By Michael Frank
My octogenarian parents are in Iceland on a 13-day group photography trip around the island nation. They are not alone. According to a 2013 study by the Adventure Travel Tourism Association (ATTA) in cooperation with George Washington University, year-over-year growth in adventure travel is at 65 percent, and the market size two years ago had hit a whopping $263 billion.
The study portioned out $82 billion spent on gear and apparel, and a subsequent study published in October 2014 by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) found that adventure travel attracts especially wealthy travelers – on average spending $3,000 per person, per trip, and trips last, on average, eight days. Notwithstanding my parents, the average age of adventure travelers according to the ATTA study skews younger – 36, with an almost equal split between genders.
If all of this suggests a healthy, well-heeled customer seeking your advice on what to wear for their spring 2016 vacation to the desert, ocean or mountains, you’d be correct.
One reason adventure travel is booming is because it’s less gear-centric than hardcore, single-sport focused travel. The goal is to play in a new place, then hang in a cafe with the locals. For these pursuits you need flexible apparel that can do triple duty – laughing off dirt and sweat on a hike, going for a morning run the next day, and still slick and odor-free on the street. You’ll find that mix here, and all of it still crammed with high-tech features. And because you can’t travel without a way to haul your gear, we’ve included a few new luggage and daypack options in the mix, too.
Multisport In Cape Town
South Africa’s most cosmopolitan city, Cape Town is also one of the most adventure-ready epicenters on the planet. You can climb or hike Table Mountain before dawn and be back in town by breakfast. Many locals run up the mountain weekly, pounding pavement and then hitting the dozens of trails on the 4,000-foot ridge that forms a massive wall south of the city. Head in almost any direction around the Cape and you’ll find fantastic beaches for surfing or SUP, and there’s even more gorgeous hiking and climbing to be had in the Hottentots Nature Reserve, about an hour east of the city, where you can go on a zip-line tour or do some Kloofing – rappelling into waterfalls. Here’s a small sampling of apparel to fit this trip.
- Columbia Urban Assist 28-inch Roller
- Grand Trunk Explorer Atom Compression Cubes
- Outdoor Research Men’s Pagosa Shirt
- Lululemon T.H.E. Short
- Helly Hansen VTR Helium Jacket
- Icebreaker Men’s/Women’s MerinoLoft Hoody
Columbia continues to build out its luggage line with the Urban Assist 28-inch Roller, $249, and this one’s ideal for a longer trip because it’s both large and well organized, featuring internal compression straps on either side of the clamshell (equally divided) as well as mesh sundry pockets and a complete seal between the two sides (the better to wall off clean from grimy). The bag is reinforced at the corners, and the oversized wheels and bottom skid plate anticipate zones where you’ll be bouncing the bag up or down stairs. And despite the overbuilt feel and large 100-liter volume, this piece still only tips the scales at an even 10 pounds.
What’s better than the right bag for your trip? The right packing solution that acts like an overflow bag of its own when you pick up souvenirs along the way. Unlike other packing systems that are wispy and delicate, Grand Trunk’s Explorer Atom Compression Cubes, 8.3-34 liters, $60-$100, are made of durable 600D Oxford water repellent nylon and come in three sizes, each with a compatible shoulder strap and waterproof zipper. They also expand and then can be compressed down to keep bulkier clothing from eating all your luggage space. And because they’re rugged, these bags can serve as anything from carry-on to an extra checked piece of luggage.
We’re big fans of Tencel, a naturally anti-bacterial fabric (made from eucalyptus wood pulp) that always feels cool and silky to the touch, so it’s ideal on warm days. Outdoor Research Men’s Pagosa Shirt, $78, is a blend of nylon, for toughness, Tencel, cotton, and spandex for stretch. The result is a comfy western-style shirt that breathes and dries quicker than cotton alone, while providing mild sun-protection: UPF 15. Two snap chest pockets add a layer of style to your outfit.
What gym short is also ideal for hiking, trail running and even lounging with a hoody and a macchiato at the cafe? The 2015 Lululemon T.H.E. Short, $65. They’re a strong hit, which means they’re selling again next year. Top features include a longer cut (so they don’t scream “gym”), and a built-in liner that’s more accommodating than a compression cut strictly for high-speed aerobics. For travel, the lightweight fabric makes these less bulky than other options. And hanks to the liner, these could easily double as a board short.
After you’ve been in the surf or sweating from a day of exploration, reach into your daypack and grab the Helly Hansen VTR Helium Jacket, $100. The VTR Helium is truly lighter than air. An onion-skin-thin layer folds to the size of a candy bar and stuffs into its own pocket, which makes it an ideal piece to have for adventure travel. But it’s also technical: X-Cool quick-dry fabric is wind and water resistant, and a hood adds extra warmth on cooler nights. The laser-cut perforations in the back prevent condensation as you cool from aerobic effort.
There’s no more ideal travel piece than the Icebreaker Men’s/Women’s MerinoLoft Hoody, $230. It can be worn alone or layered, and having the hood means not needing a cap. Icebreaker is also highly technical in its apparel, with the Hoody being no different. Quilted MerinoLoft is placed strategically at key zones such as the chest to protect you from the cold, and the shaped hood will stay put even as unexpected gusts kick up. There are dual zipper pockets in front to keep your mitts toasty; cuffed sleeves with thumb holes for hand warmth; women’s and men’s-specific patterns to the insulation; and gender-specific designs that optimize flattering cuts.