable tabs that decrease your waist size by an inch (to odd sizes) without notching a belt. Business Traveler fabric blends also available. Ps, They give 20 percent of the proceeds from their line of internationalized shirts to a children’s charity in the region that inspired that collection. www.clothingarts.com.

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ExOfficio (x-o-fish-e-o) has mastered making functional, wrinkle-free travel clothing right for the sharp dresser. One of my favorites is their lightweight slacks with additional zipped pockets inside the standard trouser pockets. The ‘Men’s Nomad Pant’ resemble traditional khakis, but they don’t crease and wash and dry easily in a sink, then dry quickly. Their ExO Dri shirt collection provides up to 7-degrees temperature reduction and their Give-N-Go underwear is incredibly quick-drying and treated with a microbe shield to control odor-causing bacteria. Pack less, do more. Their epic line of button-down and pullover long sleeve shirts are vented, have reliable zipped pockets, and look great. Styles range from incredibly lightweight to chunky thick. www.exofficio.com.

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Icebreaker: If smart dressing for the active lifestyle is all about layering, this is a great place to start. Their stylish lightweight wool bodyfit base layer is a product with integrity—your garment is uniquely barcoded (baa-code) so you can check in with its source, a big-horned Merino sheep living in New Zealand’s Alps, and the different sheep farmers providing testimonials. Taking a break from oil-based synthetics for this naturally silky fleece truly lets your body breathe and doesn’t itch because the fibers flex when they come in contact with skin. When sustainably and ethically produced wool allows you to wick away moisture at the vapor stage, your’re cool in more than one way. Tracing back the origin of your garment allows you to learn how many sheep they have on how many acres, how long the farmers have been there, how much wool they produce, and what kind of life they lead. www.icebreaker.com.

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Tilley Hats can spin/morph anyone Indiana Jonesy, but their real appeal is not having to squint in sun and their incredible dignified durability. Machine washable and bottom-of-your-pack crushable, they always spring back to life. Optional chin strap makes the wind your friend. www.tilley.com.

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Vasque footwear’s JUXT is an understated hiking sneaker that does more than look low-key cool. The performance-minded leather and plastic design takes you from the court to the mountain, and then back to every day. www.vasque.com.

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bruce northam

Bruce Northam is the award-winning journalist and author of The Directions to Happiness: A 135-Country Quest for Life Lessons, Globetrotter Dogma, In Search of Adventure, and The Frugal Globetrotter. He also created “American Detour,” a show revealing the travel writer’s journey. His keynote speech, Directions to Your Destination, reveals the many shades of the travel industry and how to entice travelers. Northam’s other live presentation, Street Anthropology, is an ode to freestyle wandering. Visit AmericanDetour.com.