Sunday, June 01, 2008


I didn't think we were supposed to have rain this afternoon, and planned a bike ride after cleaning the restrooms after I got home from church.

But when the restrooms were done, the sky looked bad. And it proceeded to rain. And it proceeded to pour. And the wind proceeded to gust and the camper to rock.

I guessed I wouldn't be biking, second day in a row.

So I sewed myself a hiking outfit. Skirt (with pockets) and matching loose shorts (also with pockets) of thin, lightweight cotton (yeah, cotton, more on that in a minute.)

Lots of hikers are hiking in skirts nowadays, including the guys, because of the ventilation they offer -- when you hike 8 or 10 hours in a day, this becomes important, especially if you're on a long-distance hike without laundry facilities and limited changes of underwear in your pack.

I had thought I'd go for the best of both worlds: lightweight skirt over men's Hanes boxers, which are lightweight, thin, airy, and dry quickly. But I didn't like the cut of the boxers. They just didn't feel right.

So I made my own. They fit like they were made for me :-) And a skirt to go over them. Why do I need a skirt if I have shorts that don't look like underwear? Well, a skirt provides a little "tent" for privacy when nature calls. I've learned to pee standing up without baring my butt (that's why I want loose shorts) but you can't do everything standing up. And although you go off the trail by yourself to answer said calls of nature, still, someone might happen by. Anyway, I'm going to try this skirt/shorts duo. It will make it easy to put on a warm layer, if needed... just put it over the shorts under the skirt, rather than under my shorts like most people do, which would defeat the purpose of the shorts.

Now, about cotton. Ordinarily, you don't want to wear cotton because it's too absorbent, gets wet with sweat, and doesn't dry quickly. You can get very cold wearing cotton. However, most hikers won't leave home without a cotton bandanna for 101 purposes. The main virtues of these bandannas are their absorbency (sweat, wet dishes, condensation inside your tent, etc., etc.) AND their ability to dry fast. So, I've harnessed those qualities for under-shorts. For my AT hike, I figure on 3 pairs: one to wear, one to wash, one in reserve. After a day's hiking, I'll rinse 'em out, then hang them on my backpack to dry during the next day's hike, and it won't look like I've got underwear hanging on my pack.
My friend Sally and I are going for a 6-8-mile dayhike Tuesday. I'll try 'em then.


Anonymous said...

Love it! Fabulous idea. One other piece of cotton you might consider would be a generous length of 45" material with the ends sewn together. When our daughter lived in the jungles of Indonesia this was a mainstay for them, especially when they bathed in the river. The sarong offered privacy and room to bath, plus room to change clothes under and as you noted with the skirt/shorts theres so many advantages to having a piece of cotton material. You wrap it around yourself and knot the excess, catching it under the top edge near the arm pit. I often wear mine to the swimming hole knotted at my waist.

From Here to There said...

Wow that's awesome! They look so easy to make too!

Fiberjoy has a good point about the sarong. When my daughter was living in a village in Indonesia (how cool we both have one of those!) they used sarongs for privacy as well, but when working in the rice fields they would wrap it around their waists like a long skirt, then grab the bottom back , pull it through to the front and tuck in the waistband (think I Love Lucy in the grapes/wine vat). She said it was very functional!

You're awesome Ellie!

Jeff said...

I'd been hearing about the increasing popularity of skirts for running, and here you are making your own! Wow.

Good luck on your upcoming A.T. adventure. My wife and I have read several books by A.T. hikers. Along with Bill Bryson's, we particularly liked Awol on the Appalachian Trail. It has some good "how I did it" info but also some interesting anecdotes and funny comments.

ShirleyPerly said...

Love that skirt! Now I'm thinking that running skirts may also make peeing during a race a lot easier too. Don't always have porta potties when you want them!

Doug said...

May I strongly suggest you reconsider the cotton underwear. Wet cotton will chafe worse than any material. There will be many nights that the cotton undies won't dry. Like during a 4 or 5 day stretch of rain, or in very humid mid-summer weather. During my AT thru-hike there were many nights the synthetic clothing I had didn't dry. Wet synthetic undies will be much more comfortable then wet cotton.

Ellie Hamilton said...

Well, of course I'll reconsider it. Just about everything I do at this stage is an experiment subject to reconsideration and revision.

Actually after 2 days on the trail sweating like a horse I liked them very much. But that could still change.

Doug said...

I should re-word that last comment and apologize. I broke one of the unwritten rules of the AT. That being, "Hike your own Hike". My intention was to offer some advice based on my experience. However, if you've tried cotton and it works for, go for it. And don't let anyone tell you how to hike your hike.

You are going to have such a great time on your thru-hike. I can't wait to read the stories you choose to share.

Jade Lady said...

How does one pee standing up as a female? Are you saying, just let it run down your shorts? I gotta ask!