Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Remaining Stylish Whilst Roughing It: Head, Hands, Feet

Before we get started, i was emboldened to create this series by Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen, a great style advice blog. Allie posted this excellent piece on camping out with thousands of your closest friends while attending the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Heat, mud, port-potties, porta-showers - Allie lays out how to contend with it all and look great doing it! A highly recommended read.

This post concentrates on your head, hands and feet. I've posted pictures throughout of some different hats - plain and spiced up - to give you a little inspiration.

Head, Hands, and Feet: you need to protect and monitor your extremities in order to stay warm and avoid sun overexposure.

Your Head: i suggest you take at least two hats for camping - the sun hat and the warm hat. The sun hat needs a big brim, as the sun is still very strong when it's not straight over your head. When the sun is lower in the sky it starts to sneak in under tinier brims and it will cause sunburn, sun spots, wrinkles, sun cancer, etc. Other useful features include straps to keep your hat on in windy conditions, a light color to reflect the heat of the sun, and 'crushability' if space is at a premium. If your hat is too big or you sweat a lot, fold a bandana into a 1 1/2 - 2" length and tie it around your head to keep your hat snug and absorb the sweat.

Your warm hat can be wool, cashmere, fleece. It should fit snugly so that it doesn't slip down onto your face and discourage you from wearing it or impede visibility. Put your warm hat on before you start to get cold to keep the warmth IN (for example, when you are driving into camp a bit before sundown after a day trip hiking). You can also wear this hat to stay warmer when you're sleeping.

The colors, shapes, textures, and patterns available in hats boggles the mind! This is fantastic, since when you're out of doors you really should be wearing a hat all the time. If you're car camping and have room you can take extra hats to vary your look from day to day. If you can't find the 'perfect' hat to go with your capsule theme, you can use scarves, ribbons, and pins to get the look you want. Or use these add-ons to change your look from day to day (or morning to afternoon).

Remember, your hat will not protect your head if you don't wear it. And if you always wear a hat, no need for anyone to see your 'hat hair'!

Your Hands: Camping is rough on your hands. They are exposed to sun, heat, dirt, scratches and wood, soapy dishwater, bugs, cold.....Four key items will help protect your paws. Sunscreen, gloves, bug repellent, and gloppy hand cream.

You will need to take sunscreen for all of your skin. I suggest one big bottle that you can wear on face and everywhere else. It's just less to keep track of. I've had good luck with Coppertone WaterBabies. But sunscreen comes in countless forms these days - spray, lotion, gel, in a portable stick, wipes, there's even sunscreen you can 'wash' into your clothes - so choose what you like and bring a lot. Allie also suggests bringing along sunscreen in a little chapstick-like form in your fanny or backpack so you can re-apply after swimming, sweating, or just being out in the sun for hours. That sounds like a good idea to me!

Gloves will keep your hands warm. Choose a pair that can cope with your expected conditions. In most cases some type of knitted glove will work fine. Outdoor supply shops have nice warm gloves which can be jazzed up by adding pins, brooches, or trim if you're in the mood. But as long as you choose a neutral that works with the rest of your capsule your gloves will contribute to your look, since people won't be feeling sorry for you or thinking 'what a noodle-head to forget her gloves!'. Instead they will admire your forethought and preparedness ('gee, i guess i was being mean when i judged her for wearing peacock feathers in her hat out here in Desolation Wilderness.....look at those great all-season gloves! i'll have to ask her where she got them.') You can also take along light cotton gloves for sun protection or to wear at night over your gloppy hand cream to help ragged hands smooth on out.

Bug repellent is another item your whole body will appreciate. DEET is the most effective ingredient. I'll be discussing bug juice thoroughly in the 'Skin' section to follow.

Gloppy hand cream. Take along a really juicy cream or ointment for ragged cuticles and dry nails. Your hands can get really dry out there which makes it tough for them to heal. Try Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, Aquaphor, Eucerin, petroleum jelly. Good ingredients include glycerin, lanolin, petroleum jelly, dimethicone. You want something greasy, heavy and occlusive so i has staying power. After a lot of sun or wind you can use it on your face as well. Apply glop to clean, damp hands to seal in moisture.

Your Feet: They say an army marches on it's stomach - but it marches on it's feet, too! Outdoors, if your feet aren't going anywhere, YOU aren't going anywhere. First - NO NEW SHOES. You want to have at least 5 miles of similar walking to what you will be doing on your trip in order to make sure you can rely on these shoes for support, lack of blisters, sturdiness, etc. So go hiking on gravel roads, moutain scree, sand dunes - whatever you plan to do on your trip.

Many outdoor stores and websites have excellent advice on shoes that work for various situations. So if you're in the market do your research as far ahead as possible, so you have time to evaluate your shoes after you've bought them. Function is the crucial factor here, not looks. Although i am happy to say that these days there are many nice-looking hiking shoes and boots out there. In addition, many come in different colors, so you can get a khaki or dark grey colorway in the same shoe, for example. That's a really nice option to have, so your shoe can 'blends' in more with the rest of your capsule. So if you do have a choice of looks or colors, i would suggest a neutral that goes with most of your wardrobe. If you want to jazz up your feet, socks can do everything you need so your shoes don't have to look all that fancy.

Speaking of socks, i suggest wearing two for most outdoor trips. You want a thin liner sock that is absorbent, soft, and can be changed often to keep your feet clean and dry. The liner sock can be cotton, cotton blend, or technical fiber. For most purposes any decent thin cotton sock will work. Over this you wear a fluffy sock to provide warmth and padding. The 'warm wooly' sock can be worn for several days as long as you don't get it wet and change out the liner socks. The 'warm wooly' sock can be wool, fleece, or other technical fiber and can be expensive. But they are worth it as they provide the bulk of insulation and padding for your feet. I've had great luck and great reviews with Smartwool. Their socks are lasting, easily washed, and come in a huge variety of wonderful colors and patterns. Scrunch down the wooly sock and wear a longer liner sock to layer your socks for visual interest.

When you are out and about during the day, make certain to take along bandaids, moleskin, and some tiny scissors (for the moleskin). If you feel a blister forming, stop and take care of it (see How To Use Moleskin to be posted tomorrow). Prevention is everything! These items take up so little space and can make a huge difference in having a great time.

I also suggest that every night you wash your feet and check for any blisters or hot spots or other trouble. Baby wipes are great for this, or you can heat a little water in a pan and use a washcloth. Make sure your feet are dry before you put on any socks or shoes.

Next on the agenda: Skin and Guts - How to avoid common travel troubles in these areas.

The Hats: a wide-brimmed straw hat can spell 'floppy grandma' too easily. But in a crisp cowboy shape with a tooled leather brim, you're sporting a classic southwest style.

The wool beret is warm, crushable, and comes in a thousand colors. It's easy to safety pin or baste a ribbon or scarf to the brim. A pin in a coordinating color adds textural interest, while a contrasting tone provides more of a statement with a pop of color.

Fake fur also provides warmth and packs well. Go luxe with a lace scarf, or let people know you realize camping is technically a casual activity with a Chanel-style camellia in denim.

This leather hat from Down Under Enterprises packs flat, is warm and resists the rain. Soften it with a pink and brown silk scarf, then go romantic with a pink flower - even a butterfly pin. When it starts raining and you feel the chill, take your scarf and wind it around your neck.

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