Now, I'm not a huge fan of clothes. That isn't to say I'm a naturist who travels the globe touring nudist beaches, camping in a teepee at music festivals and coming down to breakfast with the old fella tucked under one arm. What I mean is that I'm not particularly bothered about the age of what I wear, especially on the road. I own some clothes and I try to wear each one until it falls apart, then I throw it away reluctantly (ask my missus) and reach for the next t-shirt on the shelf.Sample conversation:
Gerda: “Look at that nice pair of shorts. Do you like them?”
Dan: “They’re okay, I suppose.”
Gerda: “Why don’t you buy them?”
Dan: “I’ve already got a pair of shorts.” *walks away*
I’ve always avoided buying clothing and now that I work in an outdoor apparel emporium I scarcely buy anything anymore. So, when a garment actually impresses me I can only conclude that it must be really special. Earth Sea Sky’s silk weight t-shirt is one such garment. On the one hand – it’s a t-shirt. So what? But on the other it is a luxuriant shroud of epic scope and homely mannerisms. Well, for a t-shirt.
A quick word about ESS: they are a family-owned and –operated company based in Christchurch, New Zealand. All their gear is made in-country of exceptional fabrics and they, or their ancestors, have supplied Extreme Cold Weather clothing for Antarctic expeditions since the 50s, when Murray Ellis rode to the South Pole on a tractor with Edmund Hillary. Now that's hardcore!
The brushed polyester fabric used for the silk weight series (including a long-sleeved shirt, zip-necked polo, scarf and even boxer shorts) is sourced from Italy. Wearing it feels like your body is being caressed by tame peaches. Slipping on the boxers is like having your privates nuzzled by Bambi. It’s light, wicks perspiration, dries quickly and all that jazz. Honestly, it’s the most comfortable thing I’ve had on my skin since my stag night.
Naturally I didn’t take my shirt with me on my last trip – I like it too much – but I frequently wear it hiking, most memorably during a 223km trot through the Australian outback in 2010. The Larapinta Trail starts in the Arse End of Nowhere and crosses the Red Centre to end in Alice Springs, a hot and desolate town inhabited by flies, indigenous people and bewildered tourists who thought Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) was on the outskirts of town. [It’s actually 467km away, and I hitchhiked there in just one lift!]
When it comes to hiking I’m known for my determination, my lack of breaks and my total incomprehension of distances. It’s incredible that anyone still accompanies me on long-distance hikes as they routinely require 10 hours of walking per day with no time allocated for refreshing swims, afternoon naps or foot massages. My long-time hiking buddy Paul has endless stories of under-estimation and over-confidence and the phrase “I’m never going hiking with Dan again” has passed his lips on more than one occasion, but somehow he keeps coming back for more.
In fact, I nearly broke him on the Larapinta. We’d planned (and to be fair – although I drew up the itinerary the other two fools did agree to it) to do the 14-16 day hike in 10 days. That’s only 22.3km a day – surely a piece of cake! Er, no. Not over mountain ranges through the scorching desert with 20kg packs. But we had no choice – we could only get two weeks off work. Anyway, by day 3 we agreed we had to use our contingency day. By day 5 Paul was sporting raw and gory blisters like those flying saucer sweets from the 80s. By day 7 he’d developed plantar fasciitis from limping. On day 9, over compensating, he sprained his good ankle and just managed to hobble to the second and last food drop – one of only three places on the trail that he could have escaped down a service road.
The penultimate day was a whopping 33km, I nearly broke myself, but Jarrad and I persevered and having finished the walk met up with Paul back in Alice - he was on crutches. He spoke the sacred phrase and my heart sank. So, our hiking buddy days were finally over, eh? Well, maybe not. We’re currently planning a 637km hike across California. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘he’. And least that’s what I’m letting him think.
And the T-shirt? I liked it so much I bought, actually bought, myself a second one. Now that’s a mark of appreciation.