Building a durable wardrobe is not a luxury. It will play an essential role in helping you live in comfort, save energy and be secure.
Your clothing also can be the difference in your survival; it’s the shelter you bring with you when you’re working outdoors, or when you’re hunting or traveling. For off-gridders who are miles and miles from the nearest town, it’s essential to have a durable wardrobe.
Dress for Your Needs
Begin by assessing your situation. Plan a base outfit that you will wear every day, and build your wardrobe around it. Consider changing seasons, the needs of your occupation, and your personal preferences.
Wherever possible, begin purchasing items that are intended to last a lifetime. You will need to do your research on this; don’t merely accept a company’s guarantee. When you are researching a product, you are looking for a few criteria:
- Quality of Source Materials – Where are the materials sourced? Does the source material have a track record for durability?
- Quality of Workmanship – Who is doing the work? How long have they been doing it? Do they have trademark techniques with a proven track record?
- Reviews of Product — Beware of products that “used to be great, but changed,” unless you can obtain vintage items.
Some of these items will be very expensive, so budget accordingly.
Footwear and outerwear will probably be most expensive and also most important to your survival and daily comfort, so don’t cut corners there.
Your New Wardrobe Basics
Wool is the original technical fabric. Warm even when wet, and moisture wicking, odor blocking, and fireproof, there is little it cannot do. Even in warm weather, wool shirts insulate and breathe more efficiently than cottons, and have the added benefit of being easier to clean and dry. Wool clothing can be easily washed by hand and laid flat to dry.
Choose local wools whenever possible, since they will be best-suited to protecting against the environment. Look for finely spun yarns; the more fuzzy the garment, the less durable your woolens will be as they will pill in heavy wear areas.
Although outdoor survival guides are quick to remind you “cotton kills,” the fact is it remains a wardrobe staple due to softness, breathability and versatility. Look for long-spun cottons that conform to USDA standards and are used in well-manufactured garments. Some companies offer organic or technical cottons such as Patagonia’s Organic Cotton, Ventile (a British performance cotton) or Cotton Duck. Be aware that cotton absorbs moisture unless it is waterproofed and thus will not last as long as wool or technical fabrics. Cottons provide an appropriate layer for workwear near home; in a survival situation, damp cottons next to skin can lead to hypothermia.
3. Synthetic Technical Fabrics
There are many synthetic fabrics available in outdoor clothing, the most popular being Polar Fleece and GoreTex. The challenge is to find fabrics that allow for moisture breathability from sweat while maintaining insulation and waterproofing to protect from the elements.
There is no perfect fabric, so experiment to find a favorite as outer layers in technical fabrics will last a very long time.
Winter coats and garments filled with real down are extremely insulating. Confirm you understand the care and storage of these items if you want them to last; once compressed, down loses its insulating ability.
Resist the urge to outfit yourself in leather, unless you are skilled at repairing and treating it. You will look amazing, but its weight and care needs will slow you down. A well-treated heavy leather jacket, if necessary, could be made to last. Leather gloves may be a stockpile item for workwear, but plan on having many pairs available.
6. Underwear & Socks
Don’t neglect your base layer. Synthetic, quick-dry underwear is going to last you a lot longer, and help your pants last longer, too. If you’re in a long underwear region, wool is best but there are many technical fabrics available. Wool socks are a must everywhere for durability and warmth.
Buy heavy shoes or boots with a stitched-on sole and replaceable lacing. Chances are very good you will wear out the sole before the upper, and it will be replaceable. Make a plan for the lifetime of your footwear now, before you need it.
Stockpiling Clothing vs. Dressing for Survival
Whether you will build a stockpile of clothing or begin dressing daily for survival is a matter of personal choice. However, whatever you choose, do not bother stockpiling junk. Fifty T-shirts that will only last two months of hard wearing is not worth the storage space when you can probably get by with fewer. When you’re preparing for the future, everything should fit into the long-term view.
What advice would you add? What types of clothing would you store? Share your tips in the section below: