As the colder weather closes in on the walking community, more layers, and therefore more fashion choices, become necessary. Any even mildly serious walker needs to pay strict and careful attention to the insulating value, durability, and lightness of their winter donnings, but I have yet to see any attention paid whatsoever to the fashion value of these garments I’m paying more for than my whole Burning Man trip in total cost. I don’t think it is necessarily vain to desire attractive outer wear. Every realm of life offers appropriate and beholding costumery of which entire industries are created from; for our professional lives, our social nightlives, our sporting lives, our bedroom lives,our meeting the mother lives, our educational lives, etc Walkers should be permitted to add some strategic splashes of color, flatter their necklines, accentuate those sinewy calf muscles. Here’s a very basic breakdown of walking styles and some potential fashion choices available to that walker:
1) The Hippie Walker (or The When-the-Grateful-Dead-stopped-touring-I-still-just-kept-kinda-wandering-around Walker) : This walker is always happy and never carrying very much. Usually they are singing or playing a ukulele while walking. Quite frequently there is also a dog.You will NEVER see an artificial substance of any kind on the body of this walker. It’s cotton or hemp. And it has to be patched in several places with a fabric from a foreign land. Scarves are the primary fashion tool of this kind of walker, used draping in bulk around the neck, as a skirt in men and women alike, across the face for wind protection, and are easy to acquire through second-hand shops and health-food store gift aisles. Hand made jewelry also prevails and they will frequently make these from local twigs and recycled yarn. These walkers truly have no fashion limitations and look gorgeous even at their dirtiest, but trust me, they are packing the distances with some seriousness. It is my secret wish that ultralight companies would make trail-practical clothing that looked more like hippie hiker garb.
2) The Technical Walker : The Technical Walker is the polar opposite of the hippie hiker. They are also a mostly happy lot, but their joy swells from a different pleasure and that is, Technical Walkers aren’t “walking”, they are testing gear. They are walking too, of course, but mostly they are testing new gear. This walker will, without any regard whatsoever to flatter-ability, wear whatever is the most expensive and lightest. The best fashion strategy for this type of walker is to research, research, research. They MUST find the latest innovations, read reviews, clearly MODIFY it to improve it, and then of course, test it. I am pleased that some new products are appearing that are attractive and increase the visual interest of this walker . The down skirt pictured above (http://www.outnet.eu/skhoop-eu/short-down-skirt.php) is a nice “dance between the worlds”. Dirty Girl Gaiters (dirtygirlgaiters.com), however, gets the hands-down best fashion gear award with felt-lined hiking wellies (http://www.nokianfootwear.fi/eng/outdoor/) coming in close behind for their ability to be painted.
3) The Forest Dweller Walker: This walker actually lives out there for various and sometimes interesting reasons. You can spot them by their everyday wear and the not-that-excited-about- the-journey look. They are not “sporting”, this is their way of life, and they will have no special costume for the occasion but will somehow still seem in comfort out there. It is important to point out that we all become and look like this type of walker at around day 11 of any even mildly committed long walk.
4) Ninja/Power Ranger Fantasy Walker: This walker wants to be scaling Everest and is usually equipped to do so. They don a lot of brightly colored and well-labeled gear and usually have unidentifiable but smart looking instruments/poles in their sturdily gloved hands. The important and exerted looks on their faces are part of the statement. You will get out of their path when they are walking toward you.An important part of the fashion requirement of this type of walker is that the lower and upper body garment match perfectly and incorporate a sharp geometric pattern of some sort.
5) The Spiritual Walker: They are not on a trip, they are on a retreat, a mission, a quest, or a soul search. They are blogging heavily. Walking isn’t an activity but a philosophy of life and they are finding themselves out there. This walker seems to balance out most of the different walking fashion styles. They will wear what outdoor community tells them to, but they will cling to that decorative scarf. This type of walker can accentuate their look with symbolic pieces of jewelry or “power stones” affixed to their external gear. An exposed journal and pencil (never pen) also add to the beauty of this walking style.
6) The Tourist walker (also called “day-walker”, even if they happen to be staying the night out there): These walkers are going out for a 3.5 mile walk with a full pack of pleasantries and frozen water bottles.They speak boisterously to one another. Some of them are geocaching (geocaching.com) and bumping into trees as their faces are glued to their gps’. The primary fashion requirement is to feature a proper and expensive camera with large removable lenses and I’m pretty sure that all tourist walkers are required to be wearing at least one easily identifiable Northface garment and very white socks before they are permitted to exit the B&B. Tourist walkers can take pride in their fashionably “clean” look, bringing vitality and occasionally beer to an otherwise peaceful and isolated wilderness.
7) The You and Me Walkers : I wore a flowy bodice-pleated dress on the Arizona Trail for most of the 7 weeks. But I also wore my Icebreaker merino baselayers. I want those wellies and I am going to paint flowers on them when I get them, but I’m also about to get the lightest, most comfortable and coveted pack available to all in the know of the ultralight world. I know very respectable walkers that wear pink hats, ninja masks (c’mon guys, you wear them because you look like ninjas, not because “balaclavas” are practical… you know you do..), hiking kilts, hats with pussy-cat ears, pom pom scarves, big earrings… All of us have a hippie walker heart, a technical walker head, and a ninja power fantasy don’t we? And I’m so sorry but we’re all tourists unless you’re moss….